Actions

Work Header

The Lighthouse Keeper

Chapter Text

 

“Gotcha!”

   Derek tries his best not to smile, to ignore the little body that has clamped itself around his calve. He takes another sip of his coffee and walks a few steps around the pilothouse like nothing’s amiss, staring out at the glinting waters of the bay.

   “Uncle Derek!” the little barnacle protests, tiny fingers pulling at his leg hair. Derek lifts his foot and his little passenger with it. “What the…” he looks down, face playfully shocked. The four year old little boy - spitting image of his mother - giggles delightfully and hugs the muscle tighter.

   Derek mock-frowns, shaking his head. “Now where did I put that bug spray-”

   “NO!” the little boy squeals and just drops from Derek’s leg. He scrambles away but Derek easily scoops him up off the floor with one hand.

   “C’mere ya little monkey,” he smiles and flips the laughing boy around, cradling him in his arms. He noses the child’s t-shirt aside and buries his face in his soft tummy, rubbing his beard all along the tender skin. The boy squeals even more, screaming with delight, little hands buried in the thick scruff covering his uncle’s jaw.

   “Seth?”

   Derek turns to watch his sister’s head poke through the hatch. “I got him, don’t worry,” he announces.

   “No, it’s okay, I’m glad I caught you,” Laura says, a little out of breath from her climb up the stairs. “Could you keep an eye on him, please? I have to go into town.”

   “Of course,” Derek says and puts Seth down, but the little boy holds on to him, tugging at his hand, still giggling.  

   “Great, thanks. That student is arriving today and I have to unlock for him.”

   “The whale-guy?” Derek asks distractedly, picking Seth up again. The boy manages to clamber out of his grip and drape himself over Derek’s shoulder, little fingers running patterns over his t-shirt where it clings to the bulky muscles of his back.

   “Yeah, the marine biologist. Or soon to be, I guess. Just want to make sure he’s settled in, so, I’ll be gone a bit.”

   “No problem,” Derek nods, his focus still on Seth, his hand spanning the boy’s back, holding him securely to his shoulder while his little feet kick out.

   “Okay,” Laura smiles, eyes tracking her brother. “Go for a run this morning?”

   “As always.”

   “How’re you feeling?”

   Derek shrugs and drags a thumb across his slightly damp forehead. “You know how it is. Tomorrow’ll be worse.”

   Laura nods and smiles bravely. She points over her shoulder. “I’m gonna head out now. See you later, ‘kay? Call if there’s anything.”

   “Laura?” Derek stops her. “Can I…?” He holds out his hand, Seth still happily draped over his shoulder with little arms outstretched, making aeroplane noises.

   Laura smiles, eyes soft. “Of course.” She steps closer and tilt her head like she’s done countless times before, looking up at her little brother. Derek wraps his hand around her neck, his fingers dusted with fine, black hair, dark against her alabaster skin. He gently pulls her in and bows down to rub his beard against her throat. “Sorry,” he whispers when he straightens back up again.

   “Stop apologising,” Laura says and takes hold of his hand. “You know I don’t mind.”

   Derek pulls his hand free and turns away from her. “Yeah, okay. See you later.”

   Seth waves. “Bye, mommy.”

   “Bye, baby. Be good,” Laura waves back. She climbs through the hatch and looks up just as she’s about to disappear from sight. Derek has his face pressed against his nephew’s side, making the boy squeal and writhe.

   In her truck she checks her makeup in the rear view mirror, then, turning the key, look up to the faceted glass pilothouse, sitting on the mottled, moss-covered grey stone tower, glinting in the early morning sun like a capped jewel.

oOo

Stiles leans forward against the railing, the fresh, salty ocean breeze playing havoc with his hair. He squints against the unseasonable brightness of the day, the sun throwing diamonds off the surf. Even so the wind off the ocean remains chilly, and he pulls his hoody tighter around him.

   Stiles wonders how anyone can get used to the majestic beauty of this part of the world, the startling contrast in colours alone - from snow-capped peaks to temperate rain forests to deep cobalt waterways – enough to leave one speechless.

   They’ve left the misty fjords of the Inside Passage behind for the most part, the limitless expanse of the Pacific opening up before them. But the ferry is already slowing down, flocks of gulls announcing their imminent arrival.

   The island before them is, just like the coastal mountains they’ve sailed passed, covered in verdant woodland all the way to the water’s edge. And as the boat rounds the prominent jagged point that gave it its name, Stiles’ home for the next few months slowly reveals itself.

   Nestled in a natural bay, pitched roof clapboard buildings with the quintessential church spire poke out of the thick alder and spruce forest that concentrates down to a jagged shoreline. Here a small but picture postcard harbour welcome visitors. Rugged fishing trawlers and slender sailboats jostle for anchorage in the little marina behind the breakwater, with several packed whale-watching tourists boats already on their way out.

   But it’s the stone lighthouse, standing proud at the pinnacle of a boulder-crowded peninsula that demands all attention. Not only does it overlook the whole bay, but Stiles can only imagine it’s flashing light being visible from so many miles away across the ocean.

   “Well, we’re certainly not in Kansas anymore,” he grins, the sight of the picturesque little harbour town loosening the bubble of excitement in his chest.

   Soon warning bells ring and crewmen scurry about as a voice over a PA system announce their docking procedures. Most passengers find their way down to the car deck, Stiles among them.

   He climbs into his jeep, first making sure his equipment survived the journey. The rest of his stuff – three cardboard boxes filled with books and data, as well as his rucksack – is given a quick once over.

   The ferry’s engines vibrate the old panels of his Jeep as it reverse-thrusts, and Stiles pats the steering wheel, thankful that she got him this far in one piece. Soon the massive loading-bay doors open and he’s following a steady stream of vehicles off the boat and onto the dock, marshals directing the traffic.

   “Here we go,” Stiles says, breaking out in a cautious smile as he drives out into the sunshine.

   Checking his cell for directions, he drives up the winding main road past quaint little shops and sidewalk cafés, framed by the lush forest. The town is buzzing, the summer tourist season in full swing.

   A few blocks from the harbour he stops in front of a row of modest, two-story buildings, each painted a different colour with some flowerpots hanging from a few storefronts at ground level. The forest crowds right up to the buildings here, looming high above the pitched gables.

   Squeezed into the little alleyway between the two buildings a flight of rickety looking stairs lead up to a door on the first floor - what’s bound to be the little apartment he’s rented for the summer, right above a laundromat and a second-hand bookshop.

   A striking, dark-haired woman climbs out of an old but perfectly looked after pickup parked by the curb, and waves after a second.  Stiles waves back and climbs out of the jeep.

   “Stiles?” the woman greets, walking closer.

   “That’s me,” he smiles and takes her extended hand. “Laura, right?”

   “Yup,” she smiles brightly. “Welcome to Beacon Harbour.”

oOo

“The towels are in here,” Laura opens a louvred closet, “And there’s some extra linen, here,” she pats, reaching up to the top shelf.

   “Cool, thanks,” Stiles nods and looks around the room.

   It’s a converted attic, yet surprisingly roomy, the little kitchenette flowing into the small living area, with the bedroom right behind that and, thankfully, the bathroom through a door to the side. It’s all second-hand, mismatched furniture – old but comfortable – off-white painted walls and various rugs scattered across the worn wooden floor.

   “What do you think?” Laura asks.

   “It’s perfect, thank you.”

   “My pleasure. Oh, and the grocer is close enough to walk. I’ll show you.”

   “Thanks,” Stiles smiles, still looking around at the space. He pulls his jacket tighter around him, eyeing the ancient steel radiator against the wall.

   Laura grins, somewhat in sympathy. “It’s not California, right?”

   Stiles shivers through his chuckle. “Tell me about it. I thought it’s supposed to be summer?”

   “What? We’re having a heatwave, can’t you tell?”

   “Oh my god. I hate to be here in winter.”

   “So do we,” she says drily. “Speaking of which, be sure to close to block-out blinds when you want to sleep, sun doesn’t really set until after eleven.”

   “PM?”

   Laura bites back a laugh. Instead she slaps Stiles on the shoulder. “You’re gonna love it here, believe me.”

   “From your lips,” Stiles mumbles, looking out the window.

   “Well, I’ll let you get settled.”

   “Actually,” Stiles stops her. “Do you know where I can rent a boat?”  

oOo

“So… Whales, huh?”

   “The most amazing creatures on this planet,” Stiles beams.

   “Well you’ve certainly come to the right place,” Laura grins, flipping the indicator and waving at what Stiles assumes is a local. “Whale watching capitol of the world.”

   “And hopefully it’ll live up to that. I’m writing my thesis on Qilaq pygmy whales. That’s why I’m here.”

   “Qilaq…? As in Northern Light whales?”   

   “Yup,” he smiles proudly, mistaking the tone of her question. “And did you know that it’s a common misconception about why they’re sometimes called that?”

   “Yeah?” Laura says slowly. “All I know is that when you spot them you know the aurora will appear that night.”

   “Nope,” Stiles shakes his head. “It’s the other way around.”

   “It is?”   

   “It is. So, Qilaq means sky, or heaven in Inuit, right? The way the skin along their backs would shimmer and reflect the sky when they surface? Which, according to ancient lore is why they would come closer to shore as they believed the aurora called to them,” Stiles finishes. 

   “Huh.” Laura stays quiet for a second. “Well, you do know it’s mostly just the humpbacks here, right? You’re lucky if there’s one sighting in the season.”

   “Yeah, I know,” Stiles half-smiles. “Of all the baleen whales they are the most secretive. Their mating habits are barely documented, and their singing has never been recorded. Even so, this is the place to find them. And if I can finish my dissertation I’ll be able to get a grant to carry on my research.”

   “Research?”

   “Yeah. So little is known about them, and I want to change that.”

   “Impressive. Doctor Stillinski.”

   Stiles blushes. “Not yet. Still need to find them.”

   Laura flips the indicator again. “Well, let’s see if we can find you a boat, first.”  

oOo

   “What kinda name is Stiles?” the fisherman frowns, leaning against a weathered old docking post with his arms crossed. Toothpick hanging out the corner of his mouth he sizes Stiles up like something the tide washed up.

   “The kind who will be paying you good money to rent your boat, Robert Finstock,” Laura saves him.

   “It’s Polish,” Stiles explains with a nervous glance at Laura. “I got tired of having to spell it to everyone. So I shortened it.”

   “Ya don’t sound Polish.”

   “You wouldn’t know Polish if it was in a crab cage and smacked you across the face,” Laura interjects again.

   “I’m just askin’. No need to get all tied up, Laura-dear.”

   Laura folds her arms as well. “Will you rent him your boat or not?”

   “No. I’ll take ya m’self. Lord knows what an outlander will get up to out there. An’ what if ya run into a pile o’ Orcas? They love Northern Lighters.”

   Stiles tries not to roll his eyes too much. “Killer whales have never attacked humans, and it’s a complete myth that they hunt Qilaqs.”

   “Ah myth, ya say? An’ how many times have you seen-“

   “Bobby,” Laura groans. “The boat?”

   “Right. Like I said, I’ll take ya,” Bobby grumbles and spits the toothpick into the water.

   Stiles looks over at The Coach, the small, single engine Cape Islander creaking at her moorings with every ebb and flow. “Okay," he concedes.

   “Payment upfront. And I don’ go sailin’ on the Sabbath.”

   Laura snorts, which earns her a glare.

   “Fine. Do we have a deal?” Stiles holds out his hand. 

   The fisherman eye’s his hand, then nods. “Yes, we have a deal,” he shakes it, giving Stiles another scowling once over. “Welcome to the Harbour.”

oOo

“You’re doing it wrong.”

   Derek looks up from where he’s been planting a row of pebbles next to the mote of the sand castle, his big frame squatting awkwardly in their little patch of beach in between the rocks.

   “The big ones go at the back,” Seth instructs, taking the smooth little stone from Derek’s thick fingers and pressing it into the sand at the start of the row.

   “Oh, like that,” Derek says. “So should I change these also?”

   “Of course,” Seth nods, and goes back to shaping the little turrets, tongue sticking out in concentration. Derek smiles and smacks a kiss on his head.

   “It should be the same on the other side also, okay?”

   “Yes, sir.”

   Seth squints up at the lighthouse where it stands proud far above the little alcove beach. “Uncle Derek, are you going to go sleep in the basement again?”

   “Uh huh.”

   “Isn’t it scary?”

   “Nah.” Derek carefully plants another pebble. “Besides, I know you and mommy are there when I wake up.”

   “And Jordy,” Seth adds, patting the wet sand into the shape he wants.

   “And Jordy,” Derek smiles.

   “Uncle Derek, you shouldn’t run so much.”

   “Why not?”

   “Because then you won’t have to go sleep in the basement.”

   Derek stares at the top of Seth’s head. “Well, ah,” he positions another pebble. “It keeps me healthy.”

   “Is that why you’re so big?”

   “I guess.”

   “If I come run with you, will I also get so big?”

   Derek narrows his eyes. “Even bigger.”

oOo

“Hey Laura.”

   Both Laura and Stiles look up from their lunch, Stiles’ mouth stuffed in mid-chew.

   “Jordy, hey,” she blushes.

   “You doin’ good?”

   “I am, thanks. And you?”

   “Oh ya know, chasin’ bad guys an’ all.”

   “That right?” Laura smiles, and the young police officer named Jordy returns her smile, his face lighting up. Standing next to their table with a baseball cap in hand, dressed in jeans and a uniformed shirt, he looks expectantly at Stiles. “Oh, sorry,” Laura wipes her mouth with her napkin. “This is Stiles, the student I was telling you about? Stiles, this is Deputy Jordan Parish.”

   “Jordy’ll do,” the deputy holds out his hand, smile wide and eyes bright. “So you’re the whale-man.”

   Stiles swallows noisily before wiping his fingers on his own napkin, taking the proffered hand. “I am. Nice to meet you.”

   “Likewise,” Jordan nods. “Well, you’ve come to the right place, for sure.”

   “So everyone says.”

   “Oh you betcha! It’s a regular stampede out there, humpbacks everywhere.”

   “Stiles is doing some research on Qilaqs,” Laura pipes up.

   Jordan looks from her to Stiles. “Oh. I see,” he nods a bit awkwardly, then turns to Laura. “Ah, how’s Seth?”

   “Good, he’s good.”

   “Send him a hug from me, okay?”

   “I will.”

   “Anyways,” he looks between them and fits his cap back on. “I need to get goin’. Kittens to save outa trees an’ all that.” He smiles at Stiles again. “Welcome to the Harbour. Hope you find them whales.”

   “Ah, thanks,” Stiles smiles back.

   He turns to Laura, his eyes softening just that bit when he touches the visor of his cap. “I’ll call ya later, yeah?”

   “Okay.”

   Both Laura and Stiles watch him leave, Stiles turning back to her once the bell above the little café’s door jingles.

   “He’s real sweet. And really, really cute.”     

   Laura looks at Stiles like she’s finally puzzling something out. It’s perfect; the silent understanding that unfolds between them.   “Well, he’s taken,” she says, trying hard to be serious.

   Stiles’ grin is slow, and he tucks back into his food. “This is absolutely delicious, by the way.”

   “Told ya; best lobster and dill sandwich in the northern hemisphere.”

   “Heartburn’s gonna kill me tonight,” Stiles tongue finds a dribble of sauce at the corner of his mouth. “But it’s soooo worth it.”

   Laura nods agreeably, mouth full.

   “Who’s Seth, by the way?”

   “My son,” Laura lights up, and swipes across her cell phone to bring up a picture. She angles the screen to Stiles, who wipes his hands again and takes it from her.

   “Awww,” Stiles croons. “He’s adorable.”

   “He is,” Laura beams. “My little man.  

   “How old?”

   “Four going on forty. It’s scary how perceptive that child is.”

   Stiles shakes his head and hands the phone back to her.

   “You like kids?”

   “I do,” Stiles smiles. “I always wanted to become a teacher, but then I fell in love with whales.”  

   Laura gazes at Stiles before she takes another bite of her sandwich.

oOo

The little grocer is literally around the corner - just like Laura said. Stiles decides to get some essentials, which ends up taking way longer than he thought it would due to the cashier and even some  shoppers cornering him with big smiles and more questions than the Spanish Inquisition.

   Walking up his stairs he notices a potted flowery plant on the landing, right in front of his door.

   Going down on his haunches, balancing his grocery bag in one arm, he immediately recognises them as some form of orchid. Small, multi-petal white flowers clump together in bunches along the end of slender stalks, some of the inner petals so thin and delicate as to be almost translucent. On closer inspection though he can make out networks of veins, almost microscopic, radiating out from the stigma column to fan out across the petals, crossed by another set of perpendicular veins.  

   “Beautiful,” Stiles whispers.

   There’s no card, no note, no distinctive features on the plain, unglazed earthenware pot. The primordial-looking roots though have been painstakingly draped with wet moss.

   Carefully stepping over them he unlocks his door, set the groceries down in the kitchen, then goes out again to fetch the orchid. 

   He sets the plant on the kitchen counter and steps back, hands on his hips, frowning.

   About an hour later and the high pitched whistling pulls Stiles away from his thoughts. He walks over to the kitchen and flicks off the burner, the boiling kettle – which he is sure came over with the Mayflower - settling down at once.

   While his tea steeps he looks out at the one wall of the living room he has covered in graphs, notes and maps, the biggest of these a detailed ocean floor contour map of the Alaskan Gulf, showing ocean currents and annual temperatures from the Bering Sea all the way down to the Gulf of California. On others he’s got several migratory routes mapped out with red string, stretching their routes across both hemispheres.

   He walks over, mug in hand, tag dangling from the side, and plucks one of the red strings like it’s a guitar. “You guys better show up,” he tells the map.

   Turning away from his info wall he walks over to the window next to his bed, overlooking the town. Bizarrely, dusk has finally fallen on Beacon Harbour at just a little after eleven o’clock pm, and the twinkling lights bravely compete with the brilliant star-strewn Milky Way visible here where mankind has yet to foul it.

   There it is; the signalling Morse code flicker of the lighthouse. In the dark, with little points of reference it almost looks like it’s floating out in the bay, though Stiles knows it stands firm on its rocky peninsula.  

oOo

Derek takes a deep breath, letting the cold breeze cool his fevered skin. From his view in the pilothouse the gentle curve of the horizon is brightening by the second. Normally he would have his coffee here, awake long before Laura or the little one, silently welcoming a new day. But the cycle has come around again, his gums tingling continuously, loins prickling, the moon – about to sink away – only a day away from full. Caffeine would not be a good idea.

   He wipes his brow and, wincing, adjusts the now ever present erection straining the meshed support of his shorts. Running with a hard-on is not fun – the chafing is murder - but he needs to get out now more than ever, try and burn off as much energy as he can.

   He peels off his tank and uses it to wipe under his arms. He takes a last breath, the breeze pure heaven across his face, and tilts the window shut.

   Downstairs he checks on Laura and Seth, their peaceful heartbeats soothing to his own elevated rate. He lays a hand on his sister’s shoulder and, running shoes in hand pads down the short hallway to the disaster zone that is a little boy’s room, leaving a kiss on his nephew’s cheek. He walks down the stairs and steps outside, softly closing the solid wooden front door behind him.

   He doesn’t stretch, just takes off at a sprint as easy as if he was jogging. Bare chested, powerful legs pumping and arms working, the muffled thud of his feet quickly disappears amid the darkened, misty forest.   

oOo

   Stiles’ breath fogs when he steps out onto the sidewalk, running shoes on. There’s more cloud than blue sky, some threatening rain, and he zips his hoody up all the way to his throat. Church bells break the almost sanctity of the early dawn mist, and Stiles, smirking, is reminded of his eloquent guide-to-be, whom he’s sure will most probably frequent bar stools rather than pews today.

   Done stretching, he starts off slow and easy, the startlingly fresh and crisp air laden with the strong, spicy smell of wet mulchy earth. He jogs down his road as it twists and turns through the quiet of the town. The asphalt is wet and steaming, the gravelled edges crowded by dense undergrowth and crowned with towering Spruce and Hemlock draped in tendrils of mist.

   By the time he reaches the third block, he has waved back to about half a dozen complete strangers, standing on porches or puttering about in overgrown gardens. “Definitely not in Kansas anymore,” he says to himself, breath puffing in little clouds.

   The harbour is, surprisingly, also quiet, the sharp briny ocean smell invigorating. Save for the odd fisherman and his rod far out on the breakwater, it’s just the seagulls and Stiles and the constant thud of his running shoes on the tar.

   By the time he finds his way on the narrow road leading up to the lighthouse, he stops to wipe the sweat from his face. His heartburn has attacked with all guns blazing – like he knew it would - and pulling a face he tries to swallow the burning down.

   Hands on his hips he turns back to look out at the harbour as a distraction from the discomfort, the town laid out below him, as serene as it must have been for generations.

   He looks up to where the tip of the lighthouse is visible above the tree tops, and, rubbing down his throat, takes off again.

   The road winds through a tunnel of ancient, lichen-covered cedars, cathedral-tall and draped in clumps of trailing moss. Here in the moist shadows even the boulders are carpeted in a fine green fur, tossed as they are amid a field of ferns by a millennia’s worth of glacial erosion. It starts to rain, softly, and Stiles stops again and just takes it all in; the fresh, wet earth smell, the filtered misty light, the almost magical patter of raindrops on leaves.

   Exiting the small clump of forest and the relative sound insulation it afforded, the ocean is a great rumble out on the open grassy peninsula. Little beads of moisture has started to condense in his eyelashes. He rubs at his eyes, flips his hood up, and is greeted by the lighthouse at the top of the road, finally able to break the almost mystical aura it has had since he arrived.

   The tower itself rises from a two-story slate roof building, all in the same perfectly honed grey stone with quoin detail. Patches of multi-coloured lichen cover the walls closer to the ground, while the upper parts have been discoloured by what must be ages and ages of ocean weather.

   Even more so is the imposing totem pole at the entrance, standing at least fifteen feet tall, sun-bleached and beautifully carved with a number of intricate patterns and, Stiles assumes, animal faces.

   There’s a small gravelled parking surrounded by fields of wildflower dotted grass, with a sign post at the front.

   Other than that the place seems deserted.   

   He walks closer to the totem pole, gazing up at the lighthouse, each step crunching in the silence. He traces a finger over the grey, weathered wood, following the grooves of a particularly interesting three-pointed design. It’s surrounded by what he assumes are various stylized animals, some clearly fish, others with snouts and teeth.

   The rain remains light, but his sweat quickly cools. As a shiver runs up his arms he begins to look around for somewhere underroof.

   The only entrance visible is a glass-paned door at the front of the building, facing the parking area. There’s a professional but faded hand-painted sign above that reads Beacon Harbour Maritime Museum and Gift Shop. Though the ‘Closed’ sign hanging in the door is not surprising, Stiles was hoping for some shelter.

   He is about to move on to see if there is another door when the crunch of gravel turns him around-

   -and all thoughts about getting dry and warm just, vaporize.

   Crossfit Athlete: that’s the only description Stiles’ brain can come up with before the last drop of blood leaves his head to pool south at the sight of the bearded, raven-haired Olympian towering over him.

   The man is dressed in only running shoes and a pair of black mesh shorts that sit low on his pelvic ridge and snug around his hairy thighs, his legs as hirsute as his torso.

   “Museum’s closed,” the big guy frowns, just slightly out of breath.

   Stiles snaps his eyes up from the glaring stretch of the fabric. The stranger’s mouth is about in line with his own forehead, thick eyebrows scrunched together over eyes the colour of faded green glass.  

   “Ah, yeah, yes, I know. I mean, I saw the sign, I mean,” he stumbles, pushing his hood back down. “I ah, I was just out jogging, you know, so…” Stiles points awkwardly.

   The stranger scratches a fleshy pec, right where there’s an old circular scar. The puckered skin is clear of any hair, unlike the rest of his furry chest. “You should come inside.”

   “Ah, no, no it’s okay, I’m fine, I was just-”

   “Or you can stay outside and get soaked,” the man interrupts, voice low and calm, blatantly looking Stiles up and down. Stiles shuts his mouth. He stares intently for another second at Stiles, then gestures with his chin. “Have a look around, I’ll only be a sec,” and idly pulls at the waistband of his shorts.

   Stiles has a fleeting, glorious, Red Sea-parting moment of black mesh fabric pulled taught over a veined column of thickness, the seam separating two fat orbs before he releases the waistband and the whole heavy package just bounces back down. He struts away, indifferent to it all.

   There’s a strange swirling tattoo between his shoulder blades. Stiles mind flips through his visual memory of why it looks familiar, but the perfect V-shape of his immensely broad back as it tapers down to a set of flexing glutes is the sweetest distraction. “Ah, yeah, okay, thanks,” Stiles says to his retreating form.

   The man crouches, lifts the ‘welcome’ mat and digs out a key. The door to the museum is unlocked, and he disappears inside without a word or a backward glance, leaving Stiles standing on the gravel, heartburn forgotten, heart galloping away.

oOo

The Beacon Harbour Maritime Museum is a bygone showcase of pipe-smoking, tempest-conquering seamen and their magnificent sailing vessels.

   Stiles walks around the rather large, one-room wood panelled interior, smelling of history and furniture polish, careful to not bump into the various glass display cases of model ships and sunken treasure supposedly found around the island. Huge solid timber beams, almost black with age span the width of the room with white painted slats in between, easily nine feet above. All in all the museum takes up about half of the ground story of the building.

   About a quarter of the space, right by the entrance is dedicated to a little gift shop with racks and racks of whale plushies, ceramic lighthouse replicas and other touristy knick-knacks.

   It’s quaint, surely the envy of any little harbour town.

   Stiles doesn’t see a thing.

   He walks around like a zombie, eyes roaming but blind, his mind spinning yet completely blank. At least it’s dry and relatively warm.

   He turns when he hears footsteps coming down stairs he glimpsed through a doorway at the back on the museum’s side. The stranger fills up the opening, the top of his head barely an inch or two from the dark wood frame, a fluffy towel draped over one arm. To Stiles’ utter dismay (and yet, relief) he has changed into baggy sweats and a long sleeved Henley that somehow showcase those ridiculous arms and shoulders to an even better degree, his chest hair flowing up from the loose-buttoned collar to join the black scruff on his throat and jaw.

   The man walks over to Stiles and hands him the towel wordlessly.

   “Thanks,” Stiles takes the towel, noticing the hair on his bare feet.

   The stranger nods in answer and cross his arms. Stiles quickly looks away from the deep furrow it creates when his pecs bunch up, and with a nervous smile zips his hoody open to start patting his neck and shoulders dry.

   The stranger’s eyes track his every movement, and Stiles already butterfly-filled stomach twists even further. “So, ah, you live here?” he asks, stuffing it up his shirt to awkwardly rub under his arms and over his chest.

   “Yes. I’m the lighthouse keeper.”

   “Seriously? That’s so cool. A bit spooky maybe,” he grins, though the downward set of the man’s mouth has him quickly clearing his throat. “I mean, all by yourself, you know. It could be. Spooky.”

   “My sister and nephew live here too. No spooks,” the man answers.

   “Oh, right, got it.” For the first time Stiles notices his striking canines and prominent front teeth – strangely adorable for a man of his stature. “I’m Stiles, by the way. It’s a long story,” he waves it away, reminded of his awkward introduction to Bobby. “My grandparents where Polish, so-“

   The man sticks out his hand. “Derek.”

   Stiles fumbles with the towel and just ends up dropping it. “Hey.” He takes the proffered hand with a smile, noting how easily the thick digits envelope his own slender fingers. His skin is hot to the touch, slightly rough. “Thanks, ah,” Stiles picks up the towel. “Thanks for this.”

   “No problem,” Derek takes the towel from him. Even though his scowl has been replaced by passive interest, the periodic tick along his jaw line does not stop. “What brings you to the Harbour?”

   “Researching whales,” Stiles shrugs, having answered that question so many times by now. “At least I hope to.”

   Derek frowns slightly. “You’re the student?”

   “Wow, news travels fast, huh.”

   Derek smirks lightly, jaw ticking away. “You’re renting one of my sister’s properties.”

   It takes a second for Stiles to put it together before his eyes go wide. “You’re Laura’s brother?

   Derek only nods, his jaw relaxing just a bit to let a slight smile through.

   “Oh, okay. Wow.” Stiles brain starts to map the physical similarities between Derek and Laura, and suddenly it’s as clear as daylight. “Yeah, yeah, I see that now. Cool. So they live here too.”

   “Yes, they do.”

   “That’s great, man, that’s, yeah. You should tell Laura I said hi. Loving my place, really.” Stiles nods and sucks his lips into his mouth, releasing them with a pop. “Yeah, so, I guess I’ll be heading back, looks like the rain has stopped.”

   “Let me drive you.” Derek says, taking a step closer.

   “No! No, it’s fine, seriously. Fresh air’ll do me good.” Because I will self- ombust if I have to sit with you in such close confines. “Thanks again for the towel.”

   Derek lifts his chin, muscles back to pluck at his jaw. “Wait here.”

   Perturbed, Stiles watches his retreating back until he disappears through the door again. He sighs and leans against a table stacked with books. He soon begins to fidget, pulling off his damp hoody.

   “Here.”

   Stiles jumps. Derek has appeared again, this time holding out a tracksuit jacket.

   “It won’t fit, but at least it’s dry.”

   Stiles slowly takes it from him. His throat clicks before he can answer. “Thank you. That’s… That’s really kind.”

   “My pleasure.”

   Stiles pulls Derek’s hoodie on, and yes, he’s swimming in it. He has to roll up the sleeves, the ribbed waist coming almost to mid-thigh. But it’s warm and dry, and smells deeply and wondrously of male. “I’ll bring it back. Promise.”

   “Don’t sweat it. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again,” Derek lifts his chin.

   “Yeah, yeah. Sure,” Stiles smiles, tugging at the sleeves of the jacket.

   Derek is watching him closely, arms crossed again.

   “Okay, yeah. Sooo, catch ya later.” Stiles turns and promptly bumps into a display case. “Crap,” he mutters and grab at the wobbling piece of furniture, cheeks heating up. “Sorry. I’ll just,” he pats the glass. “Bye,” and manages to find the door without further incident.

   Outside, he crunches over the gravel and only looks back once he hits the tarred road. The door is still closed, no sign of Derek, the grey mossy stone still as solid as ever, the lighthouse still proud and tall.

   He starts to jog, and when he reaches the boulders, barks out a slightly hysterical laugh, heart bouncing around in his chest.

   “Holy shit,” he giggles, the hot air balloon in his stomach expanding to his chest.

oOo

Derek knows if his doesn’t let up on his grip he’s going to crush the porcelain sink to powder.

   He’s staring at his reflection in the mirror above, chest heaving, doing his best to will his fangs back into his gums. He splashes his face with cold water then rips off his Henley, peel off his sweats and underwear, and watch as his engorged cock swing around then slap back against his hip. The head glistens where the foreskin has started to pull back.

   He grabs his straining erection, pulling back until the whole head is exposed. It barely takes a dozen rough strokes before his knees buckle and he paints the sink and splashback in stripes of his cum, mouth slack.

   Derek lifts his head, catches his flushed reflection in the mirror, his gaze flitting down to where a splash of his seed drips off the edge of the glass.

   “The fuck…” he breathes, shivers racing through his muscles.

   He turns on the shower – ice cold – and gets in, his breath knocked right of him. He leans forward, one hand braced against the tiles, the other still gripped around his half-hard junk as the frigid water cascades over the furrowed muscles of his back.

   He snorts in great lungful’s of air through the water, hoping to rid his nose of that scent.

oOo

   Laura shuts her eyes and lets Jordan tilt her head back, his other hand around her waist. He’s a good kisser, so good, and she gladly gives herself over.

   They break apart, Jordy smiling bashfully. “Promise me you’ll think about.”

   Laura blushes, and kisses her date on the cheek. “I will. Promise.”

   “Okay. Well, sleep tight. And say hello to my little trooper. And Derek.”

   “I will.”

   Jordan dips his head then walks back to his truck. Laura stands by their ‘front door’ – the only other entrance to the building except for the museum’s door - and watch the tail lights of Jordan’s truck disappear into the forest tunnel. Far above the constant wide beam of light swings in slow rotation, sweeping across the tree tops to shoot out into the night, round and round, over the bay, then back again. She finally goes inside.

   She hangs up her coat in the small entrance hall and takes the stairs. Derek’s bedroom door is open, so she doesn’t even bother to look if he’s in his bed. Down the short hall her son’s little bed is also empty, toys and books scattered across the floor. Frowning but not worried in the least, she takes the stairs back down and stops when she walks into their little family room.

   With a soft smile she leans against the doorpost, the small reading lamp and fire crackling in the hearth a soft glow over the sleeping form of her baby boy, gently rising and falling on his uncle’s broad chest.

   Derek’s too big for the couch, one leg sticking over the armrest, the other having fallen off all together. One hand curled over his nephew, the other drags on the rug, an oversized picture book – Seth’s favourite – lying open by his knuckles.

   Walking closer the flush across Seth’s little face becomes apparent, the curls in his neck damp even though the room isn’t overly warm at all. Derek is dressed in only sweats and a wifebeater, Seth’s one little hand clutched tightly in the fabric. Her brother, too, is flushed, and this close she can almost feel the heat radiating from him. Short ticks flicker across his face, the fingers curled possessively over Seth’s little body trembling in bursts.

   As gently as she can Laura rests a hand over Derek’s, about to whisper him awake. She doesn’t get a chance as his eyes shoot open at once, burning bright. Fangs bared and with a menacing growl he grabs her arm in a death grip.

   She barely has a chance to gasp before Derek lets go like he burned himself, eyes fading back to normal, fangs receding. He doesn’t move, cognisant of Seth, but just stares up at his sister, eyes filled with horror. “Laura.”

   Laura somehow digs up a calming smile. “Hey you.”

   “Oh god did I hurt you?”

   “Of course not. Don’t be silly.”

   “Shit, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Derek sits up slowly, Seth clutched to his chest. “I… we were reading, and Seth fell asleep, and I just,” Derek drags an agitated hand through his hair. “Just closed my eyes for a second.”

   “It’s fine,” Laura tries to sooth. She takes Seth from him, the little boy moulding himself over his mother’s shoulder. “No harm."

   “Tell your heart that.”

   “Hey, I got a bit of a fright is all.”

   Derek scrunch his eyes shut and takes a calming breath, resting his head in his hands. “I’m sorry.”

   “It’s okay, seriously,” she smiles. She takes in his flushed, dishevelled state. “How’re you feeling?” 

   “I ah…” he stands up, looks around the room, scratching his chest. “I think I should go down. Tonight.”

   Laura stops rocking Seth. “What? Already?”

   He nods grimly, looking down at his feet.

   “But it’s only full tomorrow.”

   “I know, I… I don’t know why it’s come on earlier, but I’ve been… edgy all day, a-and I can feel myself… slipping.”

   “Derek. You didn’t hurt me,” Laura insists.

   “I could’ve snapped your arm,” his voice cracks a bit.

   “But you didn’t. You would never-”

   “Laura, please.

   She sighs and nods. “Okay.” She shifts Seth higher. “I’m just gonna put this little monkey to bed quick.”

oOo

   Derek distractedly flips open the hatch that's set in the middle of the circular room – the base of the lighthouse - jaw muscles tight. With a folded blanket under one arm he takes two steps down the ladder when he hesitates, his eyes level with his sister’s. “Hey. I never asked. How was your date?”

   “Good,” Laura blushes. “He ah, he asked me again.”

   Derek lifts both eyebrows. “And?”

   “Of course not.”

   “Laura, we’ve talked about this,” Derek sighs.

   “You can’t do this on your own.”

   Derek shrugs. “Don't worry about me, I'll figure something out. I just think you should seriously consider this.” He waits a beat. “And not just for you.”

   Laura folds her arms, one hand sliding up to her throat.

   Just like mom Derek thinks.

   “Jordy’s a good man.”

   Laura has to blink quickly, her chin quivering for just a second. “I know.”

   Derek smiles encouragingly, and then suddenly doubles over, face twisted. He growls, claws sprouting, one hand curled around the edge of the hatch opening.

   “Derek!” Laura crouches, grabbing hold of his arm.

   “I’m okay,” he grits out.

   “No, you’re not.” She cups his cheek, his skin fevered to the touch. “It’s never been like this.”

   Derek can smell the fear in her voice. “’m sure it’s nothing. Don’t w-worry.”

   “Stop telling me not to worry.”

   Derek manages with a crooked smile. He takes a deep breath, blows it out between pursed lips, then grabs hold of the chain attached to the underside of the hatch. He pulls it as he steps down until the door rests against his palm with just his head sticking out. He looks up at Laura. “Love you, sis.”

   “Love you too. Take it easy, okay?”

   “Easy as pie,” Derek smiles tiredly, and lets the door slip shut.

   Laura waits a few seconds before she picks up the mason jar that she had brought in with her and sprinkle a generous amount of mountain ash in a thick line around the hatch.  

   Done, she sits back and rubs her arm where Derek had grabbed her. It’s already bruising, but she’ll be sure to cover it up. He does not need to know.

   After another minute she slowly gets up and takes the stairs to her room. There’s an antique bureau next to her window with a collection of framed photographs arranged on top. Walking past she lets her fingers glide across the polished wood, gazing at each smiling, laughing face - husband, parents, – here where Derek doesn’t have to see them.  

   The screams of agony and broken sobs she can sometimes hear filtering past the heavy hatch when she finds herself crouched outside the door: these she can deal with.

   It’s the prospect of having to add his picture to the collection on top of the chest that stops her from breathing sometimes.

oOo

Derek sets the blanket down on the bare stone. He doesn’t bother switching on the light; he can see perfectly in the dark. The small round window lets in some light, though it’s a double-edged sword, especially when moonlight beams through.

   His hands are shaking near constantly now, and he walks over to the single cold water faucet set in the wall. He lets it run and splashes his face, watching as the water flows down the drain in the floor. He quickly strips, folding his clothes neatly next to the blanket.

   Laura wanted to make the room more hospitable – paint it, at least, put in a dehumidifier, some proper furniture. He refused. Nothing would survive in any case.

   From the folds of the blanket - hidden so Laura wouldn’t ask any questions - Derek pulls a used towel, one he’s had stuffed in a plastic bag all day to keep its scent as fresh as possible; a towel that smells of young, healthy male, musky and sweet and perfect.

   He holds it up to his face and exhales.

   Within a heartbeat his bones start to break and knit back together, his muscles tearing apart only to grow back thicker. Hair sprout down his face, grow longer over his arms and legs. His fangs push against the confines of his lips, his claws slicing through the towel. He staggers, about a foot taller already, growls in agony as his shoulders widen and chest expands. He holds himself up against a wall as his veined cock fills up an up until it slaps against his belly, slightly curved and brutishly thick.

   Towel pressed to his nose he inhales as deeply as he can-

   -and it’s like he’s right in front of Derek again, looking up at him with those whiskey-coloured eyes from beneath those almost feminine lashes, his build so incredibly opposite to his own, his instincts screaming at him to hold down and protect and-

   Groaning painfully, Derek ejaculates without touching himself, hips stuttering as thick off-white stripes of his seed splatter on the floor – the first of many – till his balls ache and he has to grab the fist-sized knot at the base to try and stem the flow.

   Spent, he shakily pushes away from the wall, eyes on fire. He lifts his head and howls. It vibrates around the room, carries through the stone to shake the deadbolts on the hatch above.

oOo

Stiles wakes with a trembling exhale to his pyjama pants sticky with come. It takes him a few seconds to fully grasp the situation, until the quickly cooling semen has him grimacing in recognition. He lifts the covers and slides out of bed, the wet fabric sticking to his crotch. He peels them off and drops them right there on the floor with a shake of his head. “Really? How old are you…”  

   In the bathroom he wipes the excess away with toilet paper and cleans off the rest with a wet facecloth. Satisfied he squints at his sleep-puffy face in the mirror. “Like beating off twice in the shower wasn’t enough.”

   It was a good dream though he grins wryly. His mind offers up the image of those running shorts again, the wide swath of tight curly hair disappearing past the waistband, forever burned into his mind…

   He downs a glass of water and climbs back into bed. He fights down the lightness in his chest when he recalls that face, those eyes, the sheer size of him…

   With a sigh Stiles rolls onto his side. He’s moved the mystery orchid to a little table by the window, and stares at its dark silhouette against the backdrop of the drawn blinds.

   “Welcome to the Harbour indeed,” he mumbles into his pillow.

Chapter Text

“… water’s cold enough to skin ya. Bet you’re not used to that, huh?”

   “No, I’m not,” Stiles answers Bobby distractedly, busy labelling the vials of ocean water he had just pulled up from various depths. They haven’t gone out too far, Beacon Island still visible as a green smear on the horizon.

   Bobby looks at the equipment spread out on the deck, his young charge sitting cross-legged on the centre bench as he taps away on his laptop. He picks up a steel tube - about the size of a spray can  with a black rubber bulb at the end - attached to a long plastic cable. “Watcha gonna do with this?”

   Stiles looks up. “Ah, please be careful with that, it’s on loan from the university.”

   “What is it?”

   “It’s a hydrophone. I use it to listen to the whales.”

   “Whale song? Eh, you can buy all them cd’s at the gift shop at the marina.”

   “I like to hear it first-hand.”

   “Hmm,” Bobby shrugs and sets it down with a slight scowl. “Where ya from, anyway?”

   “California,” he answers without looking up.

   “California?” Bobby asks like it’s on Mars. “Eh, too much sun.”

   Stiles snorts and carries on.

   Bobby empties his cup of coffee and pours another from his thermos, massaging his temple. He holds the cup out to Stiles.

   “No, I’m good thanks.”

   Bobby shrugs and takes a big gulp. He pushes away from the wheel and walks, as steady as can be on the swell and his hungover feet, aft to the single outboard motor. Stiles ignores him, the strong waft of alcohol he smelled on Bobby’s breath when he met him on the dock a good enough reason to engage in as little conversation as possible. He tries to concentrate on the work at hand and not black running shorts and chest hair and-

   “Ya out, then?”

   Ripping him back from his thoughts Stiles’ fingers freeze over his laptop. He blushes profusely, like he’s been caught out, and slowly looks up at Bobby. “Excuse me?”

   “Out, lad, out. What do they say; outa the closet.”

   Stiles just gapes.

   “Ya are queer, right?”

   “How did you…?” Stiles says, glaring up at Bobby, all the old defences he thought he had left behind sputtering to life. “Ah, yes, I am. Gay. Is that going to be a problem?”

   “No, no. Just askin’,” Bobby shrugs innocently. “You don’t look queer, is all, not dressed like that.”

   Stiles looks down at the faded old Stanford sweat-shirt and torn jeans. “And ah, exactly what does a queer person dress like?”

   Bobby straightens up. “Well,” he clears his throat. “I got a nephew over in Seattle who’s also queer, ya know. Good lad, but always busy with, whatchamacallit,” he mimics holding something in his hand and jabbing it with his thumb. “Selfies! Always taking selfies. Dress like he’s on some fashion runway. I see it on the Facebook, ya know.”

   Stiles deflates a bit. “Well, I left my Jimmy Choo’s at home this morning.”

   “Yer what?”

   “Never mind,” Stiles sighs, squinting at his laptop again.

   Bobby nods and takes another sip of his coffee, staring out over the ocean. “Cold enough to skin ya.”

oOo

A Chevy truck with a spotlight-crowded roof-rack and Beacon Harbour Sheriff  logo on the door, slowly drives up the road towards Stiles just as he’s about to take the stairs up to his apartment. It slows down, then stops altogether. Stiles watch as the driver climbs out. The man is about his height, late forties, attractive in a silver-fox kind of way.

   “Stiles!” the man calls.

   Stiles is careful to fit a genial smile on his face, fast becoming accustomed to the local familiarity. “That’s me,” he says.

   The man walks closer and Stiles walks back to the sidewalk. “Sheriff Chris Argent, good to meet ya,” the man takes off his cap and holds out his hand.

   “And you, sheriff,” Stiles shakes his hand. It’s cool and dry, his smile a bit too bright. The exact opposite of his deputy Stiles thinks.

   “Hear ya chasin’ whales, then?”

   “I am indeed.”

   “Good, good. You’ve certainly come to the right place.”

   Stiles decides not to mention Qilaqs.

   “An’ where ya from?”

   “California.”

   The sheriff whistles. “All the way down there, huh?”

   “All the way. My dad’s also a sheriff, you know.”

   It’s like flipping a switch. The thin veneer of friendliness that is so genuine on every other islander Stiles has met, slips from the sheriff like a dust sheet, leaving a bright-eyed, truly smiling man behind. “Well, you tell me if ya need anythin’, ya hear?” he pats Stiles on the shoulder. “Anythin’ at all.”

   “I will, thanks.”

   “Good, good. An’ ya tell that Robert Finstock to take care out on the water.”

   “I’ll do that too,” Stiles smiles.

   “Good, good,” the Chief nods and looks up at the stairs. “Well, just came by to show my face. I’ll leave you in peace now.”

   After Stiles has waved him off he walks up the stairs, glancing at the thick wall of green behind the building, the tips of the trees shrouded in mist. In the short drive from the harbour the weather has done a complete 180. Only a few days in and the blazing heat of Cali already seems like a life lived by a stranger.

   Walking into his place he sets his stuff down and switches on the closest lamp. Rubbing his arms he walks purposefully over to the thermostat and dials it up.

   An hour later and his notes are spread out on the small coffee table, the apartment nice ‘n toasty.

   There’s a half-eaten cup of instant noodles next to his laptop, a can of soda on its other side. Stiles takes a bite, still typing with one hand, then washes it down with the soda.

   He looks up to catch sight of Derek’s jacket hanging off the coatrack by the door, the sizeable garment clearly out of place amid Stiles’ clothing. He rubs at the bridge of his nose, before standing up and walking over to the door. He lifts the jacket off its hook, brushes over the material, then brings it to his nose to inhale that wonderful, deep masculine scent. Closing his eyes he slips it on.

   He smirks, shaking his head and slips it off again. “You are such a pervert,” he sighs.

   A few hours later he’s in bed, a movie playing on his laptop. He’s staring at the orchid though, his face illuminated by flashes and blips of electronic light. He hasn’t drawn the blinds yet, the full moon playing hide and seek behind some clouds, the horizon still washed out by dusk, even this close to midnight.

oOo

A hand, a male’s hand with a dusting of fine hair; Derek watches in fascination as it appears out of the dark and trace a path up his stomach to rest in the deep cleft between his pecs, right over his heart. The floor is cold beneath him, but the hand is warm and perfect.

   He takes hold of the wrist, a burst of heat in his groin at the way his fingers circle so easily around it. He grips the fragile bone and pulls gently, coaxing, and the stranger comes into view.

   His whiskey eyes are alive, a well in the middle of the desert. He’s naked - like Derek - and Derek draws him closer to move him around onto his hands and knees, his weight a breath’s touch in his arms. 

   He fits perfectly underneath him, Derek’s bulk a protective shield over his smaller frame. He pushes his shoulders down with his chest, making him arch his back, baring his throat, and Derek is so hard he’s scared he’ll split him in half.

   He bites down on the back of that slender neck just as he drives into his impossible tight heat, his hand broad across the pale expanse of his belly, easily stilling the writhing body against him.

   It’s soft, admissible really – the rhythmic little taps in quick succession, right against his palm.

   And Stiles screams.

   Derek jerks awake, still lying curled up on his side. Chest heaving he blinks in the dark, the outline of the basement slowly solidifying into familiarity. He holds his hand up, his palm grimy. It’s like he can still feel that strange soft patter against his skin.  

   The wind howls around the tower, almost groans like a beast against the thundering surf on the rocks far below. It is pitch black through the little window, the cloud cover blocking out the moon and stars. Derek rolls onto his other side, facing away from the window, the cold stone burning against his hot skin. 

   The cloud cover splits to reveal the brilliant white disk. Derek contorts in on himself, hips grinding against the bunched up, dirty blankets caught in his lap.

oOo

“There ya go, sweetheart.”

   Stiles takes the pile of freshly laundered clothing that’s handed to him over the counter, ironed and folded to perfection. “Thanks,” he smiles at the matronly woman behind the counter.

   “My pleasure, dear. Gladys Murdoch,” she holds out her hand.

   “Ah, Stiles. Stillinski,” he awkwardly ads, shaking her hand.

   Gladys beams. “You know, we do alterations as well. I couldn’t help but notice your jacket is a tad too big.”

   “Oh, ah yeah, it’s not really mine,” Stiles colours a bit.

   “Oh,” the woman exclaims, eyes sparkling.

   Stiles does an internal eye-roll. “Yes. Well, thanks again,” and turns to leave.

   “Hope you find them whales soon!” she calls after him.

   Stiles just waves over his shoulder with a tight smile. He didn’t really have to come. He just didn’t want to return Derek’s jacket without at least washing it.

   The weather has lifted, and though it’s still cool, the sun shines brightly. It sparkles off the waters of the bay, which has turned into a beautiful deep cerulean in the changing light.

   Driving through the town Stiles easily spots the locals, dressed in their summer clothing, while tourists and visitors alike are covered in long sleeves at best. Some wave at him – the locals – and Stiles waves back with a genuine smile.

   As the lighthouse comes into view the swarm of butterflies in his stomach awake. It looks completely different in the bright morning light – majestic almost - the gravelled driveway half full with cars, all sporting out-of-state licence plates. Stiles parks in an open space and, Derek’s folded jacket held against his chest, walks to the museum entrance.

   The door is open, held in place by a rusted old hurricane lamp. As Stiles approaches a family of four comes walking out, plastic shopping bag filled with memorabilia.

   Inside there are about half a dozen tourists milling about between the displays. A quick scan shows no sign of Derek’s height and bulk standing out among the grouping of people.

   “Hey Stiles!”

   Stiles turns to find Laura next to a portly old man with a camera hanging around his neck. “Oh. Hey.”

   “Gimme a sec, I’ll be with you just now.”

   “Sure,” Stiles smiles, shifting Derek’s jacket in his arm. He looks for the door that Derek came out of the other day, but it is closed. He walks towards the front counter and notices the small mop of black hair hunched over a colouring book. The little boy looks up when Stiles comes closer.

   “Hey there,” Stiles smiles and leans over the counter, recognising Seth from the picture Laura showed him.

   “Hi,” he smiles shyly. “Do you want to buy something?”

   “Nope, I’m just waiting for your mommy.”

   “She’s really busy because uncle Derek is sleeping.”

   “Oh,” Stiles stands upright in surprise. “Is he okay?”

   The boy nods and carries on colouring in, attacking the sky above his giraffe with a blue crayon. “He’s just real tired sometimes because he runs so much.”

   “I see. I saw him the other day just as he came back from running, you know.”

   The little one looks up. “Are you and uncle Derek friends?”

   “Ah,” Stiles scratches his nose. “I guess.”

   The little boy stares at him. “My name is Seth. What’s yours?”

   “Stiles.”

   “Do you like colouring in?”

   “Love it.”

   “You can colour in the grass, if you want.”

   Stiles picks up a green crayon and starts colouring in. He gets lost in the task, listening to Seth chatter on about his uncle and the dead sea otter they found on the rocks, and the sandcastle they built, and the-

   “Seth, are you chewing Stiles’ ears off?”

   Stiles looks up, Laura smiling at both of them. “Hey! Sorry, got distracted.”

   “I can see that.”

   “Stiles is uncle Derek’s friend, mommy.”

   Laura frowns at Stiles. “You’ve met my brother?”

   “Ah, yeah,” Stiles reddens a bit. “I was out jogging the other day and met him here. He borrowed me his jacket because it was raining? I actually just came to return it.”

   “He borrowed you his jacket?” Laura asks dumbly.

   “Uhm, yes?”

   “Oh,” Laura blinks, surprise in her voice.

   “Yeah, so, Seth says he’s sleeping? Is he okay?”

   “Uh, yes. Yes, he’s fine, just the flu, which is why I’m helping out.”

   “Oh. Well he was running around in the rain with no shirt on,” Stiles says and reddens a bit.

   “He always does that,” Laura waves it away.

   “Okay, so,” Stiles pats the folded jacket where he’s left it on the counter top. “Tell him I said thanks.”

   “I will,” Laura says, looking thoughtful. “I will.”

   Stiles takes a step towards the front door then turns. “You know, if you need someone to help out here, I’ll be glad to. I’m sure you’ve got other stuff to do, and I could do with a summer job.”

   “We do need someone,” she says, looking at all the customers. “The pay’s crap, though. But I’m sure we can work something out with your rent,” she winks.

   “That would be great.”

   “Okay. I’ll talk to Derek.”

   “Excellent! Great, okay. Well, catch ya later.” Again he turns, right by the door. “Oh, yeah, before I forget. Did you drop off some orchids at my place?”

   “Orchids?”

   “Well, I’m pretty sure they’re orchids. Small, white flowers, extremely delicate, with these veins on the inside that-“

   “Spider’s Web orchid?” Laura interrupts, eyebrows drawn up.

   “Yeah,” Stiles nods slowly. “They do look like little spider webs, now that you mention it.”

   Laura digs out her cell, tapping away through her internet search. She holds the phone out to Stiles.

   “Yup, that’s it.”

   “Okay, wow,” Laura smiles, pocketing her phone. “Wasn’t me, but consider yourself special.”

   “Special?”

   “Oh yeah. It’s a Sechían custom. They’re the local First Nation people? Anyway, legend has it that the potted orchids are offered as a gift to those who are seen to possess supernatural powers.” 

   “Supernatural powers?”

   Laura nods, smiling as she folds her arms. “Seems like someone has been blessed.”

   Stiles blushes, scratching behind his ear. “So… Not everyone that comes to the island gets an orchid?”

   “Oh no,” she laughs. “Like I said, it’s a very special token, even without the whole folklore-thing. They grow nowhere else on earth and are impossible to cultivate. Yet somehow the Sechían have perfected that art. A little bit like bonsai, I would imagine.”

   “Wow. Okay. Let’s hope that means I’ll find my whales.”

   “I’m sure it will.”

   “Good. Great.” He walks towards the door again. “So… I’ll see you later. Let me know about the job, okay?”

   “You bet.”

   Both mother and son watch him leave. Seth goes back to his colouring. “I like him.”

   Laura runs her fingers through her son’s hair. “Me too,” she smiles softly.

oOo

Derek stands up on legs as shaky as a new-born colt. He’s covered in streaks of bodily fluids, some still tacky, but mostly dry. His skin is cool, the fevered heat gone.

   His stomach growls as he stumbles through the blanket shreds that litter the floor. Shivering, he pulls on his clothes, wincing occasionally. Done, he slowly climbs the ladder, and, as is their code, bangs four times on the hatch to let his sister know he’s ready to come out.

   There are the usual sweeping sounds of a broom getting rid of the mountain ash.

   “Okay,” Laura’s muffled voice gives the all clear.

   Derek flips the hatch open. As always, another folded blanket awaits him, and he quickly throws it around his shoulders.

   “Derek?” Laura asks, his sister’s backlit silhouette greeting him, light shining into the dark from the open door behind her.

   “I’m okay,” Derek croaks his first real words in two days, feeling like it takes his last bit of strength just to utter them.

   She steps closer to pull the blanket tighter around him. His rank state makes her blink, no matter how hard she tries to hide it. Derek looks down at his dirty feet and tries not to flinch when she lays a hand on his arm.

   He’s shuffling through the door to the short hallway leading to their living space, Laura’s hand on his back, when it hits him. His head snaps up and he noisily inhales that familiar scent that he’s clung to like a life raft for the past few days, fleeting but there.

   He can see in Laura’s face the moment his eyes flash amber.

   “Stiles…”

   Laura remains silent though, surprise quickly mixing with the worry on her pinched features.

oOo

   Freshly showered, skin scrubbed almost raw, Derek walks into the semi-dark kitchen to Laura setting a bowl of steaming pasta on the old worn oak table, a pot emitting the distinct moreish aroma of bolognaise bubbling away on the modern gas range behind her. There’s already a basket with bread and a glass pitcher of milk, condensation beading its surface.

   Laura fills a bowl with pasta then drowns it in meat sauce. Derek is downing his second glass of milk when Laura sets the bowl before him.

   Derek takes her hand, still not looking at her, giving it a long squeeze. She plants a kiss on his soft, shampooed hair. She pulls her robe tighter around her and goes to sit opposite him.

   He picks up his fork. If his sister wasn’t present he would’ve held the bowl in his hands and slurp it all down in one go. Instead he shovels the food into his mouth at a pace just short of choking. Laura watches him eat, silently refilling his bowl every time he’s done.

   Three huge helpings later, numerous hunks of bread to mop up the sauce and the milk finished, Derek sits back and holds a dishcloth to his mouth, smothering a belch. Laura smiles tiredly. Derek catches her eye and smiles too.

   The silence weighs down between them until Laura speaks up. “He brought your jacket back.”

   Derek picks at the woodgrain of the table. “That would explain his scent.”

   “Hmm.”

   He looks up. “What?”

   “You never mentioned anything.”

   “Didn’t think it was worth mentioning,” he says and scratches at his chest through his t-shirt, right where the scar is.

   Laura catches the movement, then goes back to studying his face. “Well, he offered to help out in the museum.”

   Derek’s eyes flit up to his sister. “He did?”

   “Uh huh,” Laura confirms. “I said I’d speak to you first.”

   Derek shrugs and goes pack to picking at the table. “Sure.”

   Laura nods. “I’ll let him know, then,” she smiles, then sits back. “Apparently someone gave him a spider’s web orchid.”

   Derek looks up. “What?”

   “Said he found them on his doorstep.”

   Derek remains silent, gazing back down at the table.

   “Think it means anything?”

   He shrugs.

   Laura watches him closely. “Anyway. Time for bed, I think.”  

   “Go. I still need to clean up,” Derek says.

   Laura bites her bottom lip. “Okay.” She stands and walks around the table to kiss him on his head again. “Don’t stay up too late.”

oOo

Arms crossed, Derek stands and watch as the flames inside the old oil drum consume the remains of his clothes, the blankets and the lone towel. Sparks shoot up, scattered by gusts of wind to disappear into the night sky as the great beam of light sweeps overhead.

   He stays until the flames die down and the remnants of the last two days are reduced to ash, joining the previous layers of so many times before.

   Only this time the scent remains. He had thought the smoke and flames would obliterate it, like it has so many things in his life.

   But those big amber eyes won’t leave him be.

   He walks back inside to go scrub down the basement.

oOo

The Coach rides the gentle swell on her way back from yet another fruitless day of whale-searching, her engine breaking the calm of the ocean. Around them, guano-frosted rocks rise from the midnight blue waters, colonised by gulls and puffins. Stiles stands next to Bobby at the helm, both men staring out over the water.

   “So, Laura’s brother is the lighthouse keeper.”

   Bobby doesn’t look at Stiles, nor does he reply, one hand on the wheel.

   “I mean, he seems like a nice guy.”

   That’s got his attention. “Ya talked to him?” Bobby frowns, looking askance at Stiles.

   “Uhm, yeah. Why?”

   Bobby shrugs, eyes back on the deep blue waters. “Keeps to himself. Barely comes into the Harbour.”

   “Oh. Well I was out jogging the other day and ran into him at the lighthouse.”

   Again Bobby doesn’t reply, just pushes his chin out. Stiles takes a breath and pretends to look at something on the horizon. “Is he like, some kind of recluse?”

   Bobby takes a while to answer. “Just private.”

oOo

Stiles is brushing his teeth when his cell starts vibrating across the bedside table. Walking out of the bathroom he picks it up, the number on the screen vaguely familiar. “’Lo?”

   “Stiles?”

   “Lawha? Oh, whey,” he quickly walks to the basin and spits, then rinses his mouth. “Hey, sorry, brushing my teeth. What’s up?”

   “Yeah, sorry about the hour. Are you still interested in helping out at the museum?”  

oOo

Stiles parks his jeep in the empty parking lot. He looks at his watch – quarter to nine – then wipes his hands on the seat.

   He’s crunching over the gravel towards the museum entrance, the closed sign still turned around, when a silhouette fills the door.

   His stomach goes loop-de-loop, but it’s Laura that swings the door open, smile bright. “Morning!”

oOo

   “… just press void, and you can start again. The thing’s ancient so the cash drawer won’t open otherwise, okay?”

   Stiles nods.    

   “Here’s the credit card machine. You know how to work it, right? Just follow the prompts on the screen.”

   Again, Stiles just nods wordlessly.    

   “That’s it, really.”

   “Got it,” Stiles smiles at her.

   “Great. Now I have to get going.” She walks over to the doorway – the same one Derek used that day – and holds onto the frame as she leans in. “Seth! Time to get going!” She turns back to Stiles. “You got everything you need?”

   “Yes. Is it okay if I work on my research here? I promise I won’t slack off with the other stuff.”

   “Of course!”

   Both turn when heavy footfalls precede a pair of large, scuffed work boots coming into view, followed by jeans that crease and pull around solid thighs, and finally, Derek, holding a happy Seth in the crook of his arm.

   Stiles swallows heavily. Derek’s wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a grey Henley under that. The fabric stretches tight over the bulk of his arm where he’s cradling Seth. “Morning, Stiles,” Derek says, those light-green eyes trained on him.

   “Hi, hey. Morning,” Stiles’ face heats up as he gives a stumped wave which turns into an abortive scratch of the back of his head, before he just folds his arms.

   Seth returns his wave, albeit shyly.

   “Hey, buddy,” Stiles smiles warmly.

   Seth starts to wriggle and Derek lets him down. He goes to his mom, leaning against her leg.

   “Okay,” Laura says brightly. “I’ll leave you two boys to hold up the fort.” She rises to her toes to kiss Derek on the cheek and waves at Stiles once she’s out the door, Seth in tow.

   Stiles turns back to lock eyes with Derek. He has both hands on his hips, and it takes most of his remaining willpower not to flick his eyes down to the way he fills out his jeans.

   “Ah, so, thanks for letting me help out. And for your jacket! Laura said you weren’t feeling well, so I just dropped it off. Are you better?”

   “I am, thank you.”

   “Good, that’s great. That’s, that’s super,” Stiles bumps his fist against his palm.

   Derek stand motionless. “You going to be okay down here?”

   “Sure! Pft, no sweat.”

   “Okay. If there’s anything, I’ll be upstairs.”  

   Stiles watches Derek disappear, watches his jean-clad ass flex up the stairs. He turns back and exhales noisily.

oOo

Around lunchtime – and several happy tourists later – Stiles is distracted from his laptop by heavy footsteps and turns to see Derek walking over with a plate of food and a glass of milk.

   “Wasn’t sure if you’ve eaten yet,” he says and places the food down on the front counter.

   “Oh! That’s, wow, that’s really kind. Thank you, Derek.” His stomach grumbles happily - which has him blushing at once, and Derek trying to hide the smile that spreads across his own, slightly pinkish face.

   “Everything okay here?”

   “Everything’s dandy. I’ve sold,“ he pulls the log book closer, “-two snow globes, one fridge magnet and one ceramic lighthouse replica.”

   “Good,” Derek smiles lightly. He doesn’t move, just remains standing close to Stiles, a tall, solid presence. He scratches behind an ear. “Yes, so, I hope you like it. We had some left-over pasta from last night.”

   “Smells amazing.”

   Derek only nods without making eye contact, then disappears through the door.

oOo

It’s just before closing time that the cash register decides to act up.

   Lenny and Bridget Norgaard from Bemidji, Minnesota – the nicest couple you’ll ever meet – stands patiently as Stiles tries to ring up their purchase.

   “I really apologise. Just, give me a second, I’m gonna call my boss.”

   He takes the stairs and on the landing looks into the first open door he finds. It’s a small room with one wall taken up completely by built-in shelves. Derek is sitting by an old, wooden desk that’s pushed against the single window, laptop open, tapping away. He is too big for the chair, arms and legs sprawled out to the sides, his flannel shirt tight across his shoulders. He’s about to knock on the frame when Derek startles him by speaking first. “Everything okay?” he asks without looking up.

   “Ah, hey,” Stiles swallows. “Sorry to bother you, but I think I screwed up the cash register.”

   Derek lifts his arms and stretches with a drawn out groan. He swivels around to Stiles, the chair creaking when he leans back. “Already break it?” he asks with a grin, hands rested in his thighs.

   “Hah,” Stiles huffs out an awkward laugh, quickly looking away from Derek’s spread legs. “So ah, would you be able to-“

   “Sure.”

   He walks with Stiles down and out front, greeting the customers, and comes to stand right behind him.

   “I rang everything up,” Stiles shows him, “But it doesn’t want to-”

   With both hands - warm and huge on Stiles’ hips - Derek manoeuvres him to the side in the limited space and leans forward, pressing into him. “Did you press void?”

   It takes Stiles a second to answer. “Ah, yeah. Nothing.”

   Derek’s one hand leaves him and he starts tapping away, Stiles still half caught between him and the cash register, his chest bumping against Stiles shoulders with every movement over the keyboard. He tries to focus on exactly how Derek is solving the problem, but the veins that snake down the flexing muscles where he’s pushed his sleeves up, the solid warmth of him pressed up against his back… It’s a lost cause.

   This close the subtle spice of Derek’s cologne wraps around his head, and all Stiles wants to do is bury his nose in the man’s throat. He smiles at the customers. “It’s sorta my first day.”

   They just smile back, as happy as ever.

   “There you go,” Derek announces. The cash drawer slides open, and the purchase is completed. Derek steps away, sliding past Stiles again and there is a second where his crotch brushes against the top of Stiles’ ass. Stiles heartbeat rockets when he feels the substantial weight of it press against him, however briefly.

   Derek stays behind, watching the customers go, then closes the door behind them and flips the sign around. He turns to Stiles. “Let’s call it a day.”

   “Am I fired?”

   Derek chuckles, slow and easy, so sudden, so heart-achingly beautiful. It softens his cheekbones and jaw line, putting his front teeth on display. “No, you’re not fired.”

   “Good,” Stiles exhales. “Because I kinda really like it here.”

   Derek says tilts his head, then nods. “I’m glad.”

   Stiles dips his head and start to gather his things. He is aware of Derek watching him, standing quietly by the door.

   Derek shifts, digging into his one pocket and pulling out a set of keys. He slips one off the ring and walks over to Stiles.

   “The front door,” he says, holding it out to Stiles.

   “Cool,” Stiles breathes, taking it from him.

   Derek stares for a second longer, enough to have Stiles hold his breath, then steps away. “See you tomorrow.”

oOo

“Good night.”

   Derek looks up from his laptop, the bedcovers bunched up around his feet. “Night,” he smiles at his sister.

   Laura is about to walk away when she turns back and leans against the doorframe. “How’s Stiles?”

   Derek’s eyes trail over the bed, then back up to his sister. “Good,” he answers contently. “He’s good.”

oOo

   As Stiles has come to begrudgingly accept, the weather has done a complete 180, once again. The wipers barely keep up with the downpour, and he constantly has to wipe at the windscreen to keep it from fogging up completely.

   He parks in the same spot and gathers his laptop bag under his voluminous raincoat.

   Key in hand he speed walks to the front door, hunched over against the driving rain. He manages to unlock without getting soaked, the dusty, wood-polish smell of the museum greeting him as he steps inside.

   “Morning.”

   “Whaaa!!” Stiles jumps, almost dropping his stuff.

   Derek, eyes a bit alarmed, stands stock still, a steaming mug held towards Stiles.

   “Ohmygoddude you scared the crap out of me.”

   “Sorry,” Derek blinks at him. “Hot chocolate?”

   “Aaaand you’re forgiven,” Stiles dumps his bag on the counter and takes the mug with both hands. The total bliss that is the first sip is written on his face, eyes closed, which makes him miss the way Derek’s jaw ticks.

   “Thank you,” Stiles eyelids flutter open. “Tastes amazing.”

   Derek waits a beat before he talks. “I’ll be upstairs. If you need anything.”

   Stiles swallows and licks his lower lip. This time he doesn’t miss it when Derek’s eyes flick down to his mouth. “Ah, okay. Thanks for this. You’re a life saver. It’s like a monsoon out there. Without the humidity.”

   “Sure,” Derek nods, and turns to leave.

   Stiles watches him go, hands still wrapped around the warmth of the mug.

oOo

The sound of pots and pans clanging has Stiles looking up. He checks his watch, surprised that it’s already noon (the heavy cloud cover makes it difficult to gauge the time) and stretches out. It’s been very quiet, a grant total of three customers and one book sale on the history of the island so far.

   Soon mouth-watering aromas start wafting in from the open doorway, and Stiles stomach answers the call. He folds a hand over his grumbling belly.

   “Lunch is ready,” Derek says, standing halfway in the door.

   “Oh! Hey.”

   “Come. In the kitchen.”

   Stiles stares open mouthed between him and the closed front door, sprayed with bouts of rain. “What about…”

   Derek glances at the door and starts walking towards it, broad shoulders swaying. He has a dishcloth held in one hand and flips the sign around, then turns to Stiles, eyebrows drawn expectantly.

   “Let’s go.”

   Stiles gets up, and almost stumbles when a hand, warm and heavy rest on the small of his back. It stays for just a second or two then falls away.

   Derek clears his throat as he lets Stiles walk ahead of him, the ghostly weight of his fingers still tingling his skin. He enters the kitchen, feeling like an intruder in their private space, a world that he’s only been allowed to gaze at from afar.

   He’s not sure what he was expecting, but the giant, worn oak table in the middle of the room surrounded by cupboards in the same wood, is not it. The black, polished granite counters gleam, the modern stainless steel appliances reflecting off its surface. The ceiling is the same solid timber beams, high above. It all contrasts perfectly with the whitewashed stone walls and wide, cottage-pane windows above the single oversized stone farmhouse sink.

   “Have a seat,” Derek says, and Stiles takes a quaker chair at the table.  Derek grabs a bowl and dishes up from a cast iron pot on the range, then sets it in front of Stiles. “Chowder,” he says.

   Stiles mouth instantly starts to water. A basket of bread joins his bowl.

   “Dig in,” Derek instructs, aided by his eyebrows when Stiles just looks at the comfort food feast laid out on the table.

   “Derek, I… you really don’t have to feed me, you know.”

   “I know,” he says, scowling as he tears off a piece of bread. “But I want to.”

   The warmth that floods around Stiles’ heart is like nothing before. It’s gentle, reserved, solid. He picks up his spoon, a bit dazedly, and scoops up a mouthful.

   “Hmmm,” he groans, eyes closing. “Mama luvs papa.” He slowly looks up from his bowl to find Derek staring. “It’s something my dad use to say to my mom. I mean, this is really good.”

   “Thank you,” Derek smiles reservedly.

   Spoons clang against crockery as the rain patters in bursts against the window.

   “What do you do up there? I mean, I know you said you’re the lighthouse keeper, but, like, you were working on your laptop?”

   Derek’s spoon is paused midway to his mouth. “I,” he blinks, and dunks it back in the bowl. “I have a few businesses around town.”

   “Like?”

   “Shops, mostly.” He takes a bite of his chowder. “They’re-“ he finishes chewing. “They’re family businesses that I’ve inherited.”

   “Okay.”

   “And properties. Like the one you’re renting. Laura deals with that side.”

   “And the lighthouse? How did you become the Keeper? I mean, it just sounds like you’ve got such a full plate already.”

   Derek scrapes the bottom of his spoon on the rim of the bowl. “I own the lighthouse.”

   “You own the lighthouse?”

   Derek nods.

   “Wow. Have you lived here your whole life?”

   He swallows first. “In the lighthouse?”

   “Uh, no. I mean on the island.”

   “Yes.”

   “Must’ve been quite idyllic, you know, growing up here.”

   The spoon stops just before his mouth. “It was,” and he quickly takes a bite.

   “Yeah, I grew up in a small town, too. Not as small as here, but pretty small.”

   “It has its drawbacks.”

   “For sure,” Stiles nods. “Though I wouldn’t change a thing, you know?”

   Derek nods, eyes trailing over Stiles as he at last takes another bite.  

   “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Stiles begins, mouth still full. He quickly swallows. “What do the carvings on the totem pole out front mean?”

   Derek chews slowly. “Sea wolf.”

   “Sea wolf?”

   “Orca.” Derek goes back to his food. “The native tribes believed that wolves where the reincarnation of great land hunters, while orcas where the reincarnation of great ocean hunters.”

   Stiles’ spoon hovers just above his bowl. “That’s really cool. I mean it’s beautiful. Is it, like… a talisman?”

   “No,” Derek shakes his head. “It’s like…” Derek rests his spoon against his bowl. “It’s like a family emblem. A coat of arms.”

   “Your family were hunters?”

   “No, it’s just folklore,” Derek says with a small smile, then looks down to his bowl. “It came with the lighthouse.”

   Stiles eyes him, then goes back to his chowder.

   And then it hits him. He snaps his fingers, pointing at Derek. “The tattoo on your back!”

   Derek looks up, slightly startled. “What about it?”

   “The same pattern is on the totem pole, amiright?” Stiles grins.

   Derek remains silent, eyes flicking from Stiles to his food as a soft blush highlights those sharp cheekbones. “Well spotted.”

   Stiles leans forward. “Well? Does it mean anything? You said it’s just folklore.”

   “It is,” Derek says without looking up. “I just thought it would look cool.

   “It does,” Stiles says under his breath, the memory of the swirling pattern on the rolling muscles of his back causing Stiles to swallow a bit noisily. “Speaking of which, you are talking to a supposedly supernatural being, you know.”

   “Yeah, I heard you got orchids.”

   “Uh huh. So I guess that makes me special.”

   “Special?” Derek lifts an eyebrow.

   “Oh yeah,” Stiles answers, eyes filled with mirth.

   Derek nods with a ‘whatdayaknow’ smirk and raised eyebrows. They finish the rest of their lunch in silence, until Derek sits back, folding his arms. “Wanna see the pilothouse?”

   Stiles blinks, a soft smile lighting up his face. “Yeah?”

   Derek shrugs a thick shoulder. “I mean, you are special, after all.”

   Stiles sets his spoon in his bowl. “Lead the way.”  

oOo

“Keep your eyes on the floor.”

   Stiles does, easily taking hold of Derek’s proffered hand, the feel of those warm, thick fingers holding his own so firmly adding to the slow warmth that seems to expand in his chest the longer he’s in his company.

   Taking the last few steps up the ladder he avoids the blinding glare of the giant, ribbed Fresnel lamp – just as Derek instructed – until he steps through the hatch onto the worn timber floor of the pilothouse and looks up and away from the rotating light.

   Stiles gasps silently. The floor-to-ceiling steel framed windows offers a 360 degree view, a steel handrail following the curve of the faceted glass panes.

   “Beautiful,” he breathes.

   The sky is overcast all the way to the horizon, the ocean an angry, gun-metal grey marbled with the frothing lines of wind-blown waves.

   “It was built in 1772 from local stone, just after the Russians settled here. It’s mandated to be under the care and protection of the Alaskan Coastguard, but with the onset of radar and GPS, most lighthouses have become redundant. They wanted to tear this one down, so I bought it.”

   “Why? It’s such a landmark.”

   “They wanted to put up a rotating aerobeacon that’s cheaper-“

   “Like the Batman signal?”

   Derek smiles. “Like the Batman signal.”

   “That would’ve been cool.”

   “And slightly confusing.”

   Stiles laughs. “Maybe.”

   “Anyway,” Derek continues. “The aerobeacon meant they would’ve had to retro fit the pilothouse, which meant a major overhaul of the whole tower. It would’ve been cheaper to just knock the whole thing down.”

   “But you saved it.”

   Derek grins and looks down. “I did.”

   Stiles wants to grab his hand and hold it to his chest.  

   “So, I’m the keeper now, though she doesn’t need much. They built this thing like a fort. Three foot thick walls,” Derek says, staring out over the ocean. “I love this place.”

   Stiles, too, stares far and wide. “I can see why. I bet the northern lights must be spectacular from up here.”

   “It is magical,” Derek agrees. “Though it’s a bit early in the season. Nights are too short.” He looks over at Stiles. “But maybe we get lucky and your whales bring them with this year.”

   “You know, it’s actually the other way around. They’re attracted by the lights. According to myth, of course.”

   Derek sighs dramatically, shaking his head. “My whole life is a lie.”   

   “Stop,” stiles giggles.                     

   Derek grins.

   They stand and watch, mesmerised by the churning ocean.

   “Is Laura dating that deputy? Jordy?”

   Derek nods.

   “He seems like a really nice guy.”

   “He is.”

   Stiles rubs his nose. “And ah, what about you?”

   “No he’s only dating my sister.”

   “Clown,” Stiles smiles and nudges him with his elbow. “I mean do you have anyone… special?”

    Derek exhales sharply through his nose. “The sea is my mistress,” he says and looks back out, though there’s the smallest of an up-curl at the corner of his mouth.

   Stiles bursts out laughing. “Dude! For a second there I actually believed you.”

   Derek mouth curls into a grin, still looking out at the ocean.

   “Sorry,” Stiles rubs behind one ear. “I know it’s none of my business. Just, I’m sure the lovely ladies of fair Beacon Harbour must be lining up.”

   Derek only shrugs. “None that I’m interested in.”

   Stiles desperately wants to stare, wants to pick at every little nuance caught in Derek’s face at that very moment. Instead he too turns back to the view.    

oOo

“Drive careful, it’s not gonna let up anytime soon.”

   Stiles looks up at Derek, warm and dry under the umbrella he’s holding over them both. “I will.” His hand hesitates on the Jeep’s door handle. “Thank you, for lunch, and everything.”

   “Don’t mention it.”

   Stiles pulls the coat tighter over his laptop bag. There’s a moment that drags for an eternity where their eyes lock, and Stiles holds his breath, Derek’s gaze flicking between his eyes and mouth.

   And it’s gone.

   Stiles ducks his head, biting the corner of his lip. “See ya tomorrow,” he says and climbs in.

   Derek waits until the Jeep is beyond the trees before he walks back. He locks the door then leans his head against the cold glass, his breath frosting down the little panes. “Easy. Easy.”

oOo

Stiles drives extra slow. Not so much because it’s safe – because it is, especially in these perpetual wet conditions – but the idea of disobeying Derek strangely sits uncomfortable with him, a notion he’s not certain he wants to explore.

   When he parks in the street in front of his place, he sits in the Jeep and listens to the squeak of the wipers, staring out the streetlights through the rain-washed windscreen. He lets his head fall back against the headrest. “Shit.”

oOo

   “Can’t sleep?” Derek asks just as his sister pokes her head through the hatch of the pilothouse.

   Laura smiles ruefully. “You know one of these days I will sneak up on you.”

   “Not likely,” he says, his back to her, staring out over the darkened ocean.

   Laura climbs out of the hatch, mindful to not look at the rotating lamp. She fastens the cord of her thick dressing gown and pads over to Derek as the whole pilothouse glows in a pulsating rhythm around her. Standing next to him she playfully bumps her shoulder against his arm. Derek hugs her closer and she rests her head against his shoulder.

   “How you doing?” she asks.

   “Fine. You?”

   “Good.”

   Derek gives her another squeeze then let’s go, both hands back on the metal railing.

   Laura glances up at him. “Everything okay?”

   “Of course,” he says, looking away and scratching that spot on his chest.

   “You and Stiles seem to be getting along real good.”

   Derek only answers after a beat. “I guess.”

   “You guess?”

   He doesn’t look at her, frowning away into the darkness.

   “Hey,” Laura touches his elbow. “What’s wrong?”

   He drags a hand through his hair with a heavy sigh. “Stiles, I… I think he’s the reason why I started earlier this month.”

   Laura knows her brother can hear the thump of her heart, but tries not to let the icy cold hands of fear take hold of her features as well. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “What makes you say that?” she asks carefully.

   Derek bites the corner of his lip, then lets go. “That day, when I met him, I… I’ve never been that affected by anyone. Ever. He somehow triggered it.” He looks down to where he’s gripping the railing. “And, when I’m around him, I- I have trouble staying in control. The thing is that I don’t even care if I don't.”

   “Are… are you in danger?”

   “Me?” Derek asks, completely taken aback. “Stiles is the one that’s in danger. Not me.”

   “What?” Laura asks, equally confused. “Why would he be in danger?”  

   Derek looks down to the railing again. “Because. I want him,” he says through clenched teeth.

   “You want him.” Laura echoes.

   “Yes, Laura, I want him,” he glances knowingly at her, tightening his grip.  

   Laura’s furrowed brow slowly eases up. “Oh. Oh.” And she’s breaking out in an astonished smile. “Wait, did… did you just come out to me?”

   “What? No, no that’s not… I don’t think it works like that for me. Not this, anyway.”

   “What do you mean?”

   Derek’s jaw tightens before he swallows audibly. “The fact that he’s a guy doesn’t even register. All I know is that I have this pull towards him, this- this crazy urge to protect and care for him. And also, of course, I want…” a blush creeps up his throat. “I want to do, other stuff, too.”

   Laura tries hard to keep her smile in check. “That doesn’t sound crazy at all.”

   Derek doesn’t respond.

   “You know, from what I’ve picked up, the feeling’s definitely mutual.” She strokes down his arm. “So, this is a good thing.”

   “No, it’s not.”

   “Why?”

   He rounds on her like she’s the slow kid in class. “That once a month little issue where I turn into a raging horndog with claws and fangs is sorta a deal breaker, don’t you think?”

   The lamp does a double rotation before his sister speaks up again. “So tell him then.”

   Derek slowly swivels his head back to her. “Say what now?”

   “You heard me; tell him. If you feel this strongly about him, tell him. He should know.”

   “Yes, because we all know where that got us,” Derek just about spits.

   Laura’s face shutter for a moment, then she sets her mouth in a determent line. “Derek, Stiles. Isn’t. Her,” she draws out each word. “They couldn’t be more different from each other. He’s a good person. The best. Talks a bit much,” she smiles. “But he has a good heart. I know this. You know this,” she squeezes his arm again.

   Derek just clenches his jaw shut and looks the other way. “I’m not doing this.”

   Laura takes his big hand in both hers’. “I think it’s about time you do.”

   “I won’t put you through this again,” he says, looking back out at the ocean, shaking his head.

   “Put me through what, Derek? This couldn’t be more different!”

   He looks at her, eyes pleading, big shoulders slumped. “And what if he runs?”

   Laura cups a bearded cheek and turns his face to her. “Then he doesn't deserve you.”

Chapter Text

The mint condition 1963 Wagoneer parks right in front of the Beacon Harbour police station, the small but stately quoin stone building standing on its own lot in Main street, right opposite Old Mack’s Bait ‘n Tackle, the forest rising up behind it.

   A tall, balding, grey-haired man folds his sinewy frame out of the truck. He winces when he stands erect, but quickly regains his footing and walks up the steps to the front door, favouring his left leg.

   “Hey, mornin’ Artie.”

   Gerard Argent walks past Jordan’s desk, ignoring him completely, his sneakers squeaking on the linoleum. He disappears into the sheriff’s office without so much as a glance in the young deputy’s direction and shuts the door behind him.

   “Old seal-breath,” Jordan mumbles, and returns to the sport-section.

oOo

“What’s this business I hear with that boy workin’ at the lighthouse?”

   Chris looks over his newspaper. “Good mornin’ to you too, pops.”

   “I hear he’s a nancy.”

   “I believe the correct term is gay.”

   “Are you going to speak to him?”  

   “About what?” 

   “Chris…”

   Chris lowers his paper. “I have spoken to him, as a matter of fact. He seems like a fine young fella and I’m not goin’ to meddle in his affairs. He’s only here for the summer any ways. Now drop it.”

   Gerard pulls a chair closer and sits down carefully, dark eyes aimed at his son. “It’s bad enough that we’ve let them stay here on the island this long. Now they’ve got one of them queers workin’ there. It’ll be devil to pay before ya know it!”

   “Lower your voice!” Chris hisses, looking out the glass partition at where Jordan is still reading the paper. “Ya know Jordy an’ Laura are a couple, an’ Derek has never bothered a gull. Keep yer mind to yer self!”

   “If I was still sheriff I-“

   “Well you’re not,” Chris cuts him off. “Now let this be. Lord knows those people have suffered enough.”

   Gerard gnashes his teeth, still shooting daggers at his son. “How can you sit there and let this happen?”

   Chris heaves a sigh that ripples all the way down to his bones. “Let what happen?”

   “This! This… abomination!”

   “Dad, please don’t start with that nonsense again,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose.

   “It’s true!” Gerard slams his fist on the desk. Chris starts, and  Jordan slowly peers around, but quickly goes back to his paper.

   “Pop, go home,” Chris says as calmly as he can, righting the small framed picture of his daughter. “Find a hobby.”

   Gerard holds his stare for a minute, then stands up, wincing again, leaning heavily on the chair’s backrest. “When it all goes to hell, don’t come cryin’ to me.” He walks out without another word.

   “See ya later, Artie!” Jordan calls after him. The bell jingles violently as the station’s front door is slammed shut.

   Jordan leans around in his seat. “More coffee, boss?”

   “Sounds about proper, Jordy,” Chris replies, shaking out his paper.

oOo

The shutter of Stiles’ SLR clicks in quick succession just as the last of the pod of humpbacks slip back under the waves. He grins when the smattering of applause comes drifting across the water from one of the packed tourist boats.

   “Magnificent beasties.”

   He looks around at Bobby and is surprised to see the gentleness around his eyes, a far cry from the weather-worn old fisherman he has come to know. He smiles warmly, the sight adding to the lingering awe whenever he has been in the presence of these animals.

   “Magnificent beasties indeed,” he repeats at the expanse of deep blue water - calm for once – rubbing at the tender skin behind one ear. “Hey, wanna see something neat?”

   Bobby clears his throat, focusing on Stiles. “What?”

   Smiling, Stiles plugs the jack at the end of the hydrophone’s cable into a small amplifier, then drops the mic itself into the water, letting the cable unspool for a few seconds. Satisfied, he switches on the amplifier, fiddling with a few buttons and dials, the static making Bobby frown, until the first eerily sweeping notes of whale song float from the speaker.

   “Huh,” Bobby huffs, staring at the amplifier.

   It’s strange hearing the unearthly calls of the whales as the sun glares off the ocean and the water laps at the boat’s hull, almost as if there should be a backdrop of thunder clouds or a magnificent sunset to lend credence to the haunting echoes.

   Stiles smiles, heart surging at the look on Bobby’s face.

   “Beats them cd’s hands down.”

   “Yes, it does,” Stiles agrees, catching the glint in the fisherman’s eyes before he quickly blinks and turns around. 

   Bobby walks to the nose of the boat and pulls a lever. “An’ just ya wait!” he calls over the grind–and-rattle of the anchor winch. “Your whales’ll show up sooner than ya think! Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

   “No, it wasn’t,” Stiles says, absentmindedly, switching the device off and reeling in the cable from the depths.

   A while later and the boat chugs along, her passengers watching the scenery go by in contented silence.

   From behind a particularly jagged outcropping of the shoreline a small break-away island comes into view. About the size of a large family home, it sits a few hundred feet off shore, with small waves and a lighter shade of ocean demarcating the tidal flat that connects it to the main island.

   The island is, just like its big brother, covered in dense forest right to the waterline - basically a mammoth boulder with the rocky edges diving straight into the blue depths.

   Only then does Stiles spot the little village on the main island, right in line with the tidal plan. It is a few homes scattered along the shore and into the woods. Same architecture as the Harbour, only a tenth of the size. Two totem poles, much taller and grander than the one at the lighthouse stands on the shore, like a gateway between the village and the smaller island.

   “Another town?” Stiles asks

   Bobby looks over. “Senchían village. And that is their sacred ground,” he points with his chin to the small island. "They go there only during spring tide when the flats are exposed. No boats, ever. And no outsiders allowed.”

   Stiles listens to it all while staring out at the rocky island and the small village. “Have you ever been given an orchid?”

   Bobby frowns. “Who the hell would give me flowers?”

   Stiles smirks, his question answered.

   Bobby powers the boat away from the smaller island, giving it a wide berth. “I’ll take ya out to the kelp fields north of here next time. Lotsa squid. They sometimes go there to feed.”

   “Good,” Stiles sighs.

   “Don’t worry, we’ll find them,” Bobby leans over the wheel and stares off to the side. “You’ll know the moment the light starts dancin’.”

   Stiles opens his mouth to correct Bobby on that myth, then decides against it.

   “Hear you’ve bin workin’ at the lighthouse.”

   Stiles turns to him, eyes squinting at the glare off the water. “Ah, yes. Almost a month now. Extra cash comes in handy.”

   Bobby nods solemnly.

   “Plus I get to work on my thesis. And it’s nice to have the company.”

   “Company, huh?”              

   “Yeah. Derek’s really… he’s cool. I like him.”

   Bobby looks back out at the ocean, toothpick resting in the corner of his mouth. “Deeper than the grave, that one.”

   “What do you mean?” Stiles asks.

   Bobby doesn’t answer. 

oOo

He is naked, standing right on the cliff edge with the lighthouse behind him, the wind whipping up clumps of foam as the waves crash against the rocks far below. His skin is like alabaster against the charcoal clouds, scattered with moles as if by an artist’s pointillist brush.

   Derek shouts, pleads at Stiles to move back, but he only turns to look at him with a gentle smile. He has both arms curled over his stomach.

   I’m okay he mouths.

   Someone is clapping, and Derek turns slowly as if he has to battle through water, to find her standing on the other side of Stiles, her blonde hair billowing around her head in slow motion. She’s laughing, sneering.

   Stiles jumps.

   “Nuuuuuh…Derek groans, twisting himself awake. He sits up, heart slamming against his sternum.

   He can still hear her clapping. Only it doesn’t stop, and as the nightmare scuttles back to its dark corner that clapping remains. He looks up, the sound melding into a tapping on the roof, muffled by the ceiling and the howling of the wind.

   Loose shingle his mind supplies. Derek falls back against his cushions, eyes closed, still breathing heavily.

   Five minutes later he gets up, pulls on his running gear, and stealthily descends the stairs.

  oOo

The sound of his running shoes hitting the asphalt is hypnotic, amplified in the crisp, wet early morning air.

   Stiles takes his usual route through surroundings he’s come to love. California and its blinding glare - though always his childhood home - feels like a distant dream now. This misty island with its almost mysterious forests and jagged pinnacles is slowly, begrudgingly worming its way into his heart.

   Certain people here help with that, of course…  

   He’s close to the harbour when one of those old station wagon type-trucks with wood paneling on the side drives past him. Stiles waves - as he’s become accustomed to do - but to his surprise the grey haired driver only glares at him whilst driving by.

   “Can’t win ‘em all,” Stiles sighs and continues with his run.

oOo

Stiles unlocks the front door and steps into the dark interior of the museum, the dust-and-wood polish smell so familial by now.

   Setting his stuff down on the counter he flips the light switch and walks to the door in the back. “Morning!” he calls up.

   “Hey Stiles! Be right down!” Laura calls back.

   He’s busy setting up when Laura walks in with a half asleep Seth cradled against her hip, his hair sticking up comically. “Morning.”

   “Hey there,” Stiles smiles brightly. Only one foot has a shoe on, and Stiles takes hold of the other chubby little foot that’s only dressed in a sock. “And good morning to you.”

   Seth turns his face away from Stiles and buries deeper into his mother’s side.

   “Nightmares, from last night’s storm.”

   “It broke the roof!” Seth pipes up, eyes big and plump little rosebud of a mouth pulled down at the corners.

   “The nightmare broke the roof?” Stiles tickles the boy’s side. He gets a quick little smile for his troubles before the little one’s head falls back on his mom’s shoulder.

   “The storm loosened some shingles,” Laura explains. “Derek’s up there fixing it.”

   “So that’s where he is.”

   “Yup. So,” she plants a kiss on her son’s hair. “We are heading out.”

   “Sure.”

   “Uncle Derek is scared, too.”

   Both Stiles and Laura glance at Seth. “Of the storm?”

   “Of nightmares.” Seth mumbles with a sad little face.

   “Of nightmares?” Laura asks, combing through his hair. “He said that?”

   Seth doesn’t answer and turns his face away again.

   Laura looks at Stiles with a ‘kids, what can you do’ look. Stiles smiles and rubs the little one’s back. “Yeah I don’t think there’s anything that scares your uncle, sweetheart.”

   Laura’s eyes flit over Stiles. She hitches Seth up higher, planting a kiss on his head. “Well, have a good day.”

   “You too.”

   After they’re gone, Stiles waits as long he can before giving in and going in search of Derek.

   Outside he pulls his jacket tighter even though he has to hold up a hand against the bright morning sun. He finds the ladder around the corner, leaned up against the side of the building.

   “Derek?”

   “Just a sec,” Derek calls from above, out of view. A few seconds later his bearded face appears over the eave, his dirty wifebeater struggling to keep his bulky chest and Stiles libido in check.   “Hey, what’s up?”

   “Hi, morning. Ah, Laura said you’re fixing the roof?”

   “Trying to.”

   “Okay, ah,” Stiles fiddles with his hoody’s zipper. “Need any help?”

   “No, I’m good,” Derek flashes him a set of white teeth.

   Stiles is struck mute for a second. “Okay. So ah, if you need anything, just holler.”

   “Sure will.”

   “Okay, cool,” Stiles smiles, and, hands stuffed in his pockets walks back inside, stomach in a twist.

oOo

   Stiles looks up at the sound of heavy boots scuffing on the floor and watch Derek walk in, an old, dented metal toolbox in one hand. He swallows, averting his eyes from the sweat-shiny gleam of Derek’s thick arms. His hands are dirty, the ends of his fingers almost black.

   “Done?” Stiles asks.

   “Roof is,” Derek says cryptically, wiping his boots. “Gonna need some help with the lens, though.”

   “The lens?” Stiles frowns.

   “Up in the pilothouse. It needs a good polish, and today is bright and clear enough for us to shut it down for a bit. Don’t want burned retinas, now do we?”

   “Ah, no?”

   Derek grins at Stiles. “I’ll explain on the way into town. I need to get some stuff at the hardware store.”

   Stiles gapes at him.

   Derek’s grin doesn’t fade. “Just gonna take a quick shower. Be right back.”

   Stiles watch him take the stairs two at a time.   

oOo

“…the size of a golf cart. A golf cart. I mean it can be heard from two miles away.”

   “That’s a big heart,” Derek agrees, eyes never leaving the road.

   “The biggest. Though the sperm whale has the biggest brain.”

   Derek nods, glancing at Stiles with an easy smile. He’s thrown on a flannel shirt over a grey Henley, the sleeves of which are rolled up and stretched tight over his hairy forearms – as per usual.

   “Sorry, I’m babbling again.”

   “It’s okay, I don’t mind.”

   Stiles smiles nervously, again finding it difficult to look at Derek, at how solidly he fills up his side of the cab. He scratches behind his ear then rubs his arms.

   “Oh, sorry,” Derek says and turns up the heat. “I’m so used to it by now, don’t feel the cold anymore.”

   “Living here I guess you have to.”

   “Hmm. Until the icebergs start clogging up the harbour. Then it just gets nasty.”

   Stiles eyes bug out. “Did you just say icebergs?

   “Yup. There’s this tradition where we get the oldest person in town to climb the biggest berg, and however long it takes for them to reach the top without falling, is how long winter is still going to last. Plus, they have to do it naked.”

   Stiles doesn’t even try to close his mouth. Derek, though, can’t keep the grin from breaking through.

   “Stop messin' with me,” Stiles smacks him lightly against his arm. He almost reaches out again to rub at the spot as an excuse, the muscles ridiculously solid and warm under the flannel.

oOo

Stiles doesn’t miss the way people stare when they get out of Derek’s truck, the way eyes follow them as they walk into the little hardware store.

   “Hey, Derek! Long time, no see.”

   “Hey, Mikey. Just getting a few things,” Derek greets the young guy behind the counter. Just as they’re about to disappear between the shelves, Stiles looks around to find Mikey quickly leaning back from where he was craning his neck over the counter.

   Derek seems to take it all in his stride, if he even notices.

   “I’ll just be a sec.”

   “Okay,” Stiles nods, and heads in the other direction.

   He’s searching the shelves for nothing in particular when he becomes aware of someone standing next to him.

   “You don’t look like a faggot.”

   Stiles’ scalp contracts. He gapes at the tall, sinewy old man that has appeared at his side. “Excuse me?”

   The stranger's thin lips pull his whole face into a frown, further adding to his severe features. “Have they told you what they are, yet? Those people you’re working for?”

   Stiles looks behind him, then back again. “I’m sorry, what the hell are you talking about?” he says, his face hot and prickling.

   “Don’t play dumb with me, boy,” the man points with a liver-spotted finger. “You queers always think you’re so smart. But you’ve obviously been-“

   His face suddenly grows tight, eyes flicking up and behind Stiles a second before a large rough hand covers Stiles nape, slow and deliberate. It’s warm and heavy and safe, and Stiles finds himself leaning into the touch without thinking.

   “What did you just call him?” Derek growls. Stiles looks up at the big man that has appeared at his side, his face murderous.

   The old man’s mouth twists into a sneer. “Ah, should’ve known. Decided to leave your cage for a bit, Hale? Prancing around town with this little muppet before you corrupt him as well?”

   “Apologise. Now.”

   “Don’t you threaten me, you dog.”

   Derek’s hand leaves Stiles neck as he steps closer to the old man, towering over him. “You have five seconds to get the fuck out of my sight.”

   This time Stiles is almost sure there’s a sub-level growl in Derek’s voice. It works, because the old bastard can’t hide the flinch in those stone-cold eyes. “Go to hell,” he spits before he pushes past them with a last poisonous look. Only when the front door bell jingles does Derek turn to Stiles.

   “You okay?”

   “Fine,” Stiles says, the warmth of where Derek gripped him making it difficult to think of anything else. He wants to dive forward against Derek’s chest, demand that he wrap those ridiculous arms around him. “What the hell was that?”

   “Nothing.” He lays his hand on Stiles’ shoulder, thick fingers curling around to his shoulder blade, his thumb across Stiles’ clavicle. “Let’s go.”     

oOo

After the third worried look, Stiles can’t take it anymore.

   “Seriously, Derek, I’m okay. It’s not the first time I’ve been at the sharp end of some homophobic old prick.”

   “How do you even…” Derek goes back to glaring at the road like he wants to burn a hole through the windscreen. “I wanted to punch his fucking lights out.”

   “And I would have cheered you on,” Stiles smiles. “What’s his problem, anyway?”

   For a moment Stiles is sure Derek’s going to rip the steering wheel clean off. “Gerard Argent is just a mean sonofabitch.”

   “Wait. Argent? Isn’t that the-“

   “The sheriff, yeah. Chris is Gerard’s son.”

   “Well,” Stiles sits back. “Didn’t that apple just fall far from the tree.”

   “Chris is okay, I guess. We’ll never be best buds, but he’s okay.” 

   Stiles folds his hands in his lap. The harbour sparkles in the bright sun. “Anyway, just so you know? You are officially my hero.”

   Derek glances at him, eyebrows raised in question.

   “The way you stood up for me,” Stiles explains, looking down to where he’s fiddling with the hem of his hoody. “No one’s ever done that.”

   Derek’s mouth twitches. Stiles is sure he sits more upright, puffing out his chest.  

   They drive in silence the rest of the way.

oOo

   At the lighthouse Derek lets Stiles go up the ladder ahead of him, laying a steadying hand on the small of his back all the way up the steps. “This isn’t my first time, you know,” he smiles.

   “I know,” Derek replies easily, increasing his grip just the same.

   By the time they emerge through the hatch, Stiles has to wipe his hands on the seat of his jeans.

   “Shade your eyes,” Derek reminds him, and Stiles does. There is a switchboard at the hexagon-shaped base of the lamp where Derek cuts the power. The xenon lamp stops turning at once, but the blinding glow takes a few seconds to fade away.

   “Okay,” Derek begins, handing Stiles a pristine white satiny cloth and a plastic bottle of clear liquid. “So, you have to make sure you rub along each ridge, otherwise we’re just wasting our time.” He wets his own cloth and slowly but thoroughly rubs along one of the multitude of tiered ‘steps’ of the Fresnel lens. He runs the cloth back and forth until the slowly appearing lustre starts to reflect the blue sky outside.

   Stiles mimics Derek’s actions and with his own wet cloth starts rubbing from one end to the other of one of the ridges.      

   “Slower,” Derek instructs. He steps up behind Stiles and takes his hand. “Slower, little more pressure. Make sure it gets into the groove,” he says, his breath rustling the little hairs around Stiles’ ear.

   Stiles wets his lips, his heart at once galloping, warmth blooming in his gut at the way his hand just disappears underneath Derek’. He watches, mesmerized as it slides from left to right and back again. “That’s it. Good.”

   Derek presses right up against him, and a shuddery breath leaves Stiles at the easy way his shoulders fit within the warm and solid expanse of Derek’s chest. Derek must be able feel his heart’s hammering.

   He can’t be sure but it’s like a jolt that has Derek suddenly dropping his hand and stepping away from him with a cough. “Yeah, so, just keep at it.” He goes to the opposite side of the lamp and starts with his own polishing.

   They work in silence with only the occasional squeak of cloth rubbing along the glass breaking the constant muffled roar of the ocean crashing on the rocks below.

   “Have dinner with us tonight.”

   Stiles stops rubbing and leans to the side. “Sorry what?”

   “Dinner, tonight,” Derek repeats, intently focused on his polishing. “Unless you already have other plans?”  

   “Ah, no,” Stiles shakes his head. “No other plans.”

   Derek drags his cloth the length of one curve. “So…?

   “Yes!” Stiles shakes himself out of his stupor. “Sorry. Yes, to dinner. I’d like that.”

   Derek nods, and moves on to the next curve.     

oOo

“Hey monkey, I’m sure Stiles is tired by now,” Laura says.

   Seated comfortably in Stiles’ lap with the plates and bowls moved aside to make space for his colouring book, Seth pushes Stiles’ hand away to inspect the page they are busy with. “He hasn’t finished the sky yet,” he says, and calmly goes back to fill in the jungle.

   Stiles looks up at Laura, Jordan and Derek. “My master has spoken.”

   Derek smiles - just the corner of his mouth lifting up - looking straight at Stiles. Stiles can’t hold his gaze and looks back down again, crayon in hand.

   “Okay, let’s go, trooper, time for bed,” Jordan says and stands up from the table.

   “No!” Seth whines.

   “We’ll finish it tomorrow, promise,” Stiles says, kissing him on the top of his head.

   “Are you sleeping over?” he asks looking up at Stiles, eyes big and hopeful.

   At first Stiles is so blindsided by the question he can only offer a surprised huff. He catches Derek’s unreadable gaze across the table, and he can feel his own face heat up. He blinks back to Seth. “No, but I’ll be here bright an early.”

   Stiles studiously ignores Derek when Jordan takes him, but not before he gives Stiles a quick hug and peck on the cheek. Stiles brushes his head. “Sleep tight, buddy.”       

   Uncle Derek also gets a good night hug ‘n kiss, and Stiles lingers on the way Derek’s big hands cradle his little body.

   Then it’s just the two of them in the big kitchen on opposite sides of the table, the low light casting a soft glow between them.

   The chair creaks as Derek sits forward. “Hot chocolate?”

   “You read my mind,” Stiles smiles.

oOo

From their view in the pilothouse the night sky is swept with a few crystalline stratus clouds, so feathery as to be almost translucent. The sickle-moon scoops water, low in the sky, fattening up day by day.

   The hot chocolate was drunk mostly in silence, Stiles trying his best to drown the hordes of butterflies in his stomach. It’s probably just wishful thinking, but Derek looks slightly pinched as well.

   Now they’re just staring out over the star-lit ocean, shoulder to shoulder (well, shoulder to bicep) hands resting on the railing, pinkies almost touching, the lamp glowing around and around.

   “So…”

   “Hmm,” Derek hums.

   “Mister Lighthouse Keeper.”

   “Number fourteen.”

   Stiles looks up at him. “Fourteen?”

   “Yup. You are looking at the fourteenth keeper of the Beacon Harbour Lighthouse.”

   Stiles smiles softly, proudly. “That’s really cool.”

   Derek nods. “The first keeper helped build it, a man named Sergei Volkov,” he continues. “He stepped on a rusted nail, which festered, and died of septicaemia the day before the lighthouse was finished.”

   “Jeez, talk about irony.”

   “I know, right? Keepers five and six committed suicide – jumped right off the tower – which of course led to the inevitable stories of the place being haunted.”

   “Spooks,” Stiles says with a grin.

   “Spooks,” Derek returns with his own grin. “Anyway, keeper five used to be a whaler,” he says, looking almost apologetically at Stiles. “Some say he couldn’t live with his conscience anymore and subsequently flung himself off the tower. And it was rumoured that number six was driven mad by his ghost, and then took a dive down to the rocks as well.”

   “Grisly. Interesting, but grisly.”

   “Yeah,” Derek smiles. “After that, when Alaska was sold to the States, the lighthouse was actually dark for a few years. Number seven saw the first woman at the helm, another Russian by the name of Arya Lysenkova. She was a Balkan native, having fled her country of birth. Anyway, she got the tower up and running again.”  

   “Eight through to twelve died of old age, though number ten almost got decapitated by flying glass when he was up here during one of the worst winter storms of the century.”

   “What was he doing up here?”

   “Lookout for a stricken bulk carrier on its way to Kodiak. It got into trouble out in the gulf and had to turn back. Three carriers split clear in half that night. He was up here trying to guide her in by radio when all the windows blew out.”

   “Wasn’t there a movie about that?”

   “Yeah, though I think you’re thinking about the one up by Newfoundland.”

   “Oh, yeah.”

   “Then,” Derek grins, setting the mood. “There was old Jed McMorran, my predecessor. Lucky number thirteen, they called him. Old Jedidiah was about to retire when he brought his mistress here one night to celebrate. His wife got wind of it, course she had smelled a rat for a long time. She drove up here with a shotgun and waited for them in the parking lot. Killed both of them as they got out of Jed’s truck.”

   “Holy shit.”

   “Yeah it was quite the town scandal. People still talk about it.” 

   “What happened to the wife?”

   “Serving two life sentences up in Anchorage.”

   Stiles whistles through his teeth. “And you say there are no ghosts here…”

   Derek chuckles. “After Jed no one wanted the job, so the Coastguard took over until a few years back when they decided to tear it down, and I stepped in.”

   “And here you are.”

   Derek waits a moment. “Here we are.”

   Stiles glances at him. “You know, that’s the most I’ve heard you talk since I’ve met you.”

   A small tick jumps along Derek’s jaw. “Guess you bring out the best in me.”

   “That right?” Stiles smiles over the thump of his heart.

   Derek doesn’t respond. They float into silence as the lamp turns and turns, both staring out across the ocean.

   “How’s the whale watching going?”

   Stiles looks up, squints at the blinding flash. “Ah, nothing yet. I think my orchid has lost its mojo,” he exhales.

   Derek smiles. “Bobby behaving at least?”

   “So far,” he smiles.

   “Good. Cause I’ll kick his ass if he doesn’t.” Derek looks intently at the dark landscape, his jaw plucking again. “He’s got some precious cargo on board.”

   There’s nothing slow or gentle about the warmth that envelopes Stiles’ chest this time around. His mind goes into a tailspin and he swallows thickly, looking down at his hands. “Precious cargo, huh?”  

   “Yes,” Derek says decisively. “Very.”

   Stiles wrings the handrail. “Careful,” he says with a shaky little laugh. “I might just get the wrong idea here.”

   He starts when Derek folds his hand around the back of his neck – just like in the hardware store. He looks up at him, his heart out of the gate like a gunshot, and Derek gives his neck a small squeeze, the side of his face illuminated in bursts. It’s like his eyes are glowing. “Let me be specific, then,” he says, and gently reals Stiles in by his neck.  Stiles’ hands come up to brace against his chest. The brilliant light beam cuts through them as Derek tilts his head back…

   And kisses him.

   Soft. Shockingly soft lips, like such an imposing man should be carved from stone. Huge hands hold him around his neck and the small of his back as they taste each other with just their lips, Derek’s beard softly scratching his skin and his heartbeat thumping against Stiles’ palms. 

   They part, and as Stiles slowly opens his eyes again Derek turns them so that he shields Stiles from the blinding glare with his bulk, looking down at him with something akin to awe, his thumbs rubbing along his jaw.

   “That’s… very specific,” Stiles says dreamily.

   “Glad I made my point,” Derek says, eyes roaming over every inch of his face.

   The heat that’s been warming Stiles’ insides pools into his chest. He stretched up, seeking Derek’s mouth again.

   Lips intimately acquainted, Stiles dips his tongue into Derek’s mouth and Derek opens up for him, taking over the kiss at once, licking back into Stiles’ mouth, angling his head to slowly, bone-meltingly devour him.

   When they break away again, breathless, the skin around Stiles’ mouth tingling from Derek’s beard he tilts his head back to let Derek rest his forehead against his’ while a brilliant halo pulse around them with every swing of the lamp, both trembling slightly, both as light as air.

   “Best. Summer. Ever,” Stiles says.

   Derek’s whole face lights up when he chuckles, front teeth prominent. He sets his hands on Stiles’ hips, makes a show of how easily they fit around, his thumbs a mere hands width apart.

   “That do it for you?” Stiles drawls.

   “You have no idea,” Derek just about growls before he pulls Stiles up to his toes again.

   Stiles digs his fingers into Derek’s shirt to kneed the solid wide planes of his chest, scratching at the hair under the fabric. Derek’s one hand stays on his hip, the other cradling the back of his head as they kiss.

   And there it is again; that great bulging mound that reaches to just above Stiles’ own crotch, deliberately pressed up against him and sending his imagination into overdrive with a flash-burn of lust straight to his gut.

   It’s Derek though that breaks off first with a small gasp.

   “Okay,” he exhales, trembling, flushed high up his throat. “Should probably slow down a bit.”

   “Probably,” Stiles swallows. “At least I now know why you don’t have a girlfriend.”

   Derek rubs up and down Stiles side and along his neck as he inspects Stiles with a scowl. He opens his mouth, then shuts it again.

   Stiles own hands explore Derek’s chest. “What?”

   Derek’s jaw clenches. “What if I told you you’re the first guy I’ve ever kissed.”

   “Ah,” Stiles pulls back a bit to get a good look at Derek. “Are you serious right now?”

   Derek nods, his Adams apple rolling under the scruff of his throat.

   “Well it sure as hell didn’t feel that way.”

   Derek colours. “I have kissed other people before.”

   Stiles mouth falls open. “Holy crap you’re being serious.”

   Derek nods, his Adam’s apple going crazy.

   “Shut the front door.” Stiles gapes up at him. “Does that mean… Are you a virgin?”

   “No,” Derek smiles. “Not a virgin. Just never been with a guy.”

   “Okay,” Stiles nods. “Okay. Soooo, you’re bi, then.”

   Derek struggles with his eyebrows. “Is that what this is?”

   “I don’t know, big guy. You tell me,” Stiles answers, his smile a bit unsure. “Are- are you having second thoughts?”

   “No! No, Stiles. I want you, in no uncertain terms,” Derek says, his hands tightening their grip on Stiles, his scowl fierce.

   Stiles mirrors his scowl. “Good. Cause I want you too.”

   “Good,” Derek exhales, and pulls him into his chest by his nape.

   Stiles goes with a sigh, plastering himself to the solidness of Derek, fitting his head under Derek’s chin, inhaling his cologne.   His arms are thick and heavy across his shoulders, his own arms stretched as far as they will go around the broadness of Derek’s back.

   The lamp rotates, sending its message of warning and promise of safety out across the ocean, their silhouettes etched against the glass of the pilothouse. 

oOo

At his Jeep Derek kisses Stiles goodnight, but doesn’t let him go at once.

   “Are you okay, with this? With me?”

   Stiles wants to kiss the pleading in his voice away. “Of course I am, you dork.”

   “I mean, we can work things out as we go along, right?”

   Stiles pulls him down for another slow, deep kiss. “Can’t wait.”

oOo

The sheriff parks his truck behind the Wagoneer, dusk a few hours passed. Gathering his jacket he slides out of the cab, slams the door shut, and trudges through the wildflower and grass-crowded rocky pathway to his front porch steps.

   The porch light is off, again, and he sends a mental scowl his father’s way. At least he knows each step by heart - the feel of the weathered wood on the soles of his boots, the smooth slip of the handrail against his palm.

   “Dad?” he calls as he opens his front door and flicks on the porch light located just inside. He hangs up his jacket and hat, and is busy unfastening his gun belt when slightly uneven footfalls announce his father, just before he walks around the corner from the den.

   “Coffee?” Chris asks.

   “Got somethin’ for ya,” Gerard answers, and takes a moment to steady himself, mouth twisted in discomfort.

   “What?”

   Walking closer Gerard digs into his jacket pocket. “Here,” he holds out his hand. “At least try an’ protect yourself.”

   Chris eyes the tiny glass flask with a crude cork stopper lying in his father’s palm, a milky fluid clinging to the sides. “What is that?”

   “Monkshood,” Gerard says like Chris is supposed to know, thrusting his hand out again. “Take it. Wear it on your person at all times.”

   Chris looks between the poison and his father’s face. “Why would you give me that?”

   Jaw clenched, Gerard sighs heavily. “Have ya not been listenin’ to me? It’s for yer own protection!”  

   “Protection from what? No, you know what? I don’t wanna know.”

   “Will ya listen to me goddammit!”

   His father’s outburst stops Chris from walking away.

   “That queer, that whale-catcher or whatever the hell he calls himself,” Gerard gestures wildly. “He’s made them loose, struttin’ around town like they own the place! It’s sickening!”

   “Pops…”

   “An’ that cursed Hale, that, that fucking abomination!” Spittle gathers in the corner of his mouth. He takes a step closer, hand fisted around the vial. “If we don’t stop him he’ll kill us all.”   

   Chris takes his father by the shoulders, face set in a serious scowl. “You need to let this go. Seriously.”

   Gerard shakes his hands off, glares at his son. “Kate would’ve listened.”

   “Your daughter took the lives of four people. You’re lucky you were about to retire or she would’ve cost you your job as well.”

   “She was doin’ what had to be done!”

   “Keep talkin’ like that an’ you’ll share her room in Eichen!”

   Gerard dips his chin. “No wonder Victoria left you. Your a coward.”

   Chris pulls upright, his eyes gone cold. Finally he turns his back on him and walks into his house. “I’m gonna take a shower,” he bites out. “You can make your own goddamn coffee.”

   Gerard eventually turns and ambles back down the hallway, the little ampule of wolfsbane still clutched in his hand.

oOo

  

“I’m gonna tell him.”

   Laura looks up from her breakfast. Seth too looks up, a spoon dripping with soggy pink cereal in his slightly uncoordinated little hand paused in mid-air.

   Laura smiles at her son, pushing his bowl of cereal closer to him, then looks back to her brother. “It’ll be fine.”

   “What will be fine, mommy?” Seth asks, looking between his mother and his uncle.

oOo

Chapter Text

The museum door is already open when Stiles parks his Jeep.  

   He walks in, sets his stuff down, looking around at the deserted space. He’s about to call out when the stairs at the back creak with heavy footsteps. He looks up as Derek comes into view, blocking out the doorway with his bulk. 

   “Hey, good morning,” he smiles at Derek, his stomach bouncing against his ribs and his face heating up at once.

   “Morning,” Derek answers with soft smile of his own, walking closer.

   “Where’s everyone?”

   “Took the ferry over to Port Agnes for the day.”

   “Oh. So it’s just us?”

   “Just us,” Derek nods, chin down but eyes hooked into Stiles.  

   Stiles’ dick stirs at once, memories from the night before heating up his insides. He doesn’t even think about it, just takes a step back, and Derek crowds him the rest of the way until he’s pushed up against the wall, his big frame just about hiding Stiles from sight. He has to crane his neck, lift up on his toes as Derek greets him with a slow, deep kiss.

   “Guess you haven’t changed your mind yet,” Stiles breathes when they part.

   “Nope,” Derek hums from deep within his chest, looking Stiles over. “Not likely.”

   “Good,” Stiles says. “Though I don’t think my boss is gonna be very happy with you distracting me like this.”

   “It’s your lucky day then,” Derek says, rubbing his palm up Stiles neck and his thumb over his jaw. “Your boss gave you the day off.”

   “Did he now?”

   “He did,” Derek rumbles as he noses along Stiles jaw.

   “Any particular reason why?”

   Derek drops soft, wet kisses along Stiles’ throat. “Well,” *kiss* “I thought,” *kiss* “I could take you hunting,” and he slips his tongue back into Stiles mouth. Stiles is on his toes, holding on to the delicious bulk of Derek’s arms.

   Stiles gives him a dishevelled grin when they finally part. “Hunting?”

   Derek looks just about ready to pounce again. “For your dinner.”

oOo

“Seriously?” Stiles huffs.  

   Derek smirks but keeps walking, dodging low branches and hopping over moss-slick rocks and giant roots with the grace one would expect from a gymnast half his size.

   “Wait up, will ya?” Stiles calls irritably.

   Derek halts. “Want me to carry you?”

   Stiles sticks his tongue out at him and resumes his stumbling hike, hands held out to his sides.

   The small forest at the bottom of the shallow fjord-like valley, a few miles inland from the Harbour, is strewn with slippery rocks and absolutely covered in carpets and trails of moss, daylight barely penetrating the thick canopy.

   “How much longer?” Stiles asks as his sneakers squish into a particularly wet patch. 

   “Juuuuuust about there…”

   As if on command, the trees thin out to reveal a small clearing carpeted in wildflowers, shaded to one side by an enormous moss-covered boulder jutting out of the side of the valley wall.

   “Oh, wow,” Stile exclaims, coming to a halt. He wipes at his brow, looking around.

   “Welcome to Fairy Glade.”

   “Fairy Glade?”

   “It’s what Cor…” He clears his throat. “It’s what Laura used to call it. We came here as children,” Derek says, walking out into the clearing, hands on his hips. “She was convinced faeries lived here.”

   “I can see why,” Stiles says softly. Wildflowers make up the rest of the glade, buttercups and violets from what Stiles can gather.

   He’s still captivated by his surroundings when Derek pulls out two crumpled plastic shopping bags and hands one to him. Frowning, he takes the plastic bag, following Derek further into the glade until they’re in the shadow of the enormous hanging rock.

   “Start picking,” Derek says with a satisfied smile and crouches down.

   Stiles looks down. Around their feet, hiding underneath the ferns is a miniature forest of small, perfectly white mushrooms.

   “Mushroom hunt,” Stiles smiles, and crouches down on his knees next to Derek with a steadying hand on his shoulder. “I assume these aren’t poisonous?”

   “Only one way to find out.”

   Stiles tries to push Derek off his feet – which is like pushing against the boulder – and he just ends up going down on his own ass.

   “You’re squashing dinner,” Derek says, carrying on calmly but holding out his hand all the same. Stiles takes it begrudgingly and pulls himself up, wiping the seat of his pants.

   “If I die, I will haunt the shit out of your lighthouse.”

   Derek looks at him and gently captures his chin in one hand. He kisses Stiles, just a soft but deep taste of lips and darting tongue. “Like I would ever let anything happen to you,” he says, eyes boring into Stiles.

   Stiles forgets what he was about to say. He joins Derek, mechanically picking his dinner.

oOo

“We could’ve gone to my place, you know,” Stiles says as he hops onto a granite counter.

   “You have a hotplate,” Derek says, dumping the mushrooms into a colander and placing them in the stone basin.

   “True. I just feel bad that you kinda had to chase Laura and Seth away.”

   “I really didn’t.”

   Stiles watches him setting out utensils on the counter top next to him, completely at ease in the kitchen. “Is Laura divorced?”

   Derek sets a skillet on the gas range. “Widowed.”

   “Oh, shit. Sorry.”

   Chopping blade in hand Derek starts dicing up some shallots. “’s okay. He passed before Seth was born. But Jordy’s like his father now. I’m sure she’ll move in with him one of these days. He’s been asking her to.”

   The silence that follows push against Stiles chest.

   “My, ah…” Stiles fidgets. “My mom died, when I was really young. So I get that.”

   “Yeah. Our parents are gone too.”

   Stiles can only stare at the top of his head where he’s bowed over his task.

   The rhythmic chop of the blade on the butcher’s block pushes any other conversation to the back, Derek’s deftness at slicing up the onions something to behold. Stiles gets lost in the way the knife disappears in his big hand, how delicately his thick fingers hold the shallot down as it’s reduced to perfect little bits.  

   Stiles hops off the counter. “So!” he rubs his hands. “What can I do?”

   “You can rinse the mushrooms, then pat them dry and slice them up,” Derek says before looking up. “Please,” he smiles.

   “Oui, chef.”

oOo

The mushrooms are cooked together with sautéed shallots in sage butter and cream. It’s then poured over the two fat, juicy steaks – Stiles’ grilled medium, Derek’s basically rare. They have it with hand-cut fries tossed in salt and ground black pepper, and a merlot that reminds Stiles of dark chocolate and berries.

   “I take back everything. I love hunting for my food,” Stiles groans and sits back in his chair, the remnants of their dinner laid out on the wide oak table.

   “My pleasure,” Derek says, taking a sip of his wine.

   Stiles just about inhaled his fries, but the steak got the better of him, and at least a third of it goes to Derek’s plate.

   “It’s basically charcoal,” Derek teases.                       

   “I’ll throw it away then,” Stiles reaches for it, but Derek stabs it with his fork like a caveman spearing a dead animal. “Or not.”

   Stiles watches him carve it up, relishing each bite. “Guess you have to fuel all those muscles one way or another.”

   Derek turns slightly pink and dips his head, but carries on eating none the less. Stiles is sure if he wasn’t there Derek would have licked his plate clean. He looks down at his own plate, swirling a finger through some leftover sauce.

   “So…” Stiles begins, sucking his finger clean with quick efficiency. He clasps them together, then unclasps them to twirl his empty wineglass around by the stem. “You’ve never been with a guy before,” he thinks out loud, only looking up at Derek towards the end.

   Derek shakes his head, happily chewing his last piece of steak. “Nope,” he says once he has swallowed, washing it down with a gulp of wine.

   “I’m just asking, because, you know, you’re a great kisser,” Stiles glares at his wineglass. “Like, amazing,” he adds under his breath. “And, I was just thinking, that, maybe, we could, you know, at some stage…“

   “Have sex?”

   Stiles looks up to find Derek with a crooked grin, but eyes soft, holding his gaze.

   “Ah, yeah, that,” Stiles blushes furiously, though a smile tugs at the corners of his own mouth. “If you want to, of course.”

   Derek nods slowly before he speaks. “Oh I want do.”

   “Really?”

   “Yes, really.”

   Stiles exhales through slightly pursed lips. “Good. Good. Cause, I mean there are many ways we can, do this, if you’re not-“

   “No, I know how it works. I’m not completely oblivious,” Derek smirks.

   “Right. Of course. I knew that,” Stiles says nonchalantly. “So, yeah, I’m more of a,” he swallows. “a catcher, if you know what I mean. But, I can be versatile, if you’d rather be-“

   “No, I’m happy you’re a catcher,” Derek says, leaning forward onto the table. “Wouldn’t want it any other way, in fact.”

   Stiles’ lips part as the rushing of blood surges through his ears and plump up his dick, forcing precum to slick out and coat his boxers. “Okay. So, we’re good then.”

   “I believe we are.”

   Stiles’ erection twitches. “Good,” he answers breathlessly. “Good.”

   Derek smiles. He downs the last of his wine, then stands up from the table. He walks around to Stiles, who gapes up at his towering bulk as Derek tilts his head back and swoops down to claim his mouth. He cradles the back Stiles’ neck, licking past his lips, slow and deep, Stiles eyes closing as he sucks the tartness of the wine off of Derek’s tongue.

   Derek pulls back, dragging his thumb over Stiles’ lower lip. “Come watch me make a fire.”

oOo

   Stiles follows Derek’s every movement where he is crouched in front of the hearth, stacking the logs neatly. His Henley (Stiles doesn’t think the man owns any other type of clothing) stretches taught over his back and shoulders, his denim tight over his thighs as he kneels.

   Soon flames lick through the pile of wood and Derek stands to his full height. “Man make fire!” he announces in a deep, cave-man voice, the firelight playing across his face.

   “He most certainly did,” Stiles smiles, looking up at him.

   “Scoot,” Derek says, walking over to the couch. Stiles moves up and Derek sits down next to him, his bulk denting the cushions enough that Stiles almost slides back against him.

   “Dude, I swear one of your thighs weighs more than I do.”

   Derek just grins and shifts forward to undo the laces of his boots. He toes them off, the heavy footwear thumping down on the rug.

   “Seriously?” Stiles groans, pinching his nose.

   “I do not have smelly feet.”

   Stiles eyes his boots. “You have big feet.”

   “Uh huh,” Derek smirks and leans back, legs falling open. It just adds more fuel to the semi hard-on Stiles’ has been suffering through after watching Derek’s mouth-watering broad back-muscles working under his shirt.

   “Watch out, big feet comin’ through,” Derek says, swinging one leg over Stiles’ head and onto the couch, burrowing it against the cushions behind him. Stiles looks at the leg, then at Derek.

   Derek motions for him to come closer, and Stiles’ face heats up even further when he catches on. Turning around he scoots back until he’s snug between Derek’s legs and leans back, propping his own legs on the couch.

   It’s like he’s enveloped in Derek. He is broad and solid and warm. The smell of his cologne mixed with that undertone of masculine sweat should not be as comforting as it is.

   “Hold on,” Derek says, his voice a bit tight. He tilts Stiles forward and reaches down between them, Stiles hard-on positively aching when he realizes Derek is adjusting himself. “Okay,” he says, sounding almost relieved, and pulls Stiles back against his chest. He rests his chin on top of Stiles’ head and cross his arms over his torso.

   With a watery sigh Stiles squeezes one of Derek’s thick, hairy forearms. He tries to concentrate on the growing flames in the fireplace, and not the substantial bulge currently pressed against the small of his back.

   The light from the fire soon ads to the soft golden glow cast by the few lamps in the room, adding more shadows and highlights.

   “Who knew mushroom hunting could be so tiring,” Stiles says, voice thin.

   “Who knew,” Derek agrees and lays a lingering kiss on his head. He shifts a bit to the side and tilts Stiles face up, capturing his mouth with slow, deep kisses. Stiles has a hand on his bearded jaw, feeling the muscles work as Derek licks into his mouth over and over. Derek’s other hand slides down Stiles torso to the hem of his t-shirt, scrunching the fabric up to glide his hand across his exposed skin, causing a full-body tremble to race through Stiles.

   Derek smiles and plays his calloused fingertips through his thin treasure trail, dismantling him even more. He shifts his legs wider, dragging Stiles even closer, almost turning him on his side.

   Stiles’ whole body zings when the heavy thickness of Derek’s clothed erection rubs against his hip, the implied size of it just fuelling his rampant imagination. Then Derek is sitting up, pushing him back into cushions of the sofa and folding his legs around his waist, their positions reversed so quickly it leaves Stiles a bit light-headed.

   Stiles barely has time to take a breath before Derek is on him again. He dips his head and grazes his teeth over Stiles’ Adam’s apple as he grinds his hips down, dragging his bulging crotch over Stiles’ clothed erection.

   “Want you,” Derek says against his mouth, breath slightly sour from the wine.

   Stiles mouth falls open on a soft gasp, his boxers just about precum-slicked to his skin by now. “Want you too.”

   Derek rolls his hips down again, Stiles digging his fingers into his back at that solid, wide length presses against him. He seeks out Derek’s mouth. “We sh-should move this party-“

   “I’m a werewolf,”

   “-to your roo… What?”

   Derek licks his lips, the fire throwing dancing shadows across his face. “I’m a werewolf.”

   Stiles frowns and he pulls back into the cushions to look at him. “What?”

   Derek sits up, letting Stiles’ legs fall from his hips. Stiles too rises, propped up on his elbows, lips red and cheeks flushed. “Derek?”

   Derek only looks at him, breathing heavily, a deep scowl of concern marring his features. “Please don’t run,” he whispers, and close his eyes.

   When he opens them again they’re glowing, a swirling amber where once was pale green.

   Stiles sits frozen.

   “Stiles, it’s okay,” Derek holds up his hands – the back covered in hair, each finger ending in a curved, two-inch claw. “I’m not going to hurt you.” But the fangs that poke from between his lips garble his words, and Stiles jerks back as he reaches out to him, falling off the couch. Legs tangled he scampers back further until he hits the base of an armchair and snaps his eyes shut, heart thundering.

   “Stiles,” big hands grab his shoulders. He frantically swats them away. “Stiles, look at me, please.”

   Stiles opens one eye. Derek is crouched before him on the floor, ashen-faced. But he’s normal again. No fangs, no claws, no burning golden eyes.

   “Derek?” he squeaks, opening the other eye as well.

   “Are you okay?”

   Stiles blinks, mind turning over for a second, and then his eyes just about pop out of their sockets. “OH MY GOD THE MUSHROOMS! They were poisonous! I’m hallucinating!”

   “Stiles…”

   “I told you we shouldn’t have picked them!” he shrieks, and then bursts out laughing, clapping his hands to side of his face. “Holy shit that was freaky!”

   “You weren’t hallucinating,” Derek says softly, peeling Stiles’ hand from his face.

   “What do you mean I wasn’t hallucinating of course I was hallucinating,” Stiles shoots back irritably. “Shit, I need to get my stomach pumped. We both do! Actually, I should drink some salt water, that’ll make me throw up. I mean I don’t know any doctors here. Is there like an emergency room in town or do we have to oooohmygod!

   Derek only lets his eyes glow for a second or two, but it’s enough to snap Stiles out of his rant. He strains back further against the chair, pulling his knees up tightly, chest heaving like he’s run a mile.

   “What. Thee fuck. Is going on?”

   “I’m a werewolf, Stiles.”

   Stiles stares at him, eyes as big as saucers. “Derek you are seriously freaking me the fuck out here.”

   “I’m sorry, I… Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea… to tell you like, like this. But I don’t know how else.”

   “Stop it.”

   Derek slowly shakes his head. “Stiles…”

   “Why are doing this? Is this some sick joke?”

   “Stiles, please,” Derek’s face cracks. “I’m telling you the truth.”

   “Derek,” Stiles says slowly. “Werewolves don’t exist.”

   “They do,” Derek says. He sits down on the floor, legs awkwardly folded under him, trying to make himself as small as possible. He still looms over Stiles though. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you like this. But… You need to know. Before we… before any of this goes any further. Please, believe me.”

   “What… I don’t…”

   Derek only watches him, worry crumpling his forehead.

   Stiles sinks back further into the side of the chair. “This isn’t real.”

   “I promise you it is. You saw it yourself.”

   Stiles just sits there, eyes roaming over Derek’s face. Breathing slowly he leans forward, brow creased. “Do it again,” Stiles motions to his eyes. “Your eyes, make them go bright again.”

   Derek just sits there for another second, and then on an exhale let the golden amber heat flare up once again.

   “Holy shit…” Stiles whimpers. “How…”

   Derek takes another deep breath, then holds up his hand. His human nails inflate, bulging as it elongates into claws once again.

   Stiles jaw just about cracks his sternum. He begins to reach out but quickly pulls his hand back.

   “It’s okay,” Derek says and holds his hand out to Stiles.

   Biting his lip Stiles runs the pad of his index finger over a white claw, drawing down to the razor sharp tip. He lifts Derek’s hand with his own and fits them palm-to-palm. It’s almost comical how small his hand looks against Derek’s much thicker and longer digits – even more so with the claws – a child’s hand against a paw.

   “How is this real?”

   “I don’t know,” Derek shrugs, mournfully almost. “I was born like this. It’s all I’ve ever known.”

   “You’re… you’re seriously a werewolf?”

   Derek just nods.

   The truth finally slams into Stiles, numbing all the muscles in his face. He lets go of Derek’s hand, looking up at him with big eyes. “I have so many questions.”

oOo

Derek goes first, Stiles following him down the narrow ladder. What little light paves their way from the open hatch gradually dissipates, until two strong hands take hold of him, wrapping around his waist to effortlessly lift him off the last few steps and set him down on the stone floor of the cellar. A few seconds later there is a soft click and a fluorescent light sputters into life. Stiles blinks against the sudden brightness.

   He slowly turns around on the spot. The ceiling is so low he can easily reach up and touch the massive old beams holding the floor up. Next to him Derek stands with a bowed head seemingly out of habit, so used to the restricting height. As his eyes adjust, the multitude of gouge marks that decorate the walls and floors come into focus like a 3D puzzle giving up its prize.

   Stiles walks closer and trails a finger over a set of marks. He splays his fingers out as far they will go and still doesn’t even come close. He looks back at Derek.

   Derek glances at the floor, jaw strained. “When I shift I’m much bigger. And I have no control over it. That’s why we pour mountain ash around the hatch,” he points behind him. “Otherwise I would just smash through it like a piece of cardboard.”

   Stiles stares at the door, then back at Derek. “Does it hurt? When you…”

   Derek only nods, eyes slanted.

   “When is it full again?”

   “Tomorrow night. But I usually come down the morning of.”

   Stiles surveys the space once more – the cold stone, the drain in the floor, the small window open to the elements. He rubs his arms.

   “What are you thinking?” Derek asks, voice small.

   Stiles drops his hands. “I’m thinking that I wish you didn’t have to come down here at all.”

   “I have no choice, Stiles. It’s who I am,” Derek answers, a hard edge to his voice.

   “No, I know that, sorry, I didn’t mean to… What I meant to say is that I… I wish there’s something I could do.”

   Derek slowly shakes his head. “There isn’t.” Then, holding out his hand- “Let’s go back.”

oOo

“Seth?” Stiles asks.

   “No. He would have presented by now. But his children, most likely. If he has a son, that is.”

   “Any idea why it skips like that?”

   Derek shakes his head.  

   Dusk has finally fallen – just an hour and a half before midnight. They’re sitting on the pilothouse floor, their backs against the base of the lamp as the brilliant beam of light swings past above in the gathering dark. It misses Stiles’ head by inches, but skims Derek’s crown, highlighting the tips of his inky black hair in slow flashes.

   “And no idea how it started?”

   “Only when, sort off. I’ve traced my family tree back to before the first Hales came to Alaska during the gold rush and fur trade. But it’s only here that whenever I dug something up the triskelle would pop up.”

   “The what?”

   “Triskelle. The tattoo on my back?”

   Stiles smiles. “So it’s not just folklore.”

   “No,” Derek admits a bit sheepishly. “It’s a native symbol of the wolf. That’s why I think it started here. But as to how, I still don’t know.”

   “And the totem pole…?”

   “Did not come with the lighthouse, no,” Derek admits. “It was a gift to my parents, from the local Sechían chief,” he says, hands folded together in his lap. “A couple of his men dropped it off at our house the day I was born. Just off loaded it from the back of their truck, dug a hole in the front garden and stood it up. They left the moment it was done, not a word spoken. My mom went into labour not five minutes later.” 

   “Holy shit.”

   “I know. He visited my mom in the hospital. Remained silent the whole time, apparently just stood in the corner while his wife did all the talking. She gave my mom an orchid, for me.”

   “Orchid? Like mine?”

   “Yeah. They believed I was the reincarnation of a great land hunter, like he was the reincarnation of a great ocean hunter.”

   Stiles’ lips stays parted in an awestruck smile. “Orcas and wolves.”

   “Orcas and wolves,” Derek repeats softly. “Like what is carved on the totem pole.”

   Stiles stares at him for a bit longer. “So… Why did I get one then? I’m nobody.”

   “Oh, you are,” Derek says softly.

   Stiles face goes tight. “What do you mean?”

   Derek takes a deep breath, uncrossing his ankles. “That first day we met, when I lent you my jacket? Something about you, it… I’ve never been that affected by anyone. I had to lock myself away that night even though it was a day too early.” He rubs his thumb along his palm, frowning. “The strangest part is, even though you had that effect on me, at the same time you also calm me whenever I’m around you. And the thought of shifting during the full moon, it… It doesn’t scare me so much anymore.”

   “Okay hold up, you’ve completely lost me now.” He shifts a bit, gathering his thoughts. “I… I made you shift earlier, yet I also calmed you?”

   “I know it doesn’t make any sense, but,” Derek runs a hand through his hair, sighing deeply, then looks Stiles straight in the eye. “It’s like… like you enhance my shift, but also ground me at the same time.”

   The gears in Stiles head turns. “Like an anchor?”

   “Yeah,” Derek nods, smiling slowly. “Yeah, exactly, like an anchor.”  

   “And it’s never happened to you before?”

   “Never. Which is why I don’t think the orchid was a coincidence.”

   “Okay,” Stiles frowns, though he’s nodding. “Okay. Wow. So… there’s that, huh?” he says with a valiant smile. “I guess the Sechían knows more than we do.”

   “Guess so. They’ve lived here since the beginning of time, after all.”  

   Stiles nods, then, “Wait. Does that mean you have to go down at all? I mean, if I could help you-”

   “You make it easier, Stiles, you don’t stop it.”

   “But I could try!” Stiles shifts onto his knees, eager. “I could go down with you-“

   Derek starts to shake his head.

   “-help you through it, no, listen!”

   “Stiles, no.”

   “You said so yourself! I calm you! I’m your, your anchor-person! Maybe if I was there to-“

   “Did you not see those gouges in the stone?”

   “You would never hurt me,” Stiles says vehemently, grabbing Derek’s hand and squeezing.

   “Not gonna happen,” Derek tries to pull his hand back, but Stiles holds on.

   “Derek,” Stiles implores, holding his clasped hand to his own chest. “If there is just the slightest chance of me being able to help you, to keep you out of that, that hole-“

   “Stop!” Derek wrenches his hand free, eyes on fire. He takes a calming breath, closing his eyes. “Stiles, please,” he closes his eyes and turns his head away. “It’s not just the claws. I could hurt you… in other ways.”

   The lamp reflects off the windows again and again, skims the top of Derek’s head as Stiles’ mouth works fruitlessly to form anything coherent.

   Derek eventually looks back at him, takes his hand again. “I was serious about having no control. I will not let you take that risk. Not ever. You already mean too much to me.”

   That brings Stiles up short. “I do?”

   “More than you know.”

   Stiles looks down to where their fingers are locked together. He thinks back to when this same hand sprouted claws, grew so big and vicious-looking. And here it is now, holding him tight, safe and strong.

   “There has to be something I can do.”

   “Don’t leave,” Derek says, clutching his hand tight.

   Stiles takes Derek’s hand in both his’. “I’m not going anywhere.”

                                oOo

“Even a broken bone?”

   “Even a broken bone,” Derek smiles.

   “But, you wouldn’t be able to… to regrow a whole limb, right?”

   “Werewolf, not a starfish.”

   Stiles just smirks and snuggles deeper into Derek’s side, chasing his scent, his warmth.

   Derek’s bulk dents the mattress enough for Stiles to have gradually slid over as they laid there at first, having to shift back the whole time, until Derek simply pulled him in and tucked him under his arm, his head on Derek’s shoulder, fitting perfectly against him with his socked feet in line with the big guy’s ankles.

   He yawns, burrowing his nose into the fabric of Derek’s Henley. Both bedside lamps are switched on, casting little slivers of shadow on the white-washed stone walls of Derek’s bedroom, all the way up to where he’s staring at the slatted ceiling. “And from how far can you hear my heartbeat?”

   Derek narrows his eyes. “If it’s completely quiet… about a mile?”

   “That’s insane,” Stiles says, the last syllable stretched by another yawn. Derek’s steady breathing begins to lull him. For a few minutes Derek just combs his fingers through Stiles’ hair.

   “When I was little, I would lie in the bathtub as the water drained out,” Derek breaks the silence, Stiles blinking awake to look up at his face. “It’s the weirdest feeling, because you’re basically weightless and then slowly become heavier and heavier, but also like the water is draining part of you as well. And I would lie there and imagine that the water is draining that part of me away also, and I would just be normal, like the rest of my family.”

   Stiles looks at him a bit longer, then settles his head back on his shoulder. “After my mom died I was convinced my dad was gonna get cancer too. I insisted on sleeping with him in his bed, and would lie awake, watching him to make sure he was still breathing.”

   Derek brushes a stray lock of hair from Stiles’ forehead, and Stiles leans into his touch. They lock eyes, just staring for drawn out seconds.

   It’s cautious, the kiss, like their first time up in the pilot house. But Stiles is leaning up, and Derek is pushing him back down, and it swells and spills over, becomes urgent, their noses bumping with growing intensity.

   Derek rolls on top of him, digs a thick thigh between Stiles’ legs, grinds his hips down. He pulls off suddenly, lips red.

   “I want to finish what we started,” he says.

   “Yeah,” Stiles nods breathlessly. “Me too.”

   Derek’s eyes flick down to Stiles chest. “Are you sure?” he frowns. “Your heartbeat just went nuts.”

   “Because I’m about to have sex with the hottest guy I’ve ever met, you dork.”

   Derek grins and Stiles swears his incisors look sharper before he’s leaning down and capturing Stiles mouth again, only to pull off  after only a second, Stiles groaning.   

   “Do you need to get ready or something?”

   Stiles blinks stupidly at him, lips bruised. “What? Oh! No, no, ‘m good to go.” He smiles and pats his stomach. “Youthful metabolism.”

   “Okay, good,” Derek smiles and dives back in. As his tongue fills Stiles’ mouth, he reaches between them to pop the top button on Stiles jeans. They have to break away for Stiles to pull off his t-shirt, Derek rising up on his knees to completely rid Stiles of his pants and boxers, flinging them carelessly to the side. Then he is stripping out of his own shirt, the muscles along his stomach and sides twisting under the dark hair that covers it, his armpits flaring open as he drags it over his head.

   “How are you real,” Stiles breathes. He sits up and buries his fingers in Derek’s chest hair, then scrapes them down through the hair covering the warm solid ridges of his abs just as Derek pops the top button of his own jeans, pulling his zipper down over the obscene bulge straining his underwear.

   Derek shucks off his pants and underwear, his uncut erection swinging around and slapping back against his hip. His pants join Stiles’ before he is walking on his knees towards him, erection bobbing from side to side. Stiles though doesn’t meet his eyes.

   “No wonder you have such a big appetite,” he breathes.

   Derek’s crooked grin is all front teeth. “’m not that big.”

   Stiles too stands up on his knees and fold his hand around the veined heft of him. “My fingers barely fit,” he says as he rolls them up and down the hot, meaty girth.

   Derek dips his head. “You have short fingers,” he rumbles before he tilts Stiles’ head back and fills his mouth with his tongue once again. Stiles starts to slowly work his cock in the space offered between their bodies, Derek’s eyelids fluttering into the kiss. He takes hold of Stiles’ ass, squeezing each globe in turn.

   “Lie down,” Stiles whispers. With a last kiss Derek does, shimmying up to the head of the bed. Stiles settles down between his legs. He looks up at Derek, at his slack mouth and flushed face, and rakes his fingers up along his thick, hairy thighs, deliberately bypassing his straining erection, over the swathe of hair on his abs, mapping him out, to finally flatten his palm into the crevice between his pecs. Derek covers his hand with his’, holds him there. Stiles leans forward, noses up the solid length of him, the tip of his tongue wetting the veined, satiny skin, and holding him by the base, takes him into his mouth.

   “Fuck,” Derek drops his head back into his pillow as Stiles pushes his foreskin back with his lips and sucks the fat head in while tasting him - salty, pungent, right there behind the flared ridge of his cockhead where his musk is most concentrated. His hand migrates down from the base of his cock to cup his full, hairy sack, his own erection twitching at the feel of it overflowing his hand.

   He goes back to wrap his fingers around Derek’s hot girth, marvelling at the veined texture, the Derek-taste of his precum. He bobs his head up and down, up and down, small tremors thrumming through Derek’s thighs. He tries to swallow more but only manages another inch or two. Sucking becomes slurping, his spit mixing with Derek’s precum to dribble from the corners of his mouth and run down Derek’s length. When he pulls off again, stretching his aching jaw, Derek gently cups him under his chin and pulls him up until he’s lying on his chest, then rolls them over and wrap Stiles’ legs around his waist in one go.

   Nosing Stiles’ chin back and trailing kisses down his throat, he cants his hips back to let his erection slip between Stiles’ sweat-slick cheeks, and starts rutting against him.

   Derek is fiery hot, so utterly unmoveable and heavy on top of him, Stiles has to focus on forming coherent words. “You’re gonna have t-to stretch me open, first.”

   “I know,” Derek smiles, kissing him fiercely as he grinds his erection over Stiles’ hole.

   Stiles gasps against his mouth. “Like really, really stretch me.”

   Derek cups his cheek, running his thumb along the corner of Stiles’ mouth. “I’ll take care of you.”

   Stiles grasps his wrist, his fingertips not touching. “I know you will.”

   Derek gives him a quick kiss then climbs off. Stiles stretches out, catching his breath as he hears a drawer open. The mattress dips again and Derek is back, looming over him. He lifts Stiles’ hips and slides a pillow underneath him. “Put your feet against my shoulders,” he instructs.

   Stiles does, the muscles of Derek’s shoulders warm and solid under his soles. Derek unscrews the cap from a small jar of lubricant. He scoops out a dollop and starts working it between his fingers while his other hand explores the skin on Stiles trim torso, wandering from navel up to his chest. “Look at all these,” he smiles in wonderment as he brushes his thumb over Stiles’ scattering of moles.

   “Yeah, all mine,” Stiles colours, further adding to his flushes state.

   “Beautiful,” Derek whispers as he leans over to kiss him, the exploring hand going to his throat at the same time as slicked-up fingers start to probe his hole.

   Stiles sighs into the kiss, his feet slipping from Derek’s shoulders to settle over his arms. He grips onto Derek’s shoulders, squeezes the solid mounds, too big to get a hold of properly.

   “Put your hands above your head,” Derek says. Stiles does as he is told, and Derek grasp both by the wrist. He goes back to kissing him, slowly licking into his mouth just as he pushes his middle finger in.

   “Aah…”

   “Good aah or bad aah?”

   “G-good. Definitely good.”

   Derek goes back to kissing him, then slides his tongue all slick and hot along Stiles jaw, his beard scraping, working his finger around inside his channel. One becomes two, Derek distracting him with his mouth. A third joins them soon after, which really stretches, and Derek sensing it, stills his hand.

   “Okay?”

   “Yeah.”

   “One more?”

   Stiles wiggles one hand free from above his head to reach down to Derek’s cock, taking it in hand, folding is fingers around its girth. “Definitely.”

   Derek smiles and adds a fourth. Stiles bucks, hissing, which has Derek’ stilling his hand again.

   “It’s okay, just full,” Stiles groans.

   “Almost there,” Derek murmurs, and kisses across his cheek.

   Slowly Derek starts to move all four fingers in and out, flexing and curling them as he pushes in. Stiles whimpers, canting his hips up. Derek leaves another kiss, then pull out completely.

   He scoops out another dollop and slicks up his cock, wiping his hand on his thigh when he’s done. He leans forward again, hooking Stiles legs back into the crook of his elbows. His cock – fiery hot and thick – nestles all greased up in his cleft. He drags his nose up to Stiles’ temple. “As slow as you want.”

   Stiles nods, too lost in Derek’s hold for any words.

   Derek leans down, stretching Stiles’ knees back to his chest and catches his mouth in another slow, sloppy kiss, anchoring his hands above his head once again, and in the same motion rolls his hips forward, letting the slicked head of his cock catch on Stiles’ pucker. He slowly pushes forward, but it glances off. He quickly reaches down the re-position, holding his cock, and slowly pushes forward again. Stiles pushes back, the blunt pressure increasing gradually, maddingly…  

   Until Stiles exhales completely, and with a deep, drawn-out groan from Derek the head pops through, his fingers tightening around Stiles’ wrists.

   “Fuck…” Stiles whimpers, squeezing and contracting his channel around the head.

   “You okay?” Derek asks, his voice brittle.

   “Y-yeah,” Stiles exhales shakily. “Fuck, you’re big.”

   Soft, wet open-mouth kisses try desperately to drain the tension from Stiles’ shoulders. “You let me know when you’re ready for more,” Derek says.

   Stiles angles his chin up for a kiss, and as Derek licks into his mouth he pushes his hips back, which Derek answers at once, ever so gently sliding forward, his thick, red-hot erection parting his slick walls inch by inch, his fingers now laced with Stiles’, letting Stiles grip them as hard as he wants-

   And then stops, sliding out again just as slow until the flared ridge of his head catches on the rim.

   Stiles lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

   Sucking slightly on his neck, Derek pushes forward again, another inch deeper this time, then pulls back out. He repeats this again and again, rolling his hips, letting go of Stiles’ hands to rub up his sides as he pushes just a tad deeper every time.

   Stiles is floating from Derek’s body heat, surrounded by his gathering musky sweat, his body hair scratching all over his torso, tickling the back of his legs every time he comes up against him, his beard leaving his skin pink and tender. He grabs hold where he can, sucking on Derek’s salty skin-

   He tenses as the slick in-and-out slide of Derek’s cock suddenly stings, the burn of overstretched muscle announcing the thickest part of him.

   “I got you, I got you, almost there,” Derek whispers right by his ear, his cheek moist, breath hot against his skin. 

   He folds Stiles arms onto his chest and digs his own under him, hugging him tight, cupping the back of his neck. He softly bites at the tender flesh below one ear, continues to drive his cock deeper into him, inching the thickest part of his erection past the strained ring of muscle, ever so patiently. Stiles moans pitch higher with every small thrust, wriggling in Derek’s tight grip…

   “Fuuuuuck…” Derek exhales when he finally slips through, hot breath washing across Stiles’ cheek as he drops all of his weight and buries himself completely in his tight, mind-numbing heat.

   “Derek… aaah…” Stiles gasps under his full weight, eyes wet, clenching around his girth.

   “You okay?” Derek asks breathlessly, shifting his weight slightly.

   “Ungh… just… give me a sec…” Stiles wriggles against the soft scrape of Derek’s chest hair, freeing his arms to clasp them across his impossible broad back. “Lemme just…”

   “Take all the time you need. I got you,” he kisses down his shoulder. “I got you. Not letting you go…” another row of kisses sweep up to his sweaty hairline. “Not letting you go.”

   Stiles becomes aware of the warm weight of Derek’s hairy sack where it’s laid up against his taint, squeezed in between the back of his thighs. He tilts his hips experimentally, which has Derek groaning. He sets blunt teeth to Stiles’ neck and he rolls his hips back in answer, just once, the soft moan he pushes from Stiles filled with promise, and he rolls them again, and again, slowly, sliding in and out, and again…

   “Aah… Derek… fuck…” Stiles drops his head. 

   Derek teases Stiles lips with his tongue before delving in, licking into his mouth as he slides one hand between them to Stiles’ neglected cock. Stiles folds his arms around his neck while Derek brings him back to full hardness, kissing him through it.

   Soon he’s leaking all over Derek’s hand, and he bears down, clenching his opening against Derek’s cock.

   “Yeah? Want more?” Derek whispers and drags his teeth across Stiles’ salty skin.

   Stiles rubs his cheek against Derek’s beard. “Want you.”

   And with a drawn-out groan Derek slides in as deep as he will go, Stiles bowing up off the bed, eyes clamped shut and legs hooked tightly at the ankles. “Aaaah, Jesus!”

   The wet slap of skin-on-skin quickly sounds up around the room, Stiles breath punched out of him as Derek falls into a powerful, even pace, snapping his hips deep and driving Stiles into the mattress.

   “Not gonna last,” Stiles whimpers, one hand clamped around a bulging bicep, the other around the cords of Derek’s forearm as he furiously beats him off to the rhythm of his own hips.

   “Almost, almost.” 

   “Derek… ’m close-“

   “Me too,” he grinds out and digs his feet into the bedding, ploughing into Stiles as deep as he’ll go again and again, speeding up his hand as well.

    Stiles whole body goes bow-tight in Derek’s grip, and with an incoherent groan his back curves off the bed.

    Derek grunts as Stiles channel contracts around him and the first load of cum shoot across his clenched stomach. “Stiles…” Derek gets out before his own orgasm crash over him. He bows forward, letting go of Stiles’ cock, and crushing him to his chest as he empties himself, hips stuttering.

   Their grunts and moans mingle, Stiles breath periodically squeezed from him as Derek quavers through the last of his orgasm, clutching his sweaty body tight.

   It all simpers down to heavy breathing, Stiles licking his lips and swallowing, Derek pressing his’ against Stiles’ damp skin, mouthing at his sweat.

   Eventually he loosens his grip, lifting up on one elbow to find Stiles blissed out, eyes half-closed.

   It takes a second for Stiles to focus on him, a slow, tired smile bringing life back to his slack face. He reaches up and cups Derek’s cheek. “I… I have… a secret… to tell you.”

   Derek frowns, sweat beading his forehead, his great chest expanding with every breath.

   “I think I’ve fallen for a werewolf,” Stiles whispers.

   Derek’s huff of breathless laughter lights up the room. “Lucky werewolf,” he smiles, and swivels his head to kiss Stiles’ palm.

oOo

The Harbour lies quiet and peaceful in the dark, twinkling lights spread out around the bay. It’s windless and clear, the night sky bisected by the Milky Way in all its brilliant glory.

   Antoine Bouchard is too inebriated to notice this as he stumbles out of The Whale and Harpoon. Raucous noise from the bar follows him out into the night for a few seconds before the door swings shut again. The establishment is right on the waterfront, part of a group of touristy shops squeezed along its edge.

   A few seconds later the door opens once again.

   “Antoine! Où allez-vous?” the man calls after him, leaning out the doorway.

   Antoine just drunkenly waves him away, the action causing him to stagger a bit to the side. His friend laughs and shrugs him off with a careless wave of his own, then returns back inside.

   Whistling off-tune, Antoine staggers along the jetty, loosening his belt and trousers as he goes. Towards the end, pants clutched in one hand to prevent them from slipping down any further, he manages to free himself and, leaning against a wooden post, groans in relief as a steaming stream of urine cascades over the edge and splatters across the deck of a moored boat.

   Blinking at the sound, it takes Antoine a long moment to realise he’s christening a vessel instead of pissing into the water.

   “Merde,” he mumbles and, when his feet turns out to be completely unresponsive, just angles his hips to redirect the spray, having to almost hang off the post for support.

   Several pints worth of pee splash into the bay, Antoine grinning sloppily at the way he disturbs the otherwise mirror smooth surface of the black water.

   When luminescent green and blue lights start to wave across the ripples though, it takes his befuddled brain a good minute to register, and another dozen seconds or so to realize that the lights are a reflection from above and not the magical effect his urine has on the water.

   Letting his head fall back, Antoine stares up at the night sky where a great ribbon of light weaves and wavers in a rainbow of colours, celestial in size as it stretches from ocean to island, drowning out the moon and stars.

   Eyes wide but unfocused, he blinks up at the light show, mouth hanging open. He slowly leans even further to the side, utterly mesmerised by the aurora. The flow of urine has stopped a long time ago, though Antoine has completely forgotten about his undressed state - which is why, when he does manage to shift a foot, his pants drop, leaving him bare-assed from the waist down.

   He fumbles, hand slipping from the post, and with a surprised yelp topples over the side and smacks onto the deck of the boat he was pissing all over just a minute ago.

   He’s knocked out cold, pants around his ankles.

   Above, the end of the aurora whips about and the whole spectrum begins to unravel until it completely disappears, the stars once again rulers of the night sky.

   Antoine is found several hours later by his friends, frantic with worry, convinced that he had somehow fallen into the bay and drowned.

   He remembers nothing.

oOo

Chapter Text

“It’s okay, Derek. See? It doesn’t hurt,” Stiles smiles, bringing his hand from his belly to show Derek his blood-coated fingers.

   Derek gasps awake, jarring Stiles who, thankfully, carries on sleeping peaceful and unharmed in his arms. Heart hammering, he tries to blink away the burn he knows is lighting up his eyes. The fact that he has his crotch pressed tight against Stiles’ cleft reaches him too slowly, and he quickly pulls away.

   “Fuck,” he mutters when he feels the bulging knot at the base of his erection throb in time with his still racing heart. He’s burning up too, so clearly evident in the fine hairs on Stiles’ nape sweat-stuck to his skin.

   “Hmm?” Stiles stirs.

   “Shhh, it’s okay,” Derek plants a soft kiss on his shoulder, careful with his hips. “Need to go pee. Go back to sleep.”

   Stiles murmurs something, swallowing a few times, and gets pulled back under in a few deep breathes.

   Carefully Derek untangles himself from around Stiles’ naked form and slide out from underneath the covers. He sits on the edge of the bed, his whole body wracked with small tremors, skin fevered and moist, fingertips burning and gums itching. He tries to bring his heartrate back down, will it all away, but it’s a lost cause.

   He stands up and grabs his cell phone off the nightstand.

oOo

Stiles knows it is early morning only from the sliver of grey light peeking past the block-out blinds.

   He rolls over to find Derek’s side empty and cold. There’s no bedside clock, and he can’t remember where he put his cell phone.

   He falls back, staring up at the dark ceiling, sleep’s cloudiness slowly making way for reality, for the previous night’s events to drift back to him. He shifts, his backside answering with a dull throb, which has him smiling. Shaking his head he reaches over and pulls Derek’s pillow close and inhales deeply.

   He gets up, swinging his legs off the bed and goes in search of his clothes, then pads to the closed door. Out in the passage he can hear voices drifting up from somewhere. He follows down the stairs, the glorious aroma of fresh coffee luring him in.

   The voices are from the little television that stands on the kitchen counter next to the microwave, a morning show host interviewing some vapid actress about her break-up from another equally vapid actor.

   Laura is sitting at the big oak table, her back to Stiles, dressed in jeans and an oversized cardigan. Jordan is sitting opposite her, bloodshot eyes staring ahead while he clutches a mug of steaming coffee. He spots Stiles.

   “Hey, Stiles, you’re up,” he greets, his trademark smile on, though stretched thin.   

   Laura turns around. “Stiles,” she exhales.

   “Hey. What’re you guys doing here? Where’s Derek?”

   Laura takes a few seconds to answer. “He had to go down.”

   Stiles sucks in a breath, eyes snapping to Jordan.

   “It’s okay. I know. I mean, I saw,” he smiles again, or tries to, giving up on the pretence eventually to lift his mug to his lips, staring straight ahead again.

   “He called me,” Laura fills in. “Woke us up, actually. He was already half shifted by the time we got here.”

   Stiles gapes at her, then at Jordan, who’s still staring off into space. For the first time Stiles notices the slight tremor in his hand when he takes another sip of his coffee. “Why… Why didn’t he wake me? I could’ve helped him. We… We talked about it.”

   “I guess he didn’t want to put you in any danger.”

   “That’s bullshit!” Stiles protests through a throat that suddenly feels thick. “We talked about it! We… Last night, we…” Stiles looks away, face burning.

   “Stiles, it’s only for the night, he’ll be back-“

   “That’s not the point!” Stiles yells, but his anger sizzles away into shame as quickly as it flared up, shocked at raising his voice at Laura, more so at the sudden burn in his eyes.

   Laura scrapes her chair back and walks to him, gathering him in her arms. “I have never seen Derek this happy, Stiles. Ever.” They part, her hands still around his upper arms. “But there are things…” she hesitates, eyes weighed down by concern and sorrow. “He has been through a lot. We all have,” she carries on. “And I guess… I think he’s petrified of hurting you.”

   “No! No, I told him, he would never hurt me.”   

   “We should go show him,” Jordan speaks up.

   It’s Laura’s turn to look away.  

oOo

The headlights of the truck struggle against thick banks of mist as they leave the harbour, driving inland on a narrow, single lane tarred road with crumbling shoulders. The forest is an ever-present ghostly green towering on each side, branches with weeping moss coming into focus as they drive, forming intermittent tunnels.

   Stiles will steal furtive glances at Laura, at the lines worrying her forehead, and at Jordan, his knuckles clamped white around the steering wheel. He’s bursting with questions, his stomach in a knot, but resigns himself to stay silent, his hands clasped firmly in his lap.

   After another few agonizingly silent miles they turn onto a gravelled dirt road. The mist settles away to reveal the retreating forest, with just some lost clumps of trees here and there, twisted by the ever constant wind. Fields of bowing grass broken by grey, rocky patches cover most of the landscape.

   The road inclines, then dips around some massive boulders, then inclines again. Once they crest the hill the spectacular scenery of the island from this high up truly comes into view, the jagged coastline clear evidence of the glaciers that carved them.

   Caught up in the sheer magnificence of the landscape, Stiles doesn’t notice the overgrown dirt track until Jordan is turning off the main road.

   They drive through fields of bowing grass towards the coast. The road turns until they’re parallel to the coastal cliff, forest-covered hills rising gently from the coast.

   Jordan brings the truck to a halt, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. He gets out, Laura sliding over to follow him. Stiles follows suit, the wind ripping at his jacket the moment he steps outside. He walks behind them as the grass whips at his legs.  

   The view, Stiles notices in passing, is utterly spectacular – the heavy clouds over the Pacific breaking up here and there to let beams of sunlight shoot through and light up the ocean in brilliant, aquamarine patches against the grey, shadowed expanse, the scent of wet earth and grass so fresh it burns his nose.

   They walk to where four simple grave stones stand in the middle of the field, surrounded by a low stone wall. The grave stones all face the ocean, discoloured by time and weather, blind and deaf to their glorious surroundings.

   Stiles reads each one; beloved father, mother, sister and, lastly, husband. The knot in his stomach reaches up to clench at his heart.

   “This is where it stood,” Laura breaks the almost sanctity of silence.

   Stiles has to swallow a few times before he can speak. “She must have known there were other people inside?”

   “She didn’t care. In her mind she was doing what was righteous.”

   “Righteous?”

   “She was a religious nut, even more so when she came back to the island. She believed it to be overrun by heathens. And when Derek told her, well… In her mind it just proved her point. So, she waited for the full moon when she knew he would have been locked inside by the mountain ash, and set the house alight.”

   Stiles turns back to the graves, taking in the clearing where once a beautiful, happy family home stood.  

   “My husband saved me, then went back in. But he didn’t come out again.” She clears her throat, eyes shiny. “Derek came bursting from the flames soon after. He was shifted, which probably saved his life. That’s when Gerard shot him.”

   Stiles’ eyes widen. “Gerard?”

   Laura nods, her jaw set. “He was helping his daughter. She must have converted him. He was waiting off to the side the whole time. Even laced his bullets with aconite.”

   “That’s why he has the scar, on his chest.”

    Laura nods. “Derek just kept going, though, charged straight at him he was so crazed, knocked him unconscious. Kate got away by then, and Derek wanted to go after her too, but he was losing too much blood by then. That’s when Chris showed up.”

   “Was he part of it too?”

   “No, no. Chris has always been the moderate one. He helped us.”

   “But he still doesn’t know? About Derek?”

   “No. He thinks his sister lost her mind, going on about demons that had to be slain. He testified as such during the trial, helped put her into an institution. Gerard claimed he was blinded by the smoke and thought Derek was the arsonist. He was forced to retire shortly after.”    

   A particularly strong gust catches Stiles off guard, has him leaning into the wind. Laura tucks some wayward strands of hair behind an ear. “She was the first person he ever told.”

   Don’t run; Derek’s words just before he shifted come back to Stiles. Something sharp twists in his gut.

   “All this time… Old man Argent. I never…” Jordan shuts his eyes, shaking his head. Laura lays a hand on his shoulder and gives it a quick squeeze, then turns to Stiles, taking his hand.

   “A crazy person committed a horrible, unforgiving act, and Derek will always carry that guilt with him. So please, please understand. Just the thought of you coming to any harm by his own hands… I think that would be the end of him.”  

oOo

Derek sits up and leans back against the wall, the coldness of the stone making him hiss. His fever is gone, the wolf at rest again.

   He stands up, his legs shaky, the bone-deep muscle ache as familiar as the sound of his own voice. Slowly, he makes his way to the stairs where he slips back into his ratty old sweats. He climbs up and bangs against the hatch.

   When the familiar sweeping noises start up, he is so engrossed in his thoughts that he doesn’t pick up on the strange scent at first. It comes to him gradually, though, as the mountain ash is discarded. His pupils blow wide and he snaps his attention upward.

   The hatch lifts up, Stiles swinging it open all the way. “Hey,” he greets, looking down at Derek with an uncertain smile.

   Derek takes a step down. “Stiles? What are you doing here?” 

   The half-smile dies away completely. “Helping you,” he answers with a small voice.

   Derek lifts his head to scent the air. “Where’s Laura?”

   “They went back to Jordy’s.”

   “Why?”

   “Because I asked her to. Derek, it’s okay.”

   “Why would you ask her to do that?” Derek scowls fiercely, taking another step down. “This isn’t a game, Stiles.”

   “I know it’s not a game,” Stiles holds up his hands. He crouches down to his knees, right at the edge of the opening. “But, when you didn’t wake me up I… I don’t know. I was hurt, okay? After everything that… that happened between us… I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t trust me.”

   “It’s got nothing to do with trust!”

   “I know that,” Stiles nods quickly. “I know that.” He watches Derek. “We went to the graves. Laura told me everything.”

   Derek’s whole face pulls tight in shock. “What?”

   “And I get it now, why you don’t want to involve me. But, Derek, I’m already so involved, whether you want me to or not. And it’s okay,” Stiles eyes plead. “All I’m asking, is that you give it a chance. Let me be there for you.”

   “Stiles…” Derek hesitates, rubbing at the scar on his chest, his eyes filled with so much anguish it physically hurts him.

   Stiles holds out a hand. “Let me help you. Please,” Stiles smiles encouragingly, motioning with his fingers. “Nothing bad is going to happen.”

   Derek looks at the basement one last time, then takes hold of the stair stringers, knuckles going white for a second before he starts climbing. He takes Stiles’ hand, and Stiles has to quickly brace himself against Derek’s solid weight pulling against him.

   They stand, Derek looking down, Stiles looking up, settling his hands on Derek’s arms. “How is it that you were gone for just one night and I missed you this much?”

   Derek touches him, tentatively, circles his waist with his big hands, then reels him in, wrapping him up in his arms and burying his face in his hair. “I’m sorry.”

   “You have nothing to say sorry about,” Stiles says with his face pressed against Derek’s chest. “I’m sorry for being so selfish.”

   Derek squeeze his eyes shut, breathing in the scent of Stiles’ hair.

   “So… Does this mean I can stay?”

   “Yeah,” Derek says, fingers gripping at his clothes. “You can stay.”

   “Great. Though you should go take a shower first, because seriously? Your man-stink is about to drive me away.”

   Derek snorts and just tightens his hold.

oOo

Stiles drains his milk and sets the empty glass down next to his plate. Across from him Derek sits hunched over his own food, one arm curled around his plate as he attacks his lasagne.

   “Laura said you needed to carbo-load when you come out, and what better carbs than lasagne, right?”

   “This is great,” Derek says, pausing just long enough to talk before the next forkful gets shovelled into his mouth.

   “Good. Lots more if you want.”

   Derek nods, intent on his food.

   “I wore your jacket, you know.”

   Derek stops mid-chew, quirking an eyebrow at him. He swallows quickly. “What jacket?”

   “The tracksuit one? That you lent me the day we first met?”

   “Uh, yeah, I saw you put it on.”

   “No, I mean-” Stiles’ cheeks heat up. “I wore it. That night. Back at my place.”

   “You did?”

   “Yeah. It was big and warm, and… ” Stiles looks at his own glass. “It smelled like you.”

   Derek slowly shakes his head. “Pervert.”

   Stiles chucks his napkin at him, which Derek catches easily.

   Stiles watches him scoffing down the rest of the pasta with a growing sense of comfort. When he’s done, Derek leans back in his seat. “That was amazing, thank you.”

   “My pleasure.”

   Derek plays with the napkin Stiles threw at him, his face growing serious while he stares at his empty plate.

   “You okay?”

   Derek looks up, inhaling. “Ah, yeah, fine.” He scratches his chest, Stiles catching the movement, and quickly drops his hand in his lap.

   “Does it hurt?”

   Derek shrugs. “Sometimes.”

   “I just… I can’t believe he got away with it.”

   Derek stares at his plate. “I trusted her.”

   Stiles is about to ask who Derek’s talking about, then, realizing, holds his breath.

   “She was just a kid when her parents divorced and she moved with her mom to Seattle,” Derek continues, still looking at the table. “Everyone grew up, the few friends I had got married and started their own families or moved away. Then Laura got married and became pregnant, and… I just so desperately wanted that too.”

   “A family?”

   “Normality.”

   Stiles twists his fingers together in his lap so not to reach out and maybe disturb Derek from carrying on.

   “Then she came back one summer, and she was… all grown up. From the big city. We started hanging out, somehow, and it was just so easy. She seemed so, accepting.”

   “And you told her?”

   Derek nods, his eyes clouding over. “I felt really comfortable with her. At least, I thought I did. I had this idea in my head, this, juvenile hope that because she grew up here, she would know me, and, understand.”

   Stiles waits for him to continue, but the seconds drag on. “What happened?”

   “She started praying,” Derek says with a mirthless smirk.

   “Yeah, Laura said she’d become some or other zealot.”

   “Yup. Fell down on her knees and begged God for forgiveness, that He should free me from this demon that had possessed me. I tried to speak to her but she only freaked out more and ran.” He glances up. “The rest you know.”

   Stiles nods.

   Derek takes a deep breath, dropping the napkin on the table. “Wanna go for a ride?”

   “Ah,” Stiles sputters, his mind changing gears. “Okay?”

oOo

“Well, that’s not creepy at all,” Stiles says, hands dug deep into his pockets at the cold breeze blowing from the ocean.

   “It’s a bit creepy, I guess.”

   “A bit?”

   From their viewpoint on the low cliff, the ship wreck lies perpendicular to the coast, tilted far over to port. Her back is broken, the stern lying at an angle to the bow. Steel beams poke through the rusted hull plates where it snapped in half, like the ribcage of some giant prehistoric carcass. Stiles tries to imagine if he would have felt any different about the sad state of this once proud vessel if it was a bright sunshiny day.

   “Let’s go have a closer look,” Derek says, pushing away from where they’ve been leaning against his truck. Stiles takes a peek at the jagged cliff edge, which is when Derek holds out his hand. “Don’t worry, I got you,” he says, and shoots off a wink.

   The knot that’s taken up residence in Stiles’ chest since he woke up alone loosens at once, replaced by that warm bubble he’s equally been fighting against. He takes Derek’s hand, the warmth and size of it calming him even further.

   Derek leads the way, Stiles’ eyes focused on his tall, broad back and not the narrow little path they’re traipsing down. His grip is firm and steady without crushing Stiles’ hand, the type of confident yet reserved strength that immediately puts one at ease. Stiles knows for sure that if he happened to stumble, Derek wouldn’t budge an inch, pulling him right back up against his side.

   And the bubble of warmth in his chest just grows and grows…

   Finally setting foot on the beach, Derek lets go of his hand and starts taking off his boots. “Nothing like wet beach sand between your toes.”

   “On that we agree,” Stiles smiles, and begins to loosen the laces of his own sneakers.

   Barefoot and pants rolled up to above their ankles they walk closer to the wreck, the bow of the ship jutting over the beach from its resting place between the rocks, easily two storeys high. The barnacle-encrusted, hulking mass will groan every now and then in the constant tide, the wreck slowly being eaten away by the relentless waves, the sharp, briny smell of the ocean almost overpowering.

   Stiles looks up, squinting. “Doña…”

   “Belén,” Derek finishes for him, the steel-embossed name of the ship barely visible anymore. “Fishing trawler originally from Colombia. She ran aground when I was in high school. The coastguard got everyone off, except for the captain. He just disappeared. There were these wild rumours that they were drug lords escaping prosecution. Some actually believed the captain to be Pablo Escobar.”

   “Seriously?” Stiles giggles.

   “Yeah. Though it’s almost certain the guy drowned. They just never found his body.”

   “Let me guess; it’s haunted,” Stiles says with a smirk.

   “Oooooooh,” Derek makes creepy-fingers.

   Stiles pulls his bottom lip in before he cracks up. He doubles over, coming back up with his head thrown back, eyes streaming. “You really are such a dork,” he splutters, wiping at his eyes.

   Derek’s laughing too, adorable teeth showing. Stiles is still a bit lightheaded from his bout of laughter, half of it relieve. So when Derek’s smile dies down and he sets his hand around the back of his neck, Stiles just about goes boneless in his hold.

   Derek reels him and frames his face, his thumbs reaching from chin to temple, his fingers easily spanning around to cradle his head. 

   They kiss as the waves crash against the wreck and wash across the beach to gradually bury their feet in sand. Derek pulls him closer, deepening the kiss, and Stiles rolls onto the balls of his feet, holding on to Derek’s forearms.

   “As much as I don’t want this to end,” Stiles begins when they part, his complexion ruddy. “I seriously can’t feel my toes anymore.”

   Derek doesn’t let go of him, just trace his features with his eyes. “Can’t have that,” he rumbles, and picks Stiles up, bridal-style - not a flicker of care, not an ounce of strain.

   He carries him over to dry land, where they dry off their feet and put their shoes back on. Again he leads the way up the cliff to his truck.

   “Sit closer,” Derek says when they climb into the cab, already raking Stiles across the wide seat so that their thighs almost touch. Stiles complies wordlessly, a content smile now permanently on his face, compliments of that darn bubble in his chest that he’s finally concede defeat to.

   They drive back in silence, Derek’s arm stretched across the seat behind Stiles’ shoulders. Somewhere along the way he leans against Derek, eyes fluttering for a moment at his warmth, at the deep, earthy musk of him.

   Derek leans down and plants a kiss on his head, one hand firmly on the steering wheel.

oOo

Stiles switches off the bathroom light. He remains standing in the doorway though, one hand toying with the hem of his t-shirt. He looks at Derek from under his lashes where he is sitting on the side of his bed, elbows on his knees. 

   Derek sits up and widens his knees a bit. “Come here,” he says softly, holding out his hand. Stiles walks closer and takes it, gently reeled in the rest of the way. He rests his hands on Derek’s shoulders while Derek sets his’ around Stiles narrow hips, looking up at him.

   “Hey.”

   Stiles returns his smile. “Hi.”

   “You good?” Derek asks, eyes wide and earnest as he rubs up Stiles’ hips.

   “I’m good.”

   Derek lifts the hem of his t-shirt with his thumbs and leans forward to kiss the light hairs of his treasure trail. He noses at them before trailing open mouth kisses up to his belly button. He lowers his head, having to crouch down a bit to reach, and press his face against Stiles’ crotch, inhaling deeply.

   Stiles’ jaw goes slack and his fingers tight.

   “You’re beginning to smell like me,” Derek rumbles, mouthing at the rapidly hardening line of his cock.

   “I-I am?” Stiles whimpers, but quickly sucks in a breath when Derek pulls him forward into his lap, letting him straddle his legs. It causes Stiles’ already lust-filled veins to throb even more, the fact that even siting in his lap their eyes are level.

   Derek frames his narrow waist with his hands, lifts the hem of his shirt with his thumbs to scrape along the tender skin of his hips. “Yeah. Especially because we went bareback last time.”

   “You… you can still, smell… that?”

   Derek nods. “My semen…” he flushes. “It’s more potent than,  normal guy's. Sorry, I didn’t even think of checking with you.”

   “Dude, that is so not an issue. Like you said, it’s not necessary, right? I mean we’re totally safe, you being a werewolf and all.”

   Derek nods. “Completely. And even if I wasn’t a werewolf, you’d still be safe.”

   “Then go forth,” Stiles grins. “As long as I don’t get knocked up from your special wolfy cum. I’m too young to be a daddy.”

   Derek blinks a couple of times, mouth fallen open. He swallows hard, the scruff on his throat undulating up and down. “Ah, no, I think you’re good,” he says slowly.

   Stiles wiggles his eyebrows. “Just checking.”

   Derek lifts one of his own eyebrows. “You’re something else, you know that?”

   “Look who’s talking.”

   Without warning Derek rolls them around onto the bed, easily pinning Stiles underneath him in the process. He buries his face in Stiles neck, sucking at his skin and rubbing his beard along the tendons all at the same time. “Ready to smell even more like me?”

   “As much as you can make me, big guy.”

oOo

“Stilinski!”

   “Huh?” Stiles snaps out of it, swinging around to find Bobby holding one of his equipment cases up at him.

   “Do I look like I want to stand here the whole day?”

   “Sorry,” Stiles says, quickly grabbing the case from him and setting it down next to the rest of his stuff on the jetty.

   “I know you’re feelin’ down,” Bobby says, grunting as he steps up onto the jetty. “But we’ll find them sooner than later.”

   “Ah, yeah, it’s not that, really.”

   Bobby pulls a rag from his back pocket as he scowls at Stiles from under his cap. The day is bright and glorious, the marina bustling. “Go put your stuff in your car,” Bobby says, taking his cap off to wipe his brow. “Then I’ll buy you a beer.”

   “Ah, thanks Bobby, but I don’t really drink beer.”

   “Well, I’m sure we can rustle up a pink cocktail for ya, then,” he grumbles, then stomps off.

   “Why Robert! Are you asking me out on a date?” Stiles calls after him.

   The fisherman ignores him.

oOo

“A Red Rooster?” Stiles eyes the draft-sized drink the barman had just placed in front of him, a layer of fizzy froth on top.

   “Official welcoming drink of the Harbour,” Angus, the barman of the Whale and Harpoon, smiles. Or at least, Stiles thinks he’s smiling. He can’t be sure, what with his walrus-moustache concealing most of his lower face.

   “I’ve been here more than a month already.”

   “Just drink it,” Angus and Bobby say in unison.

   “I smell a conspiracy,” Stiles says, gripping the glass mug. “Isn’t there a law against mixing rum and beer?”

   “Stop stalling and drink,” Bobby says, a toothpick in the corner of his grin. “You need to spill your guts. I know somethin’s botherin’ ya.”

   “Ahhh. I knew you were a romantic at heart.”

   “Uh huh. Now drink up.”

oOo

“Wha’m sposed to do?”

   Bobby ducks just in time as Stiles waves in the air.

   “I mean have you seen’m? Looks like a freakin’ Navy Seal!”

   “He is very attractive,” Gladys Murdoch, the owner of the drycleaners, agrees. She joined them about an hour ago, unashamedly nosy, while all the other patrons along the bar try to be as inconspicuous about their eavesdropping as possible.

   “He is the best,” Stiles says, one eyelid out of sync with the other, hanging slightly off his barstool. “An’ he’s suuuuch a good kissuhr.”

   Gladys trills with laughter, stirring her drink, while Angus just shakes his head, busy wiping down a glass.

   “I heard he has a meth lab in that lighthouse of his,” one of the patrons pipes up.

   “You thought aliens abducted your dog,” Angus shoots back to a smattering of laughter around the bar.

   Stiles frowns and leans back to dig gracelessly into his pocket, almost tipping off the chair. He pulls out his cell phone, scowls fiercely, then gasps dramatically when he looks at the screen.

   “What?” Gladys asks.

   He holds the phone to her. “FIVE MISSED CALLS!” Stiles tries to whisper.

   “Well, he obviously cares about you, dear.”

   “An’ me. I mean I do too. Care about’em, like sooooo much.”

   “I know, honey, I know. And if I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re also in love with him,” she says, eyes sparkling.

   “Gladys…” Bobby warns.

   “Oh hush, Bobby Finstock, I’m just looking out for the boy.”

   Stiles blinks like an owl between her and Bobby, swaying to the side. “I do,” he says, suddenly serious. “Oh my god, I do!” He jumps up, stumbling against Bobby, raising both his arms. “I AM IN LOVE WITH DEREK HALE! I’M SPILLING MY GUTS AND ALL DRINKS ARE ON M-“

   “Okay, okay, I think you’ve had about enough,” Bobby stops him, taking him by the elbow. He gets side-tracked though by his own cell ringing in his pocket. Dragging it out, he sighs when he sees who it is.

   “Derek.”

   “Derek? My Derek?” Stiles tries to grab the phone.

   “Yeah he’s with me,” Bobby holds Stiles off with one hand, the other clamping the cell to his ear. “Of course he’s fine,” Bobby’s voice goes up defensively. “I bought him a beer, is all. Ah, yeah, I don’t think he should drive. No, I can drop him o-“ Bobby sighs again, pocketing his phone. “You’re boyfriend’s on his way.”

   “You said boyfriend,” Stiles giggles, then hiccup’s.

   “Yeah. Let’s go, Sparky.”

   “Bye, Stiles!” Gladys calls. “Call me! We’ll go for lunch!”

   “Good bye everyone! I love Beacon Harbo-hey!” Bobby pulls him to the side just as he’s about to walk into the doorframe.

   “Derek Hale’s a queer?” the guy whose dog was abducted by aliens asks the barman.

   In a far corner, unseen by anyone, Gerard Argent twirls his empty glass around and around on the table.

oOo

The tires of Derek’s truck screech just a bit as he comes to a stop. He slams the door when he gets out, and strides across the asphalt to where Bobby is sitting next to Stiles on one of the benches scattered along the promenade.

   Though he would never admit it, Bobby has a moment where he contemplates turning tail and running.

   “Is he okay?”

   “Cool your jets, he’s fine.”

   “I am so mad at you,” Derek grits out when he crouches in front of Stiles, his head slumped on Bobby’s shoulder.

   “For what? The boy needed to let his hair down a bit.”

   Derek ignores him, instead gently shaking Stiles’ knee. Stiles lifts his head, eyes barely open. They widen a bit when he manages to regain some focus, followed by a tired smile. “Ama dreamin’?” he slurs.

   Derek huffs softly. “No, you’re not dreaming. Can you stand?”

   Stiles nods, shifting forward, then lurches to the side, away from Derek, and vomits next to the bench.

   “Classy,” Bobby remarks, wrinkling his nose at the stench. A deathly glare from Derek has him shutting up and sitting back with crossed arms.

   “Stiles? You okay?” Derek asks, rubbing his back.

   Stiles slowly comes upright, wiping a sleeve across his mouth, his face now slumped in misery. “Will you take me home?”

   “Of course I will, baby,” Derek says, at once gathering him in his arms. Bobby’s questioning eyebrow at Derek’s term of endearment is ignored as well, and he lifts Stiles into his arms. “I got you,” he whispers, nuzzling against his hair as Stiles’ eyes slip closed.

   “Well,” Bobby slaps his knee as he gets up. “At least I know the feelin’s mutual.”

   “What?” Derek scowls at him, but Bobby’s already walking away, back to the bar.

oOo

Except for the Wagoneer, there are only about a dozen more cars in the sprawling parking lot of Eichen House.

   Gerard locks his truck, takes a moment to let the ache in his leg settle, then heads for the steps leading from the parking area to the front gardens of the sprawling, turn-of-the-century sanatorium.

   He finds his daughter at her usual place: on the bench in the shade of the old dogwood, next to the little fountain of the stone girl, the water forever pouring from the pail in her arms.  

   “Katy?”

   She doesn’t look up, just carries on staring at the fountain, playing with the small, silver cross on the chain around her neck.

   Gerard sits down next to her, lightly resting a hand on her shoulder. “Sweetheart? It’s me.”

   “Have you come to take me home?” she asks softly, staring at the fountain.  

   “Not today, baby. But I promise you I will.”

   “When?”

   “Soon, my angel. Very soon.” He takes her hand and sits up right. “Evil has come to the Harbour once again, and I need your help. No one will believe me. They’re all blind, Katy, all of ‘em.”

   Kate clutches the cross in her hand. “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” she whispers, seemingly captivated by the fountain. Then, as a small smile spreads across her face, she turns to her father. “They must burn, daddy. That whole island must burn."

oOo

Chapter Text

“Come again!” Stiles waves at the retreating tourists, and then, still watching them go- “You know you really should stop lurking like that, you’re scaring away my customers.”

   “I do not lurk, I’m… taking inventory,” Derek says as he walks closer from behind one of the displays, eyes trained on Stiles like a predator tracking its prey.

   “Oh really? And where’s your inventory list?”

   Derek taps the side of his head and comes to lean against the counter, right in front of Stiles, both hands splayed out to his sides.

   “I think you’re lying.”

   “I think you should show your boss more respect,” Derek says and leans forward.

   Stiles grins. “Am I in trouble, sir?”

   Standing back Derek fixes him with a hungry stare, jaw-muscles jumping. He turns and walks to the front door, Stiles’ gaze following him with a bemused grin – which slides off his face when Derek shuts the front door and locks it, flipping the open sign around. He walks back and rounds the counter, Stiles’ mouth opening to- 

   Derek’s lips are on him without warning, his tongue crowding his mouth over and over. He pushes Stiles until the edge of the counter digs across his back. “Want you, the whole time,” he says as he lightly drags his teeth along Stiles’ jaw.

   Stiles cock twitches, weeping precum. “What can I say… I’m irresistible.”

   “Seriously,” Derek rumbles, dragging his bearded cheek down the side of Stiles neck. “It’s like I’m constantly thirsty.”

   “Well… it’s only a week… before the moon is full again.”

   “’s not that. The more we fuck,” he rolls his hips forward, Stiles gasping. “The more I want to be inside of you.”

   “Don’t I know it… I can aah… barely sit, as it is.”

   Derek pulls back to scowl at Stiles, a tuft of hair adorably askew. “Have I been hurting you?”

   “Of course not. Well… Not on purpose,” he grins lecherously.

   “Stiles,” Derek retreats a step.

   “Come back here, you idiot,” Stiles pulls him closer by his shirt, and sling his arms around his neck. “You know what I mean.”

   Derek fiddles with the buttons on Stiles over-shirt. “Would you… Do you want me to…”

   Stiles waits, letting Derek sweat. “Yes?”

   “We could… trade… places. For a bit.”

   Stiles tilts his head. “Could we, now?”

   Derek nods, his scowl now directed at a point below Stiles’ chin.    

   “Hmm,” Stiles hums, smoothing his hands over Derek’s shoulders. “And you’d be okay with that? Submitting to me?”

   Derek’s jaw tightens like a vice, but again, he nods.

   “Oh my god,” Stiles giggles, “You look like you’re about to have an aneurism.”

   “I’d do it. For you.”

   “I know you would, big guy,” Stiles smiles, his eyes soft. He leans up on his toes to whisper right by Derek’s ear. “And as hot as that sounds, I like it more when you hold me down and fuck me till I’m breathless.”

   Derek’s eyes flash – something Stiles has become addicted to, trying to pull it from him as much as he can - and the next moment big hands clamp around his hips. Stiles has just enough time to grab hold of Derek’s bulging biceps before he’s lifted onto the counter.

   Pushing his knees apart, Derek seeks out his mouth again, fingers quickly popping the top button of his khakis and pulling down the zipper.

   “Derek, wait…” Stiles gasps against his mouth just as warm, large fingers are digging into his boxers and groping around his junk. Stiles gasps as those fingers close around his cock, pulling it free from his underwear. “S-someone’s gonna see us,” Stiles feebly tries to protest, but Derek is already bending down, one arm curled securely around Stiles’ lower back.

   The sudden warm, velvet-wetness of Derek’s mouth and tongue has Stiles’ head falling forward on a moan. He runs his hands down the amazingly broad expanse of Derek’s back, fingers digging into the solid mounds of muscle.

   Derek sucks him down to the root till his nose is buried in the wiry hair at the base, no sound of gaging.

   “De-Derek…”

   Derek hums, which has Stiles whole body curl over him.

   “I-I’m not gonna… not gonna last long…”

   Derek pulls off with a bit of slurp, licking at the trail of saliva on the underside of his cock. “’S okay, I got you, just come for me,” he says, voice raw, and swallows Stiles’ down again.

   “Fuck…” Stiles whines, legs jerking up and toes curling. Derek holds him steady as his head bobs up and down, up and down.

   “Derek’mclose,” Stiles squeeze his hands along his back.

   Derek just hums again, tightening the grip of his cheeks and tongue, sucking as hard he can. He pulls off long enough to slobber-wet his middle-and index finger, then, swallowing Stiles down again, digs his hand past Stiles’ drawn-up balls to his taint, reaching further back with the two wet fingers till they press over the soft pucker of his hole, Stiles’ sack nestled in his palm. And with a long, drawn out slurp around his cock, he slips them past Stiles’ ring.

   “Aaaah!” Stiles’ curls forward, falling over Derek’s back as he shoots down his throat, his whole body curling into his hold. Derek tightens his grip around his waist, pushing his convulsing hips forward to bury his face even further into his groin, sucking him down, swallowing every spurt while his fingers curl inside him.

   Stiles is just about draped over Derek’s shoulder when he pulls his fingers out and let his spent cock slip from his mouth. “You still with me?” Derek asks.

   Stiles rolls his head from side to side on Derek’s shoulder.  Derek smiles, letting his hands run over his pert butt, squeezing each globe in turn.

   Derek lays a soft kiss against the side of his throat then lifts him with one arm under his butt, folding his legs around his waist. He carries Stiles upstairs to his bedroom, draped over his shoulder like a sleeping child, endorphin-drunk and sated.

   The ‘Open’ sign remains turned around for the rest of the day.

oOo

   They get lost in each other, soft words and drawn out moans floating around the bedroom. And as Derek’s hips pick up speed, as Stiles holds on to his broad, sweaty back, his heels digging into Derek’s ass, whimpering against his throat with each deep drive, the star-strewn sky above Beacon Harbour once again comes alive with the Northern Lights.

   This time around there are no drunken French-Canadian tourists falling off jetties, but just the silent, awestruck faces of townsfolk pointing up at the heavenly show.

oOo

Stiles is woken up by his cell phone. He pats around for it, Derek’s warm, solid bulk half draped over him making it just that more difficult to concentrate on anything else.

   He frowns heavily as he tries to focus on the screen.

   “You gonna get that?” Derek mumbles at his back.

   “It’s Finstock,” Stiles answers, still half asleep. He holds the cell to his ear. “Bobby?”

   Derek doesn’t need super hearing to catch Bobby words.

   “Get your ass down here! They’ve spotted Quilaqs!”

oOo

“I told you, didn’t I?” Bobby shouts over the rush of wind. “When the lights dance, the whales will come.”

   “Yes, you did,” Stiles smiles, his hair wiping about as The Coach cleaves through the water.

   Feathery bands of cloud rake across the sky from horizon to horizon, the ocean surface a bit choppy. They pass a few other charters, all alerted to the arrival of the whales.

   “Where were they spotted?” Stiles shouts, bending his knees with the boat riding the waves, much like a horse rider during a canter.

   “By the Senchían island.”

   Stiles nods and walks back to where his equipment is stowed in the central console, holding on to the grab railings as he goes. He looks up as they pass the norther tip of the island and the Senchían village. Only this time the shore is crowded with people, old and young, men and women, staring out over the water. Some are idling about in little skiffs, diesel fumes puffing out behind the outboard motors.

   “What are they waiting for?”

   As if they heard him, all the skiffs pull away in unison, the whine of their engines like a swarm of bees coming closer.

   “There!” Bobby shouts.

   Stiles looks back to where Bobby is pointing. He squints against the haziness of the day, the streaks of white foam across the water blending with horizon. He grabs his binoculars, focusing in…

   Then he sees it. A plume of white smoke – water spray from a blow-hole.

   “I see them! I see them!” he shouts.

   And on cue, about a dozen glistening fins, shimmering like mother-of-pearl, break the surface.

   “It’s a whole pod! Oh my god it’s a whole pod!” Stiles squeals.

   Bobby floors the throttle and the bow of The Coach rises out of the water, the engine wining as it accelerates. Stiles almost loses his footing, what with only one hand grasping at the railing, the other still holding the binoculars. Behind them more skiffs have joined the race, trailing their boat.

   “Where are they?” Stiles calls, frantically scanning the horizon. The quilaqs have simply vanished all of a sudden, like they were never there in the first place. “No… dammit, where’d you guys go…” He catches sight of something in the periphery of his view, at once focusing the binoculars on that spot, letting go of the railing.

   In the heartbeat it takes for him to recognise the iconic, shiny black dorsal fin of a killer whale, the boat lurches to the side, Bobby yelling something at the same time.

   Stiles is thrown off his feet and connects head-first with the side of the boathouse wall, the fiberglass siding giving a sickening crunch. Then he’s spinning through the air, weightless, the cloud-strewn sky circling past like he’s on a merry-go-round.

   Hitting the water robs him of all his remaining faculties, sinking below the surface with a sense of surprise. The saltwater burns his eyes when he opens them, and the sight of the enormous black and white bodies gracefully diving through the endless blue around him spurs him back into action.

   But his limbs won’t cooperate, sluggish as they have become.

   And the last thought Stiles has before he loses consciousness is that Bobby was right: the water is cold enough to skin ya… 

oOo

Derek frowns, setting his coffee down next to his laptop. He is dressed in his sweats, seated at his desk, in the middle of a spreadsheet currently open on his laptop when the muscles along his spine twitch.

   He goes back to typing, shifting in his seat against the sudden tightness behind his chest. But his fingers slow down again, then stop all together, just hovering over the keyboard.

  Grimacing, he drags his knuckles from his sternum down to his solar plexus.

   The onset of the freezing cold is so sudden, so all encompassing it rips his breath right of his lungs from one heartbeat to the next. His ears fill up with water, his legs numb.

   Face draining of blood, Derek manages to stumble upright, his chair rolling back, bumping against the bookcase behind. His throat constricts, and he has to swallow to open it up. “No.”

   He grabs the truck keys, taking the stairs two at a time.

oOo

Derek already has the door open before he has even brought the truck to a complete stop. He jumps out and runs across the narrow road to the house across the street from where he can hear Stiles’ slow heartbeat, a siren call amid all the others.

   A small crowd of Senchían villagers have congregated on the front porch. They all make room for him as he thunders up the porch steps.

   “Upstairs,” a startled young man says, pointing into the house.

   “I know,” Derek growls, not sparing him a glance. Some people barely get out of the way in time as he charges inside and take the stairs two at a time, shocked stares and urgent whispers following him up.

   At the end of the short hallway outside a closed door sits a man on a wooden chair. When he sees Derek he stands up, unhurried, face passive, his magnificent onyx hair streaked with grey. He is about as tall as Derek, but not nearly as wide, his deeply lined skin the colour of polished wood.

   “Derek,” the man nods, his voice deep and rough.

   Derek wavers. He takes a breath, then walks closer. “Chief.”

   The chief sets a hand on Derek’s shoulders. “We pulled him out as fast as we could. There were orca everywhere.”

   Derek barely has enough energy to nod. He takes hold of the handle and swings the door open.

   It is a small bedroom with a single bed, rickety old wardrobe, mismatched rugs on the floor and off-white walls. At the foot of the bed two Senchían women with braided hair sit on low stools, their hands on the sheet-covered feet of the prone body. Their eyes are closed as they mutter under their breaths.

   At the head of the bed sits another woman, her hair as streaked with grey as the chief’s but also braided down her back. She too is muttering softly while a small earthenware bowl on the little bedside table emits a curl of acrid smoke, lazily spiralling into the air. Every few seconds she would wave the small bushel of leaves in her hand at the smoke, letting it waft over the covered body on the bed.

   Even with the smoke layering all other scents, Derek picks Stiles’ up at once: that glorious summer rain smell that makes his mouth water and his loins constrict. But it’s the sharp metallic zing of dried blood that gets his feet to move, though. That is, until he can see past the women blocking his few, at the shroud-like cloth that covers his face as well.

   “No…” Derek whimpers.

   Stiles sneezes so obnoxiously loud that everyone in the room jumps, the cloth covering him shifting off one foot and falling down his face to reveal the bandage around his head.

   “Stiles…” the women next to the bed sighs.

   “I’m sorry! That smoke is making my nose itch like crazy.”

   “His head is too full,” one of the women at his feet groans as she stands up, a supportive hand on her lower back. “And I’m not talkin’ ‘bout brains.”

   “Hey!” Stiles sits up, holding his side. “I resent- Derek!”

   The spell is broken and Derek just about dives onto the bed. He gathers Stiles into his arms and digs his nose into his crow’s-nest of hair, snorting almost with the force of his inhalation.

   “Smaller… person… gettin’… squashed,” Stiles mumbles as best he can with his face squished against Derek’s chest.

   “I don’t care. You’re not going anywhere, ever again. I’m locking you up in the lighthouse.”

   “Could you maybe ease up-ouch-on the bruised ribs before my incarceration?”

   Derek at once loosens his arms around Stiles, who takes a deep breath, then pulls a face, clutching his side. “’m fine. Just banged up a bit. Nothing serious.”

   Derek sits back to have a good look at him but keep his hands still clamped tightly around his body, his eyes flashing for a second when they land on the bandage around his head. “I’m gonna rip Bobby’s throat out with my teeth.”

   “Down, boy. It wasn’t his fault.”

   “It really wasn’t Derek. The orcas were hunting. He barely got out of the way,” the woman that was busy waving the smoke speaks up as the other two leave the room, pulling the door close behind them.

   “Which means I, Stiles Stilinski, have just made a new discovery!” Stiles beams, settling back. “The myths were true after all! Can you say doctorate!? Hell, just go ahead and write me the check for that grant-”

   “Stiles. I’m taking you to Port Agnes to get an MRI.”

   “What? No! Don’t be so dramatic, I’m fine.”

   “He really is, Derek. I promise.”

   Derek turns to the woman. “And I can’t thank you enough, Miriam, but I still want to take him, have him checked out.”

   “You two know each other?” Stiles looks between them.

   “Of course,” Miriam smiles. “I was there when Derek was born.”

   Stiles’ mouth drops. “You’re the chief’s wife?”

   She nods. “Do you like the orchids?”

   Stiles gasps. “It was you…”

   She nods, her eyes laughing. “When we saw the lights last night, we knew you would come this way. The whales, too. And the orcas.”

   “You knew this was gonna happen?” Derek asks, his voice rising.

   “No. We didn’t know what was going to happen. That’s why we waited.”

   “Yeah, I remember,” Stiles nods. “Everyone was on the shore…”

   Derek curves his hand around Stiles’ face, and Stiles covers it with his own. “I’m fine, big guy, really.”

   “Miriam,” Derek says like he’s just remembering something. He then carries on in a language Stiles can only assume is a native dialect, Miriam nodding along, muttering a few words in between. Derek holds his knuckles to his chest, dragging them up and down to demonstrate something to her, a deep furrow between his eyebrows.

   Stiles frowns at them while they just carry on talking. Miriam sighs then, leaning forward to set her hand on Derek’s knee. She says something that has Derek inhaling sharply.

   “Ah, guys? Wanna tell me what your little confab is all about?”

   Derek is still staring at Miriam, lips parted.

   “Hellooo?”

   “I was just telling Derek that you are his spirit bond.”

   Stiles just about chokes on his own spit. “Excuse me what?”

oOo

“The men had started carving the totem a few months in advance already.”

   “Yeah, I saw it. It’s beautiful,” Stiles says, sitting on the log next to Miriam, both staring out over the ocean towards the small sacred island.

   On Stiles’ other side - close enough that his shoulders drag against Stiles with every inhalation – sits Derek, staring at the pebble-strewn beach. One arm is a rigid, muscled strut pressed against Stiles’ back with his hand on the weathered log. Every now and then Derek’s other hand will wander across his lap to Stiles – caressing his leg or touching his knee.

   “And the moment he was born, both Jonah and I woke up at the same time.”

   Stiles smiles warmly at Derek - who is still scowling at the multi-coloured pebbles around his feet. “He’s special, alright.”

   Derek’s eyebrows dive even lower.

   “You both are.”

   Derek heaves a sigh, his gaze also going to the small island offshore. “Miriam, there’s something… Ever since I’ve met Stiles, I… I feel more in control, though my shifts are getting worse.”

   “You are more in control because of the bond, because Stiles is-”

   “Like an anchor?” Stiles interrupts her.

   “Yes,” Miriam smiles. “Like an anchor.”

   “Told ya,” Stiles bumps Derek with his shoulder. Derek’s scowl only deepens, though he leans back tighter.

   “But, your shifts are getting more intense for the same reason.”

   Stiles head swings around, his smirk falling away. “Huh?”

   Miriam laces her fingers together. “It’s your wolf, Derek. It is restless. It is seeking its mate.”

   “I was afraid you were gonna say that.”

   “Okay, whoa,” Stiles holds up a hand. “Could we just rewind to the whole… mate part, please?”

   Derek moves his arm from behind Stiles, leaning forward to rest both elbows on his thighs. “He is not spending the full moon with me, Miriam.”

   “Derek, it is the only way.”

   “No. I will not put him in danger. Ever.”

   “Are we doing this again? Seriously?” Stiles looks between them.

   “He will not be in danger, because he is your mate, and if you don’t bond with him it’ll only get-“

   “Stop!” Stiles lifts his hand like a parent trying to separate two squabbling siblings. “Stop talking about me like I’m not here!”

   Miriam sits back.

   “Sorry,” Stiles apologises, still angry. “But I’m getting real sick and tired of not being in the loop. Can someone please explain to me what this is all about?”

   Miriam stands up. “Come. I want to show you something.”

oOo

They’re not that far from the shoreline, though the dense wall of moss, ferns and giant trunks block out any view from all around.

   Miriam is walking out front, followed by Stiles, with Derek bringing up the back. He refused to let Stiles walk behind him, making sure he had him in his sight the whole time. Stiles had rolled his eyes at him, but brushed against him as he walked past, letting his fingers trail through Derek’s.

   The soft green hue of the canopy lets through shards of sunlight, until the trio come upon a little clearing, the gap in the forest canopy turning the green of the forest floor into brilliant sparkles of emerald. An enormous, moss-covered boulder lies to the side, split in half after it came tumbling off the mountain and gouged the trench they’re currently standing in – the scar in the earth long since covered by vegetation.

   Miriam turns to Stiles and takes his hand. “I want to show you something,” she explains and pulls him closer.

   Frowning, Stile watches as she produces a small bundle of cloth tied with twine, and carefully opens it, keeping it cradled in her palm. Derek too looks on with a slight frown, until the smell hits him, and he staggers back, eyes flashing.

   “Why would you have that?” he growls, crouching like he’s deciding between fight and flight.

   “To prove a point,” Miriam says calmly, holding the little pouch aloft. “Stiles, get ready.”

   “Ready for what? What is going on?” Stiles stammers.

   But Miriam is already blowing over the little pouch, and a cloud of white powder billows right at Derek-

   -who, in the blink of an eye, erupts.

   The almighty roar that seems to shake the forest itself is accompanied by the sound of fabric ripping.

   Miriam stands her ground, but Stiles takes a shocked stumble backward, a frozen mask of terror aimed at where Derek - or what used to be Derek - now stands.

   Towering over them both, the seams along Derek’s pants are split, massive thighs strumming with power in his crouched position, clawed hands curled out beside him. Even his boots have come apart around the soles, revealing gnarled, hairy toes.

   His eyes are a constant golden-red fire, jaw covered in long scraggly hair. Where the seams of his shirt hasn’t popped, the fabric pulls bursting-tight over his sloping shoulders and arms, black hair sticking out in tufts. He crouches lower, growling menacingly. “What have… you done…” he struggles through lips twisted by all the fangs poking from his mouth.

   “Stiles,” Miriam urges calmly.

   Derek’s head swivels to where Stiles is still standing rooted to the spot. He drops his head at the look of fear in Stiles eyes, and stumbles backward. “I’m… sorry…”

   Stiles blinks, shaking himself, then takes a deep breath. He steps forward and Derek at once growls. It raises the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck and reverberates through the hollows in his skull.

   “It’s okay,” Stiles tries to smile, taking another step.

   “Stiles…”

   “Derek, it’s okay. I got this,” and he reaches out, taking hold of a hairy wrist - too big to fit within his grasp. He looks up at him, at his face contorted with all that extra bone. “Quite the Halloween getup you’ve got going on here, hey big guy?”

   Derek literally deflates.

   It happens in increments: his eyes calm down, his fangs and claws recede. His body shrinks back to its normal size – his muscled frame suddenly looking small in comparison – and his face goes back to its square-jawed, grey-eyed goodness that has Stiles’ thoughts derail for a few seconds every time he lays eyes on him.

   He cups a bearded cheek, smiling gently up at Derek. “There you are.”

   Derek is too out of breath, too shaken to reply verbally. He looks at Stiles as if for the first time, covers the hand on his cheek, then looks over at Miriam.

   She only smiles.

Chapter Text

“You leavin?”

   Stiles peers over the box in his arms at where Bobby is standing on the landing outside his apartment’s open front door. “Oh, hey Bobby. Ah, no, I’m just gonna stay at the lighthouse for a few days,” he says with smile, his cheeks pinking up.

   “Why?

   “Ah… The museum, you know, there’s stuff there, info that I need, for my thesis, you know. Wanna give me a hand?” and hands the box to Bobby without waiting for an answer.

   Bobby grabs the box, quickly balancing it in one hand to adjust his baseball cap. “How’s yer head? Gone for that check-up?”

   “I’m fine, seriously. It’s been two days. If anything was wrong it would’ve showed by now. And Miriam is an actual doctor, after all.” Stiles knocks against his skull. “I’m tougher than I look.”

   “If ya say so.”

   Derek appears around the corner, eyebrows drawn together and steps in front of Stiles, blocking him from the doorway.

   Bobby takes a step back, ready to chuck the box at Derek in self-defence. “Easy there, big fella, I come in peace.”

   Derek folds his arms. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kick your ass down those stairs.”

   “Because it wasn’t his fault, for the hundredth time,” Stiles sighs behind him, trying to push him out of the way. He puts his back into it. “Move, you big, hairy… ” But Derek doesn’t even blink. “Ugh, Derek!

   “You could have been killed,” Derek says, though his eyes stay hooked on Bobby.

   “Those Orcas came out of no-where, I told ya,” Bobby says, his voice climbing higher.

   “Bobby, it’s okay, don’t mind him,” Stiles says, peeking out from behind Derek. “Once I’m settled I’ll call you so we can chart out some new routes.”

   Derek looks at Stiles like he just popped out of thin air. “You are not getting back on that boat.”

   Again Stiles tries to squeeze past him. “You are not the boss of me.”

   “Well, while you two have your little lovers tryst,” Bobby sets the box down on the landing then. “I think I’ll be goin’.” He nods at Derek, touching his cap’s visor.

   Derek just narrows his eyes.

oOo

“What?” Derek glares at the road.

   Stiles only carries on staring at him. “Nothing,” he smiles.

   “Stiles…”

   “Nothing. Just…” he slides his hand across the wide seat to bump his fingertips against Derek’s thigh. “I like it when you get all grumpy and protective.”

   Still scowling at the road, Derek takes him by the wrist and pulls him closer, Stiles easily sliding across until he’s right up against him, then lays his arm along the backrest. He gazes down at Stiles, eyebrows a constant angry, bushy line.

   “Eyes on the road, mister.”

   Derek’s eyes stay on him for a few seconds more though, then noses his head back and leaves a soft, linger kiss on his lips. He finally looks back at the road, the truck never once drifting, as steady as can be.

oOo

“Call me. Please. If you need anything. Anything.”

   Derek tightens the hug. “I will, sis. Promise,” and lays another kiss on top of Laura’s head before tucking her back under his chin.

   “This is so weird. I feel like I’m abandoning you.”

   “You couldn’t even you tried. Besides,” he looks over her head where Jordan and Stiles are standing by Jordy’s truck, Seth held in his arms. “I’m in good hands.”

   Laura sniffs, wiping at and eye when they part. She looks up at Derek, her chin quivering. “Mom and dad would’ve loved him.”

   Derek wipes a tear from her cheek with his thumb. “I know.”

   Lara puffs out a watery breath. “Okay. Okay.”

   “You’re less than five miles down the road, you know.”

   “I know,” Laura scowls, smoothing her hand over Derek’s shoulder, picking at imaginary lint. “Maybe I should-“

   “Sis, it’s gonna be fine. Call Miriam. Talk to her.”

   Laura nods, and with a last sigh leans up to kiss her brother on the cheek. “See you in three days.”

   “Three days.”

   As she walks to the truck, Stiles and Jordan share a quick bro-hug before he smacks a kiss on Seth’s head, who giggle delightfully. They meet in the middle, holding hands, Laura whispering to Stiles, and Stiles nodding, giving her a long, deep hug.

   Stiles stands with his hands deep in his pockets as Jordy’s truck disappears through the forest tunnel, Derek’s hand curled around the base of his neck.

oOo

“Derek…”

   Derek dives back behind his book. “’m not staring.”

   Stiles shuts his laptop and sets it down on the covers. “What’s wrong?”

   Derek sighs, letting his book drop on his chest and his head fall back on the pillows.

   “When I shift-“

   “Which you won’t,” Stiles interrupts.

   “Sure, but… Even if I don’t, I’m still going to…”

   “You’re still going to what?”

   Derek groans. “I… I’m basically going to be really horny. The whole time.”

   Stiles grins. “And that’s a problem, because…?”

   “Because… Ah, remember when I showed you the basement that first time?”

   “Yeah?”

   “Remember when I said that I was afraid to hurt you… in other ways?”

   “Will you stop with that now? You saw what happened with your own eyes. You won’t-“

   “I have a knot.”

   Stiles shuts his mouth. “You have a what?”

   “I have a knot, Stiles,” Derek blushes. “When I shift, I grow a knot.”

   “A knot? Like on your…?”

   “Yes.”

   Stiles remains silent too long. “Ah, wow, okay. Huh.” He shifts, scratching his head. “So, like, the base of your dick… Grows a knot.”

   “Yes,” Derek says, his blush spreading down to his neck.

   “And that- that happens every time you shift?”

   Derek nods.

   “Ah, okay, and what you’re saying is, is that you’ll want to… do it?”

   Derek nods again, the flush now covering his throat and reaching his ears. “It’s pretty much all I’ll want to do.”

   “And here I was thinking that would’ve been the last thing on your mind.”

   “Normally, yeah. It just becomes background noise, a small part of the jumble of my senses that gets enhanced.” Derek looks at him. “With you though, it is all I can think about when I’m shifted.”

   “Huh.”

   Derek digs his hands in between his thighs.

   “How ah, how big… is it?” Stiles asks.

   He glances up at Stiles then holds up his thumb and middle finger, curling them into a roughly shaped C.

   Stiles leans back, staring at Derek’s hand. “Like you weren’t hung enough already…”

   Derek drops his hand.

   “Okay. So… We, just… What? Need more lube? A bucket of Crisco?”

   “Stiles…”

   “Look, you saw what happened when Miriam made you shift and I calmed you. Who says you’ll even get one?”

   “Maybe. I just… I don’t want to hurt you.”

   “You won’t, you big dope. Besides,” Stiles lecherous grin makes a comeback. “I’ve been taking you pretty well thus far. What’s a few more inches?”

   Derek glares at him and Stiles wiggles his eyebrows right back.

   Quick as a flash Derek rolls on top of him, flattening Stiles to the bed. He drags his beard against his neck, making Stiles squeal and beg for mercy.

   Derek gives him none.

oOo

The horizon melts with the setting sun, streaking great beams of orange and red across the sky, casting trails of shadow behind the few clouds drifting across the darkening heavens.

   Stiles yawns. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the sun setting so late here,” he says, glancing at his watch.

   Derek stands back from the railing in the pilot house, moving in behind Stiles, locking him in between his arms. “Wanna go to bed?” he asks, his breath warm against Stiles’ neck.

   “Are you gonna let me sleep?”

   Derek lowers his head further, dragging his nose down the hair behind Stiles’ ear. “Highly unlikely.”

   “I need my rest, you know. From what I understand, I’m in for quite a taxing period.”

   “Which is why I want to take my time with you tonight,” Derek breathes into his hair. “Before I get all… taxing.”

   Stiles turns around in his hold, his heart jumping when the already wide line of Derek’s still growing erection drags across his stomach.

   “Do your worst.”

oOo

   “What does it feel like?”

   Derek slides back in as slowly as he can, his lips parting as his girth stretches and stretches Stiles’ hole. “What does what feel like?”

   “W-when you’re inside… me.”

   Derek takes a moment to just revel at the sight of where they’re connected before he answers Stiles, the skin around Stiles’ entrance taut around his cock. He nudges his hips and is rewarded with a gasp. “Hot.”

   “No, come on,” Stiles gives a blissed-out smile. “Seriously now.”

   He adjust Stiles legs – a calf resting against his shoulder, the other flung lazily around his waist, Stiles’ hips tilted upward. “Really. Feel,” he says and slowly pulls out halfway. He takes Stiles’ hand and pulls it down to fold his fingers around his cock.

   It is hot, searing almost, the veined ridges familiar now, the meaty slickness of his lover easily overflowing his grip.

   “That right there is your core temperature,” Derek smiles with eyes hooded, massaging Stiles own flagging erection back to full hardness, and with a slow roll of his hips slide right back in. “And when I come,” out, in, “And fill you up,” out, in, “And it floods all around my cock,” and he slides out to grind back in torturously slow, as deep as Stiles’ channel will allow this time, pushing him up the bed almost, “It gets so hot it almost burns,” and kisses Stiles, deep and filthy. “But, I love this even more,” he says with their foreheads pressed together, looking down at where he trails his hand over Stiles’ toned, hairless torso and down to his groin where his hips are pushed up in Derek’s lap, cupping his junk. “So smooth. Like we’re night and day. God, you’re beautiful.”

   He cradles Stiles head in one arm and falls into a rhythm, Stiles mouth completely slack, eyes half closed as Derek lazily jacks him off in time with his easy thrusts.

   “Derek,” Stiles whines - hands clawing over Derek’s sweaty muscled back.

   “What is it, baby… tell me,” Derek breathes between his thrusts.

   “I-” Stiles begins, but then Derek shifts his legs and Stiles grunts as Derek’s hairy sack is pressed up tight against him in one deep slide. His hips pick up speed at once, forcing the air and any further response from Stiles.

   “Fuck… Stiles… So… Perfect… Ungh…”

   Derek comes, crushing Stiles to his sweat-matted chest hair, groaning his release against his throat as Stiles spurts his own seed from inside Derek’s fist, curling up in his hold and coating them both.

oOo

Derek drifts awake slowly. He keeps his eyes closed though, the gradual awareness of Stiles’ sleep-warm skin and resting heartbeat soothing against his chest.

   He’s tucked half under him like the little spoon that he is, his breathing still deep. It’s already light outside, a sliver of grey sky visible from behind the blinds.

   Derek nuzzles against Stiles’ wild hair, inhaling deeply. On an exhale he curls even tighter around his slim frame, shamelessly pressing his pulse-throbbing erection against Stiles’ backside…

   Stiles’ heartbeat picks up. He starts to fuss a bit, rubbing his nose, almost child-like in its gestured innocence. He yawns and stretches in the confines of Derek’s arms, inadvertently grinding back against his morning wood.

   “Hmmm,” Stiles snuggles back against him. “Someone’s awake.”

   Derek’s response is a deep chest-rumble. Stiles half-turns in Derek’s embrace to blink up at him. “Well hello there.”

   “Morning.”

   Stiles folds the linen over his nose and mouth. “Morning.”

   “Oh, now I have smelly feet and morning breath?” Derek growls, digging his fingers into Stiles’ side. Stiles laughs and try to wiggle away, put Derek easily holds him down and rolls on top of him, rubbing his beard along Stiles’ throat as he goes.

   “Manly breath and big feet!”

   “Too late, you must suffer the consequences.”

   “Derek!

   “Told you not to get cleaned up last night,” Derek says, and drags his beard up the side of his face.

   “I didn’t, I just… Oh, you mean that?”

   “Yes. That.”

   “Dude, you try walking around with a gallon of cum in your ass.”

   Derek shifts onto one elbow, eyebrows drawing together as he spreads his hand down Stiles’ ribcage. “Sorry.”

   “No, don’t be, it’s fine,” Stiles brushes his hair from his flushed forehead.

   “It’s… because of my shift.”

   “What is?”

   Derek licks his lips. “The fact that I want to… keep my cum inside of you. It makes you smell like me.”

   “Yeah?” Stiles grins. “Or maybe you just like the process of putting your cum inside me.”

   Derek drags his hand over Stiles’ chest, thumbing a nipple.

   “Hey, it’s totally cool,” Stiles offers with a satisfied smile. “I like that, the idea of belonging to you.”

   Derek looks at him, his eyes flashing and wordlessly dips down to suckle the hardening nipple he’s been playing with. “I like that idea, too,” he says with the nub between his teeth, grinding his erection into the indent of Stiles’ hip and upper leg. Stiles squirms but Derek just holds him still with barely an effort.

   “Wait, I have to go pee.”

   Derek doesn’t move, just flick his tongue over and over the sensitive flesh.

   “Derek, seriously,” Stiles whines.

   He huffs against Stiles’ skin. “If you’re not back in five minutes I will come find you.”

   “So possessive…”

   “And it’s only gonna get worse.”

   Stiles pushes at him again, and Derek finally rolls off him. Stiles scrambles off the bed, grinning like a naughty child as he runs to the bathroom. When the door shuts Derek leans over the side and drags one of his boots closer, lifting it up to give it a quick sniff. Not peeling paint yet, but he guess it could do with an airing.

   He sprawls back on the bed, squeezing his hard-on.

   The toilet flushes, and seconds later the shower starts up. Derek lifts his head, frowning as the bathroom door opens again.

   Stiles leans against the doorframe, naked, all long, sinewy limbs, broad shoulders and smooth, mole-dotted skin.

   Derek’s cock twitches in his hold, a pearl of clear precum beading at the tip.

   “Tell me,” Stiles begins with pursed lips, tapping against his chin. “Do werewolves prefer a belly-rub first thing, or just a good scratch behind the ear? Or maybe I shou-waaah!!” Stiles squeals and scrambles away as Derek launches off the bed, right for him.

oOo

Stiles can’t take his eyes off their reflection in the mirror behind Derek, the shower curtain only pulled half closed when Derek pounced. 

   With his legs hooked over each arm, Stiles feet bounce in time with the fast-paced dimpled flex of Derek’s muscled glutes. He’s got Stiles pressed up against the tiled wall, his broad back hiding him almost completely from view. With one foot planted firmly on the narrow tub ledge – the oversized bath doubling for a shower - he grunts against Stile’s throat, licking and kissing through the spray of water, the triskelle tattoo undulating over his trapezius muscles.

   “Derek… ungh…” Stiles moans, scrabbling for purchase on his water-slicked skin with every powerful upward thrust. He can feel Derek’s heavy balls slapping against his ass, adding to the absolute debaucherously wet sound of Derek’s cock plunging in and out of his hole.

   “I got you… ahhh… I got you,” Derek groans. He hitches Stiles up to adjust his footing on the ledge, then let him slide back down onto his cock, hips pumping the moment he’s fully sheathed again. Stiles manages to grab his own neglected erection, Derek easily switching his grip to one arm only to give him space, the other hand going to its place around the back of Stiles’ neck.

   Secure enough in his hold to let go, Stiles can’t help to flatten his other hand over Derek’s chest, moulding it around the firm, bulky muscle. He slides his fingers down over his flexing stomach, his slickened pelt emphasizing each muscle.

   Seconds later and Derek’s hips stutter. With a deep grunt he crushes Stiles in his arms and against the wall in turn, squeezing the air from him. Stiles follows him a moment later, his cum fountaining up between them.

   Derek doesn’t let Stiles down, just sags against the tiles with him pressed in between.

   “Fuck,” stiles mutters, resting his head against Derek’s shoulders. “Just when I think… it can’t get better…”

   Derek just kisses the side of his head, breath racing. He noses at Stiles, who finds his mouth and they kiss, slow and easy. Stiles watches as little tendrils of iridescent gold swirl around in Derek’s irises when his eyes flutter open.

   “Sorry,” Derek blinks it away, chest heaving.

   “Don’t apologise for that. Ever. It’s fucking hot.”

   Derek grins lightly, droplets flicking off his lips. He shifts to let Stiles down, slipping his cock free. Stiles grimace.

   “You okay?”

   “Fine. Just tender.”

   Derek reaches behind him, sliding his hand down between his cheeks to drag his fingers over his bruised hole and through where his own cum is still dribbling from Stiles. “Think I should give you a break then, let you build up your strengths for later.”

   “Such a gentleman.” Stiles pulls him down for another kiss again, lazily licking into his mouth.

   “Water’s gonna run cold,” Derek says, nosing his way up Stiles face.

   “Then stop distracting m-” Stiles looks down to where Derek’s growing erection nudges his hip, the foreskin pulling back as it fills out. He looks up at Derek. “Seriously?”

   “I told you,” Derek bites his lip, eyes pleading.

   Stiles wraps his hand around the thickening, veined column, Derek’s lips parting under the spray of water. “Guess I have my work cut out for me,” he grins, and sits down on the bath ledge, guiding Derek to his mouth.

oOo

   “Good?”

   “Delicious,” Derek winks, scratching his chest.

   “Is it starting?” Stiles asks, recognising the signs.

   “Getting there,” he says to his lunch. “But I’ll really start feeling it tonight. Normally I’m in the basement by now.”

   “Anything I should do?”

   “Just… stay close,” Derek says, then looks up to offer him a watered-down smile.

   “Of course, anything,” Stiles says and pulls at the old t-shirt of Derek’s that keeps on sliding off his shoulder.

   Derek’s gaze trail down to where the fabric hangs loose around his shoulder and neck, pale skin and a scattering of moles on display. “You look good in that,” he says, going back to his food.

   “Yeah? I like it, too. Big and soft. Think I’m gonna wear all your clothes from now on.”

   Derek twirls his fork in his spaghetti. “That would be very distracting. Are you gonna have that?”

   Stiles gladly pushes his plate to Derek, who at once shovels the left-over pasta and meatballs into his own plate. As Derek begins to dig in, Stiles slides down his chair and lifts a socked foot up to between Derek’s spread legs.

   Derek grunts at the sudden pressure on his crotch, almost choking. He looks up, eyebrows skew.

   “How’s that for a distraction?” Stiles smiles evilly and curls his foot, letting his sole drag over Derek’s already growing erection.

   Derek circles Stiles’ ankle with his hand, his fingers easily curling around all the way as a rumble grows from deep within his chest. “You’re distractions are supposed to keep me calm.”

   ““That would be the end result, yes,” Stiles says, pulling back on his toes, swallowing at how wide Derek’s cock feels against his heel through the thin fabric of his sweats.

   “And how,” Derek grimace at an instep moulding itself around his balls. “How did you arrive at that conclusion?

   “Well,” Stiles folds his arms, looking at a spot on the ceiling. “It is a fact that men respond to physical stimuli during periods of stress, sex being the best way to alleviates said stress.” Stiles gives another dragging nudge with his toes when he feels a sticky wetness against his sock – Derek’s precum weeping through his sweats.

   It is only then that he notices the fork bent in Derek’s grip, his other hand still holding firmly onto his ankle.

   Derek’s throat undulates under his beard. His eyes swirl to life. “You really want to tease the big bad wolf right now?” he asks softly, his jaw tight.

   Stiles’ smirk is replaced by a simmering hunger. “What are you gonna do about it?”

   Derek remains in his chair, taking deep breaths, eyes flashing.

   “How about,” Stiles drop his foot from Derek’s crotch, and scrapes his chair back, adjusting the bulge in his own pants as he stands up. “I lead the way.” He pulls off his shirt, dropping it right there on the table. His pants are next, pooling around his feet, his erection bobbing free. He doesn’t wait for Derek’s response, turning around and heading for the stairs.

   He does smirk though at the urgent scrape of a chair, the snap of elastic as Derek rids himself of his clothes as well. He makes it to the third stair when the solidness of Derek’s warm hairy torso press up against his back, the hot, thick line of his cock rolling against his lower back and his hands settling around his waist.

   Derek effortlessly and unceremoniously lift him off his feet and throw him over his shoulder, carrying him the rest of the way up the stairs.

   Stiles’ view of Derek’s naked ass flexing as he takes each step has his own leaking cock smear precum into Derek’s chest hair. “Or… you can lead,” he groans, Derek’s shoulder squashing his diaphragm with every step.

   Derek smacks a cheek, squeezing it for good measure.

oOo

The night shades are pulled down, one bedside lamp the only light in the otherwise dark bedroom.

   Derek leans up, brushing the hair from Stiles damp forehead, smiling out-of-breath. “You’re right. I feel much calmer.” 

   Stiles puffs out a breathless chuckle. “And you… are a big… hairy dork.”

oOo

“Jonah? Are you coming to bed?”

   The Senchían chief doesn’t budge when his wife calls him. He remains in his rocking chair, peering out into the gathering dusk from his front porch, a few moths dancing around in the chilly air.

   Miriam pulls the knitted throw tighter around her and steps out onto the porch. She rests a hand on her husbands shoulder. “What do you see?”

   “That boy.”

   “Stiles?”

   Jonah nods, his chair creaking.

   “What about him?”

   “We are no longer safe.”

   “The island?”

   Jonah nods again.  

   Miriam lifts a hand to her chest, worry lining her eyes. “Because of him?”

   Jonah doesn’t answer at once. “Through no fault of his own.”

   Miriam tightens her hand and also looks out over the village.

   Mist flows from the forest to spread out to shore and tentacle between the houses, the silvery tendrils reflecting the rising moon. Through the muted rush of the ocean night fowl call to their mates, flocking to the black mass that is the small island away from the shore - a solid, comforting presence even in the dark.

   “We should warn him, then.”

   “It will not help,” Jonah says, and stands up, groaning softly. “What’s done is done.”

oOo

“Derek. Derek.”

   Derek wakes up with a sharp intake of breath, Stiles worried face hovering over him, shadowed by the bedside lamp.

   “What’s wro-“ he begins to ask until his tongue gets caught on his sharpened teeth. He scrambles up and away from Stiles, his nails catching on the linen.

   “Hey, hey it’s okay, it’s okay,” Stiles murmurs, hands soothing over his shoulders and chest.

   “Did I hurt you?”

   “No, you didn’t,” Stiles smiles, combing through his sweaty hair. “Just thrashing around a bit.”

   “I’m… it’s… starting,” Derek grinds out, squeezing his eyes shut, his skin on fire.

   “It’s gonna be okay. I’ll take care of you, just breathe.” He gently pushes Derek down again and gets him to turn on his side, snuggling down behind him.

   Even though Stiles feels so small against his back, he is warm and achingly comforting, Derek focusing on the gentle weight of his lithe arm, on his heartbeat drumming right through into his own chest.

   “Do you need anything?” Stiles asks, his breath warm between his shoulder blades, running his hand down Derek’s side.

   Derek closes his fingers around his wrist – so fragile in his hold, pulling his hand to his chest. “Don’t go…”

   “I’m not going anywhere,” Stiles plants a soft skin against his back.  

   Derek lifts Stiles’ wrist to his face. “You smell good.”

   “I do?”

   Derek runs his nose along the tender skin. “Yes.” He turns around, rolling half on top of Stiles, grinding his wakening erection against Stiles’ thigh. “Really good.”

   “Yeah? Tell me.”

   He rubs up Stiles’ flanks. “Want… want to make you smell like me,” he grumbles. “Make you stink of me.”

   Stiles circles thick biceps – or at least tries to. “As much as you want, big guy.”

   Derek hugs him close, nails scraping along his skin. Throwing his leg over Stiles he grinds down again. He noses along Stiles’ cheek, angling his head back to scrape his beard down his throat. He runs his lips up to Stiles’ chin, nudges Stiles’ head and drag his beard down the other side of his throat, all the while grinding his erection against Stiles’ thigh and hip. He stops with his nose pressed right against Stiles’ pulse point. He mouths at it, wets the spot with the tip of his tongue.

   Stiles tangles his fingers in Derek’s hair, lips parted and eyes half closed.

   A whine, small and broken, slips from Derek’s throat.

   “It’s okay, Derek. I’m right here.”

   “Want you. So much.”

   “Then take me, I’m not going anywhere.”

   Derek takes one of Stiles’ hands and slips it in between their bodies, the angle awkward but enough for Stiles to fold his fingers around the base of his erection. He sighs against his throat when Stiles finds his knot.

   Stiles’ mouth parts. He wets his lips, gripping the hot, bulbous flesh that’s throbbing in time with Derek’s heartbeat. “That for me?”

   Derek whines again. “Please.”

   “Tell me what you want.”

   “Want… inside you…”

   Stiles trails soft kisses down the side of Derek’s face. “Anything. I’m yours.”

   “Mine,” Derek growls.

   He parts Stiles’ knees and settles between them on his heels. He takes his erection in hand and starts jacking off, almost lazily, lifting Stiles’ one leg to rest it against his chest and pushing the other to the side with his knee, splaying him open while Stiles stares at him, slacked mouth.

   And Derek comes without warning or build-up. The one moment his eyes are still locked with Stiles, the next he almost sighs, eyes falling shut as his abdominal muscles flex and hips jerks forward.

   He pushes down on his pulsing cock to angle it at Stiles’ groin. And as the first streams of hot cum splatter across Stiles’ junk, Derek’s eyes swirl iridescent gold, fangs peeking out from between his lips. He grunts with each convulsion, aiming the rest across Stiles’ torso, eyes hooked into him the whole time. Stiles remains as still as possible, ribs expanding with each breath, Derek’s seed glistening across the stretched skin.

   Derek milks his cock to the last drop, his whole frame shuddering. When he’s done, chest heaving, he brings his hand up to his mouth and sucks his fingers clean, then glances up at Stiles, frowning like he forget he was there.

   Stiles takes a second to gather his wits. “It’s okay. It’s all good. How you feeling?”

   Ah hum-growl is all Derek offers, kissing the foot that’s propped over his shoulder. He leans forward and glides his hands down Stiles’ sides, watching in almost revered silence as his thick thumbs catch on each mole, the rough scrape of his calloused fingers leaving goosebumps across Stiles’ perfect skin. He watches Stiles’ splattered chest rising and falling, toned stomach trembling, mouth open and eyes hooded. His cock is still fully hard, lying stiff along his belly from the light bush of curls, dripping in his spunk.

   He hooks Stiles’ legs around his waist and circles his hips, his thumbs close enough to touch over his cum-filled belly button. He grinds against him, his still-hard cock jutting out next to Stiles’, the size difference startling. Where Stiles is a smooth, even-girthed length, his’ is twice as thick, more so down the middle and criss-crossed with fat veins.

   Stiles reaches down, stroking Derek’s cock. “Not done yet?”

   Derek shakes his head, one hand sliding back up to Stiles’ throat, spreading his come further, making sure to cover as much skin as he can, then back down to his groin. Stiles gasps when Derek cups the entirety of his junk, gently massaging his cum all over. He leans down and kisses him hungrily, then breaks off, flipping Stiles over and roughly propping his hips up.

   Derek kneads his ass, mouth moving over the soft skin, each hand easily spanning a cheek. He leaves a soft kiss at the crease where his thigh and buttock meet, sealing each one with a slow scrape of his beard. Next thing he’s spreading Stiles open and his tongue laves across his perineum in deliberate strokes, warm and wet. Stiles groans into the bedding, eyes shuttering closed.

   Derek moves up, flicking his tongue over the furled entrance of Stiles’ hole, lapping at it repeatedly before he closes his mouth over it and starts eating him out aggressively, stretching his ass open with his hands. Slurping and sucking noises meld with Stiles moans, Derek working his tongue in and out of him, then flattening it over the puckered skin, sticking it past the furled ring again, working his jaw as he pulls Stiles back by the hips.

   He roughly sticks in two fingers, working them in and out of Stiles hole, then attacks him with his tongue again. He follows that up with three, Stiles grabbing fistfuls of linen. “Ah… fuck… Derek”

   Derek rears back up on his knees, pulling Stiles tight against him, grinding his cock along his cleft.

   “L-lube,” Stiles chokes out.

   Derek grabs the bottle of lube and begins to slick up his cock, then sets his fat, greased head against Stiles hole and lays down over him, nipping at his throat and reaching around to slick up his erection as well.

   Stiles grabs hold of his forearm, dropping his head, only to gasp and dig his fingers into Derek’s muscles when he grinds forward until his head pops through.

   Derek settles his other hand down on the bed as well, Stiles now completely caged in under him. “Mine,” he growls against his nape, and pushes in further until he is buried once more into that blissed-out tight heat in one slow, perfect slide.

   “Aaaaaah…”

   Derek answers by leaving soft, wet kisses from his shoulder up to behind Stiles’ ears, rolling his hips continuously, letting his knot push against Stiles’ already stretched rim again and again. He looks down between them to Stiles’ ass, the two plump cheeks bouncing deliciously every time he hits them with his hips.

   Stiles one shoulder drops, and Derek feels him prodding where he is spearing him open, Stiles’ fingertips brushing over his knot.

   He peels off Stiles back, clamps his hands around his waist and begins to pound into him, his knot catching on Stiles’ rim every time.

   “Fuuuck,” Stiles sobs, his hair shaking off little droplets of sweat. He fists the bedding in his hands, a deep moan punched out of him with every drive. He manages to grab hold of his swinging cock, but collapses onto his shoulders from Derek’s aggressive thrusting.

   “Mine,” Derek grinds out, his voice completely warped now, driving as deep as he can, his knot forcing its way past Stiles’ rim, Stiles crying out…

   And it pops through.

   Stiles’ orgasm slams into him at once. He comes untouched, his breath stolen right out of his lungs, eyes knocked to the back of his skull as his seed spray against his chest and over the bed.

   Derek loses his rhythm and slams into Stiles one last time, enough to lift his knees off the bed. Head thrown back and with a chest-deep groan his knot expands, pulsing with each load that he shoots into Stiles. His whole body convulses, fingers digging into sharp hipbones. 

   Sucking in great lungful’s of air he finally sags forward. His weight is too much for Stiles’ drained muscles and they collapse to the bed, pinning the smaller body underneath him.

   “Derek,” Stiles whimpers, face scrunched up.

   Derek rolls them on their sides, curling up around Stiles. He kisses the back of his neck and rubs his beard along his shoulders. “Mine…” he breathes over his moist skin.

   Stiles licks his lips, gulping. “Oh… my god… That… Your fucking knot… We’re actually… tied together…”

   Derek groans softly when Stiles clenches around his still throbbing erection. “Not done.”

   Stiles puffs out a breath. “Holy shit.”

   “’m sorry,” Derek hugs him closer.

   “Hey, no, no, it’s okay, big guy,” Stiles hands squeeze his forearm. “Nothing to be sorry about. Just… just give me a minute to get my… breath back… ‘kay?”

   Derek plants a lingering kiss on his nape. He rests his moist forehead against Stiles’ shoulder, touching his lips to his hot skin, focusing on Stiles’ heart. “Please don’t leave.”

   “Hey, hey now,” Stiles coo’s, kissing the back of Derek’s hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”

   Derek doesn’t answer, only rubs his beard across Stiles shoulders.

   When his knot has sufficiently deflated he pulls out, mouth going slack at the wet suction of Stiles’ hole. Stiles hisses and he soothes another trail of kisses to the side of his neck, then scoots down, rolling Stiles onto his stomach and pushing one leg up.

   He crouches down and gently parts his cheeks, then begin to lap at his wet and fluttering hole, using his tongue to push back the cum that has dribbled out, his cock making a sticky mess along the back of Stiles’ leg.

   Stiles sighs, sinking into the mattress.

   “Okay?” Derek asks, massaging his hamstrings.

   “Okay,” Stiles whispers breathlessly. “As slow as you can.”

   With a parting kiss to the dimples above his ass, Derek rolls him back around. He pushes Stiles knees to his chest, lines himself up and crowds down over him, holding the wet tip of his cock against Stiles entrance.

   He noses at the sweaty hair plastered to Stiles forehead, kiss down the side of his face till their lips meet up. At the same time as he plunges his tongue into Stiles’ mouth, he pushes forward with his hips, sliding back into him. Stiles gasps against his mouth, his fingers grabbing at his thighs, but Derek doesn’t stop, just drives deeper until his already growing knot pushes against Stiles rim once again.

   He folds Stiles’ legs around his waist and starts up with a measured but deep roll of his hips, burying his arms under Stiles, holding the back of his neck as he continues to kiss him.

   Stiles locks his ankles together, fingers splayed over Derek’s back, riding out each thrust with a broken whimper against Derek’s mouth.

   When Derek slips his knot back in, Stiles comes again, thighs clenching against his sides as his hips lift off the bed. Tears slip down his cheeks and blunt nails dig into Derek’s muscles as he sobs and begs.

   Derek follows him over the cliff, groaning open-mouthed while Stiles smothers any further cries against his shoulder. He knows he is scratching Stiles, knows he is leaving bruises and drawing blood, but he just keeps on grinding his hips, tightening his hold around the perfect slender body in his arms.

   When his seed finally stops flowing he rolls back, taking Stiles with him, draping his limp body over his chest. He rests his back against the headboard and draws his knees up to lessen the tug of his knot with Stiles nestled in his lap. He tucks Stiles’ head under his chin, his boneless form rising and falling with his chest.

   When he finally slips free he lays a half-comatose Stiles down on his side. He climbs off the bed and pads to the bathroom to fetch a washcloth. Back on the bed he proceeds to clean the inside of Stiles’ thighs, gently wiping at his hole as well, massaging his legs in between.

   He whines when he sees the blossoming bruises and red welts, licking at each bloody scratch as best he can.

   Stiles closed eyelids barely flutter.

   Derek settles behind him, arranging Stiles into the cradle of his bigger frame, their legs entwined, Stiles’ head on a thick bicep.

   The moon is a brilliant white sliver peaking around the edge of the blind. Derek looks right at it, dares it, the fire under his skin still smouldering but not igniting.

   Never again he thinks.

   He holds his lips to the top of Stiles’ head. “I love you,” he whispers into his hair.

   Stiles only answer is his deep breathing - sleep having already claimed him.  

oOo

“Mornin’, chief.”

   “Jordy,” Chris greets him with a knock on his desk as he walks past to his own office. “All good?”

   Jordan stretches his arms in the air and groans. “Marty called.”

   Chris shakes his head.

   “Swore he saw ‘them aliens’ try to drag his dog into the woods again.”

   “How many this time?”

   “Didn’t say, though the lights are changing to purple, now.”

   “Purple, huh?” Chris shakes his head as he hangs up his jacket.

   “Yup. I told him if he doesn’t quit callin’ I’m gonna confiscate his moonshine.”

   “Bet that shut him up real tight,” Chris grabs his coffee mug off his desk, turning to the coffee machine where a fresh pot is already brewing.

   “Sure did,” Jordy chuckles.

   Waiting for the coffee to stop percolating, Chris fingers the blinds apart, peering out at the peaceful Harbour as dawn finally begins to rise, pockets of mist spilling through the forest and trailing down the streets. The moon is just about to sink behind the trees, bright and fat above the spiked silhouettes.

   “Gonna be a beautiful day,” Chris says, letting the blinds fall back into place.

   “It sure is,” Jordy yawns. His desk phone rings. He frowns, glancing at his watch.

   “Unless it’s the Reds sailin’ past the lighthouse, I am going to sit down and enjoy my coffee,” Chris calls.

   Jordan smirks as he answers. “Beacon Harbour Police Department.” His face goes from bored to alert. He looks up, holding the phone to his chest. “Chief-”

   “Just tell him to put out some food. Maybe the aliens are hungry.”

   “It’s Kate. She’s missing.”

oOo

   Stiles follows the rivulets of soapiness running down his chest every time Derek kneads the sponge, his temple resting against the bigger man’s chin. Derek washes him in complete silence, the soft splashing as he lifts his hand the only sound, carefully spreading soapy lather over Stiles’ wet skin. He is especially careful over the bruises already turning colour and the long, thin lines of scabs where his nails raked over him.

   Settled between his legs in the tub, his back against Derek’s wide and firm chest, Stiles runs his hands up and down Derek’s thick thighs, loving how he leaves patterns in the wet hair. He insisted on lighting some candles even though it’s bright and sunny outside, the flickering flames casting wavy patterns through the water across the surface of the tub.

   Derek’s fingers still over a set of bruises - a whole, big handprint he left behind on his hip. He sighs, pressing his lips against Stiles’ damp hair.

   “If you sigh one more time I’m gonna drown you in this tub, I swear.”

   “Look at you. We have to find another way.”

   Water sloshes as Stiles half-turns around. “Are you crazy? That was the best sex of my life! And you didn’t turn. Besides,” he traces a bruise with his finger. “I wear these with pride. They’re kinda sexy. All your marks on me.” Against his lower back Derek’s fat cock twitches, making Stiles grin. “See?”

   “You are evil,” Derek murmurs, pulling Stiles back against his chest, folding his arms around him. “And the best thing that ever happened to me.”

   Stiles’ holds on to the forearms crossed over his front. “Don’t get all sappy on me now, big guy,” he murmurs, kissing Derek’s wrist. “I was sold on the big, hairy growlywolf.”

   “Growlywolf?”

   “Yeah,” Stiles smirks. “Or do you prefer, let’s see… Sourwolf! Yeah, I like that one better. My sourwolf.”

   “I think I’ll drown you now,” Derek says, pushing down on Stiles’ shoulder.

   The bathwater splash as they playfully struggle, Derek pulling Stiles back up against him. He lets one hand explore down Stiles torso, past his groin and down between his legs until his fingers prod lightly at Stiles’ puffy hole.

   Stiles clench involuntarily, holding on to Derek’s wrist. “Gonna be a day or two yet before I can let you back in, Slick.”

   “I know,” Derek murmurs, kissing the top of his head. “Just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

   Stiles turns his head to find Derek’s mouth, and they kiss lazily, deeply, his cock beginning to fill out.

   Derek smiles through the kiss, cupping Stiles junk and working his growing erection. “Guess you’re not done yet.”

   “I’m a growing boy with a hot-as-the-sun naked werewolf pressed up against him. Do you blame me?” He snuggles back against Derek’s own budding erection. “And you’re one to talk.”

   Derek grins. He pulls Stiles deeper between his legs, gently working his cock, kissing him deeply. He grinds his erection against the top of Stiles cleft, careful to stay away from his abused entrance. He only starts to speed up when he can sense Stiles breathing become sharper, his other arm clamped safely around his torso.

   Stiles comes on a whimper, sighing back into Derek’s hold, and Derek finds his release soon after, his cock twitching against the small of Stiles back, spurting his seed into the water, his mouth open against Stiles throat.

   They sag back against each other, fingers entwined over Stiles’ chest while their breathing calms down and the bathwater swirl around them.

   When the water becomes too cold to remain comfortable, they climb out, Derek wrapping Stiles up like a burrito in a fluffy towel and drying his hair, before tying a towel around his own waist.

   He’s busy brushing his teeth when Stiles holds his knuckles to his chest, pulling a face.

   “You okay?”

   “Yeah, just heartburn. Must be all that pasta we had yesterday.”

   “You hungry at all?”

   “I’m always hungry.”

oOo

   Stiles knocks back the rest of his milk, setting the empty glass next to his breakfast plate.

   “Better?” Derek asks.

   “A bit.”

   “We’ll get some antacid in town.”

   “You need to call Laura first. She must be frantic by now.” Stiles looks around. “Which reminds me: where is my phone?”

   “I put it upstairs in the drawer with mine.”

   “I’ll go get them,” he scrapes back his chair. “I need to pee in any case. Again.”

   “Hold up,” Derek stands and walks around the table.

   Stiles looks at him questioningly until Derek gathers him in his arms, rubbing his beard down the side of his face and over his throat and neck, a hand clamped safely to the back of his neck.

   Stiles tilts his head back to give Derek better access, his eyes closing on a soft smile. “Don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this.”

   “Good, cause I’ll be doing it a lot from now on.”

   Stiles pulls back to look up at him, Derek’s mouth half open, colour spreading high on his cheeks.

   “From now on, huh?”

   Derek swallows, eyes boring into Stiles’. “I mean-“

   “I know what you mean,” Stiles trail his eyes over his face. “From now on sounds really good to me.”

   Derek cups his cheek, his thumb caressing the soft skin under his eye. “Stiles… I…”

   “Hey,” Stiles covers his hand. “It’s all good. One step at a time, right?”

   Derek pulls him up to his toes to kiss him, breaking off to rest their foreheads together.

   “It’s okay,” Stiles murmurs, soothing his hands over Derek’s shoulders and down his sides. “I’m not going anywhere.”

   “Stiles…”

   “It’s okay, big guy. I got you.”

   Derek hugs him, crushes him, lifting Stiles clean off his feet, his face buried in his neck.

   “Okay, okay,” Stiles pats him with what limited hand-movement he has. “Derek? You’re squeezing my bladder.”

   Derek sets him down but doesn’t let go right away.

   “Gonna wet my pants any second now,” Stiles whispers.

   Derek finally sets him free. “Okay, sorry,” and nudges his thumb against Stiles’ chin.

   “You are such a closeted sap, you know that?” Stiles giggles while walking backwards.

   Derek hitches up a lip, showing him some fang.

   Stiles lowers his voice. “Ooh yeah, baby, you know I like it rough,” and with a last wink turn to bound up the stairs.

   Derek keeps staring at the stairway long after he hears Stiles putter around in the bathroom upstairs.

   He sits down at the table eventually, gazing out the kitchen window, releasing a shaky breath.

oOo

The sheriff’s truck skids to halt in his driveway, narrowly missing the Wagoneer parked in front.

   Chris stomps up the porch steps, flinging open the screen door and charging inside. “Dad?” he calls, walking down the hallway.

   “Kitchen!” Gerard answers.

   Gerard is waiting for his toast when Chris enters , a plate next to the toaster with a boiled egg already in its little egg holder. He looks up at Chris, frowning.

   “Where’s the fire?”

   “Tell me you had nothing to do with it,” Chris glares at him.

   “The hell are you jabbering on about?”

   “Dad, I swear to god…”

   The slice of toast pops out, distracting Gerard. “You’re not making any sense, as usua-“

   “Kate’s gone!”

   Gerard turns back sharply. “What do you mean gone?”

   “Escaped. Last night.” Chris walks closer. “Tell me you had nothing to do with it.”

   “Of course I didn’t!” Gerard counters, roughly pulling out the toast and dropping it in his plate. “Why would you even ask that?”

   Chris takes a breath. “When was the last time you were in contact with her?”

   “You know when - the last time we both went over.”

   “Dad…”

   “Get off my back, will ya? I told you the truth.” He starts to scrape butter over the toast. “How did she get out anyway?”

   “They. Four patients are gone. One orderly has a broken arm, another is in a coma.”

   “Katie wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

   “Jesus,” Chris drops his head. He looks back up at his father. “Do you even listen to yourself?”

   “Maybe you should start sidin’ with your own family!”

   Chris takes another step closer, one hand on his gun belt, the other pointed right at his father. “If I so much as find out that you sneezed in Eichen’s direction, I will throw your ass in jail myself.” 

oOo

“I’m not really surprised, you know.”

   “Uh huh,” Derek smiles, his eyes on their naked feet where they leave footprints in the wet sand.

   “I‘m not,” Laura smiles back and bumps him with her shoulder. “I told you from the start that I liked him.”

   “Yes, oh big sister, you did.”

   Ahead of them Stiles is chasing Seth, the little boy’s squeals echoing across the cove beach. It is one of those gloriously bright Alaskan summer days, as rare as finding a jewel in the surf, and just as precious.

   “Have you thought about what you’re gonna do when he has to go back to California?”

   Derek shrugs. “No. But I’m sure we’ll work something out.” He looks up as Seth takes a tumble, crowing with delight. “It’s only a plane ticket away, after all.”

   Laura nods. She follows Stiles and Seth’s antics for a bit, smiling when Seth turns the tables and chases Stiles with a piece of slimy kelp.  

   “And long term?”

   “Laura, jeez, slow down to a blur, will ya?”

   “Derek, you two share an amazing connection. I know it’s only been two months, but with all that’s happened, with all that it means, does that even matter?”

   “I’m still getting used to the fact that I don’t have to be afraid anymore, okay? My whole outlook… everything… It’s all changing.” He takes her hand. “Baby steps, sis. Baby steps.”

   “Okay,” Laura squeezes his hand. “I’m just so happy for you. For both of you.”

   Seth comes barrelling at them, crashing full tilt into Laura’s legs. “Mommy mommy he wants to eat my nose!” he yells breathlessly.

   Stiles stops in front of them, completely out of breath. “Okay… you… stay there…I gotta go pee.”

   “Are you drinking behind my back?”

   “I know, right? It’s like my bladder has shrunk to the size of a walnut.” He starts walking to the forest edge where the beach breaks up into boulders. “Any critters I should be aware of?”

   “Present company excluded?” Laura calls back, earning her a shove from Derek.

oOo

“Jordy?” Laura calls walking into the apparently empty police station.

   “In the back!” he calls.

   Seth runs ahead, Laura following behind. She leans into the sheriff’s office where the young deputy sits behind the desk, phone clamped between shoulder and ear while furiously tying away on the computer keyboard, Seth already rounding the desk.

   “Got a promotion?” she smiles.

   Jordan holds up a finger. “And where was the state trooper’s body found?”

   Laura sobers up at once, standing back from the doorway. “Seth, come here, baby.”

   “Yeah, okay. Keep me updated.” Jordan ends the call, leaning back in the chair. “Shit,” then immediately- “Sorry,” looking up where Seth is holding on to Laura’s leg. “Hey monkey,” he smiles tiredly, holding out a hand.

   Seth goes back to him and Jordan lifts him onto his lap.

   “What’s going on?” Laura asks, also walking closer.

   Jordan rubs Seth’s little back. He looks up at Laura. “Kate Argent and four other patients escaped form the facility.”

oOo

“Ugh,” Stiles lifts Derek’s arm off his shoulders, wriggling to get up off the couch.

   “Again?” Derek lifts an eyebrow.

   “And the heartburn is back,” Stiles swallows.

   Pausing the movie, Derek sits up. “Are you okay?”

   “Fine. Must be all that pasta.” A naughty smirk overshadows Stiles’ annoyance and he leans closer. “Or it could be all that spunk you filled me with.”

   Derek’s cheeks heat up at once. His eyes flash. “That’s… Stiles…”

   Stiles leans in and barely slips his tongue between Derek’s lips.  “Don’t go anywhere.”

   Derek’s eyes follow him as he walks out, making sure Stiles see how he lifts his hips and shift his knees apart to help ease the sudden tightening in his pants.

   With a last wink Stiles is gone.

   Derek slumps his head back against the cushions, groping at his now persistent erection. He’s is still too sore he reminds himself. “Lots of other ways to have fun,” he says out loud, though.

   He is still  grinning, imagining how the evening might pan out, listening to Stiles’ heartbeat upstairs - a little bit irregular he notes, like there is an echo of sorts-

   The distinctive thump of a body collapsing has Derek shooting off the couch before he even fully registers what he’s doing.

   He flies up the stairs and bursts into his room to find Stiles sitting on the floor, his back against the bed. He just about falls to his knees before him, hands going to his outstretched legs. “Whathappenedwhatswrong?”

   “Dizzy,” Stiles answers, rubbing his forehead.

   “I am taking you to a doctor right now.”

   “It’s the middle of the night, Derek. Well,” Stiles gestures to the light sky outside the windows. “You know what I mean.”

   “Stiles, your heartbeat’s through the roof. It sounds like it is double-timing.”

   “What are you talking about,” he says offhandedly, closing his eyes.

   Derek’s nose flares. He leans forward, right into Stiles’ space, pressing his nose against Stiles neck.

   “Dude, that tickles,” Stiles squirms, his hands going to Derek’s shoulders.

   Derek pulls back, eyes wide.

   “What?” Stiles frowns.

   Derek crouches down, hands on either side of Stiles’ hips, and holds his ear to Stiles’ stomach.

   “Ah, earth to Derek?” Stiles pats his head.

   Derek shuts his eyes to concentrate.

   There. The echo he thought he heard, the ghostly lub-dub that seemed to piggyback on Stiles’ familiar beat, as clear as day.

   Another heartbeat…

   “What are you doing?” Stiles pokes him.

   Derek sits back. He feels as lightheaded as Stiles looks.

   “What?

oOo

Chapter Text

   “It’s indigestion, I’m telling you.”

   “It’s not indigestion,” Derek answers, his jaw as tight as his hands on the steering wheel, the truck careening through the darkening forest and around dirt bends, the only reason they haven’t wrapped themselves around a tree trunk Derek’s supernatural reflexes.

   “Are you sure?”

   “Indigestion doesn’t sound like a heartbeat, Stiles.”

   Stiles tugs on his safety belt. “This is insane. You know that, right?”

   “More insane than me changing into a werewolf every full moon?” Derek glances at him.

   Stiles sighs. “Okay, point taken. But still, I really think this can wait until tomorrow.”

   Derek steers the truck around a particularly treacherous curve. “I don’t think so.”

   “Why? Is it gonna burst from my chest?” Stiles asks with pursed lips.

   Derek looks at him like there is a slimy alien about to claw its way out of his torso. “No it’s not going to burst from your chest.”

   “Then I really don’t see the need-“

   “Your scent has changed.”

   “What?”

   Derek’s fingers twist around the wheel. “You smell like Laura did when she pregnant with Seth.”

   Stiles blinks. “You are not serious right now.”

   Derek doesn’t answer him.

   Stiles looks out the windscreen, jostling against his safety belt. “Maybe you’re still affected by the moon? Maybe it’s, I don’t know, a residual emotion from me calming you. Yes!” he points at Derek. “That’s it! You have never experienced this before, not having to go through a full moon shift, so, your whole cycle is out of whack, right? And because of our connection-“ Stiles makes apostrophes in the air, “-your brain is telling you that I am, somehow, your,” he scans the roof of the cab. “Your Mate! Yes! And now you’re smelling and hearing all these things, because subconsciously you think you’re supposed to protect me from predators.”

   Derek stares at him and have to sharply pull on the wheel to bring the truck back onto the road.

   “Well it’s a better theory than me getting knocked up!”  

   “Stiles, I’m not imagining things, and I don’t have residual… instincts.”

   The tires bite along a gravelled shoulder.

   “Miriam and Jonah are going to laugh there asses off.”   

oOo

It is Jonah that waits for them, calmly sitting on the porch.

   “Chief,” Derek greets as they walk up the stairs, his hands hovering over Stiles but never quite touching him.

   Jonah remains seated in his rocking chair, a slight nod his only greeting.

   “I’m really sorry for the hour, but Derek insisted.”

   “No bother at all,” Jonah says, still gazing into the night.  

   “Stiles, Derek,” Miriam says from where she has appeared in the doorway.

oOo

“Your blood pressure is a bit low, which would explain the dizziness,” Miriam says and pulls off the Velcro strap around Stiles’ arm, placing it on the kitchen table right in the pool of light from the overhead pendant.

   Stiles cocks an I told you so eyebrow at Derek who is pacing up and down with arms folded, his forehead in serious danger of crumpling in on itself.

   “Now let’s have a listen,” Miriam says and slips in the earplugs of the stethoscope around her neck. She proceeds to press the scope over Stiles’ chest, letting him breathe in as deep as he can every time.

   Finally she goes down to his belly, probing around more thoroughly.

   “Will you sit down, please?” Stiles asks.

   “Sorry,” Derek stops at once, grabbing a chair and sitting down across from them.

   Stiles reaches out over the table. “I’m freaking out enough for both of us, okay?”

   Derek takes his hand in both his, nodding.

   Miriam leans back, pulling the stethoscope from her ears. “I can barely make it out, but that is definitely a second heartbeat.”

   A small laugh pops from Stiles’ lips. “You’re joking, right?” He looks at Derek, then back at her. “This is a joke, right?”

   “I’m afraid not.”

   Stiles remains frozen with only his breathing becoming laboured. He tries several times to form a response, but his mouth flaps open and closed without a sound. “I’m. Not. Pregnant. That is ludicrous.”

   “More ludicrous than him turning-“

   “Do not finish that sentence,” Stiles stops her, glancing at Derek. “Listen again. My heart’s really beating fast at the moment. Maybe you got confused.”

   She hangs the stethoscope around her neck. “It is a second heartbeat, Stiles. Derek was right.”

   Stiles turns to Derek, but no words are able to leave his mouth.

   “I… It’s my shift.” Derek says. “We… during my shift… It must be because of that. It has to be.”

   Miriam sets a hand over Derek’s where he is still clutching Stiles’ hand. “I cannot even begin to answer your questions. And I have seen many strange things in my life. The best would be to do an ultrasound so we can know more.”

   Stiles swallows. “You really heard a heartbeat?”

   Miriam nods.

   Stiles looks to Derek. “Y-your shift?”

   Derek looks down to their hands.

   “Derek, that was just a few days ago. H-how is it possible that there’s already a heartbeat?”  

   “Miriam,” Derek steps in, clutching Stiles’ hand tighter. “Is he in danger?”

   “Not from this new life.”

   All three look up to where Jonah has appeared in the kitchen doorway, a small, steaming bowl in his hand. 

   “What?” Derek practically growls at the same time as Stiles squeaks, “New life?”

   Jonah ignores both. He walks closer to Stiles. “Drink this. You will feel better.”

   Stiles takes the bowl, and under Jonah’s scrutiny, swallows it down, his nose wrinkling. “Thanks,” he gives the empty bowl back to Jonah, shivering a bit.

   “What did you mean not from this new life,” Derek points his eyebrows at the chief.

   Jonah pics up the empty bowl. “There are others that want to harm you. Those who hurt you and your family in the past,” he begins, covering the crown of Stiles’ head with his hand, “Will try so again.”

   “They want to hurt Derek?” Stiles asks from under his hand. “Because of me?”

   Jonah touches Miriam on the shoulder and she wordlessly stands up, a quick grasp of her husband’s hand her only response. Jonah sits down, at ease but upright, his hands splayed out over his knees.

   “They want to hurt this island, because they are blind, and frightened.” He leans forward and settles a large hand over Stiles belly. Stiles inhales sharply. He takes Stiles’ hand and places it over his own, then covers it with his own hand again. “But this I promise you: the life that you have created with the wolf is a gift you will not comprehend right now.” His eyes – as black and bottomless as the night – bore into him. “You must not be frightened. You are stronger than us all. Do not forget this.”  

oOo

Derek drives much slower on the way back.

   “Stiles?” he reaches across the seat, breaking the silence that have clouded the cab since they left the village.

   Stiles has his hands folded in his lap, staring straight ahead.

   “You heard Jonah. It’ll be okay.”

   “You need to stop.”

   Derek pulls his hand back at once. “What?”

   “The truck. You need to stop the truck. I’m gonna be sick.”

   Derek hits the brakes, the truck fishtailing a bit, clouds of condensation drifting over the truck bed from the exhaust pipe once it has come to a stop.

   Stiles scrambles out of the cab and into the thick undergrowth hugging the dirt road, the head lights catching bits of him where they cut through the dark misty forest at an angle across the road. The brake lights cast an eerie red glow across the road to the back.

   Derek follows him, leaving his door open and the engine running.

   Stiles stumbles along through ferns and brush, finally leaning against a massive tree before he doubles over and empties his stomach.

   Derek carefully walks up to him and rests his hand on his back.

   After spitting a few more times Stiles stand up, wiping a sleeve clutched in his fingers over his mouth. He leans against the tree, eyes closed, sucking in air through his nose.

   “Why couldn’t it have been fucking indigestion.”

oOo

Stiles can’t see much through the rain-streaked windows of the truck, though he doubts the view would’ve been much better even if the day was bright and sunny. From the moment they drove off the ferry it became clear that Port Agnes is geared for commerce, unlike its closest neighbour, however far the Harbour may seem right now.

   He wipes at the light sheen on his forehead and takes another swig of the concoction Jonah gave him.

   “Want me to stop?” Derek asks.

   “No it’s okay,” Stiles answers, trying to hide his grimace, his hand going to the bump now visible if he happens to turn or sit in a specific way – which honestly just looks like a small paunch on a very young man.

   “Are you still okay with that?” Derek asks, pointing his chin at the tannin-coloured drink.

   “Fine. I’ll have to pee soon. And I’m hungry again.”

   Derek takes his hand and kiss the back of it before setting it down on his thigh.

   Port Agnes General is a nondescript, multi-storey building with a glass-fronted entrance. Derek parks his truck, then hurries around to help Stiles.

   “Maybe you should get a wheelchair,” Stiles quips.

   “Ah,” Derek take a step back, fingers flexing. “Okay, just… wait here. Or no, let’s get back in the truck and I’ll drive closer-“

   “Derek,” Stiles smiles tiredly. “That was a joke.”

   Derek’s scowl remains, hand hovering around Stiles.

   “I’m fine, big guy, stop fussing.”

   Derek glances at his feet. “I’m sorry, I… I’ll back off.”

   “No,” Stiles says quickly. “I don’t want you to back off, just…” he steps up against him, fisting his hands in his shirt. “Take a breath. Stay close.”

   Derek wraps him up in his arms at once, resting his nose against Stiles’ hair. “I promise.”

  They stand like that, Stiles just about hidden from sight under Derek’s big arms, in the middle of the wet and grey parking lot.

oOo

Miriam meets them in the foyer of the hospital, a white coat over her clothes, her hair tied up in a low bun. She lightly takes Stiles by the elbow. “Follow me,” she smiles.

   They take the elevator to the third floor, silently walking down a corridor that smells of disinfectant, passing other doctors and patients alike. No one pays them any mind, lost in their own affairs.

   Entering a different wing of the hospital, Stiles stomach twists when they walk underneath a sign that reads Obstetrics. Still, all around them people go about their business.

   Miriam stops in front of a plain door with a plaque reading Examination and the room number below it.

   “After you,” she holds it open for them, scanning the corridor.

   Stiles walks in first, but stops in his tracks, Derek bumping against him.

  “Oh, hell no,” Stiles mutters.

   Derek looks past him at the exam chair with metal stirrups sticking out, reflecting the fluorescent light above.

   “We’re only here for the ultrasound,” Miriam smiles, locking the door. “This is a colleague’s exam room. She is a paediatrician, and I trust her completely. Obviously the patient’s identity will remain a secret.”

   “Now I know what Alice felt like,” Stiles whispers.

   “Who?” Derek asks, still fixated on the examination chair.

   “Alice? In Wonderland?” Stiles turns around. “Dude,” he grabs Derek by the arm. “Don’t you dare faint on me.”

   “What? No, I’m not gonna faint.”

   Miriam rolls a chair closer. “Have a seat. Stiles, if you could get up there and get comfortable, I’ll just be a second.”

   Derek sits down in the chair, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck.

   “Are you okay?” Stiles asks.

   “I’m supposed to ask you that,” Derek frowns, blinking up at him.

   Stiles smirks. “Pull up that chair, I need someone to hold my hand.”

   Miriam snaps on latex gloves and busies herself with some equipment. A monitor buzzes to life and is rolled closer to the chair where Stiles is reclining, Derek right by his side, holding his hand in both his.

   “Derek,” Stiles whispers.

   “Huh?”

   “Ease up a bit.”

   Derek frowns until Stiles try the wriggle his hand. “Oh! Sorry,” he lets go at once, dropping one hand to his lap, the other now draped over Stiles’ hand.

   Miriam rolls closer in her own chair. “Now, I should be doing an amniocentesis.”

   “That’s where you take a small sample of amniotic fluid to test for any abnormalities, right?”

   “Exactly. But, if we go by heartbeat alone, then the risk to the foetus is too great, and seeing as we are in uncharted territory, it might just reveal more questions than answers.”

    “Like the fact that I don’t have a uterus?” Stiles interjects with a slight smile.

    “There is that, yes,” Miriam answers with her own grin. “So, my colleague will go over the results that we get today, and if anything seems out of the ordinary-“

   Stiles snorts.

   “-we will consider our options. Okay?”

   “You’re the boss,” Stiles sighs. He turns to Derek who’s staring wide-eyed between them.

   “Ah, yeah, sure. Whatever we need to do to keep Stiles safe.”

   Stiles squeezes his hand.

   “Okay then. Stiles, lift you shirt for me, please,” she instructs.

   Her eyebrows raise a bit at the already noticeable bump, her latex-clad fingers trailing over the swell. She holds up a bottle and squirts a dollop of clear gel across his navel.

   “Cold,” Stiles hisses.

   She lifts the probe stick out of its cradle. Tapping away on the keyboard she begins to swirl the rounded bulb in the gel, smearing it further over Stiles’ belly. Another few taps on the keyboard and a fuzzy black and white image flickers to life on the screen.

   “Okay, let’s have a look,” Miriam watches the screen while moving the probe around more specifically now, the image shifting with the movement of her hands.

   “Crushing my hand again,” Stiles whispers.

   “Sorry, sorry,” Derek says, easing up at once. He sighs shakily.

   The probe travels over his belly, the image swirling, three pairs of eyes hooked on every nonsensical black and white smear and cloud of static.

   Miriam halts. “There we go.”

   “Where?” Derek and Stiles ask at the same time, Derek leaning out of his chair.

   “Riiiight…” Miriam toggles the probe. “There.” The black and white blobs melt and flow together. “That’s the head,” Miriam points out.

   Like a 3D picture suddenly appearing when you let your eyes go out of focus, the rest of the body and four small limbs appear, all curled together in a tight foetal pose.

   “That’s… that’s a baby,” Stiles whispers.

   Miriam sets two fingers to her lips, smiling softly as the image on the screen moves and swirls. “Amazing.”

   Stiles turns to Derek. His lips are parted, eyes frozen to the monitor. Stiles lightly squeeze his hand. “That’s a baby.”

   Derek’s eyes flutter to Stiles. “That’s a baby.”

   All stare in silence.

   “I guess I deserve those orchids after all.”

   “You deserved them even before all this,” Miriam says.

   Stiles takes a deep breath. He narrows his eyes and leans forward a bit. “Can… Can you make out if it’s a boy or a girl?”

   “No, sorry. But my colleague will be able to tell.”

   Stiles lays back again. “I’m gonna have a baby.”

   “Want to hear the heartbeat?”

   Stiles nods at once, Derek back to focusing on the screen, mouth still open.

   Miriam fiddles with a few dials. At first there is just static, but as she turns up the volume, the unmistakable swish-pump of a steady if fast heartbeat pours from the small speakers.

   It is the only sound that fills the room while all eyes are fixed on the monitor.

oOo

   Stiles leans against the railing of the upper deck of the ferry, staring out at the waves left in its wake. The vessel is packed - the last trip of the day leaving Port Agnes. As wondrously clear and beautiful as the past few days have been, the day has been cold and overcast – a featureless grey expanse from horizon to horizon.

   Derek comes back with two bottles of water, handing one to Stiles, again taking his position next to him.

   “They didn’t have any coffee?”

   “No more caffeine for you. Or alcohol. And no more boat trips.”

   “Derek, I have to carry on with my-“

   “No,” Derek stops him. “And that’s final.”

   “Oh is it now?”

   “Yes, it is. I am not letting you out of my sight from now on.”

   Stiles tries hard not to smile. “And if I have to go to the bathroom?”

   “You will leave the door open,” he says, eyebrows drawn. “Smartass.”

   “Bonehead,” Stiles bumps him with his shoulder. He looks back over the endless grey waters. “What does it smell like?”

   “What does what smell like?”

   “You said I smell different now, same as when Laura was,” he sags a bit, shaking his head. “God, I still can’t say it.”

   Derek trails a hand over Stiles back, up to his neck, then down again, letting it rest around his waist before he hugs him close and plant a kiss on his head. “You smell amazing.”

   A ghost of a smile breathes over Stiles’ lips. “Yeah, but like what?”

   Derek scratches his beard. “I don’t know… Like you, but with an extra bit of you.”

   “So my scent has intensified?”

   “Yeah, you could say that. And it’s heavily mixed with mine now. Not just superficial, but deeper.”

   “The baby.”

   Derek nods.

   “That would make sense.”

   They watch the seagulls ride the air currents along the ship, gliding and dipping as they go.

   “We’ll have to tell Laura and Jordan soon. At the rate I’m getting bigger I won’t fit into my clothes by next week.”

   “We will.” Derek moves to stand behind Stiles until his smaller body is safely caged in between his arms, his hands on the railing. “Is this okay?” he asks.

   “Of course,” Stiles answers, and half-sags back against his solid warmth.

   “I… This morning, when… when we came up from the car deck and that guy pushed past you, I-” his hands tighten around the railing. “I wanted to pick him up and slam him head-first against the bulkhead. I had to dig my nails into my palms to stop from going after him.”

   “They probably would’ve asked us to leave the boat.”

   “Probably.”

   Stiles snuggles deeper into his hold. “It’s not like you weren’t protective before.”

   “No,” Derek slides a hand over Stiles’ belly and gently pulls him closer, his cheek to the side of his head. “But I have twice as much to protect, now.”

oOo

Jordan’s house is just like its neighbours’, like all the homes in Beacon Harbour, really – pitch roof, shingle-clad, painted shutters and a porch. There is a fence between the properties covered in climbing hydrangea. The garden out front is an assortment of blue grass and colourful fireweed that grow in the shadows of wild Alaskan Blueberry shrubs.

   At the back the yard gradually flows from slightly civilised to ferns and moss-draped spruce, until the forest becomes too thick to see anything else but hues of green.

   It is here, in a little patch next to a tall paper birch while the afternoon ripens, that Stiles, Derek, Laura and Jordan sit on mismatched garden chairs, Seth inside watching cartoons.

   “You said four, right? Three together with Kate?” Derek asks, an arm on the back of Stiles’ chair.

   Jordan nods, his beer clutched in both hands on his lap.

   “And that state trooper was found near the Canadian border? Which would suggest they’re moving in the opposite direction.”

   “Maybe,” Jordan answers, “Or they could just be lying low.” 

   “Have you spoken to Gerard?”

   “Chris did, but you know old man Argent.”

   “Would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall during that little family discussion,” Laura says, taking a swig of her own beer. She glances at Stiles who is staring at a spot on the ground, his soda forgotten. “Stiles? Sure I can’t get you a beer?”

   “What? Sorry, no, yeah I’m good, thanks Laura,” he tries to smile. Derek curls his hand around the back of Stiles’ neck, squeezing softly.

   Laura’s gaze goes from Derek’s hand to her brothers’ face. “What’s wrong?”

   “Nothing,” Derek says automatically.

   “Derek.

   “Nothing. We’re just,” he clears his throat, scratching the spot on his chest. “We’re just worried.”

   “About?”

   “About Kate, of course.”

   Laura pins him down with a stare.

   Derek huffs. “Laura-“

   “Jonah said this was going to happen,” Stiles speaks up. Everyone turns to him. “And I can’t drink any alcohol because I’m pregnant.”

   Jordan spits his beer over his lap.

oOo

   “He’s down,” Jordan announces, walking into his living room. “Had to read him two stories.”

   “He knows something’s up,” Laura says, trailing her hand in Jordan’s as he walks past and sits down next to her on the couch.

   On the other couch Derek is reclined against the armrest with Stiles curled up under his arm, covered with a throw , his head on his chest.

   Jordan picks at a loose thread on one of the cushions. “Do you believe him? Jonah?”

   Derek takes a deep breath. “I don’t want to. But we should be vigilant.”

   “I told Laura you guys should leave the island, just until they’re caught.”

   “Which could take months,” Laura says, a mug of coffee steaming in her hands. “Besides, the hell I’m leaving my home because of that psychopathic bitch. And Stiles should stay here. Something tells me that’s the best option for him.”

   “Laura’s right, I’m not uprooting Stiles. But,” he directs at his sister. “Maybe it is a good idea for you and Seth to go out of state for a bit.”

   “Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. I’m not leaving you guys behind,” she looks at all of them.

   Stiles mumbles something and shifts against Derek, a slight frown to his forehead even though his breathing is calm in slumber.

   “How’s he doing?” Laura asks.

   Derek lightly combs a lock of unruly hair on Stiles’ head. “Okay, I guess. Or trying to be.”

   “Jonah was right about that. He’s a fighter.”

   Derek nods. “I had these dreams – nightmares, really, at the start, about him and Kate? They make a lot of sense now.”

   “Like premonitions?” Laura asks.

   “Maybe.”

   She takes a long sip of her coffee. “Does he have any cravings? I had such cravings.”

   Jordan lifts an eyebrow.

   “He keeps on wanting curly fries,” Derek smiles. “Other than that he’s just really hungry the whole time. Miriam said he should eat as much as he wants with the way the baby’s growing.”

   “Remember no shellfish. Which, I know, is pretty limiting living here.”

    “You know me, the freezer is packed with red meat.”

   “Ah,” Jordan lifts a finger. “Aren’t you guys freaked out about the fact that it’s growing so fast?” Jordan sits forward. “I mean, apart from the whole pregnant bit.”    

   Derek shrugs. “Miriam said everything seems fine. She’ll only know for sure once she gets all the results, but all his vitals are good. Plus,” he gazes at Stiles, “He smells right.”

   “He smells right?”

   “Like Laura did when she was pregnant,” Derek explains easily.

   His sister smiles softly. “That reminds me: I still have some of my old maternity clothes – just pants, of course. I’m sure he’s gonna need something big and comfortable to wear soon.”

   “I have a lot of old sweatpants and t-shirts at home,” Derek says, still playing with Stiles’ hair. “Besides, I want him to be surrounded by my scent.”

   “Of course.”

   Jordan’s eyes flick between brother and sister. “How are you guys so calm about this?”

   Laura looks from her brother to Jordan. “I grew up with a werewolf.”

   Derek holds up the hand not combing through Stiles’ hair. “Werewolf.”     

oOo

“And I quote, The strongest heartbeat I have seen in all my years for a foetus at this stage of development,” Miriam reads from the file before closing it and setting it down on Derek’s kitchen table, next to her mug of coffee. “She thought I was making it all up.”

   “I doubt she would’ve believed you if you told her the truth,” Stiles says with a wry smile.

   Miriam smiles back and quirks an eyebrow in agreement. “Probably. The baby is growing exponentially. At this rate you could give birth within a month.”

   “Give birth. Jesus,” Stiles repeats under his breath, rubbing his face. “And how exactly would I do that?”

   Miriam looks utterly lost for a second. “I can only imagine a caesarean?”

   Derek inches even closer than he already is with his chair practically right up against Stiles’.

   “Stiles isn’t in any danger, right? The fact that it’s growing so fast?” Derek asks, his arm slung around the back of Stiles’ chair. “I mean I know what Jonah said.”

   “I don’t think so.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “You have to understand; this is all new to me too.”

   Derek nods. “Yeah, I know. I mean I’m sure I would’ve smelled if something was wrong.”

   “The baby is more than healthy,” Miriam smiles. “And Jonah believes it too, remember that.” She looks at Stiles. “How are you doing?”

   “Ah, fine, I guess. Under the circumstances.”

   Miriam’s gaze trails over him. “Okay. I brought some more of Jonah’s tea. How’s your appetite?”

   “Growing at the same rate as my belly.”

   “That’s good. Keep at it.”

   Both Derek and Stiles nod.

   Miriam fingers the file. “Would you like to know the sex?”

   Stiles draws a sharp breath at the same as Derek gasps, “You know what it is?

   Miriam nods, smiling.

   Stiles drags a hand through his hair. “Holy shit,” he breathes, then he barks a strangled laugh. He looks at Derek. “Do… do you? Want to know?”

   “I… I…” Derek stammers, looking between Stiles and Miriam. “We haven’t… really talked about it, yet.”

   “That’s okay. Whenever you’re ready.”

   They carry on staring at each other, eyes wide. Stiles exhales through lips that begin to quiver, and Derek quickly gathers him in for a hug, half-dragging him off his chair. “It’s gonna be okay.”

   Miriam gives them a moment. “You can call me anytime, okay? And Jonah as well. Anytime.”

   “I’m fine, really. Hormones, you know?” he sniffs when Derek lets him go, a watery giggle bubbling out before he wipes at his eyes. “It’s just…” he looks at Derek. “This suddenly became so real.”

   Derek looms over Stiles. He tightens his hold around his shoulders, his other arm held on the table in front of him.

   “It’s okay,” Derek lays a kiss on his head. “I’m here. I got you.”

oOo

Stiles turns to the side, his t-shirt held up, the triple folded-over waistband of Derek’s old sweats hooked under his belly.

   “Stiles?”

   “Bathroom,” he calls without taking his eyes from the full length mirror.

   Derek stops in the doorway, concern written across his face. “You okay?”

   Stiles looks at Derek’s reflection. “I’m getting stretchmarks,” he says, purposely sliding his fingers down over his distended bellybutton, accentuating the swell of his stomach.

   When all he receives is silence, Stiles turns to where Derek fills out the doorway with his bulk, though his shoulders are bowed and one hand is hooked around the other elbow. His jaw is tight, lips a thin line.

   “What?” Stiles frowns.

   “Do you hate me?”

   “Derek, no,” he says and holds out his hand. Derek takes a second before he walks closer, Stiles folding his hand over his stomach and covering it with both his own. “I don’t hate you. I’m scared out of my mind, but I don’t hate you. Not ever.”

   Derek moves in behind him, folding his hands over Stiles’ stomach. “I’ll take care of you,” he tells their reflection. “I promise you on my life.”

   Stiles nods - sighing, then turns around. He lifts to his toes and softly kisses Derek, who responds at once, cupping his face and quickly taking over the kiss, his tongue parting Stiles’ lips.

   They pull away, never breaking eye contact, Stiles fisting Derek’s shirt.

   Their teeth clash the second time they kiss, Derek pulling Stiles flush against him, making sure to let Stiles feel his burgeoning arousal.

   Stiles licks his lips, eyes boring into Derek, twisting his shirt in his fingers, eyes pleading.

   “Tell me, baby. Tell me what you need,” Derek breathes, his voice raw.

   “I… I need you to tell me that it’s going to be okay.”

   “It’s going to be more than okay,” Derek trails soft kisses over his face.

   “And… and I need you to tell me that I’m okay. I mean, that I look okay, that I… that I don’t gross you out.”

   “Stiles,” Derek takes his face in his hand. “You have no idea how beautiful you look, how you smell. God, I want to…”

   “You want to what?”

   Derek’s gaze slices right into him. “The fact that you’re carrying my child… Our child…” He pulls Stiles’ hips flush against his own. “Feel that?”  

   Stiles leans up, his mouth pressed against Derek’s lips. “Show me.”

   Minutes later, their clothes strewn in a haphazard breadcrumb trail from bathroom to bed, Stiles is naked and supported in Derek’s lap, back to chest, his legs hooked around Derek’s thighs as Derek rolls his hips up against him.

   They cannot look away from each other or close their eyes, even with the awkward angle. Derek cradles Stiles in one arm, the other curled over his belly, Stiles’ nails just about piercing the skin along his forearms every time his fiery-hot girth stretches him open.

   Derek eventually lowers his forehead against the side of Stiles’ head, his hips continuing at the same pace – a calculated slow and deep upward thrust that has his thighs quavering and his breath wash hot and moist over Stiles’ cheek.

   Only at the end does he speed up, barely three hard penetrating thrusts that has Stiles keen and his face contort, before he spills into Stiles with a bone deep sigh. Stiles own release comes a second later, Derek squelching through his seed with Stiles’ channel contracting around.

   He doesn’t pull out, keeping Stiles in his hold while he mouths wetly over his face and down the side of his throat. They kiss, languidly and out of breath, tasting each other, though Stiles’ grip remains strained.

   When Derek finally pulls out he fetches a warm, moist washcloth, climbs back into bed and proceeds to gently wipe Stiles clean, carefully parting his legs. He takes his time over Stiles’ belly, slowly dragging the cloth over his skin, his gaze intent.

   “What are we gonna do when it’s full moon again?” Stiles asks softly.

   “Nothing,” Derek answers, focused on cleaning Stiles. “You will stay up here while I go down to the basement as usual.”

   “Derek-“

   “No.”

   Stiles shifts slightly under his hands. Derek looks up to find his eyes are glistening, his jaw set with the strain to stop his chin from trembling.

   “Hey,” he lies down, carefully arranging Stiles on his side in his usual little-spoon position, then gathering him to his chest. “I’ve been doing it my whole life. No problem. And after the baby comes we’ll think of something else.”

   “It’s not that. It’s…” Stiles press his face against Derek’s bicep. “Fuck,” a sob breaks free. “What are we gonna do?”

   “We are going to go to sleep now,” Derek slides a leg between Stiles’. He hugs him even closer, leaving a soft kiss against his nape.

oOo

“Laura dear!”

   Laura turns. “Oh. Hey, Gladys,” she smiles genially and dumps the packets of pasta into her shopping cart.

   “Goodness!” her eyes grow wide when she peers into Laura’s cart. “Someone likes pasta.”

   “Ah, yeah, I’m ah, just stocking up. Two growing boys to feed, you know.”

   “I heard you’re moving in with Jordy. Finally!” she taps her on the shoulder.

   “Yeah, finally.”

   “You know,” Gladys quickly pushes her own shopping cart next to Laura’s. “I couldn’t help but notice that Stiles hasn’t been to the apartment in quite some time now. Tell you the truth, I haven’t seen him around at all. And then there was that terrible mishap on Bobby’s boat last month. Is he alright?”

   “He’s fine,” Laura waves it away, scanning the shelves. “He’s ah, spending most of his time at the lighthouse and the shop now, helping out and so on. But mostly working on his thesis.”

   “I see,” Gladys nods, her cart neck-on-neck with Laura’s. “And how’s Derek?”

   “Good, he’s good.” Laura scoops a few cans of chowder and dumps it into her cart, Gladys missing nothing.

   “I heard Marty saying he saw Stiles and Derek taking the ferry to Port Agnes a few weeks back,” she offers, eyebrows drawn in anticipation.

   “Ah, yeah, they did. Derek took Stiles for a, uhm, a check-up? You know, for that nasty bump on his head when he fell out the boat?”

   “Oh absolutely! Better safe than sorry!” She touches Laura’s elbow. “I’m sure Derek was mighty upset with that scoundrel Robert Finstock.”

   “He was, he was,” Laura nods distractedly, adding some cans of pasta sauce to the heap. “Though it really wasn’t Bobby’s fault, but you know Derek, he’s very protective,” she trails off, lifting a stack of canned beans off the shelf.

   “Such a strapping young man, that brother of yours,” Gladys sighs. “And he is absolutely crazy about Stiles. We can all see it. I am so glad Stiles got him to venture out of the lighthouse, help him come out of his shell, so to speak. Just the other day I told-“

   “Sorry, Gladys, you’ll have to excuse me. I still have to go pick up Seth at day care.”

   “Of course, of course! Here I am blabbering on. You go on right ahead. And send my love to all the boys in your life, ye’hear.”

   “Will do. Thanks Gladys, catch you later.”

   “Call me! We’ll do lunch!”

   Laura waves over her shoulder. When she turns the corner of the isle, several shoppers quickly go about their way again, pushing their carts along and loading it with items.

   She ignores them all.    

oOo

 “Stiles?” Derek calls. He lifts his chin and sniffs, then turns his head, zoning in on those two heartbeats that now drum in synchronised beat a mere second apart – one steady, the other twice as fast…

   He finds them, his own heart stuttering at how faint they are – not in trouble, but outside, close to the-

   “Shit.” He barrels down the stairs to the front door, hardly registering the one hinge snapping off when he flings it open.

   His boots kick up gravel as he sprints across the empty parking lot and around the main building. The further away he gets from the rustling forest and closer to the cliff edge, the louder those two heartbeats become.

   The moment he rounds the lighthouse the roar of the ocean is an almost physical barrier that slams into him. The wind surges up and over the cliff edge in misty billows of salty spray, emulating the stormy grey cloud cover. The dream he had of Stiles standing on the precipice, about to jump off with Kate in the background injects a stream of adrenaline into his veins. “Stiles!” he shouts, but his voice gets carried away at once.

   He races down the narrow little path leading to the alcove beach below, all the time scanning the surroundings for him. He finally spots him down on the beach, his nerves easing up a bit.

   Hitting the sand he takes off his boots and walk closer to where Stiles. He is barefoot, right at the tides’ edge, windblown hair standing up. The rolled-up, waterlogged hems of his sweatpants – Derek’s sweatpants - have unspooled, and now flow around his feet with the breaking waves washing over and around them. He stands quietly, staring out over the grey, foamy waters, wrapped in one of Derek’s jackets with his arms curled over the swell of his belly.

   Derek approaches him from the side to make sure he is seen.

   “I needed some fresh air, okay?” Stiles says when Derek is close enough, still facing the ocean.

   “Okay.”

   “I know. I shouldn’t go out by myself. Someone could see me.”

   “It’s not that, Stiles. The path is slippery as hell, even on the best of days.”

   Stiles levels him with a look. “Derek, I’m pregnant, not an invalid.”

   “I know, I know,” Derek says quickly. “Just… Next time let me know and I’ll come with you.”

   “Sorta defeats the purpose, don’t you think?”

   Derek looks away to the ocean.

   Stiles sighs. “I didn’t mean it like that.” The wind whips at his jacket. “Look, my back hurts constantly now. I can barely sleep. It feels like my whole crotch is about to fall out and I have to pee the whole time. I have gone from a 29 inch waist to a 44 in less than three weeks. I have been cooped up in the lighthouse for most of that time. So please, cut me some slack.”

   “I… I can’t. Okay? I physically cannot let you out of my sight. You have no idea how hard it is for me not to be around you right now. Please don’t push me away.”

   “I’m not pushing you away! I’m,” he looks at the ocean. “I’m scared. I’m so scared I can’t fucking breathe sometimes.”

   “It’s gonna be okay.”

   “Stop saying that!” Stiles rounds on him. “That’s your default reply to everything! You don’t know if anything is going to be okay. Okay? There is a baby growing inside of me, Derek! A baby! Where there shouldn’t be! And if that isn’t enough, it’s growing at five times the rate than is normal!”

   Derek takes a small step forward and holds out his hand. “Let’s go back, please? You’re going to freeze.”

   Stiles pulls the jacket tighter around him, tears finally spilling over. “What am I gonna tell my dad?” he asks the waves. “Jesus, what do I even know about being a dad myself?”

   “You won’t be raising it by yourself,” Derek says at once, taking another step closer but stopping short from touching him. “I am not going anywhere. And Laura isn’t either. And we have Miriam and Jonah.”

   Stiles looks sideways at him, arms folded and eyes red-rimmed. He shakes his head and turns back to the ocean.

oOo

“Hey.”

   Stiles looks up at Derek filling out the doorway of the bedroom. He goes back to typing, his laptop balanced on a breakfast trey over his legs. “Hey.”

   “I ah… I want to show you something.”

   “Hmm?”

   “The pilothouse.”

   Stiles looks up again. “I know what the pilothouse looks like, Derek.”

   “I know, but I want to show it to you again.”

   “Why? Before I can’t fit through the hatch anymore?”

   Derek stands up a bit straighter. “Please?

   Stiles sighs. “Do you know how much effort it takes just to get up and off the bed these days?” he groans, sitting upright and pushing the tray to the side. Derek is next to him in a few big strides. “No,” Stiles stops him. “You can’t carry me everywhere. I need to walk by myself.”

   Derek drops his hands. “Okay,” he nods, his fingers clenching while Stiles slides off the bed in increments.

   He walks behind him the whole way, his hands held slightly in the air, hovering just behind Stiles when they take the stairs.

   At the ladder to the pilothouse Derek stops him with a gentle tug on his shoulder. “Okay. Now I’m taking over.”

   “Derek, I swear-“

   Derek cuts him off by picking him up as easy as if he was a small child, then raising an eyebrow at him like he is an annoying child as well.

   “Seriously?” Stiles says even as he throws his arms around his neck.

   “Yes. Seriously,” Derek answers. He turns and begins walking up the ladder, Stiles cradled against his chest, his feet steadfast on each rung.

   At the top he flips the hatch open with the tips of his fingers.

   Stiles frowns at the soft glow washing in from the opening, the usual bright staccato flash of the lamp absent.

   Derek is extra careful stepping through the hatch, shifting Stiles around so he doesn’t knock his head on the edge.

   But Stiles is completely unaware of his efforts.

   The glow of what seems like hundreds of candles set around the pilothouse is multiplied into a thousand by the reflection of the facetted glass. There are candles on the floor, set all around on the steel handrail, on the base of the Fresnel lens. Here, a red checkered blanket has been laid out, complete with a picnic basket and a mountain of pillows, stacked against the base of the lamp – which has been switched off for the time being.

   Derek carefully lets Stiles down, his hands a safety grip around his waist even long after he has found his footing.

   Stiles slowly turns in his grip, taking in all the different size candles and flickering flames. The world outside the tower has vanished from sight, hidden by the ethereal glow, as if the air molecules themselves are lit up.

   He looks up at Derek, gripping his hands.

   “I thought you could do with a change of scenery,” Derek offers, his fingers lightly drumming over Stiles’ waist.

   “Come here,” Stiles pulls him down for a kiss, sealing it with a deep, lingering hug. “You are the best, you know that?”

   “No, I’m not. If it wasn’t for me none of this would’ve happened.”

   “Hey, it takes two to tango.”

   “You know what I mean.”

   “Derek,” Stiles smooths his hands down Derek’s chest, then over thick shoulders. “This right here, you and me? I wouldn’t want it any other way, all right?” He runs his hands down to a wrist each, lifting Derek’s hands to his belly to have them span the circumference. “I need you. We need you.”

   Derek slides his hand around and pulls him closer. He lowers his head, drags his beard down the side of Stiles’ face. “You have me.”

   They kiss, slowly, Stiles rising to his toes in Derek’s hold.

   “Hmm,” Derek licks his lips when they part. “Hold that thought.”   

   Stiles sets his hands on his lower back and watches Derek walk behind the lamp.

   The slight frown however disappears from his face when the first crooning notes of Smoke gets in your eyes start up, his grin spreading wider and wider as the familiar orchestral music begin to sweep around the pilothouse.

   Derek appears again, hands held awkwardly by his side, chin lowered. “I was wondering if I could have this dance?”

   Stiles grin is about to reach his ears before he nods. “Yes, you may.”

   Derek steps closer, sliding one hand around Stiles’ waist and taking his other to hold it out to the side.

   Stiles rises slightly to his toes as they begin to sway, pressing as close to Derek as his belly will allow. Derek just holds his gaze, eyes roaming over every inch of him. They stay mostly in one place, not really keeping up with the rhythm of the song.

   “Claudia, after my mom, if it’s a girl,” Stiles says.

   Derek tightens his hold, his eyes reflecting the candles.

   “And Benjamin, after your dad, if it’s a boy.”

   Derek tries to talk. Instead, with a slight tremble to his lips he just folds Stiles’ hand to his chest and leans down. They continue with their slow dance, foreheads pressed together as a million candles flicker around them to the sound of a Big Band tune.

oOo

The Wagoneer’s headlights blink off about a hundred feet from where the dirt road begins to get swallowed up by the underbrush. Here the forest stops short to leave a thin clear ledge before the land gradually dips down to the rocky shore.

   The truck rolls to a stop with a slight squeal of old break discs. Once the engine is switched off the night time sounds of the island flows back in, interrupted by the cooling tick of the engine.

   Gerard remains in the cab, face stern while staring out at the black waters of the ocean. He pulls his coat tighter, shifting around in his seat. He lifts the thermos out of the cooler bag on the passenger seat and pours some steaming coffee into the little plastic cup.

   A small light flashing off shore has him sitting upright. He flashes the Wagoneer’s headlights in answer, and gets another set of Morse-code flashes in return. He smiles, rolling down the window to pour the rest of the coffee out.

   He climbs out of the cab, his breath fogging in short puffs of white, grimacing as he puts weight on his bad leg. Rubbing his hands he starts the trek down to the shore.

   The soft lapping of waves is soon drowned out by the nasal whine of an outboard motor. About fifty feet from the shore the engine is cut, and the small boat slowly drifts closer the rest of the way in total silence. Once they’re close enough, a black-clad figure jumps out and splashes knee-deep in the water, pulling the boat the rest of the way. Gerard can make out three other figures behind the wheelhouse.

   The hull scrapes across the pebbled beach, followed by the short splash-and-swish of its wake. The other three jump off, the man that pulled the boat to shore helping each one down and taking the backpacks handed to him as they go. He is big, Gerard makes out in the dark, the size of a bodybuilder. 

   Gerard walks closer, holding his hands out to the woman currently jogging towards him. “It’s so good to see you.”

   Kate throws her arms around her father. “Dad.” She’s dressed in black from head to toe, just like her comrades, her hair tied up in a messy knot. The other three also walk closer, backpacks slung over their shoulders.

   “Dad, this is Olson,” Kate gestures at the bald line-backer. They shake hands and share a quick nod. “Maria,” Kate point to the only other female in the group - a raven-haired, sharp-faced women that only nods at him. “And Murray,” she introduces the last person, a mousy young guy who doesn’t quite look Gerard in the eyes, but rather stare at a point on his chin.

   “Praise the Almighty in Heaven for our safe passage,” Murray says with a sickly smile.

   “Amen,” the others answer in chorus.

   Kate sidles up to her father, taking his hand while holding the other one out. Murray takes it, the other two quickly forming a circle, Maria on Gerard’s other side.

   “Let us pray,” Kate says, and bows her head. 

oOo

“Woah!”

   The glass of water is knocked over as Derek scrambles for the light switch. “What?”

   The sudden brightness makes them both squint – Stiles already sitting upright, hands over his belly.

   “Are you okay?” Derek blinks, his hair sticking up in every direction.

   Stiles has both hands on his stomach, his eyes big. “I felt it.”

   Derek rubs an eye with the base of his palm. “Felt what?”

   “The baby.” He grabs Derek’s hand and sneaks it under his t-shirt over his belly.

   Derek sits perfectly still with a deep frown and eyes half closed. He tries to stifle a yawn.

   He snaps wide awake the moment though when Stiles’ belly gives a soft bump against his hand. Stiles inhales sharply and looks at him with wide-eyed confirmation.

   Derek cannot look away. He slides his hand over the swell, moving closer to Stiles.

   They both gasp when there’s another kick.

   Neither sleep for the rest of the night, Derek’s hand not once leaving Stiles’ belly. 

oOo

Chris fastens his belt while walking down the stairs, paying no mind to the third and eight step that each have their own tone of creaking when you step on them just right.

   “Dad? You up?” he calls upon setting foot in the hallway, his belt now perfectly in place. He moves on to his cuffs.

   Buttoning the one sleeve he walks down the passage to the kitchen. “Dad?” he calls again. He can hear a chair scrape and frowns over the fact that his father doesn’t answer him.

   “Are you ignoring me in purpose…” he trails off, stopping dead just inside the doorway, even the squeak of one boot on the linoleum cut off like it is being strangled.

   “Morning, Chris.”

   Chris’s eyes flick from Kate’s face, to the open bible on the kitchen table in front of her, to his gun belt laid out on the other end.

   “Where’s dad?” he asks, his voice calm, hands curled by his sides.

   “Getting ready,” Kates answers with a light smile.

   “Ready for what?”

   Kate looks down at the open bible. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” She looks back up at him. “This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.”

   Chris takes a step forward but stops in his tracks when a mountain of a man appears in the doorway to the pantry, his arms folded and bald head gleaming.

   “You can make this right, Chris,” Kate says, leaning forward and pasting her hands together as if in prayer. “You can stop this island from being consumed by the fires of Hell. I beg you, repent, and join us.”

   Chris slowly shakes his head. “What happened to you?”

   If they were not related, Chris would have missed the tick at the corner of her mouth. Kate smooths it over quickly, though. “You would not listen the last time. So I am giving you another chance, dear brother.”

   Chris looks between them. “You are all insane.”

   Kate sighs, her placid, empty smile right back in place. She nods, and Olson stalks forward.

oOo

Chapter Text

Jordan frowns when he parks his truck. The other parking space – reserved for the sheriff – is still empty.

   He glances at his watch before he grabs his stuff and slides out of the cab. He walks the few feet to the entrance of the police station, again catching sight of the empty parking spot before he waves at a familiar face that drives down the street. The sun peeks through the break in the cloud cover, flashing bright spots over the Harbour, glinting off some rain puddles.

   He fishes out his keys while he climbs the front steps, making a mental note to push Chris about getting that receptionist he has been talking about.

   “Jordy ya gotta come quick!”

   “Jesus,” Jordan drops the keys, hand automatically going for his gun. He turns, then blows out the air he had sucked in, eyes fluttering closed. “Goddammit, Marty.”

   “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya, but there’s some weird shit goin’ on,” the man twists his cap in his hand. Next to him, Thelma (the multiple alien-abduction surviving Border collie) lies down on her front paws, looking up at her human, then at Jordan.

   “Marty,” Jordan crouches down and picks up his keys. “It is too early for this.”  

   “I-“ Marty cuts himself off, looking around, then, whispering, “I saw one!”

   “If you do not stop with this nonsense I am going to lock you up for disturbing the peace, so help me God.”

   “I’m not lyin’! I’m tellin’ ya! And it stole from me!”

   “You were burgled?”

   “Yes! Syphoned gas from my storage tank! And I’m missin’ two jerry cans!”

   Jordan unlocks the front door of the police station. “And why would aliens need gasoline?” he steps inside and flips on the lights.

   Marty blinks a few times. “How should I know?” He then scurries in behind him, Thelma getting up and padding in behind.

   Jordan shakes his head, setting his stuff down on his desk. He turns to the coffee maker. “Want some coffee?” he asks, putting a new filter and coffee grounds into the machine.

   “Got anythin’ stronger? My nerves are shot.”

   Jordan only tilts his head in answer, to which Marty gives an It was worth a try shrug. “Have a seat,” Jordan instructs over his shoulder, the coffee machine gurgling to life. Marty sits down, clutching his cap tightly.

   Jordan waits patiently for the coffee to start percolating, ignoring Marty shifting on the chair behind him.

   When his mug is filled, he sits down behind his desk – again taking his time – switches on his computer, and only then takes his first sip. He savours the strong, bitter taste before sighing. “Okay, tell me what happened.”

   “Well,” Marty jumps right in. “I was fixin’ some dinner for m’self an Thelma last night’-“ Thelma cocks an ear upon hearing her name, “-just, y’know, lookin’ out the window, when I saw somethin’ out by the snowplough shed. Got ma gun and went to investigate, as any responsible citizen would-“

   “Marty.

   “Right, okay. So, I’m walkin’ up, Thelma bringin' up the rear when there’s a ruckus comin’ from inside the shed. So I yell at ‘em to come out with their hands in the air. Next thing, there’s a crash at the back, stuff fallin’ down, and there he goes, running for the treeline like all the hounds of Hell are on his tail. Big fucker! At least seven feet tall, dressed all in black, gleamin’ head. Almost gave me a heart attack.”

   “And you’re sure this, person, stole from you?”

   “Hell yeah! Left the hose lyin’ right there in the grass. Took at least ten gallons if he filled up those two jerrys.”

   “Did you touch anything?”

   “Of course not! I watch CSI, ya know,” he says proudly.

   Thelma chuffs, stretching out on her side.

   “Okay,” Jordan sets his mug down. “You prepared to make an official statement?”

   “Yessir,” Marty nods vigorously.

   Jordan leans back. “All right then,” and pulls open a drawer. “Let’s get started.”

oOo

“A doctor.”

   “Everyone wants their kid to be a doctor. Come on, be a bit more original.”

   “How about…” Derek has both thumbs pointing at Stiles’ stretched belly button, the rest of his fingers curled down from the position of his hands over the great curve of Stiles’ belly. “A tornado chaser?”

   “A tornado chaser? Seriously?” Stiles chuckles where he is sprawled out on the bed between Derek’s legs, his head tucked half under his chin. “Like you would ever let him leave the house.”

   “Or her,” Derek corrects him, gently rubbing down his belly.

   “Even worse,” Stiles laughs. “Something tells me you’re gonna be one of those daddies answering the door with a shotgun when her prom date comes to pick her up.”

   “Don’t need a shotgun,” Derek shrugs. “I’ll just show ‘em my teeth.”

   "That'll do it," Stiles hums. He plays with the fine hair along Derek’s thick fingers. “I have no idea how I’m gonna tell my dad.”

   “We will tell him the truth,” Derek says firmly with a kiss to his head. “I mean he sounds like a reasonable man. I’m pretty sure he will take it well.”

   “From your lips,” Stiles sighs.

   “And the university is about to approve your grant.”

   “Ready to change diapers while I go whale watching?” Stiles snorts.

   “You forget that I practically raised Seth.”

   Stiles takes one of Derek’s hands to leave a kiss on his palm, then drapes it back over his belly, snuggling back against his chest. “How about a school teacher?”

   “What subject?”

   “Hmm…” Stiles muses, then, with a smile, “Biology?”

   “A biologist like his momma.”

   “Stop calling me momma,” Stiles flicks him on the knuckles.

   “You like it when I call you momma.”

   “I do not!” Stiles swipes at him, shifting in his hold. He holds still, then press back, the thin fabric of Derek’s sweats doing nothing to hide his growing arousal. “Oh but you like it, you pervert.”

   “’m sorry,” Derek whines. “You have no idea how good you smell, how you look,” he practically growls, ever so slightly grinding against Stiles.

   Stiles lets his head fall back, pulling Derek down for a deep, sideways kiss. “So stop torturing yourself already.”

   “I told you,” Derek says with his face pressed into Stiles’ hair.

   “You can’t hurt the baby,” Stiles punctuates each word.

   Derek moans and tightens his hold.  

   Stiles sighs and leans forward, which has Derek instinctively pulling back on him. Stiles pats his hands. “I’m not going anywhere, just turning around.”

   Derek eventually eases up enough for Stiles to sit up and move onto his knees before he turns to face Derek, still between his spread legs.

   He glances down at the redwood-sized hardon stretching the thin fabric of Derek’s sweats, a wet spot already forming at the wide tip. “Naughty daddy,” Stiles tut-tut’s, rubbing over his belly. “Guess I’ll have to take matters in my own hands, hmm?”

   Cheeks reddening, Derek reaches into his sweats to adjust himself, but Stiles stops him with a hand around his hairy wrist.

   With his other hand Stiles pulls the waistband down, letting the thick, veined erection spring free. “Lube’s in the drawer,” he says easily.

   Derek blinks. “Stiles, no.”

   “My jaw needs a rest, dude. And I’m also horny, you know. Plus, if I ride you I’ll be in control, so you don’t have to worry about bashing junior in the head with that canon of yours.”

   “That’s not funny.”

   “It’s a little bit funny,” Stiles giggles.

   Derek’s chest rises as a bead of precum swell from the wet folds of his foreskin. “Stiles,” he swallows, but Stiles is already shimmying out of his borrowed sweats, the stretched skin of his belly where his t-shirt has ridden up gleaming. “Lube,” he reminds Derek, who huffs, but reaches for the drawer none the less.

   Stiles takes his time slicking Derek up, using both hands, forming a broken ring with his thumb and index finger around the fat head while he covers the rest of his girth with his other hand.

   “You’re killing me,” Derek mutters through clenched teeth.

   “I told you not to call me momma.” He lets go of Derek’s cock after another few slow twists, then rises to his knees, leaving slick smears across his belly, while his other hand goes between his legs. His lips part while he coats his hole with lube, eyes locked with Derek.

   “Fuck,” Derek grabs his twitching erection.

   Stiles positions himself over Derek’s lap, knees on either side of his hips, one hand still cupped under his belly.

   “Gonna need some help here, partner.”

   Derek sits up at once, an arm reaching around Stiles to grab one cheek while Stiles pulls at the other. Derek aligns his cock, the slick tip brushing Stiles’ entrance.

   Even with Stiles in his lap their mouths still don’t quite align, and Derek has to dip his head for a kiss, filling Stiles’ mouth with his tongue while ever so slowly grinding his hips upward, his cock nudging at Stiles.

   “You sure?” Derek asks against his mouth.

   “I need you inside me like yesterday,” Stiles responds, lowering his hips at the same time as Derek gently pushes upward.

   Stiles gasps loudly, eyes screwing shut and the hand not holding his belly fisting Derek’s shirt. “Fuck.”

   Derek at once lifts Stiles back up, his cock slipping free. “Stiles?”

   Stiles grabs hold of Derek’s bulging biceps. “Did you get bigger?” he asks, eyes still shut.

   “No!” Derek answers, his voice high.

   Stiles chuckles, wetness glinting at corner of his eyes. “’s okay, big guy, I’m just sensitive. Don’t move, okay? Let me.”

   “I don’t want to hurt you,” Derek pleads, kissing away his tears.

   “You won’t. I promise,” Stiles finds his lips.

   He wiggles his hips and Derek relents, lowering him down to rest fully on his knees once again.

   When Stiles sinks down for the second time he lets the furled ring of his entrance kiss the tip of Derek’s cock a few times, churning the lube.

   “You’re shaking,” Stiles whispers against Derek’s cheek. Derek opens his mouth to answer and Stiles sinks down, sheathing himself about halfway, stealing all words from Derek and turning it into a drawn-out groan, bunny-teeth peaking through his parted lips.

   Thighs quivering Stiles sinks down the rest of the way, until his eyes pop wide and his hands clench around the bulk of Derek’s shoulders. “Holy shit!”

   “Are you okay?” Derek holds his hips still, his voice already broken.

   “I think…” Stiles rolls his hips again and is rewarded with another smiling gasp. “Fuck! My p-prostate… I-I think-“ Stiles’ thoughts are derailed when he moves again, his eyes just about rolling to the back of his skull. “Oh my god it’s… ah…” he begins to rock up and down, “So sensitive… holly crap. Why did we not do this sooner!”

   Derek circles his arms around Stiles’ bouncing form, breath hot and moist against over his face.

   Stiles rides Derek for another few seconds before he sags down, his head collapsing against Derek’s shoulder. “Okay… you’ll have to… take over… from here…”

   “On your back?”

   Stiles nods. “Cushions.”

   Derek rises to his knees, easily taking Stiles and his pregnant belly with him. He shuffles to the edge of the bed where he slides off, then carefully turns to lay Stiles back down right on the edge.  Stiles moans when he slips free, his erection leaving sticky smears along the inside of his thigh.

   He reaches for two cushions and stuff them under Stiles’ lower back, then prop his legs back up around his waist. “Ready for daddy?”

   Stiles giggles. “Dork.” He pulls his t-shirt over his exposed belly as best he can. “Close your eyes, baby.”

   “Now who’s the dork?” Derek grins and slide back in.

   “Aaaah fuck,” Stiles arches up, flinging his arms up over his head. “Don’t you ever pull out ever again, you hear me?”

   Derek sets a slow pace. “Good?” he breathes between thrusts, rubbing down Stiles’ legs.

   “You… have no… idea…” Stiles’ eyes flutter closed. “It’s like my prostate… has doubled in size.”

   Derek settles a knee on the bed and continues with the lazy roll of his hips. “Can you come like this?”

   Stiles take a few seconds to answer, licking his lips. “God… I… Yeah… Maybe.”

   Derek pauses long enough to firmly secure Stiles’ legs around his waist then picks up the pace, driving hard enough to bounce Stiles back and forth.

   “Oh… fuck… Derek,” Stiles whimpers.

   “Too much?”

   “No! Don’t you dare stop.”

   “I got you,” Derek drives back and forth, Stiles’ legs secure in his hold. He leans forward as far as he can with Stiles’ belly between them, his height aiding him to be able to kiss Stiles, albeit a bit awkwardly. “Can you keep your legs here?” he breathes, letting go of them.

   Stiles manages to give a short nod, his lips parted, and Derek reaches up to pull his arms down and lace their fingers together. Again he ups the pace.

   “Don’t stop, please,” Stiles moans.

   Derek nuzzles his neck, driving deeper with every thrust. “Come for me.”

   A few more deep thrusts and Stiles does exactly that, gripping Derek’s fingers, mouth falling open on a hoarse  scream.

   Derek follows after a few more thrust, spilling into him, groaning against his throat.

   “Ohmygod,” Stiles manages after swallowing a few times, out of breath.

   Derek smiles, trailing kisses from his jaw to his mouth. He pulls out gently and stands back up, rubbing up and down Stiles’ thighs, his softening cock glistening. “You okay?”

   Stiles nods, his smile lazy. “Oh,” his eyes flutter open, his hands going to his belly. “You woke the baby.”

   Derek leans down and plants a soft kiss on his belly. “Sorry angel, daddy had to take care of mommy.”

   Stiles limply kicks out. “That’s it. That was the last time you got any, buster. Shop’s closed.”

   Derek easily catches his foot, smiling. “You okay like this?” he rubs up his instep. “I want to go get some washcloths.”

   Stiles waves him away. He does however watch the father of his unborn child walking away, his dimpled ass flexing below the hem of his t-shirt and hairy, muscled thighs bunching as he disappears into the bathroom.

   After a bit the toilet flushes and Derek walks back out, still naked from the waist down. He cleans Stiles up, then pull his sweats back on and helps him to get comfortable on the bed. “Okay?”

   “Another one, please,” Stiles groans, poking at the two cushions already propped against his back, adding a third between his legs. “And do we have any leftover pasta? We’re starving,” he rubs over his belly

   “Comin’ right up,” Derek smiles and bends down for a kiss.

   In the kitchen he warms up a generous helping of leftovers, then pads back upstairs to find Stiles passed out in the exact same position he left him, snoring lightly.

   He sets the food down and carefully gets on the bed, sliding in behind Stiles, folding his larger form around him.

   Within minutes his slightly louder snores join in.

oOo

“Aliens don’t leave tire tracks.”

   “That’s what they want you to think,” Marty taps his head, looking the tire tracks they found not far behind his property up and down, small mud ridges squelched out next to the tread imprints.

   Jordan flips his little notepad closed. “I’ll look into the missing containers and the gas, but that’s it.”

   “I know what I saw, Jordy.”

   “I’m sure you did.”

   “Well, who else? Who would steel gas? I mean, when was the last time you had to deal with a case of theft on the island?”

   Jordan stuffs the notepad in his back pocket. “That’s not the point. Now, I need to get back to the station.”

   “That’s it? You’re not gonna-“ Marty waves his arms, “-set up a perimeter?”

   Jordan is already walking away. “I’ll call you when I find something. And don’t go shootin’ at every damn thing that moves!”

   Marty drops his arms and set his hands on his hips. Thelma remains by his feet, snapping at a fly buzzing past.

   Jordan waves before he disappears behind the hill. He gets in his truck, parked next to Marty’s beat-up old Chevy. He drives down the dirt track that winds its way through the forest, the sky a featureless grey now through the green canopy, not threatening rain, but no sun either.

   The town is bustling. When he parks in front of the station, it is not next to the sheriff’s truck – still missing - but Laura’s pickup. She waves at him from where she’s sitting on the front steps, Seth playing his own little jumping game next to her. He runs to the car when Jordan climbs out.

   “Hey, monkey,” Jordan picks him up.

   Laura joins them, giving Jordan a kiss. “I’ve been calling you. I brought some lunch.”

   “Sorry, must’ve left my cell here. Had to go out to Marty's place.” He shifts Seth in his arms. “Someone syphoned gas from his storage tanks.”

   “Them pesky aliens again?”

   “Whomever it was, they did actually take the gas.”

   “Oh. Really? Who would steal gas?”

   “Beats me. Has Chris been around?”

   Laura frowns. “I thought he was with you?”

   “No.” Jordan looks up and down the street. “You haven’t seen him at all?”

   “No, I haven’t.”

   He hitches Seth up higher. “Let’s go inside, I’ll give him a call.”

   Inside Laura pulls Seth onto her lap while Jordan settles behind his desk and picks up the phone.

   Chris’s cell goes straight to voicemail, so he tries his house landline. It gets picked up after just a few rings.

   “Yes?”

   Jordan takes a breath, glancing at Laura. “Mornin’ Arty, it’s Jordan. Do you know where Chris is? He hasn’t come in yet.”

   “Yeah he’s got a stomach bug. Won’t be in today.”

   “Uh, okay. You need anything?”

   “Why the hell would I need anything?” and puts the phone down in Jordan’s ear.

   “Good day to you to, asshole,” Jordan puts the phone back in its cradle.

   Laura raises and eyebrow.

   “Sorry,” Jordan mutters, eyes flicking to where Seth is watching his every move. “Chris’s got some stomach bug.”

   Laura grimaces. “Those are the worst.”

   “Yeah.” He scratches his chin, looking across his desk to the sheriff's empty office. “Listen, could you hold the fort here for a bit? I want go over and see if he’s okay.”

   “Sure.”

   Jordan stands up, pausing for a moment before he grabs his keys.

   “Everything okay?”

   “Fine,” he smiles, leaning down to kiss her and ruffle Seth’s hair. “Back in a bit,” he calls before the door shuts behind him.

oOo

Short and thin, with mousy hair lying limp across a deep frown, there is nothing particular about the stranger that would distinguish him from the other tourists milling about on the sidewalk - except for the fact that he has been standing on the same spot for the last fifteen minutes, staring up at the building from across the street.

   From behind the front counter of her laundromat, Gladys keeps a hawk-eye watch on him in between helping customers and fetching pressed and laundered clothes from the back.

   The stranger decides to cross the street, and Gladys stops what she is doing, following his every move. When he heads for the little alley next to the building she is out from behind the counter, the bell above the front door tinkling.

   “Hello! Hi, good morning!” she waves and smiles.

   The stranger is already a few steps up on the stairwell leading to the small apartment above, but turns eventually. He scowls down at Gladys.

   Gladys steps closer. “Are you looking for Stiles? He’s not here, I’m afraid.”

   The strangers’ scowl deepens. He looks up the stairs, then back to Gladys. “When will he be back?”

   “Well, I’m not sure. He spends most of his time at the lighthouse now, you know. I could give him a message? No trouble at all. Are you a friend?”

   “Ah, yeah, a friend. You said he’s at the lighthouse?”

   “Yes,” Gladys nods, smiling. “Just take the main road down to the marina and follow it out to Beacon Point. Can’t miss it.”

   The stranger gives a curt nod. “Okay.” He steps down and walks pass Gladys without another word.

   Gladys’ smile stays firmly in place as he walks past her. “Okay then, have a nice day!” she calls after him.

   The stranger completely ignores her, crossing the road again to meld into the throng of tourists.

oOo

Only Chris’s truck is in the driveway, Gerard’s old Wagoneer nowhere in sight.

   Jordan parks in the street. He climbs out and walks up the path to the porch, glancing up at the house. Behind the screen door the front door stands ajar. “Hello?” he knocks, peering down the hallway. “Chief? It’s Jordan.”

   From deep inside the house comes the muffled but unmistakable sound of objects clattering to the ground.

   “Chris?” Jordan calls again, opening the screen door without hesitation and stepping inside. He peers into the living room, then the kitchen – all empty – and is halfway down the hall when there is another crash.

   The basement Jordan realises.

   He walks a little faster to the end of the hallway where the door to the basement is shut. He tries the handle, and seconds later another crash sounds up, this time accompanied by what he is sure is the sound of someone trying to desperately speak through a gag.

   “Chris! Is that you?”

   The muffled calls sound up at once.

   “What the hell…” Jordan mumbles and steps back. “Hold on!” he shouts, and firmly planting his back foot, aims a mighty kick with the other at a spot right next to the door handle.

   The wood cracks, but only on the third kick does it splinter and swing open.

   Jordan grabs for the light switch swinging just inside, one hand on his holstered gun, stifled shouts rising up from below. “Chris? Chris!” he shouts, ducking to see better into the gloomy space while taking the stairs as fast as the narrow treads will allow. He is twisting around even as his feet hit the damp concrete, but falter when he spots the sheriff.

   Hands and feet tied with multiple layers of silver ducktape, with another strip stuck over a rag that’s been stuffed into his mouth, Chris sits on the floor with his back against an old metal cabinet. His hair is in disarray, his eyes wild, one side of his face scraped bloody, as are his knuckles. There seems to be fresh blood dripping from his nose

   “Jesus Christ,” Jordan blinks.

   Chris shouts again from behind his gag, banging his feet on the floor. It spurs Jordan into action.

   “Okay, okay, I’m gonna get you out. Hold on.” He falls to his knees by Chris’s feet, grabbing for his pocketknife.

   Chris shouts and jerks his chin up and at Jordan, eyes just about bugging out. It clicks in Jordan’s brain at the same moment as a heavy boot scuffs the floor behind him.

   He turns and is met with a Taser to the chest.

oOo

The front door of the police station opens, a woman walking in.

   Laura is distracted from Seth’s animal drawings not so much by the stranger’s arrival, but by her clothes – tight black jeans, combat boots and a black polo neck.

   “Can I help you?”

   The woman lets the door swing shut. “That depends,” she reaches behind her to twist the lock, a tiny sneer pulling at the edge of her mouth. “Are you willing to kneel before the Almighty and repent, or will you remain on this sinful path?”

   Slowly Laura stands up, staying behind Jordan’s desk, cupping the side of Seth’s head where he is sitting on the desk – still blissfully occupied by his colouring-in. “I’m sorry, what?” she tries to smile.

   The woman walks towards them, hands again going behind her back from where she pulls a pistol tucked into waistband of her jeans. “Let me put it this way, Laura,” she smiles and chambers a round, her movements quick and practiced. “Help us kill your brother, and your son’s life will be spared.”

   A sharp intake of breath and Laura tightens her hold on Seth, her eyes bouncing between the gun aimed at him and the woman’s face. “Who are you? What do you want?”  

   Seth looks up at the woman pointing the gun. “Mommy?”

   “Shh, it’s okay baby, come here,” she picks him up.

   “Judgement is upon us, Laura,” the woman takes a step closer. “The time has come to cast those abominations walking amongst us back into hell. You were lucky before. But Satan will no longer protect you.”

   “What are you…” Laura’s whole face sags then and she hugs Seth to her, covering him as best she can. “Kate sent you.”

   “She saved us, just like she can save you.”

   Laura turns Seth’s face to her neck. “The police are on their way. If you leave now, now one will stop you.”

   The woman smirks. “The police? You mean that useless sheriff and his idiot sidekick? I don’t think so.”

   “What… What have you done?”

   She ignores Laura, waggling her gun. “Let’s go. The three of us are going for a ride.”

oOo

The narrow tidal flat linking the small island to the Senchían village is a few inches away from being completely exposed, the tides bowing before the full moon’s pull. The cloud cover has finally broken up to leave a few wisps about that stretch across the fast darkening heavens, shades of vermilion slowly bleeding away the white as the sun sinks below the horizon.

   Jonah has his feet firmly planted, punching through the layer of silt to the fine sand underneath. The water laps at his ankles, his arms hanging lose by his sides. His face is impassive as he continues to stare at the rocky, tree-covered pinnacle a few hundred feet offshore.

   He nods then, a silent conversation concluded, and turns to walk back to shore, leaving muddy swirls in his wake. He picks up his boots where he dropped them and walks barefoot to his house where he leaves them on the porch,  walking into the silent home, Miriam away at the clinic.

   In their bedroom he crouches next to the bed and reaches underneath. He drags the twelve-gauge, pump-action shotgun from its hiding place, gives it a quick check, then walk over to the small standing cupboard where he retrieves two boxes of shells from the top.

   Back on the porch he laces up his boots before he walks across the road to his neighbour. “Tell everyone to get ready,” he says without greeting when the man answers the door. “Trouble’s comin’.”

   The man catches sight of the shotgun in Jonah’s hand. He lifts his chin and nods slowly.

   Jonah dips his head once before he heads for his truck.

oOo

Ulysses Grant.”

   “Who was the eighteenth president of the United States.”

   “Who was the seventeenth president of the united States?”

   “Wrong!” Stiles crows and flings a cheesecurl at the television.

   “Stop throwing cheesecurls at the television,” Derek murmurs next to him on the bed, his eyes glued to his laptop.

   Stiles sticks his tongue out at him without taking his eyes of the game show, and goes back to digging into the foil packet resting on his stomach, two cushion tucked behind his back. Derek reaches out to rub the back of his neck before going back to his typing.

   Stiles huffs, setting the packet next to him and begins the arduous journey of sliding off the bed. Derek looks up.

   “Pee break,” Stiles explains.

   Derek is about to set his laptop aside when Stiles stops him. “I’m good. As you were, soldier.”

   Stiles doesn’t see Derek slowly shaking his head, watching Stiles waddle to the bathroom. He doesn’t bother to shut the door. Dropping his sweats he carefully lowers down onto the seat, snorting when he thinks – not for the first time – of the beeping sound large vehicles make when they’re reversing. He is only half-listening to the game show sounds coming from the television, his mind wandering.

   Through his thoughts he picks up the ping of a message on Derek’s phone.

   Derek’s shocked intake of breath has Stiles looking up. There’s a clatter – Stiles is sure it’s Derek’s laptop hitting the floor.

   “Derek?”   

   He doesn’t get an answer, but can hear the faint electronic beeps of a number being punched in. “Hey, what’s going on?”

   “Jonah? Listen, there’s… What? How? Did she contact you too?”

   Stiles finishes as fast as he can, pulling up his sweats and flushing the toilet.

   “No! I need someone to come here and look after Stiles. Jonah, listen! I have to- goddammit listen to me she’s gonna kill them!”

   The last sentence punches Stiles right in the stomach. He stands frozen in the bathroom door, one hand folded around the doorframe, the other scrunching the hem of his t-shirt. Derek is pacing, his shoulders curled inward, the hand not jamming his phone to his ear fisted tightly against his thigh.

   When he sees Stiles he falters for just a second or two before walking right up to him and reaching out to cup the side of his neck. Stiles at once take hold of his forearm.

   “Yeah, okay. Hurry, please.”

   “What happened?” Stiles asks the moment Derek ends the call.

   Derek doesn’t answer. He holds his phone out to Stiles, who takes it, staring down at the photo on the screen.

   A strange blond woman is holding a crying Seth in her arms, the boy’s red face twisted in panic, little arms reaching out to someone just outside the frame. The whole picture is skew, the flash of the camera phone draining all colour from their faces. The woman is smiling pleasantly, though, not looking at the camera but focused on Seth.

   A message has been added to the picture:

      Only you can save your family.

   “Who is this? Derek, what is going on?” Stiles asks.

   Derek is looking at the floor, fingers clenching, his chest expanding with each measure inhale. “It’s Kate. She’s here.”

oOo

Chapter Text

Murray brings the Wagoneer to a stop at the top of the hill, the breaks squealing just a bit. Clouds of condensation roll around the back of the truck from the exhaust pipe, the tail lights turning the vapour into billows of misty neon pink as it blows away in the night breeze.

   He glances in the rear view mirror, his’ the only vehicle present this time of night. From his reflection he notes the way the white of his eyes are highlighted in contrast to the black face paint covering every inch of his skin.

   At the bottom of the hill the service road curves along the chain link fence that surrounds the Beacon Light and Power utilities compound. It is right at this curve, on the other side of the fence, that the headlights of the truck shine off the curved hulk of an 80 000 gallon propane storage tank, fingers of rust just starting to creep up from its belly. Next to it, parallel to the fence, stands a similar tank.

   Murray’s hand trail over the handgun clasped to his thigh before he picks up his cell phone.

   “In position,” he says when it is answered.

   “Good,” Kate says. “Sit tight.”

   Murray nods like she can see him before he ends the call. He turns off the engine and leans back.

oOo

“It is a trap!”

   “Doesn’t matter,” Derek replies gently.

   “How can you say that?” Stiles lets his hands fall on the kitchen table. “This is exactly what she wants you to do! Plus,” he jabs two fingers in the air, “It is this close to the moon being full.”

   “Good. I won’t sprain a muscle when I rip them all apart.”

   “Jesus, Derek, this is not even remotely funny.”

   “Stiles, I have no choice-” he stops pacing, his arms still folded. “They’re here,” he says, looking out the dark window above the stone basin. Stiles too turns to the window. Sure enough the muted sounds of a rumbling engine grow louder until tires crunch over gravel.

   Stiles makes to get up, but Derek only has to shake his head to stop him before he walks to the back door and unlocks it. He doesn’t go out, but remains standing in the doorway.

   Footsteps crunching over gravel become louder and louder.

   “Chief,” he hears Derek greet.

   “Derek. This is Aaron. He’ll be staying here,” Stiles hears the Senchían chief speak.

   “All right,” Derek nods, his shoulders stiff. “You will go up to the pilothouse with Stiles and lock yourselves in,” Derek says to Aaron.

   Stiles leans back as far as he can, but Derek fills out the doorway and the darkness outside does the rest. “Derek,” he stands up from the table.

   Derek barely glances over his shoulder. “Do not let anyone except me or the chief in. Got it?”  

   “Derek,” Stiles pulls at his elbow.

   Derek turns slightly, revealing the chief and his compatriot, both with shotguns held safely at their sides. Jonah’s eyes land on him, flickering down to his huge belly. The man next to him – Aaron – does the same, though his eyes widen some.

   “Jonah,” Stiles nods. The chief nods back. “Look, this is all my fault, so I should g-”

   “Stiles, go back inside,” Derek orders.

   “Stop talking to my like I’m a fucking child!”

   Derek turns to him, cupping his face and tilting his head back. “You are not a child. You are the single most important thing in my life. But I have to go get Laura and Seth. And I can only do that if I know you are safe.”

   Stiles grabs at his shirt. “I don’t want you to go. Please. Let… let them go! This is crazy!”

   Derek pulls him in, mashes his face to his chest when he wraps him up in his arms. “I have to, Stiles. I need to end this once and for all.”

   “You don’t have to do shit!” Stiles press his face deeper into Derek’s chest as sob breaks free.

   “Hey, hey,” Derek kisses the top of his head. “Everything will be fine. I promise.”

   oOo

With his arms wrapped around his belly Stiles watches as Aaron slides the heavy lock through the clasp of the hatch. He then walks to the nearest open window and holds up his thumb.

   Far below Jonah’s truck flashes its headlights once before it drives off.

   They watch as the truck’s tail lights disappear through the woods, the xenon lamp rotating as always, its great beam of light circling around unhindered.

oOo

   In the thick of the forest from behind a moss-covered boulder, Maria rises silently from her hiding place, her face covered with the same black paint as Murray’s, blending perfectly with her surroundings.

   “They’re on their way,” she speaks into her cell phone.

   “Praise the Almighty. May His will be done,” Kate replies.

   “Amen,” Maria answers softly. She clips the phone back on her belt and pulls out her handgun. Picking up the Jerry can filled with gasoline, she stalks back into the forest, taking a wide route to approach the lighthouse from the farthest side while the beam of the lamp cut a brilliant arc in the night sky high overhead.

oOo

   Murray grabs for the ringing cell phone. “Kate.”

   “Praise the Almighty. May His will be done,”

   A leer grows under the black paint. “Amen,” he says.

   Leaning over to the passenger side he retrieves a steel rod from the floor well, a metal angle firmly welded to one end, and sets it by his feet. With the gearshift in neutral, he turns the key in the ignition, the Wagoneer’s engine rumbling back to life. He leaves the headlights off and ensures the parking brake is secure before he slides out of the truck, taking his backpack with him.

   Standing by the open door Murray takes a length of rope from his backpack and loops it around and through the steering wheel. He then feeds it through the metal seat bracket below and pulls tight - jostling the truck with his efforts - then back through the steering wheel before knotting it several times.

   Satisfied that the steering wheel is tied in place, he walks to the back and opens the tailgate, pulling the other stolen five-gallon Jerry can out. Unscrewing the cap he empties the gasoline all over the backseat, letting it spill down and pool on the floor.

   Slinging the empty container into the forest he slides back into the front, legs on either side of the taught rope. He disengages the parking break and slips the gear lever into drive.

   As the truck begins to roll forward he takes the metal rod and secures the angle against the edge of the front seat, then wedges the other end against the gas pedal. The truck lurches as the engine answers.

   He slides off the seat, feet planted in the open doorway. Holding on to the edge of the roof with the wind whipping at his hair, he digs a zippo out of his pocket, flicks the light, and throws it into the back. Flames whoosh to life instantly, filling up the back half of the cab just as he jumps.

   A mixture of wild grass and ferns cushion his fall for the most part. He still gets his breath knocked out of him, stealing his cry of pain when his ankle twists.

   He stumbles a bit when he finally stands, stars dancing in vision, leaning all of his weight on his other foot. He watches the truck careen down the road, the growing flames shooting from its windows as the fiery vehicle gathers speed, the flames leaving a burned retina-trail behind it in the night.

   About halfway down it begins to pull to the left. Murray curls his upper body like a golfer urging his putt closer to the hole. “C’mon, c’mon,” he mutters as the tires begin to roll over the median.

   But the truck reaches the curve, mounting the slightly elevated narrow grassy strip in front of the fence and goes airborne, the engine revving.

   It smashes through the fence and hits the first tank right on its end with a sickening metal crunch. The force of the impact spins the crumpled Wagoneer around, the shattered windscreen and other bits of metal and glass flung in every direction.

   The impact rips the tank off its stand, violently shoving it against its neighbour, a deep metal gong reverberating through the dark forest followed at once by the high pitched whistle of pressurised gas escaping.

   The burning wreck of the Wagoneer slides around on its remaining three wheels to grind to a stop a few dozen feet from the tanks. Silence settles once again, save for the boiling-kettle whine of the escaping propane.

   “Come one,” Murray whispers, eyes going from the burning truck to the two severely dented tanks where a jet of evaporating white gas shoots skyward.

   Murray takes a step forward when in between breaths night turns to day.

   The gas ignites in a double tap explosion, rupturing both tanks in a fireball as brilliant as the sun, throwing Murray on his ass, blinded for a moment. The shockwave shakes the surrounding forest as if by a powerful squall, ripping branches from trees and pulverizing the nearby substation, electrical cables and other debris flying through the air in a shower of sparks and flame. The end piece of one tank is catapulted several hundred feet away, splitting a whole tree in half when it crashes back to earth.

   Murray sits up to watch the dissipating mushroom fireball get swallowed up by the night sky, the remains of the tanks and surrounding buildings a boiling inferno.

   “But I will punish you according to the results of your deeds,” he smiles, hobbling on one foot, “And I will kindle a fire in its forest that it may devour all its environs.”

oOo

Angus Finch inherited the Whale and Harpoon from his aunt Moira, whom died – not behind the bar, as she had hoped – but peacefully in her sleep the year before.

   Even though this Beacon Harbour institution only officially became his property after she had passed, he has been running it for the past twenty years ever since it became too much for the old bird’s arthritis.

   The documents were a mere formality, Angus being her only living relative, having raised him as her own after his father ran away when he was born, and his mother basically abandoning him when he was six.

   All of these memories – as clear as the day they were imprinted into his consciousness – blink moisture to his eyes every time Angus stares a little too long at the framed photograph of aunt Moira where it hangs in its place of honour right by the front door.

   When the tanks explode, a brilliant glow lights up the night sky on the other side of the harbour where the island curves around.

   Moments later the noise in the bar dies down as the whole structure vibrates, clinking glasses and liquor bottles together. Aunt Moira’s picture rattles and comes off the wall, shattering to the floor.

   The lights flicker then go out in a mixture of surprised and panicked gasps.  

   “It’s the terrorists!” someone pipes up through the murmuring.

   “Everyone, just stay put,” Agnus says calmly, his deep voice rumbling over the rising panic. “Generator’ll kick in in a sec.” He drops the dishcloth in his hands on the counter and walk out from behind the bar. At the front door he picks up the shattered frame of aunt Moira, careful with the shards of glass, before he steps out of the building, the picture cradled in a meaty hand.

   Most of the bar spill out behind him the moment he is out the door, the boardwalk already crowded with tourists and patrons craning their necks and holding up cell phones.

   A young women with long hair in a messy bun and a waiter’s apron tied around her shorts fights her way through the crowd, a cell phone pressed to her ear. “Angus!”

   “You okay, Beck?”

   “What the hell happened?”

   “No friggin’ idea,” Angus shakes his head, looking at the glow reflecting on the waters of the bay. Around them people are talking loudly, some even laughing while camera phone flashes light up the boardwalk.

   “You callin’ the sheriff?”

   “No one’s answering,” she frowns.

   “Try Jordy.”

   Rebecca nods, scrolling down her contact list. After a few dozen rings Angus can make out the deputy’s voicemail kick in.

   “This is too weird,” Rebecca says when she ends the call.

   A succession of engines rumbling to life drowns out the noisy boardwalk as one by one the lights of the bars and restaurants come back on.

   Angus looks about the crowd. He spots Bobby walking towards him, beer in one hand. “Keep this cold for me, will ya?” he holds the bottle out to Rebecca.

   “Where’re you goin’?” she asks.

   “You know Marty’s gonna need all the help he can get. Keep tryin’ the sheriff.”

   “Wait,” Angus sighs, handing aunt Moira’s picture to Rebecca. “I’ll come with ya.”

   There is a collective gasp rippling through the crowd still lingering outside, many pointing up at the night sky where a spectral of green and blue light whips about beneath the fattening moon, then fades away as quick as it came into existence.

oOo

   “Need help?” Aaron stands closer, holding his hand out.

   “No I’m good, thanks,” Stiles gives him a quick smile as he settles down on the kitchen chair they brought up to the pilothouse. “You’re gonna wish you hadn’t offered when I have to go down and pee.”

   Aaron regards him, the lamp flashing off his long hair and glinting off the metal of the shotgun. “You are a miracle.”

   Stiles snorts. “Tell that to my bladder.”

   “No, you do not understand,” he looks out towards the twinkling lights of the Harbour. “You are a gift.”

   Stiles sits back, hands going to his belly. “I am the cause of all this.”

   “And the solution.”

   Stiles looks up at him, frowning, but both get distracted by a bright, orange glow that light up the harbour before it transforms into a fireball at the far end that billows up into the night. A few seconds later the glass frames of the pilothouse rattle through the dissipating shockwave.

   Stiles flinches back, sucking in air while Aaron grips his shotgun, standing up straight. 

   The lamp in the pilothouse stops turning and dies, the light slowly fading to darkness. It takes a few seconds for Stiles’ vision to adjust, and for the clear starry night to come into focus.

   “What the hell was that?”

   Aaron moves toward the hatch. “Where are your flashlights?”

   “In the kitchen,” he answers, staring out at the glow in the distance. “Was… was that Kate?”

   “I think so,” Aaron says, lifting the hatch. “Where in the kitchen?”

  “Uh… P-pantry. Wait! Should you even go down? Derek said to stay up here.”

   “I’ll be quick,” Aaron assures him and slips away.

oOo

The explosion vibrates through Jonah’s truck when they are a few blocks away from Chris’s house. The streetlights flicker and go out.

   Derek looks out at the dark street, the truck’s headlights cutting through the night.

   “Stop here,” he instructs Jonah.

   Jonah pulls to the side of the road. He grabs his shotgun, both men sliding out of the truck and closing the doors with care.

   “We should split up,” Jonah says.

   “Yeah,” Derek says, pointing with his chin the direction Jonah should take.

   Jonah nods and is off, walking to the other side of the street. Soon the trees and the dark swallow him up.

   Derek sets course for the forest at the back of the homes lining his side of the street.

   He can see perfectly running through the forest, massive old trunks and boulders flying by, small animals and a deer or two scattering before him. He does a wide circle, approaching the sheriff’s house from the back. At the treeline he stops, barely breathing hard.

   The house is dark, no generator running, unlike a few of its neighbours. Through the noise Derek makes out only three heartbeats inside:

   Laura, Seth and Kate.

   Derek flexes his fingers, the tips tingling, his gums burning. He knows his eyes are lighting up, probably look like two burning coals in the night – easy target – but he doesn’t care.

   He steps from the trees, half-crouched, sidling up to the house. Keeping tabs on the location of the heartbeats inside he tries a window, then slides it open, slipping inside.

   His feet land on smooth floor boards. It’s a study of sorts, the room furnished with bookshelves, a desk and a single bed. He pads to the door, moving easily in the almost pitch blackness, swivelling his head. Two heartbeats seem to be in a room close by, the third further away. Letting his claws break through the skin he bites back a growl. He slips into the hallway, clawed hands curled by his side.

   The kitchen.

   The door is closed, the two heartbeats behind it frantic. But the smell is wrong. Derek lifts his chin, scenting the air.

   Mixed with normal cooking smells is the sweat of two grown men, pungent and sour with fear. He opens the door, already recognizing Jordan’ scent, and taking only a second more to recognize the Sheriff.

   Both men are gagged, hands and feet bound with ducktape to the kitchen chairs they’re sitting in, backs to each other.

   Derek doesn’t think twice, going for the sheriff’s gag, closest to him.

   “Get away you son of a bitch!” Chris yells when his mouth is free.

   “Chris! It’s me! It’s Derek!” he angry-whispers.

   “Derek? Jesus.”

   “Where’re Laura and Seth?” Derek asks, easily slicing through the tape with a claw. He turns suddenly, distracted by the third heartbeat.

   A gunshot thunders around the room, the flash blinding everyone in the dark. Derek roars, clutching his arm, knocking the Sheriff off his chair as he spins and goes down.

   “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence,” a voice close by announces, followed by a gun being cocked. “These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

   “No!” Chris bellows, charging blindly in the dark. Another gun shot thunders through the room, Chris and Olson lit up by the flash before Chris tackles him, both bodies hitting a cabinet. They go down heavily, crockery shattering to the floor around them. There is a scuffle, someone grunting, shoes crunching over broken glass, and then a gun being cocked again.

   Derek struggles up, clutching the wound in his arm, the smell of cordite and wolfsbane burning his nose.

   “Time to go back to hell,” Olson announces a second before a third gunshot echoes through the house.

   Derek flinches back as Olson jerks then topples forward, going down like a felled tree, rattling cutlery in the cabinets when he hits the floor.

   A beam of light brightens the kitchen. Jonah walks in with a flashlight held against the barrel of his smoking shotgun. He nods at Derek, who only nods back.

   “Cut the deputy free, I’ll take care of him,” Jonah instructs, already crouching down next to the groaning sheriff.

   Derek pulls out Jordan’s gag before slicing away his bindings.

   “She took them,” Jordan gasps, staggering upright with Derek’s help. “Kate and Gerard, they took Laura and Seth.”

   “Where?” Derek grits out.

   “Y-you’re shot,” Jordan trembles, grabbing a dishcloth.

   “Jordy! Where did they go!”

   Jordan takes second before he answers. “The lighthouse. It was a setup, this was all a setup.”

   “She wants Stiles,” Derek breathes out.

   Jordan nods, his face as white as a sheet in the eerie glow of the flashlight. “Gerard told her about him, about you two. He knows. He knows about the baby.”

   “Derek,” Jonah’s voice softly calls him.

   Both Derek and Jordan turn to where the chief has the sheriff’s head cradled in his lap, the flashlight illuminating the shiny red patch soaking the front of his shirt.

   “Chris,” Jordy dives forward, Derek’s wound forgotten. He kneels by Chris, grabbing his hand. “Hold on, Chief, you’re okay, we’ll get you out of here, just hold on.”

   Derek is at his feet. “Jonah, grab his arms. Jordy, help me with his feet.”

   But Jonah only shakes his head, looking straight at Derek, then down Chris.

   “No! No, damn you he’s fine! Everything’s gonna be fine!” Jordan squeezes his hand. “Chris, come on, buddy.”

   Chris struggles to turn his head. “Derek.”

   “I’m right here, sheriff. We’ve got you, try not to move.”

   “I’m… so sorry…” he licks his lips, “for what my family… did to yours.”

   “It’s okay, Chris, just take it easy, we’ll-“

   Jonah folds a large, bony hand over Chris’s eyes.

   Jordan looks at Jonah, then at Derek. “No,” he shakes his head. “No, this isn’t right.”

   Derek half slumps back, wincing.

   “No!” Jordan yells, smacking Jonah’s hand away. “No, he’s not! Help me!” Jordan starts to struggle with the body.

   “Jordan,” Derek folds a hand over Jordan’s shoulder.

   Jordan too slumps down. “No,” his voice breaks.

   The three men sit in complete silence, the flashlight throwing more shadows than light in the dark kitchen.

oOo

Aaron finds his way to the pantry without a hitch, the shotgun leaned safely against his shoulder. The flashlight is located quickly and switched on, chasing away the dark.

   He is about to go back through the doorway to the tower when he notices the sliver of light along the back door. He swivels the flashlight around, lighting up the splintered wood around the lock.

   Griping his gun he cocks it, holding the flashlight against the barrel. He stands stock still in the middle of the kitchen, eyes closed.

   It is so soft most would have missed it – the squeak of rubber against the stone floor.

   Aaron opens his eyes and swings the shotgun around just as a gun discharges from the other side of the room, the shotgun going off at about the exact same moment.

   In the deafening silence that follows plaster and bits of wood can be heard raining down, the circling light of the flashlight swinging about the room as it rolls around on the floor until it comes to rest against a body.

oOo

“Shit,” Stiles jumps when the gunshots ring out and travel up to the pilothouse. He struggles up, walking to the hatch, and just stands there, staring. “Was that a gunshot? Please tell me that wasn’t a gunshot. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.”

   Headlights flicker through the trees, pulling Stiles away and closer to the windows. “Derek,” he sighs as a truck appears from the forest.

   He waddles back to the hatch and sinks down to his knees, grabbing the handle and lifting it up. Letting it fall open he struggles down the stairs, descending on all fours, one foot at a time.

   A growing rumble precedes the lights flickering back on, the generator automatically coming to life.

   “Thank you, God,” stiles sighs, pausing in the middle of the stairs spiralling down the tower to catch his breath, a hand on his lower back.

   Entering the house he spots faint light coming from the kitchen.

   “Aaron?”

   Stiles turns the corner, walking into the kitchen to find the flashlight that Aaron was supposed to come get laying on the floor at his feet, his lifeless body slumped against the bottom cabinets.

   On the other side of the room by the back door a strange woman is sitting on the floor, leaning against the doorframe, one leg drawn up with a blood-soaked dishcloth pressed against her shoulder.

   Stiles mouth works over and over, nothing coming out.

   The woman looks up, her eyes black in the dim light, a sheen across her forehead. She sneers, eyes traveling over Stiles.

   “How does it feel to carry Satan in your belly?”

   Outside, car doors slam shut.

oOo

Derek has both hands gripping the wheel, the headlights cutting through the dark as Jonah’s truck shoots along the silent streets. A few homes and businesses with generators show signs of life, lit-up windows dotting the pitch black landscape.

   Next to Derek Jordan has one hand in his lap, the other clutching his holstered gun – the gun belt found together with Chris’s own belt in the basement.

   “Chris and I, we, we were playing cards,” Jordan speaks up suddenly, “The night before, the last time I…” he stops, eyes trained on the beams of light. “He asked me if, if I had asked Laura to marry me yet, because she’s the kind of woman that only comes along once. I told him we haven’t really talked about it, and he just smiled and said I should get my head out of my ass.” Jordan swallows and looks away again, fingers wiping at the corners of his mouth. “I ah, I asked him if…” his voice breaks.

   Derek’s head swivels between Jordan and the road.

   Jordan clears his throat. “I ah, I asked him, as a joke, if he would be my best man, I mean I was just shootin’ the shit with him, and he…” Jordan’s voice warbles again. “He looked at me, and he said, deputy, I would be honoured.”

   Derek’s hands wrench around the steering wheel, his jaw muscle as tight as his grip. “We’ll get them, Jordy. We’ll get all of ‘em. I promise you.”

oOo

“Why would terrorist want to blow up the gas tanks?” Angus asks, shaking his head at Bobby.

   Bobby keeps his eyes on the dark road, the trucks headlight only skimming the base of the trees lining the road. “Crazy people don’t need a reason, they’re just crazy.”

   “Now you’re sounding like Marty.”

   “Angus, there are some things on this island that would make your hair stand-” He suddenly slams on the breaks, Angus throwing his hands out again the dash just in time to stop from cracking his head on the windscreen.

   “What the hell,” Bobby squints at the black-clad figure standing in the middle of the road, lit up by the head lights, a shotgun aimed at the truck.

   “Get out! Hands where I can see them!” Murray yells, squinting at the brightness.

   “It’s like the fucking Twilight Zone,” Angus whispers.

   “I’m not asking again!” Murray shouts, thrusting the gun in their direction, hobbling on one foot.

   “Better do what he says,” Bobby whispers, opening his door and sliding out. Angus does the same.

   Bobby takes a tentative step closer, hands held up. “Okay, okay, just take it easy, buddy. No need to get all jumpy.”

   “I need to get the lighthouse,” Murray says, swinging the gun between them.

   “We can take ya, you don’t look in any shape to drive, friend. Just lower your gun and-“

   “No! Move away from the truck.”

   “Bobby,” Angus says, “Remember when I told you about that time I tried out for the minor league over in Port Agnes?”

   Bobby glances at him, the headlights throwing one half of his face in shadow. “What?”

   “Stop talking!” Murray yells.

   “I wasn’t lyin’ when I said I had the best arm.”

   “Now is not the time!” Bobby angry whispers.

   “I said stop talking and move away!”

   “Get ready, Finstock…”

   “Angus shut the fu-“

   “RUN!” Angus bellows as loud as he can, his voice echoing through the forest.

   In the second that it takes for Murray to flinch and Bobby to instinctively duck, Angus pulls the can of engine oil he found at his feet in Bobby’s truck from his back pocket and swings with all his might, a flash of his baseball-playing youth coming back to him.

   In the next second Bobby scrambles for the side of the road, keeping his head tucked in, Murray pulling the trigger of the shotgun without really aiming.

   Bobby lets out a high pitched yelp just as the can of oil connects with Murray’s head, snapping it back and making him drop the gun. Arms wind-milling he stumbles and goes down on the asphalt.

   Angus runs over, kicks the gun away and drops a knee right in the middle of Murray’s chest, putting all of his substantial weight behind it. “Who the hell are you?” he yells right in his face, his hands fisted in his black shirt.

   Murray’s eyes are slightly unfocused, blood trickling down the side of his face.

   “Jesus Christ he almost shot me!” Bobby shrieks, emerging from the side of the road with his hands still held up.

   “I asked you a question, ass-wipe!” Angus shoves Murray, banging his head against the tar. “Did you blow up the gas tanks?”

   “Fuck you,” Murray grins.

   Bobby walks over. “You shot me!” he kicks one of Murray’s legs.

   “Why do you want to get to the lighthouse?” Angus asks.

   Murray grins. “To watch the fires of hell take back its demons.”

   Angus looks up at Bobby, frowning. “I think I hit him too hard.”

   Bobby stands up straight. “I think we need to get to the lighthouse.”

oOo

The headlights of Jonah’s truck blink out just before they enter the wooded tunnel leading up to the lighthouse. Derek shuts off the engine, letting the truck roll to a stop on the side of the road.

   “Go along the road, but keep to the side,” Derek instructs as he opens his door. “I’ll go through the forest.”

   “How’s your arm?” Jordan asks.

   “Fine.”

   “Do you have a gun?”

   Derek looks at him. He holds up his hand, fingers splayed, his claws sprouting from the tips.

   “Fair enough,” Jordan nods and climbs out, his gun in his hand.

   Derek waits until Jordan is a few dozen feet along the tunnel before he disappears into the woods.

   The forest is surprisingly clear of any mist, the air crisp and wet nevertheless. Derek skips past trees and boulders, knowing the lay of the land by heart. He circles around until is as close to the base of the lighthouse as the tree line offers.

   He turns an ear to the building, focusing on the sounds from inside, trying his best to zone out the night time chorus of the forest around him and the constant drone of the generator.

   Three… Four… Five heartbeats. No, six – the last quite faint.

   He looks up to the pilothouse, the great beam stuck in one direction. Though the lamp is on, it isn’t rotating, needing a reboot once the generator brought back some power.

   On the opposite side the faceted glass reflects the starry night sky in winks whenever Derek turns his head. Sudden movement catches his breath in his throat. He narrows his eyes. There are people moving around in the pilothouse, but he can’t make out any details.

   The black silhouettes break up as they move through the light beam:

   Laura with Seth in her arms, followed by Stiles.

   Derek slips from the forest cover, padding over the dew-wet grass and walks smack into an invisible barrier. He stumbles back, blinking stupidly, looking up and around for whatever he walked into. He takes another step, but it’s like a magnet pushing its equal pole away and Derek stumbles back once again.

   “No,” he shakes his head. There, in the grass, about three feet ahead lies a line of mountain ash, pale against the dark stalks, scattered in a jagged, unbroken line. “No, no no no,” Derek whines when he starts following it, finding no break in the barrier, the invisible force leaving a deep ache in the wound on his arm.

   He looks up at the pilothouse – Laura and Stiles standing out of the glare of the beam, Seth in her arms – then around him, his movements jerky, clawed fingers twisting in the air. He starts running, following the line of mountain ash as it wraps around the lighthouse, all the way to the front.

   He spots Chris’s truck parked at an angle in the gravelled parking lot. He tries to focus, tries to scent the air for Jordan-

   “Hello, Derek.”

   Derek swings around.

   He crouches down when he sees her standing by the door to the museum. Claws splayed out to his sides he can feel the seams of his shirt begin to strain, his fangs dropping of their own volition. He growls and charges at Kate without thinking, his eyes burning bright.

   He hits the mountain ash barrier full speed.

   A low hum vibrates through the air as he is thrown back, ploughing through the gravel. He gets up at once and charges again, roaring through his mouthful of fangs.

   Again he hits the barrier and crashes back.

   Kate shakes her head and folds her arms. “Stupid, stupid animal.”

   “I will kill you! I will rip you apart if you even touch them!” Derek thunders, his chest heaving, blood trickling down from the gunshot wound to drip from his fingers.

   “No, you will not,” she answers calmly. “You will stand there and watch as the fires of hell consume them, and then I will smite you like the demon you are.”

   “You fucking BITCH!” Derek screams. He throws his head back and roars, loud enough for the sound to echo through the forest.

   “Satan cannot hear you, Derek, for he has abandoned you in the face of the Lord,” Kate smiles peacefully. The door to the museum opens and Gerard steps out, a rifle trained at Derek.

   He comes to stand next to his daughter. “The perversion of this place will end tonight,” he says, lifting his chin. “Your family,” he sneers,and its line of evil will be no more, and that faggot abomination that carries your spawn will burn, and the earth will be cleansed of you once and for all.”

   “I will tear you limb from limb,” Derek shakes out. “You will not lay a finger on them I swear.”

   Kate smiles, dropping her head with a little shake. She turns slightly. “Maria!” she calls over her shoulder.

   A moment later there is a whoosh coming from the lighthouse just as the ground floor windows light up with the yellow flicker of flames.

   Derek rears back, the light dancing across his face. “No. No. NO!” he roars, charging and bashing himself against the barrier just like before.

   Gerard takes aim at Derek. “I will not miss again, you son of a bitch.”

   A gunshot rings out.

   Gerard yells, his shoulder jerking back, dropping his rifle.

   “Dad!” Kate screams as Gerard goes down.

   “Derek, run!” Jordan yells, charging from the direction of the road, his gun held aloft.

   From nowhere Kate produces a handgun, swinging her arm up and around and pulls the trigger.

   Jordan screams and stumbles, grabbing his leg as he rolls to the ground.

   Kate turns the gun on Derek, a sliver of hair brushing across her face.

   A sudden blaze of light has her lifting her hand to her eyes. Derek turns at the sound of a powerful engine revving from behind the approaching headlights, and dives out of the way just as Bobby comes speeding through the tunnel, horn blaring.

   Kate shoots blindly at the truck. A headlight blinks out; another bullet punching through the windshield.

   The trucks swerves violently, tyres ploughing through the gravel before it slams into Chris’ parked truck, shunting it sideways, its back tires throwing up a wave of gravel and dirt.

   It’s like Derek can suddenly breathe again. He sits up, the break in the line of mountain ash where the truck tyres ploughed through it as clear in his mind as a physical door opened in a windowless room.

   “Jordan!” he yells, standing up.

   “Go I’m fine!”

   Derek doesn’t waste another second. He sprints for the break in time to see Kate disappearing through the museum door, a cloud of smoke billowing out.

   He runs after her, claws spread.

oOo

“That’s gonna leave a mark,” Angus groans, holding a hand to the cut on his forehead, clouds of steam hissing from below the crumpled hood of the truck.

   Next to him Bobby too leans back in his seat, blinking dazedly at the bullet hole in the cracked windscreen. He has a hand cupped over his ear, blood dripping from between his fingers. “Why is everyone shooting at me?”

   A low groan sounds up from the bed of the truck, a tied-up Murray trying to roll over on his back.

   “Jordan!” someone yells.

   “Go I’m fine!”

   Angus blinks, looking out the smashed windscreen. “Jordy?” He tries the door but it won’t budge. Shoving it with his shoulder it opens with metal screech.

   He stumbles out, hurrying over to Jordan. “You okay?”

   “’m fine it’s just my leg.”

   “Jesus Mary and Joseph what the hell is going on? Everyone’s gone bat-shit crazy!” He looks around, sucking in air when a ground floor window pops and flames shoot out. “Fire. FIRE!”

   Jordan groans, hand clamped around his thigh. He looks up past Angus. “W-where’d he go?”

   “Where’d who go?”

   “Gerard!”

oOo

Holding his arms over his mouth Derek moves as fast as he can through the smoke filled museum.

   “Stiles! Laura!” he yells, running up the back stairs. He doubles back and ducks when bits of plaster hits the side of his face from a gunshot, ears ringing.

   “And through his shrewdness he will cause deceit to succeed by his influence-” but Maria doesn’t get to finish her rant.

   Derek charges forward, roaring, tackling the woman around the midriff and throwing her backward. She hits a wall with dull thump and falls to the floor where she stays, motionless.

   Derek doesn’t spare her a second glance.

   He forges on, kicking down the door that leads to the tower.

   Smoke funnels up through the stairs, Derek taking them two at a time. He doesn’t slow down when he reaches the hatch and shoulders it open, the wood cracking and tearing from its hinges and leaps through the opening.

   Laura screams, clutching Seth to her.

   Across from Derek Kate has an arm around Stiles throat, her gun held against his head, her hair in disarray and her face soot-smeared. Laura sits on the floor, her back against the glass and knees drawn up, Seth tucked into her lap. His little cheeks are tear-stained, Laura holding her jacket over his mouth as the pilothouse is steadily filled with smoke.

   “Kate,” Derek holds up his hands, “Let them go. You want me, you can have me. Just let them go.”

   Kate smiles. She lowers the gun, pressing it against Stiles’ belly.

   “No! No, please,” Derek lets his claws recede, his features melding back to normal. “I will do anything, I swear, just let them go.”

   “The one who is coming is in accord with the activity of Satan,” she says, “With all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.”

   “Seth no!” Laura yells, but the boy has already managed to scamper from her arms, right towards Stiles.

   He grabs hold of his leg. “Don’t hurt him!”

   The movement jostles them, distracting Kate.

   Derek bursts from his shirt as he lunges.

   Kate doesn’t have time to scream when her wrist is snapped – dropping the gun - and Derek’s other hand clamp down around her throat, cutting off any and all protests. He lifts her clean off the floor and slams her back against the glass in one move, hard enough to shatter several panes and bend the frames.

   Stiles stumbles to the side, falling half over Seth. Laura scrambles closer, grabbing both of them.

   Kate scratches feebly at Derek’s giant, fur-covered hand crushing her throat, the thick muscles of his arm taught, his eyes burning. She tries to suck in air, her mouth working but only broken whimpers coming out.

   Derek brings her closer, holding her right to his twisted face. He lets his fangs push from between his lips, catching the red of his eyes in the watery glint of her own.

   “Burn in Hell,” he whispers through thickened vocal cords and throws her back against the glass.

   Kate smashes through, her arms and legs cartwheeling as she goes flying amid a shower of glass and frames, her screams swallowed up by the night.

   A fresh, crisp breeze blows into the pilothouse through the smashed windows, clearing the air a bit before the smoke intensives again and start billowing from the hole.

   Derek, chest heaving, his clawed hands trembling, startles when a hand gently touches his arm.

   Stiles doesn’t say a word, keeping his hand on Derek’s arm.

   Slowly his claws recede, his fangs grow back, his eyes die down.

   Stiles’ chin trembles. “Derek?”

   Derek has a moment where he just looks at Stiles, broad chest rising and falling. He pulls him in then, burying his face in his hair. Laura stands closer with Seth curled up in her arms. Derek pulls them in too, crushing his family to his chest.

oOo

They manage to make it to the base of the tower where Derek kicks open and old service door, Stiles in his arms, leading them out into crisp fresh air under the star-strewn night sky beyond.

   Turning the corner they spot Bobby aiming a garden hosepipe at the front door of the museum, the thin stream of water getting lost amid the raging smoke and flames.

   “Laura!” Jordan spots them and hobbles over. Laura also starts running, Seth bouncing along in her arms. They grab each other, sagging down to their knees in the grass.

   Derek sets Stiles down, who at once shrugs off Derek’s borrowed flannel over-shirt, trying his best to rip off the one arm.

   “Stiles,” Derek covers his hand.

   “You’re still bleeding. I need to stop the bleeding,” he pulls at the fabric.

   “Let me,” Derek says, gently taking the shirt from him and tearing the seams like it is tissue paper.

   Stiles untangles the soaked dishcloth, letting it fall to the grass. Derek pulls off his shirt, using it to mop up as much of the blood as he can.

   “Why aren’t you healing?” Stiles scowls, wrapping the strip of fabric around his arm.

   “The bullet was laced with aconite. It just needs to be cleaned out.”

   Stiles glances up at him. He tries a few times to secure the makeshift bandage, but his hands shake too much.

   Derek covers his hands, helping him to tuck the end in.

   Stiles only stares at the dressed wound, his chin trembling.

   “Hey,” Derek pulls him in, tucking his head against his chest. “It’s okay. I’m fine. We’re all fine.” He kisses Stiles’ head, “I got you. It’s over now.”

   Stiles snuffles against Derek’s chest, fisting at his chest hair. “Don’t you ever leave me again or I swear I will kill you myself.”

oOo

Only once before in the history of the island has the Beacon Harbour police station been this jam-packed with panicked townsfolk. The last time was back in the sixties during the Cuban missile crisis when a rumour had spread about the Russians about to invade the island, to use it as a strategic military base.

   Jordan does his best to calm people, leaning on a crutch, while Gladys hands out coffee and sandwiches.

   “Where’s the sheriff?” a late-comer yells through the melee.

   Gladys marches up to the man and points to Jordan. “There he is! Now mind your manners!”

oOo

“Bobby said they managed to save parts of the house, but the museum is a loss.”

   Derek glances up at his sister, then back to where he is softly combing through Stiles’ hair. He is sitting on the bed next to him, Stiles curled on his side in Jordan’s spare bedroom, fast asleep, the curtains drawn against the night.

   “Everyone’s okay, that’s all that matters.”

   “I guess,” Laura sighs. She looks over Stiles’ sleeping form before inspecting the bandage around Derek’s arm. “How’re you feeling?”

   Derek shrugs. “Almost healed. The moment Miriam washed it out it started to ease up.”

   Laura shakes her head. She rests a hand on Stile’s blanket-covered ankle. “Okay, well, I’ll be with Seth if you need me.”

   “I’ll look after Seth,” Derek takes her hand. “Go to the station, be with Jordy. I can imagine half the town is there at the moment.”

   “And then some.”

   “We’ll be fine. Go,” Derek encourages, taking her hand.

   Laura stands up, trailing her hand through her brothers’ as she leaves. At the door she turns. “Love you.”

   “Love you too, sis.”

   Laura smiles, her gaze flicking between Derek and Stiles before she leaves.

   Derek waits for the sound of her truck before he carefully stands up from the bed. He walks down the hallway to check in on Seth then heads to the kitchen.

   Filling a glass with water from the fridge he downs it all before he shuts the fridge door. He notices the tremor in his hand, his knuckles white around the handle.

   It is the faint sound of a strange heartbeat that pulls Derek back, that saves the fridge door handle from being crushed.

   He spins around when the distinct sound of a window sash sliding up sets his own heart on a gallop, the unfamiliar heart beat now inside the house. He moves to the door, stepping into the hallway. 

   Gerard stands at the end of the passage, illuminated by the light falling from the open guest bedroom door between them. One arm hangs limp, the sleeve drenched in blood from shoulder to elbow, his other arm raised, pointing a gun at Derek.

   Derek crouches only slightly and lets his eyes flash, his jaw going tight. “It’s over, Gerard.”

   “Not while any of your kind is still breathing,” Gerard grinds out, the gun shaking in his grip.

   “Derek?” Stiles appears in the bedroom doorway.

   Gerard points the gun at Stiles.

   Derek roars, moving with supernatural speed.

  His claws sink into Gerard’s sides, crunching up and through his rib cage, puncturing his lungs and heart just as the gun goes off.

   The thunderous sound rips through the air in the enclosed hallway.

   Both men go flying, hitting the floor hard enough to rattle pictures on the wall. They skid along until they hit a chair, Derek’s momentum rolling him off Gerard.

   Blood froths around the corners of Gerard’s mouth, his eyes staring up at the ceiling. His chest convulses with the effort to suck in air. He releases a final, rattling breath with one hand curled around nothing.

   Stiles wills life back into his frozen legs and moves into the hall, stepping over Gerard’s body. “Derek? Derek!” He kneels next to him, shaking him, turning him over onto his back.

   Derek’s eyes flutter. Bright red slowly blossoms outward from the neat hole in the centre of his shirt, right in the middle of his chest.

   “Oh god no, no… Derek? Oh fuck,” Stiles blubbers. He crams both hands over the wound, Derek’s blood warm against his skin. “Derek p-please… Someone help me!”

   “Mommy?” Seth looks around the corner of his bedroom door.

   “Seth! Baby, call mommy, okay? Quickly!”

   The little boy recoils back, his chin beginning to quiver.

   “Seth! Call mommy!”

   Derek rests his hand over both Stiles’. “Derek! Jesus, just… hang on, okay? Please, just, heal for me okay? Heal, like you always do, we’ll get help.”

   Derek slowly shakes his head, looking up at Stiles with lids half closed. “Aconite… bullet…”

   “What? No! No, it’s okay, just… hold on, please… Seth!” Stiles screams again, looking around at the little boy who is now sitting in the doorway, sobbing.

   “It’s okay… Stiles… It’s okay…”

   Stiles looks back, his own tears falling from his cheeks, bright red blood seeping up around his clenched fingers. “No! Don’t you fucking dare!”

   “Take care… of our child… ‘kay? Love you two… so much.”

   “Fuck you! Don’t you dare die on my! Derek p-please…”

   A light vibration like a truck rumbling past in the road shakes the pictures on the wall. It takes a second for Stiles to feel the vibration in his hands, the low, deep hum settling in his bones.

   He blinks, his vision blurry through all the tears.

   The vibration moves and slithers to settle in his stomach. The baby kicks – once; twice. Stiles gasps, the hair on his forearms standing up, pins and needles racing through his body. Seth sobs louder, little hands clapped over his ears as the house creak under the increasing vibrations.

   Stiles looks down at his belly. He can feel it now, the low vibrations coming from him. From the baby…

   A simmering heat building in his hands has his eyes snap back to where they are still pressed to Derek’s chest.

   His mouth falls open when he sees black lines just under his skin race along his veins like his blood has turned to quicksilver, up his arms, through his body and into his belly.

   The baby kicks again, much harder this time, enough to have Stiles grunt.

   Outside the Northern Lights flash and dance across the heavens, reflecting in the tranquil waters of the harbour.

   Derek’s eyes flutter open.      

     oOo

Chapter Text

The small carved wooden bowl gets passed from Senchían to Senchían, a thin curl of white smoke twirling in its wake, the whole village forming a line in the dark from the sacred island down to the exposed tidal flat. Inside the bowl, amongst the smouldering herbs lies a single white orchid blossom. Not a word is spoken. Other than the far-off cry of a nocturnal bird, the constant whisper of small waves sweeping over the pebble beach is the only sound.

   At the end of the line of people the bowl gets handed to a little girl, who looks up at her mother before taking it. Bowl cupped in her hands, arms outstretched, she walks barefoot over the exposed sand bank, the stars reflected in the few pools of water left behind.

   Behind her and her mother stands Jonah, the only person not to have handled the bowl. He settles a hand on the mother’s shoulder, both watching the little girl walk to where the tide laps at the edge of the sand.

   She bends down and sets the bowl adrift.

   Jonah starts up with a soft chant, the rest of the village joining in one after the other. The mother hangs her head, her chin trembling. The little girl runs back to her, wrapping her arms around her waist. The whole village gather around the woman and her daughter, their voices softly rising and falling with their chant.

   “Will daddy be safe now, mommy?”

   “Y-yes, baby,” the woman sobs, a watery smile breaking through none the less.

   “Aaron was a brave man. He will never be forgotten,” Jonah says.

   Above, with the stars as backdrop, luminescent green curls of light whip and flash about.

   Only Jonah does not look up like the rest of his entranced kin. His gaze is cast out across the dark waters of the ocean, the lightshow shimmering across its surface, where every now and then a plume of spray, unseen in the night, breaks the surface of the water to disturb the reflection of the aurora above.     

oOo

Derek knows he must fight back against whoever is torturing him, whoever is busy pulling his insides out through his chest. But he has no energy left. He just wants to go to sleep. Stiles is safe, Laura and Seth too. And the baby will-

   He gasps, eyes yanking open. He sucks in a lungful of air, the first exhale followed by a burn in his chest that twists his diaphragm. He tries again, his body shaking, the fire igniting his bones. Another gasp for air and the flames retreat, die down, until there is no pain.

   He blinks up, makes out a ceiling; painted cornices; the light sconce of the hallway – Jordan’s hallway. A child’s hysterical crying slowly intensifies in his ears.

   “St-Stiles…” he groans, turning his head.

   Stiles is sitting on the floor, legs out, his back against the wall with one hand supporting his sagging body, the other curled around his stomach. His eyes are half closed, a sheen to his forehead. Gerard’s body lies to the side, his chest a mess of ripped and bloodied shirt.

   “Stiles?” Derek struggles up to a half-sitting/half-leaning position. He catches sight of his own bloodied shirt, fingering the hole where the bullet went through. He pulls the shirt over his head, his hands patting over where the chest hair is matted with his own blood, but with no wound to show for it. “How… what did you…”

   With great difficulty Stiles lifts his head, his pasty skin dark under his eyes. “Derek… I… I think-” His face suddenly contracts in pain, his arm tightening around his swollen belly.

   Derek is up, sliding over to Stiles on his knees. “Stiles? Stiles! Are you okay?”

   “The baby… I-I think it’s coming.”

oOo

“Seriously?” Laura sighs, scanning the parking lot in front of the police station for a space. The headlights of the truck sweep over car after car, people still streaming through the front door.

   She finds a space a block up, shaking her head at the craziness of it all, when her cell phone lights up the ceiling of the cab from the seat next to her.

   She grabs it. “Derek?”

   It is Seth’s uncontrollable sobbing that answers, interrupting Derek’s strained voice. “You need to come quick.”

   She’s already starting the car again. “What happened? Baby, mommy’s coming!”

   “It’s not Seth it’s Stiles!”

oOo

Laura already has the door open even before the truck has come to a complete stop. She jumps from the cab and sprints along the garden path to the front porch.

   Ripping the screen door open she bounds down the hallway, only to skid to a halt, a hand smothering the scream when she sees the sheet-covered body, blood soaking through in patches.

   “Derek! Stiles!” she yells.

   “In here!” Derek calls.

   Laura rushes into the spare bedroom. She takes in Stiles lying on the bed, his breathing shallow, but quickly zeros in on her brother holding Seth. She reaches out, Derek already holding the boy out to her. The boy clings to his mother, burying his face in her neck.

   “What the hell,” she gasps when she sees the state of his shirt, holding her boy tight.

   “I’m fine,” he says, his attention already back on Stiles, hurrying to the bed to settle next to him, a hand on his brow. “You should get Seth out of here. Miriam is on her way.”

   Laura cradles her child, a hand to the back of his head. “What in God’s name happened here? Why is there a body in the hall?”

   “It’s Gerard. He… he found us… He tried to shoot Stiles,” Derek says, sweeping away Stiles’ damp hair from his forehead, “and then I kill… I killed him. But he shot me, and Stiles somehow… I… He…”

   “He what?”

   Derek looks right at his sister. “He healed me. The bullet, it was aconite, but he somehow, pulled it, pulled the poison out, and now… now…”

   “What are you saying? Derek you’re not making any sense!”

   “I don’t know!” Derek yells at his sister, curling his body further around Stiles’ smaller frame. “I don’t know, okay?” his voice breaks. “He saved me, but it somehow affected the b-baby and I d-don’t know what to do.”

   “Alright, alright,” Laura takes a few deep breaths, rocking Seth. “I’ll get some towels, try to cool him down, okay? you said Miriam is on her way? Derek?”

   Derek nods, hands never leaving Stiles save to wipe his own eyes. “Yeah.”

   “Okay. He’ll be fine, Stiles will be okay.”

oOo

   Except for Jonah, the shore is deserted, everyone having gone back to their homes.

   The chief stands with his arms crossed over his chest, hands cupping his shoulders. His face is turned to the sky, though his eyes are closed, the intermittent aurora lighting up the starry heavens. He is chanting, softly, feet apart and chin out while the almost imperceptible bursts of spouting water drifts in and out like the tide around his feet.

   “I know,” he says, breaking his chant.

   Miriam halts behind her husband, still a few feet away, her cell phone clutched in her hand. “What must I do?”

   “Bring him here.”

oOo

Miriam hurries up the front-porch stairs, not bothering to knock. “Hello? Laura?” she calls out, walking down the hallway.

   Laura leans out an open door, Seth limp in her arms, head rested on her shoulder with both eyes closed. “Miriam,” she exhales when she sees her.

   Miriam pulls her in for a hug, squashing Seth between them. She rubs Seth’s back when they part before stepping around them into the bedroom.

   Derek has Stiles pulled half into his lap, patting a wet washcloth over his forehead and cheeks. He looks up when Miriam walks in, his eyes red-rimmed.

   Miriam sits down next to Derek. “It’s okay, Derek,” she lays a hand on his arm. “Let’s go. We’re going back to the village.”

   Derek’s lips quiver, his gaze trialling back to Stiles. Silently he gathers him in his arms and stands up from the bed, following Miriam out of the house.

oOo

Derek sits in the backseat, cradling Stiles in his arms. “Don’t go to sleep, okay? Stay with me, we’re almost there.”

   Laura glances around constantly from the front passenger seat, Seth asleep in her arms.

   Stiles licks his lips, his lashes feathering over his cheeks. “Who… who’s Wumble?”

   “Wumble?” Derek’s hand freezes. “How do you know about him?”

   “You-“ Stiles swallows, his eyelids heavy. “You wanted to give him to Seth, when he was born.”

   Laura’s head snaps around. “Derek. Oh my God.”

   “How… how could you possibly…”

   “Derek?” Miriam looks at him in the rear-view mirror, “Everything okay?”

   Derek just gapes at her, then back at Stiles. “Yeah, It… It was an old stuffed toy… when I was a child. Rumble… I c-couldn’t pronounce the r… It burned with the house. How did you…”

   Stiles smiles, small and tired. “W-when I touched you, I… I saw… I saw you… Your memories…” He holds his fingers to Derek’s cheek, his skin clammy, his other hand across his belly. “I saw everyone.”

   Derek doesn’t try to close his mouth or stop the tears from spilling over. Stiles’ hand slips from his face as his eyes fall shut. “Stiles? Stiles! No, Stiles wake up! Miriam!”

   “Almost there,” Miriam says calmly, though she steps on the gas, her car speeding through the night.

   At last the lights of the village appear through the forest, the vast darkness of the ocean beyond a never-ending backdrop. Miriam drives through the village to the shore, skidding to a halt on the loose stones that announce the start of the beach.

   “Quickly,” Miriam instructs as she gets out of the car. Laura opens her door but Miriam stops her. “Stay here. This is just for Stiles and Derek.”

   Derek bundles Stiles in his arms and slides out. “Where are we going?”

   “Follow me.”

   Derek does, though when it becomes clear that they’re walking towards the ocean, Derek stops. “Miriam? Where are we going?”

   “To the island.”

   “He needs a hospital!” Derek yells, his voice carrying over the deserted shore, Stiles limp in his arms.

   Miriam turns. “Trust me, please. This is the only way we can save him.”

   Derek gets distracted by a series of torches flickering to life on the rocky island off shore, the lights reflecting across the puddles scattered across the exposed tidal flat. Some of the torches are coming closer, though, and Derek watches with lips parted as about half a dozen people clear the dense pinnacle of forest on the crest of the small island to walk down to the tidal flat and towards them.

   Soon he can make out Jonah’s tall form leading the small party.

   “Come,” Miriam gently urges him. Derek follows, his feet soon leaving the pebble-strewn beach behind to squelch across the muddy sand of the flat.

   A flash of green light has him looking up just as the tail-end of an aurora sweeps past over head, followed by several more spectacular bursts of light-ribbons.

   “Derek,” Jonah’s voice startles him back. The chief stands before him, surrounded by several other people, each holding a torch. In the flickering golden light, Derek can make out every line on their faces and every strand of silvery hair.

   “Please help him, Jonah, please,” Derek whispers, his voice breaking on every word.

   Jonah nods, then turns and walks away. Derek follows him after just a second, the others forming a line on each side of them. They begin to softly chant as they walk, the night sky periodically lit up by more and more auroras.

   They are halfway to the island when Derek becomes aware of another sound: bursts of water being sprayed into the air. He looks out over the black water in time to see several glistening bodies breaking the surface on either side of them, their fins reflecting the green light in the sky. He can only stare for several seconds as the animals seem to slowly follow them, moving almost unseen through the waters on each side of the flats.

    “Stiles. Stiles, baby, wake up, please wake up. Look, it’s your whales,” Derek whispers, smiling through his tears.

    Stiles barely stirs, but his eyes do flutter open eventually. Derek holds him a bit higher, enough for him to lift his chin and focus on the ocean.

   He smiles, as tired as before, blinking slowly. “It’s true.”

   Derek hugs him close, kissing his head. “What’s true, baby?”

   “The legends,” he sags back again, his hands going to his belly. “They seek out the light.”

   “Yeah, of course, and they’re here for you. Stiles? Stiles? Baby please don’t go to sleep, please stay with me.”

   But his eyes have fallen closed again, even as Derek shakes him.

   “Derek, give him to me,” Jonah instructs.

   They have reached the small island, a tight pathway leading up from the narrow, boulder-strewn shore exposed by the tide. Derek swallows, tear-tracks disappearing into his beard. Miriam lays a hand on his shoulder. Derek takes a step toward the chief, and the older man just about has to pry Stiles from his arms.

   The chief holds Stiles, scanning him. “He has been poisoned.”

   “Yeah, yes, he… I got s-shot… and he placed his h-hands on me, and-“

   “It’s all right,” Jonah stops him. “We knew he was gifted, we just didn’t know how.” He straightens up, holding Stiles’ limp form close. “You may enter this sacred land,” Jonah speaks directly to Derek.

   Derek nods vigorously, sniffing and wiping at his eyes. “Just, please help him.”

oOo

They climb the narrow path to the centre of the island, the others following behind, their chanting a continuous drone around Derek.

   They enter a small clearing in the dense forest, the light from the torches not reaching the top of the trees surrounding them, their massive old trunks disappearing into the dark like the pillars of a cathedral.

   It is the clusters of orchids that grab Derek’s attention first, though, the multitude of small white flowers turned a pale gold in the dancing flames of the torches. There are bushes of them all around, some cascading from the nooks of branches and along cracks in a moss-covered boulder. Their soft, sweet fragrance mix with the almost raw, heavy scent of earth and mulch, overlaid by the ever-present ocean brine.

   While Derek stands transfixed, the others form a loose circle around the perimeter, with Jonah standing opposite Derek. Miriam walks into the centre where she crouches down and unrolls a thick, wide fur pelt. Another woman helps her, setting small wooden bowls down around the pelt, lighting the contents with her torch until each bowl emits a lazy white curl of smoke.

   Jonah steps forward only after the last bowl has been lit, laying Stiles down on the fur. He crouches down next to him, tucking his feet in under his legs.  

   Miriam, holding a wooden bowl similar but larger to the others surrounding Stiles, joins her husband, kneeling by his side. She rucks Stiles’ shirt up to completely expose his distended belly, his skin shiny and pallid in the torch light.

   From the bowl, Jonah scoops a dark paste and smears it in a rough line across Stiles’ belly, below his navel, then leaves his hand there – the muck oozing out from between his fingers.

   He frowns, moving his hand around. “This life saved yours,” he says, slowly looking up at Derek, “Growing quick to be strong.”

   “Growing quick…” Derek shakes his head. “What…? What are you…? This was supposed to happen?”

   Jonah doesn’t answer him, instead dragging his hand through the wet paste. He moves around and lifts Stiles’ head onto his lap. He frames Stiles’ face with his hands, leaving smears across his cheek. He starts up with his chanting again, his words different than those surrounding them, his voice deeper and slower.      

   Stiles’ face twists, his hands falling limply on his stomach. Two of the torch-bearers stand closer and kneel next to him, each securing a hand. Stiles rocks from side to side, his eyes half opening.

   Derek steps closer too but Jonah stops him with a slow shake of his head, never breaking his string of chants. Around them the chanting increases in volume, Stiles struggling against those holding his hands.

   “D-Derek,” Stiles whines, his eyelids fluttering.

   A green and blue glow shine down through the canopy of trees, flashes of spectral light pulsing from above.

   Derek starts forward at once, but this time Miriam stops him with a hand in the air.

   “Derek!” Stiles yells again, his whole body twisting. “Help me!”

   “I’m right here, Stiles,” Derek whimpers, fisting his hands. “I’m right here, baby, just hold on.”

   The aurora lights up the dark heavens, outshining the torches. Miriam dips her hand into the bowl, retrieving a long knife with a curved blade.

   “Miriam…” Derek stamps forward, his feet digging into the mulch and dirt.

   Miriam ignores him, pressing the blade to one side of Stiles’ belly, and with a quick and precise motion drags it across his skin.

   Stiles screams, bucking in their hold.

   Derek roars, his fangs and claws glinting in the fire light.

   Everyone stops chanting, a few jerking back from Derek.

   The lights above flash from green to blue, fading to red, then wink out.

   Derek can’t move, even with Miriam blocking his view, her elbows working as she fusses over Stiles.

   A tiny cough - a hiccup, really, breaks the utter silence.

   Then, a cry: small, piercing, the sound of a new-born taking its first breath.

   “Oh God,” Derek whimpers, sagging to his knees.

   Miriam sits up right, her back still to Derek, cradling something in her arms as the tiny little screams build and pitch, build and pitch.

   Derek half crawls into the circle, his vision blurry from all the tears. He scampers until he is next to Miriam just as she folds a small fur around the baby in her arms, pink little fists and feet shaking at the world, blood-smeared little face scrunched up with every whimpering mewl.

   “Stiles, oh my G-God,” Derek sobs, moving closer, holding both trembling hands out to the baby.

   “Your daughter,” Miriam hands her to Derek, the little bundle easily fitting in his large hands

   “Daughter? Daughter?” he blubbers, tucking her to his chest. He carefully folds the fur away. Her little face is still scrunched up, but the cries have died down. Another sob burst from Derek’s mouth. He smiles, tears flowing freely now. “Hey, hi, baby. You’re so perfect, so p-perfect.”

   She snuffles, tiny fists fussing about while a soft, shaky whimper trembles from her rosebud lips. He holds her to his face, rubbing his nose along her head, careful with his beard.

   “Come on, Stiles,” Miriam whispers, rubbing her hands up his thighs.

   Derek looks up. “What’s wrong?”

   “He’s not waking up,” Miriam answers.

   “W-what?” Derek blinks a few times before he focuses on Stiles, their daughter held to his chest.

   Jonah has started up with his chanting again, grasping Stiles’ lolling head. There is a bloody smear across his belly, mixed with the strange dark paste, but the cut itself has already healed, a raw scar glistening in the dim light.

   “Stiles?” Derek calls.

   Jonah looks up at Miriam. “We are losing him. I have to go.”

   Her hands slow to a stop, never taking her eyes off her husband. Eventually she nods, lowering her head.

   “What? Miriam?” Derek frantically swings between them. “Jonah? What’s going on?”

   Jonah lifts Stiles’ limp body to a sitting position, Miriam shifting over to change places with him. Once he is settled again in Miriam’s lap Jonah lays a hand over her shoulder. She grabs for it, kissing his palm. “Come back to me.”

   He kneels, hugging her from behind. With a last kiss to her head he walks out of the circle.

   “Jonah? Where’re you going?” Derek asks, looking from Jonah to Miriam, who is watching her husband leave, her own eyes now glistening. “Miriam? What the hell is going on?”

   “He is going to save Stiles”.

oOo

   Jonah drops his shirt on top of his pants where it is bundled on the sand. He looks up at the flashes of light before he walks forward, the water lapping around his ankles, then his shins, then up to his thighs.

   He crosses his arms over his chest, throwing his head back, his voice dipping and rising with every syllable, breaking on the high notes of his chant. His skin explodes in goose-bumps, his breath fogging.

   Several huge fins – some mother-of-pearl, others the distinct black and white of Orca, slice through the water around Jonah as the Northern Lights once again take over the sky.

   The water begins to churn, splashing him.

   The lights whip about, illuminating the frothing waters as if from below.

   Jonah shouts out his prayer and is sucked under.

   “Sea hunter,” Stiles whispers back in the clearing before he gasps awake, his head lifting off Miriam’s lap. A cry is torn from Miriam’s throat at the same time, just as those surrounding them join in, some dropping their torches and falling to their knees.

   Stiles blinks, turning his head. “D-Derek?”

   Derek shuffles over at once. “I’m right here, I’m right here.”  

   Stiles holds out a trembling hand and Derek grabs it, the baby clutched to his chest with the other. He pulls Stiles closer, off Miriam’s lap and half into his own. “Are you okay? God, Stiles, are you okay?” Derek stammers.

   “I… I think so. Jonah… He… he’s gone… but,” he glances at Miriam, holds out a hand to her. “But he’s still… here.”

   Miriam nods, taking Stiles’ hand, crying silently.

   Stiles lays back in Derek’s arms. He notices the little bundle. “Derek… Oh my God…” Stiles reaches out, hand trembling. He peels away the fur, a sob wracking through him when he lays eyes on the newborn.

   Derek holds him close, holds the baby closer, both cradled in his arms.

   “Say hello to Claudia,” Derek smiles, tears streaming down his cheeks.

 

 

Epilogue

 

 

Three years later.

 

Derek opens his eyes – not the slow flutter of the just waken up, but the wide open, alert at once kind. He doesn’t move though, Stiles’ warm and still deeply asleep body firmly tucked against his front like the little spoon he is, Derek with an arm around him and a leg rucked up between his’.

   After a bit, he shuts his eyes again, his nose pressed to the back of Stiles’ head, breathing in his scent. He pulls him in tighter, sighing as he snuggles into his pillow.

   Again, his eyes snap open, only to flutter closed on a sigh seconds later, his mouth curling up into a lazy smile.

   Lying as still as possible, he follows the rapid heartbeat and soft footsteps coming closer.

   “Babe,” he whispers, kissing Stiles’ head and rubbing up and down his chest.

   “Hmpf,” Stiles mumbles.

   “Babe, wake up.”

   “Too early,” Stiles whines, trying to pull his hips away from Derek’s lap, but his hold doesn’t let up.

   “No,” Derek grins, leaving another kiss on his crown. “She’s coming.”

   Stiles groans, then stretches, pushing back against Derek.

   “Well if you insist,” Derek fits him to his lap, pressing back with his hips. “But we have to be quick.”

   “Get away,” Stiles smiles sleepily, pushing blindly behind him at the immovable block of hairy man plastered against his back.

   Derek fits his teeth over the back of Stiles’ neck, running his fingers up over his ribs. Stiles squirms, kicking at Derek shins but he just clamps his legs down between his own. He goes still. “Shh, she’s here.”

   Sure enough, their bedroom door – only half closed – slowly opens further. There is a pause, a little mouse squeak, then little feet hitting the floor as she runs to the bed, squealing. “Wake up wake up wake up!”

   The moment the little body clambers onto the bed both Derek and Stiles sits up, roaring. She screams, falling on her butt and Derek is over her at once, pulling the squirming little body closer, tickling her while dodging flailing limbs.

   “No daddy!” she screams through her giggles as Derek lifts her up above his head.

   “Look, papa! I caught an intruder,” Derek lies back, holding the wiggling little girls high in the air, Stiles too lying back down.

   “No, I’m your daughter!” she giggles, trying to comb the locks of wavy brown hair from her face.

   “Hmm, I don’t know, daddy,” Stiles frowns, reaching up to tuck one of the strays behind her ear, “She looks like a scoundrel to me.”

   “Nooo m’not a scoundrel I’m your daughter!”

   “What do you think, papa?” Derek asks, turning her this way and that. She giggles, flapping her arms.

   “Well, she looks a bit like our daughter.”

   “And it is our daughter’s birthday today. Is it your birthday today?”

   “Yes!” she squeals, kicking her little legs.

   “It is?” Derek makes bug-eyes. “Then you must be our daughter!” and drops her to his chest, rubbing his beard all over her face. “Happy birthday my little pup!”

   She screams in delight, trying to pull his chest hair. “Eeuw, daddy, your breath stinks!”

   “Oh yeah?” he laughs, pulling Stiles in and rubbing his beard over his face as well.

   Stiles push his face away. “Happy birthday my angel,” he leans up and gives her kiss, dropping his head back on Derek’s shoulder, linking his fingers with Derek’s on her back.

   “Can we have cake now?”

   She bounces along with Derek’s chuckles.

   “Later,” Stiles says, snuggling deeper in Derek’s hold. “Your aunt will kill both your father and I if we cut that cake before the party.”

   “Can I come with you today?” she asks, rolling her head to the side to look at Stiles.

   “You know you get bored, puppy. And the boat is full, so papa is gonna be very busy keeping all the tourists happy.”

   She sighs, little fingers scratching at Derek’s beard. “Okay.”

   “Besides,” Derek combs through the tangles of her hair, “You need a nap before we can go to aunt Laura and uncle Jordy for your party.”

   “Is there gonna be presents?”

   “So many,” Derek says, his bug-eyes firmly in place again.

   She smiles, then hides her face against Derek’s chest, giggling.

   Stiles stretches forward to plant another kiss on her head, his fingers toying with Derek’s wedding band where their hands are still clasped together on their daughter’s back.

   Claudia turns her head, reaching out to Stiles. He takes her little hand, smothering it with kisses.

oOo

“For God’s sake, Trudy, the boy’s fine, just get in the boat already.”

   The woman – Trudy – ignores her husband and slathers on another layer of sunblock on her son’s face.

   “Mornin’, folks,” Stiles greets the mother and child standing on the jetty. “We will be leaving in about five minutes, why don’t you guys take your seats.”

   “See now?” the husband gestures to the packed tourist boat, camera swinging around his neck. “You’re holdin’ everyone up!”

   “Oh keep yer pants on, Jeremy, you know he blisters,” Trudy frowns, wiping down the boy’s rosy cheeks. “Okay, all done.”

   Once they’re on board and the gangway has been folded up, Stiles signals to Bobby, who starts the engine and slowly steers the boat away from the dock, The Whale Whisperer painted in bright, sloping cursive on the side.

   The moment the Whisperer has pulled away from the docks, several other engines rumble to life, churning the water. Stiles is quite used to it by now, ignoring the other tourist boats that begin to follow in the wake of the Whisperer.

   The sun sparkles across the harbour, the boat chugging past sailboats and other vessels filling up the waterway. Stiles stands at the bow, one arm curled around one of the front stanchions holding the canopy up, gazing across the water.

   Once they reach the open ocean, Stiles takes a microphone and turns to the tourist lining the boat. “Good morning everyone! Welcome to Hales Whales, the only guaranteed whale watching tour this side of the planet. My name is Stiles and I will be your whale whisperer for today. On today’s tour, we will be encountering blue whales and humpbacks, some orcas, and if you’re lucky, the ever mysterious North Pacific quilac.”

   He launches into a well rehearsed speech, listing traits and amazing factoids about each animal. There are many questions, especially from all the kids, people hanging from his lips.

   “Okay folks,” he announces once Bobby has switched off the engine. “We’re just gonna take it easy now, drift around a bit, wait for those magnificent beasties to show up to their own party.”

   There are a few titters of laughter amid the constant click of camera shutters.

   “So, why don’t all the kids join me here at the stern,” he says, walking to the back of the boat where a platform is built out over the water.

   There is mad rush, a whole bunch of eager children jumping up and down, a chorus of pleas sounding up, and soon Stiles is surrounded by eager faces all crowding around him, a few parents also standing closer.

   Stiles slips off his shoes and sits down, dangling his feet in the water, the boat riding the gentle swell. The water rises and falls from his ankles to mid-shin, crystal clear at the surface, turning to a deep fathomless blue.

   “Okay guys, you need to be as quiet as you can, okay?” Stiles says, lowering his voice. He has both hands resting on the lip of the wooden deck. He straightens the fingers of one hand, letting the tide dip and pull them from the water. No one notices the way he wiggles them every time they dip below, instead staring out over the water, camera’s clicking away.

   As always, it starts with pins-and-needles, rising up from his toes to break out in goose-bumps across his back.

   “Mommy look!” a child yells suddenly, followed by several gasps and woah’s.

   From the deep blue depths a ghostly form takes shape. It grows bigger and bigger, a few people standing back with nervous giggles until the whale – a juvenile, about the same size as the Whisperer – turns away to break the surface about a dozen feet away from the boat.

   Spontaneous applause erupts, people gasping and talking all at once, camera shutters going nuts.

   The juvenile humpback is soon joined by another larger whale, the two animals gliding along just under the surface, breaching every now and then with a big plume of water spouting from their blow-holes.

   Within ten minutes a whole pod surrounds the boat, a few strays going off to inspect the other vessels, massive tailfins fanning the air. Excited conversations and children yelling at their parents to Look! Look! carries on without pause.

   Stiles remains seated, fingers dipping in the water on and off. He watches the whales, smiling. “Thank you, Jonah,” he whispers.

oOo

Derek sets the mountain of presents down on the kitchen table, the leftover birthday cake balanced in his other hand, his cell phone pinned between shoulder and ear.

   “Yes, yes, I know how much the town council offered, Gladys, but Stiles isn’t interested. He wants to focus on the info centre. The plans have been approved.” He looks at Stiles, shaking his head.

   Stiles only smiles, their daughter asleep in his arms, her Elsa dress a cloud of blue and silver satin netting.

   “I know we didn’t get a chance to talk at the party, but it’s difficult when you a have a dozen three year-olds screaming and running around. Yes, I know. Yes, I will call you later,” he rolls his eyes. “Okay. Okay. Thanks, Gladys, you too. Yes, she loves the present. Okay, okay bye.”

   He drops the phone in his hand. “There is an actual ringing in my ear now.”

   “She means well,” Stiles smiles. “Let’s put this one to bed.”

   Derek follows Stiles, and just before they take the stairs lifts him off the ground and into his arms.

   “Derek!” Stiles angry whispers, though he cannot contain his smile.

   Derek grins at him, his gaze falling to Claudia still soundly asleep in Stiles’ arms.

   “You gonna put us both to bed now?”

   “Separate beds,” Derek frowns. “She’ll be scarred for life if she saw what I’m about to do to her papa.”

   “Oh yeah?”

   “Oh yeah,” Derek leans down for a deep kiss, using Claudia’s slumber to steal a bit of tongue from Stiles.

   He climbs the stairs with his family in his arms, walking down the short hallway to Claudia’s bedroom where he gently sets Stiles down on his feet, keeping a hand on his shoulder.

   Stiles is about to lay her down when she stirs.

   “Wanna sleep in your bed,” she whines, rubbing her eyes.

   “Puppy,” Stiles begins.

   “But it’s my birthday.”

   Derek snorts. “She’s got you there, papa.”

   “Guess who’s not gettin’ any tonight,” Stiles smirks right back.

   Derek pulls him in flush, Stiles’ back to his chest. “Oh there are many other beds in this lighthouse, Mister Hale,” he whispers against his ear.

   Stiles cranes his neck around. “If you say so, Mister Hale,” he smiles and lifts his chin for a kiss.

   In their own bedroom Stiles lays the three year-old down on the bed. She is asleep again the moment her head hits the pillow. He manages to slip off the skirt part of her dress before pulling the covers over her while Derek walks over to the window and pulls down the block-out blind.

   Teeth brushed and pyjamas on, they slide into bed on either side of Claudia. Her eyes flutter open, her cheeks rosy. “Papa your tummy sounds funny.”

   Stiles frowns with a smile, looking up at Derek, who is gazing down at his daughter with a soft frown of his own.

   “What do you mean, puppy?” Derek asks. “What does it sound like?”

   Claudia yawns. “It’s ticking.”

   Over their daughter Stiles and Derek’s eyes lock.

   Outside, a burst of aurora flashes over the lighthouse.

 

The end.