Chapter 1: Hello, My Name Is Human
Part I – Hello, My Name is Human
Get up off your knees, boy
Stand face to face with your God
And find out what you are
(Hello, my name is human)
- My Name is Human by Highly Suspect
Stiles bowed his head and tried to still the trembling in his fingers.
It didn’t really work. His fingers continued to spasm.
Tomorrow he would be starting the first phase of their mission and even though it involved putting himself on the line, that wasn’t what made him nervous.
He had a lot to atone for but if this plan was going to work, everything had to be flawlessly executed.
Stiles and flawlessly executed when it came to a human working amidst wolves that wanted to tear his head off…yeah, this was totally going to end well. Not.
“Let’s remember, we’re here to provide support for special ops and this is their show. Any questions?” Derek’s voice boomed across the room at his team.
His team, codename Wolves, stared back impassively.
To no one’s shock, Erica raised her hand. “Tell me again why we’re playing second banana to a Smoothie, uh,” Erica broke off, scowling; she wasn’t supposed to use such a politically weighted word and if Derek wanted to make something of it, she could be court martialed.
When Derek did nothing but raise an eyebrow, Erica composed herself and then continued on, “I meant Skin. What the hell can some Skin bring to the table that we can’t other than get in our way and slow us down?”
Skin was a less politically charged term although it was still derogatory. Then again Skins called Werewolves equally offensive names, like Furfaces and Mutts. Or they referred to Supernatural beings as Stranges or Sinisters.
Derek pinched the bridge of his nose. He didn’t like this, playing second fiddle to another team, any better than the rest of his Wolves. They had a proven track record of getting results and they did it on their own terms. He could tell by looking around, Boyd and Isaac were also unimpressed, their mouths pulled into taut lines of disapproval.
“I don’t create the orders, I just execute them. Flawlessly. Which is exactly what our team is going to do. You feel me?” Derek snapped out.
There was a hierarchy in place for a reason and subordinates questioning their superiors was a big no-no and Derek wasn’t going to tolerate it. Maybe the fact that he’d questioned his own superior, his sister Laura, and gotten his own hand slapped for it was affecting him but if he couldn’t get away with it then no one on his team could either.
A brisk knock at the door announced the arrival of their guests. “Come in!” he called out and then in a low undertone only designed for supernaturally enhanced hearing he said, “Behave.”
To Derek’s surprise, True Alpha Scott McCall entered the room.
The other Alpha’s face lit up when he saw Isaac Lahey. “Isaac, what’s up?” he called out as the two exchanged an elbow bump before drawing each other into a hug complete with banging on each others’ backs with hard thumps. “I didn’t know we’d be assigned to your team. This is great!”
Great. Well, Derek might not put it in those glowing terms but Scott was okay. He and Scott had a bit of a history—Scott had refused to join his elite team and that still smarted—but Derek still respected the other guy.
“Great,” the other man trailing McCall said, rolling his eyes. He leaned against the wall and crossed his arms, biceps bulging with just enough muscle to indicate he took care of his body but he wasn’t a slave to the weight room. Just the way Derek liked them…slim and toned.
Derek’s focus swept from the floor up, taking in the casual footwear, baggy cargo pants, roomy t-shirt and stopped in surprise as he got his first good look at the Smoothie—make that Skin—temporarily assigned to this op: Stiles Stilinski.
Erica actually gasped her shock. Or maybe it was outrage. “Stilinski, what the hell!”
Stiles turned his attention from where his boyhood friend was still talking with Isaac, greeting the blond diva. “Hey, Erica. Nice to see you again.”
Derek made eye contact with Boyd and the big man nodded his head in subtle agreement. The two liked to play a little game called True/False where they listened to a Skin’s heartbeat and interpreted chemosignals to determine if they were telling the truth or not.
Stilinski’s mouth turned into a full grin. “You, too, Boyd. I haven’t seen you since you left the Hills. You look good, man.”
“What the hell is Stilinski doing here?” Isaac said in a too loud voice. “Oh, no, the Chair Force couldn’t possibly think your worthless hide could get a job of this magnitude done.”
The lone human in the room made eye contact with Isaac but then looked away. His shoulders had a defeated slump that was at odds with what Derek had heard about Scott’s boyhood friend. Cocky. No filter. Fearless.
“Scotty, I’ll let you sort this out while I get ready for tomorrow. See you back in the room,” Stiles murmured before he disappeared out of the door without making eye contact with anyone.
Scott turned on Isaac, smacking him in the chest. Hard. “What the hell did you do that for? Stiles is a part of the team. The most important part.”
“Scott, I know he’s your friend but even you have to admit he’s the sole reason Allison is dead,” Isaac spat out. His hands were clenched in Scott’s shirt at the chest, hands opening and closing, angry and anxious.
Angry and anxious was a bad combination for a shifter.
“Isaac, you’ve got it wrong. Stiles didn’t get Allison killed. You know what? Never mind, we’ve got bigger fish to fry then going over ancient history again,” Scott muttered, shaking his head.
“More important than Allison dying. Really?” Isaac huffed.
“Yeah, I’m going to read you in on this op so we don’t have another cluster fuck like happened back in Beacon Hills. The question is whether you’re professional enough for this job,” Scott huffed back.
Isaac released his grip on Scott and returned to the other side of the room to stand by Erica and Boyd. All three had their arms folded over their chests. Derek looked down and realized he’d assumed the same defensive posture. He forced his arms down to his side.
“What do you want us to know?” Derek asked. The sooner they cleared the air, the sooner they could finalize the plans for tomorrow.
“The secret squirrels think they can get proof that shows supes weren’t the ones who dumped that dirty bomb on Beacon Hills,” Scott promptly answered.
Erica opened her mouth to question Scott’s words but then subsided, a thoughtful look on her face. Isaac looked like he didn’t believe it. Boyd kept his stone face in place.
Derek cleared his throat. “Are you suggesting that Peter might not have been the mastermind behind the Purple Bomb?”
This theory had huge implications and if they could prove it…it just might be the turning point in this war.
Five years ago someone had concocted and planted a bomb made in part with wolfsbane and when it was detonated, a lot of humans became casualties. The irony of using wolfsbane, one of the compounds that could take down werewolves, wasn’t lost on anyone. It was largely assumed Peter Hale, Derek’s uncle, had become unhinged and taken matters into his own hands. The humans who had been on the fence about the Supernatural versus Hunter War quickly took sides when over 1,000 humans paid dearly when the Purple Bomb went off.
“We actually think Gerard and Kate Argent were the architects of this polarizing act—they had means, motive and opportunity. Now we’re going to see if we can find proof,” Scott wrapped up the mission objective.
Only one thing was nagging at Derek. Well actually, there were a lot of things but one thing really stood out. “What’s Stiles’s role in the mission?”
Scott blushed. It was a dark red, turning his cheeks ruddy, and not at all becoming. In fact Derek didn’t know shifters could blush that hard. “Both Gerard and Kate Argent have a type when it comes to sexual partners and Stiles fits that type to a T,” Scott’s voice actually shook when he said that.
What the actual fuck?
“Are you trying to tell me Stiles is going to be our Mata Hari?” Erica asked, making a face of distaste.
Derek didn’t know if it was the thought of sending in Stiles to seduce information out of the targets or the eventual fate of the Dutch-born spy who was executed for the charge of espionage during World War I causing Erica consternation.
“Tell me who Mata Hari was again and why I care?” Isaac questioned, his tone bewildered.
Apparently Erica had been paying attention in history class, too. “She was an exotic dancer who was charged with spying and she was executed by firing squad.”
“You really think Stiles can pass for an exotic dancer? I don’t think so,” Isaac answered his own question. Under his breath, he commented, “And if he died, no great loss.”
Scott’s head snapped up and he stomped toward his friend. Boyd stepped forward, putting a hand on Scott’s chest, checking his movements. Scott allowed Boyd’s touch but his chest heaved as if striving for control.
Derek was already on it. “Isaac, enough!” he snapped out with his Alpha voice.
The young man bared his throat but he didn’t look especially contrite.
Scott turned his attention to Derek. “I don’t think this is going to work. This is a delicate operation and I’m beginning to agree with your sister—the Wolves can’t set aside their differences and protect the asset on this mission.”
Without another word, Scott turned on his heel and exited the room.
Erica was on Isaac before Boyd could intercede. Her fingernails raked a jagged path down his cheek, marring his handsome features. “You fucking idiot! Do you know what you just did?”
Isaac’s eyes flooded with moisture; he didn’t respond well when those he loved turned physical on him. Everyone in this room had personal baggage and navigating around it could be exhausting.
The sting of Erica’s actions didn’t last long as squaring his shoulders, Isaac got in the blond woman’s face. “Just because you used to have the hots for Stilinski doesn’t mean the rest of us are enamored of him. I. Don’t. Trust. Him!”
Boyd, who had kept his silence up until this point, stepped into Isaac’s personal space. “You’d best rethink your tone.”
With tempers flaring and even the usually stoic Boyd throwing down, Derek took drastic action.
“Enough!” Derek bellowed, his beta shift adding extra power to his Alpha voice.
All three of his team members sunk to their knees, necks fully bared.
Derek stalked forward. “Your discipline is sorely lacking and that’s a reflection of both me and this unit. Get out of my sight. I don’t want to see, hear or scent you before 0400 hours when you’ll report back here in training gear and we’ll see if those attitudes can be readjusted. Dismissed!”
The three werewolves rose to their feet shakily and moved out the door, heads down.
Derek wanted to punch something—a certain Smoothie causing all of this discord came to mind—but he needed to figure out how to restore his unit’s equilibrium and determine if they were unfit for this mission.
Once again a single human had managed to bring disorder to his surroundings and Derek didn’t like it one little bit.
Stiles hadn’t expected the Wolf Pack, or whatever the hell the name of the cliquey wereshifter team was called, to embrace him but he knew their lackluster response would affect Scott and for that reason alone he was upset.
Ever since he could remember it had been Scott-and-Stiles, werewolf and human, an unbeatable team and sometimes Stiles himself forgot all of the battles achieving peace would require. He knew the two sides could coexist, he was living proof, and it was frustrating that others couldn’t see it.
For now though he had to forget about the race battles and concentrate on the mission.
Stiles sat down on the side of his bed and retrieved the bottle of eye drops from the toiletry bag he’d set on the nightstand. He palmed his photo cube with his other hand and sat it on his lap, rotating through his favorite pictures.
His parents’ wedding picture; they had been a ridiculously young looking couple but seemed so happy.
Next was his parents holding the then baby Stiles up to the camera, grinning.
Allison and Scott during prom…talk about young looking.
He and Lydia on moving day, hot and sweaty from lugging stuff into their apartment, but happy to be out of the dorms.
The aftermath of the Purple Bomb.
This last picture didn’t qualify as a favorite but it certainly worked as motivation.
Stiles squinted toward the window where the sinking sun burned bright orange. If everything went as planned it would be the last sunset he would see.
Before he could talk himself out of it, or someone could come along and delay it, Stiles kicked off his shoes and unscrewed the lid on the drops.
He made a pocket by pulling his left lower lid out and flooded it with several drops. He repeated the action in his right eye. Both eyes were awash in moisture.
The drops were supposed to restore his eyes to their previous bomb-ravaged status. The way they’d been before the AI undid the damage. Barring a miraculous treatment, Stiles would be permanently blinded. If this mission was a success, he could live with it.
If this mission wasn’t a success, Stiles would most likely be dead.
The special drops were also supposed to activate the AI so it didn’t just act as a support to Stiles; they would now have a symbiotic relationship, dependent on one another.
Nothing felt different and Stiles wondered if Lydia had gotten the compound wrong. What was he thinking? It was more likely Stiles had screwed up the dosage.
Pain barreled into his head like a sledgehammer and Stiles fumbled the drops on to the nightstand, his vision blurring drastically.
Someone was making a high-pitched whining noise and Stiles wanted to tell whomever it was to shut the fuck up, he had a migraine, but he couldn’t catch his breath.
The voice was right inside his brain otherwise Stiles would’ve covered his ears to muffle it.
He found himself panting, trying to slow his breathing, but this was the worst pain he’d ever been in and he’d lived through the Purple Bomb so that was saying something.
It took a while but the pain eased back and Stiles realized he was no longer alone.
“You’re okay, buddy. I’ve got you. Just breathe through it. I’m taking the pain and Lydia said you can have a shot in thirty minutes. Come on, Stiles. You’ve got this,” Scott chanted a litany of comforting words that meant nothing.
The patient, loving tone of voice meant everything though. That and the shifter pain drain were turning Stiles’s attention from the quickest way to commit suicide and put himself out of this misery to just trying to survive until he could have a heavy-duty narcotic.
Scott’s voice multiplied until there were two distinct yet distant voices, but it was hard for Stiles to make out actual words or who was speaking. The AI was doing an inventory of his systems and he kept hearing the phrase: System failure…optical
Stiles’s worldview abruptly shifted as he was lifted into the air and then he found himself falling.
“Ah…mmm…” he groaned.
The logical side of his brain catalogued the noise as catathrenic; a deep breath, held for a short while, followed by a moaning exhale. The instinctual side of his brain said he was in horrible pain and moving him was a bad idea.
Stiles tried to curl up, make himself as small as possible, but the hands on him were insistent and he found himself wrestled and pinned against an immovable object.
The whimpers were non-stop and if he could’ve, he would’ve stopped as the noise wasn’t helping. In fact it was only making him nauseous. Hurting his throat. Making it difficult to breathe.
Something pinched his biceps and Stiles gurgled his unhappiness.
Someone was softly hushing him, nuzzling behind his ear.
“That’s it, let the medicine take effect. Don’t fight it, Stiles.”
Stiles didn’t recognize the voice. Strangely enough, he trusted it though.
Maybe the AI was taking over all of his systems, including decision making, but Stiles decided to drift on the wave, buoyed by the soothing tone.
Tomorrow was the first day of hell but for now Stiles would take his comforts where he could.
Derek had followed the stressed chemosignals Scott emitted, only stopping when he found himself outside of a room in the same building as the conference room they Wolves had been in but on another floor.
“You’re okay, buddy. I’ve got you. Just breathe through it. I’m taking the pain and Lydia said you can have a shot in thirty minutes. Come on, Stiles. You’ve got this,” Scott was chorusing in a gentle, patient voice.
What the fuck?
Bang-bang-bang. “Scott, I need to talk to you,” Derek called out impatiently, thumping his fist against the door.
“Not really a good time, dude. We’re in the middle of something,” Scott replied but it was in the same soft, sing-songy tone.
“I don’t have time for this, McCall. Let me in. Now,” Derek growled.
“Oh for Pete’s Sake, the door is open,” Scott hissed and his delivery wasn’t nearly as soothing as his previous tone.
Derek didn’t know what he was expecting, but finding Stiles in Scott’s arms, sprawled across his lap, rocking back and forth and mewling pitifully wasn’t even a remote possibility.
Opening his mouth to demand an explanation, Derek was interrupted by Scott.
“I need you to hold him while I get his shot.” Scott used his Alpha voice and Derek realized he was moving toward the bed before he thought about it.
Since he was also an Alpha, Derek could’ve easily ignored the dictate but Scott was a True Alpha and it was apparent he needed Derek’s help. Well, Stiles needed his help.
“Just let me get the shot and then I’ll explain everything,” Scott grumbled as he fought with the shaking body in his arms.
Derek inhaled, nostrils twitching, and was hit with a scent that made his wolf sit up and take notice. It was cinnamon and spice and honey and home…his wolf couldn’t get enough of it and the scent was coming from Stiles.
Before Derek could even agree, his arms were filled with the wriggling body. The noises spilling from Stiles’s lips were making Derek’s wolf anxious. His animal wanted to pacify and care for its injured packmate.
Wait. Packmate? One hit of that heady scent and Derek’s wolf insisted there was an addition to the pack? First of all, Derek was sure if Stiles did join a pack it would be McCall’s. Secondly, Stiles was a Smoothie and didn’t have a place in any pack.
Although Derek remembered his máthair mhór talking about a time in the not too distant past when Smoothies (humans, not smoothies, child) could be pack and in fact supposedly held valued positions within them.
Stiles bucked in his arms, a full body heave, and Derek realized he needed to gain control before Stiles thrashed out of his grip and did himself harm. Derek clutched Stiles to his chest before he spun around and sat against the headboard.
“Ah…mmm…” Stiles made an awful moaning noise, worse than any he’d made so far, and Derek folded his arms around the human’s chest, locking him in place and trying to comfort him at the same time. His wolf was going insane with the need to protect Stiles and fix the problem.
Scott was digging around in a bag and finally stood up, syringe in hand. He darted over to the bed.
The other man was visually marking a place on Stiles’s arm to sink the needle into when Derek interrupted him. “Don’t you need to clean a spot with an alcohol wipe or something?”
“Screw that, Stiles has bigger problems than an infection at the moment. I need to put a stop to the pain before his heart gives out,” Scott defended his actions. “Now hold him still!”
Derek rucked up Stiles’s t-shirt and splayed his hands against the sweaty skin, one across the tight abdomen and the other over the heaving chest. He drained pain as fast as possible, becoming lightheaded within seconds of contact.
This was serious pain.
Scott sank the needle into Stiles’s arm, in the Deltoid, and both Derek and Scott held their breath, waiting to see if the shot would work.
Holding his breath while draining pain was a big mistake and soon bright sparks of light twinkled in Derek’s line of vision.
“I think it’s working,” Scott whispered. The other Alpha moved around, rifling through another bag by the sounds of it, and by the time he popped back into view, Derek was breathing in time with the unconscious man in his arms.
Scott wrapped a cuff around Stiles’s lax forearm, picked up a device and turned it on.
“A I syncing,” a mechanical voice droned.
AI? Artificial Intelligence?
“AI report,” Scott requested into the handheld device.
“Sync complete. System failure…optical. Subject in sleep mode,” the tinny voice responded.
With his fingers, Scott touched Stiles’s carotid artery and verified by touch that he had a pulse. His hand slid to his friend’s cheek, cupping the skin there. “Oh, Stiles, I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“What is he doing?” Derek asked, unable to maintain silence anymore. Neither Alpha acknowledged the fact Derek had a stranger resting in his arms.
“Gerard and Kate Argent both have specific qualities they seek out in sexual partners. Stiles met the physical qualifications for the job except he wasn’t particularly vulnerable. With the help of this AI nanobot Stiles should now meet all of the prerequisites,” Scott explained grimly.
“Scott, what did you do to Stiles?” Derek demanded.
All of Derek’s protective instincts were growling to the fore of his conscious. It could be because he still held the tight body that had been squirming in his arms moments ago in his arms, or the addictive scent tickling his nose, or the silky hair nestled under his chin. He didn’t know exactly why but he didn’t like it.
“We had to modify the asset to fit the parameters,” Scott replied sullenly, sinking on to the bed next to Derek’s hip, scrubbing his hands over his face.
Derek’s patience was worn out. “What exactly did you modify?”
Scott leaned forward and with a light touch he thumbed back one of Stiles’s eyelids.
The other Alpha moved his hand away but not before brushing a swath of curling hair away from Stiles’s sweat damp face. Derek’s wolf growled at the contact but he was able to suppress it so it was only internal. No one should touch the sleeping man without Derek’s permission.
In the quick glimpse he’d gotten, Derek noticed the pupil was still there, just a mere pinprick of black, but instead of that intriguing shade of whisky brown, Stiles now had arresting Electric Indigo eyes…just like anyone infected by the Purple Bomb.
“Scott, I don’t mean to tear down the plan but you do know the Argents aren’t idiots and they will verify if Stiles was a victim of the bombing. Right?” Derek spoke slowly. It wasn’t that he was trying to be condescending, he was just trying to come to terms with the idea the Chair Force back at HQ were complete and utter imbeciles. This was an especially troubling thought since his sister would’ve signed off on this plan.
Another thought occurred to him. “Or did you build a separate identify for him? Because the Argents will biometric the shit out of him to make sure he is who he says he is and unless you changed his fingerprints as well as,” Derek nodded down at the lax face, indicating the eyes, “he will fail that test.”
“No, we didn’t change his identity. His back story will only make him more attractive to the Argents,” Scott perched his chin on a bent knee while staring at his childhood friend. “Stiles was a victim of the Purple Bomb.”
Derek was speechless.
He’d witnessed Stiles, walking and talking and seeing for fuck’s sake. No overt neurologic side effects present. Seemingly in possession of his fine motor skills. No slurring of speech.
And no Electric Indigo eyes.
“What the actual fuck?” Derek queried, feeling gut punched.
“Our best engineer made it her mission to restore certain functions for some of the victims and Stiles was the recipient of that first prototype,” Scott sounded almost blasé about this piece of information.
“Why the hell would he re-infect himself or whatever the hell just happened here?” Derek knew he sounded outraged but he just couldn’t fathom a Smoothie doing something so…dangerous.
Scott interrupted Derek’s thoughts. “He’s brave and he volunteered for this mission. Derek, we think the Argents are holding key members of the Beacon Hills Resistance. They claimed certain people died during the Purple Bomb but we’ve heard rumors that these people are jailed. Humans.”
“So Stiles’s mission is to get either Gerard or Kate to pick him up, reveal not only proof that they’re responsible for the Purple Bomb but that they’re also holding members of the human resistance, all while being blind?” Derek’s outrage was apparent in the otherwise quiet of the hotel room. “Have you all lost your minds?”
The other Alpha actually laughed in response to Derek’s slight. “You try telling Stiles not to do anything to save his dad, or my mom, or Allison’s dad. Yeah. Not happening.”
Derek shifted the resting body in his arms, enjoying the weight tucked against his chest. Happy to support the relaxed neck in the crook of his arm. Push the wayward hair away from the sleeping face.
Derek’s wolf had gone and attached itself to a fucking Smoothie and said Smoothie had volunteered for a suicide mission. Go figure.
Stiles woke up with a sense of purpose.
He also woke up with one hell of a headache.
Blinking his eyes several times as he stared where the alarm clock should be next to the bed, it finally sunk in that Stiles couldn’t see it even it he was facing in the right direction.
The eye drops had worked. He should be elated. Nope, he still had a horrible headache.
“Here, take these, they should help,” Scott’s quiet voice startled Stiles and he jolted upright, panic sending his heart on a trip hammer while his lungs stuttered in his chest.
“Warn a guy, would ya?” Stiles croaked.
“Sorry,” Scott whispered. Stiles could tell Scott was contrite—don’t sneak up on the blind man—and he could even picture those big, brown puppy eyes, looking sad and sorry.
Scott put something—tablets?—into one of Stiles’s hand before wrapping his other hand around a glass. Stiles threw the medicine into his mouth and chased it with a gulp of water. The water tasted crisp and clean and Stiles realized he was beyond thirsty. He drained the glass, tipping his head back and throat working, until the liquid dried up.
The glass was removed from his grasp and Stiles thought about arguing, he wasn’t an invalid, but he thought better of it because he was kind of an invalid and that was the point.
“Not your fault, Scotty. I need to adjust. Quickly. How many hours do I have until I’m supposed to be at the rendezvous point?” Stiles ignored the way his voice continued to crack.
“You’ve got about four hours,” Scott answered.
“Shit!” Stiles threw the covers off of his legs and bounded to his feet.
Vertigo slammed into him and Stiles wanted to sink back on to the comfortable surface of the bed but he couldn’t quite tell which direction to go in.
“Not so fast, Stiles. Give yourself a moment here,” Scott murmured as he wrapped his hands around Stiles’s upper arms and settled him back on the bed. A hand on the back of his neck eased him forward. When things finally settled and the nausea passed, Stiles tentatively sat upright again.
“Let’s try this again,” Stiles forced a grin on his face. This was his choice, he was finally going to have a shot at doing something worthwhile, and he needed to play his part well.
Scott helped him to his feet and once Stiles felt steady, he waved his friend off. The other man asked, “What can I do to help?”
“I think I need to settle into my new accommodations, maybe catch a shower and make myself presentable,” Stiles announced. The sooner he was set up in his new temporary lodgings and got used to the lay of the land, the better he would feel.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Scott responded. “Hey, um, Stiles? You know you can still back out of this.”
“No, Scott, I really can’t. I want to nail Gerard and Kate’s hides to the wall and get our parents back,” Stiles fired back. “I can do this.”
“Bro, you’ve totally got this. I just wanted to make sure you knew you didn’t have to be the one to go after the Argents,” Scott squeezed his arm.
Actually if Stiles called this off it would take at least a month to get another person outfitted with the AI nano-unit and that was assuming someone would volunteer for this job. Waiting one more month to find out the fate of their parents wasn’t going to happen, not on Stiles’s watch. Too much had already happened and Stiles couldn’t, absolutely refused, to be the cause of any more delays.
“I want to do this, Scotty. It’s going to be okay. The AI will make sure my responses are on target so the Argents don’t kill me before we even get the chance to get this op off the ground. Now can you help me make sure all is my stuff is ready to go? I’m going to throw some water on my face and brush my teeth and then I’d like to hit the road. You in?” Stiles had to pause after he spit out everything on his mind if only to draw breath.
“Right beside you, bro,” Scott confirmed. “Hey Stiles? You might want to stick your head under the water faucet too. You’ve got a massive case of bedhead going on.”
Stiles snorted. “Figures. Okay. I should be ready to roll in ten.”
He was still not used to having longer hair and boy was it in a pain in the ass. He had to wash it and then comb out the snarls…the buzzcut was looking more and more attractive to him but until this was over he was resigned to looking like a gigolo.
At least the transformation had been a success. If only the rest of the op could run so smoothly. Lives were depending on it.
Derek had run his team ragged before they moved across the city so they were in position on the south side of San Cielo. Their current assignment was surveillance and his team had learned their lesson and kept their traps shut about it.
He had heard the trio of werewolves walk past his room, heading for lunch, per his orders. Derek should be following his own orders, he’d already showered and dressed, but his appetite was nonexistent. His wolf had been seriously pissed when he’d left the sleeping Smoothie early this morning and was now pouting.
Derek was not one of those shifters who thought his human side and werewolf side were separate entities but at the moment all of his shifter instincts were urging him to go back to his sick packmate and watch over him. He might not be able to go back to that hotel room but at least the mission objective seemed to match his own agenda—keep the human alive.
The innocent looking cell phone that had military hardware with encryption built into it signaled an incoming message.
We’re here. C U l8er.
That was the signal letting him know Stiles was on his way to the little bar the Argents tended to frequent while in San Cielo and Scott was in his room. With a bounce in his step, Derek exited his room and headed toward Scott’s position. The other Alpha would be monitoring Stiles for the first leg of this assignment but Derek wanted to see the Smoothie in action.
Derek used the stairwell, jogging down the three flights, making his way to McCall’s room. Lifting his fist, Derek rapped out a quick code disguised as a knock.
“Come on in, dude,” Scott called out.
“Don’t call me dude,” Derek grumbled.
Crossing the room, Derek stood next to the table where Scott’s laptop displayed an image. If Derek had been prone to motion sickness he would’ve been bolting to the bathroom right now, the picture kept jumping around in a dizzying manner.
“Can’t you get a better picture?” Derek asked, crossing his arms over his chest. With all of the military’s ingenuity at their fingertips this was the best they could manage? Derek’s wolf growled its displeasure. How could he keep his packmate safe with substandard equipment?
Scott had the gall to laugh. “Yeah, I could get a better picture, hack into the bar’s cameras and I’ll do that in a minute, but right now we’re using a different camera. We’re using the AI inside of Stiles.”
Derek was certain his jaw sagged open. “But he’s blind!”
“Yeah, Stiles is blind but the AI nano-unit has hacked into his visual cortex and can interpret the signals being sent even though Stiles can’t see the images. It’s pretty damned ingenuous if you ask me,” Scott shot a grin over his shoulder at Derek. “Why don’t you pull up a chair?”
Just as Derek’s ass hit the chair, the picture jolted horrible.
“Hey, watch where you’re going,” a sultry feminine voice snapped.
Derek knew that voice.
“And Stiles has made contact,” Scott announced.
Kate Fucking Argent.
Stiles’s surprising low voice rasped out, “Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”
Scott face-palmed, moaning his distress. “No, no, don’t poke the sleeping bear. Jesus, Stiles, she might kill you.”
There was more jostling of the picture and a deceptively dainty looking fist entered the frame before everything rocked. “Don’t sass me, boy. I’d just as soon blow your brains out as hit you.”
There was another smacking sound and then the grainy filter was off.
“My apologies ma’am,” Stiles sounded sincere. “I didn’t see you. And I didn’t mean to sass you. My parents always told me my mouth would get me into trouble.”
Silence greeted his pronouncement. The silence stretched out but surprisingly Stiles seemed unperturbed. He just stared straight ahead somewhere over Kate’s shoulder, occasionally blinking.
“Well, I’ll accept your apology but only if you’ll have a drink with me. What’s your name, sweetheart?” Kate purred.
The smirking face of Kate Argent stared back at Derek. Despite his best efforts, he shuddered. His stomach dropped and tumbled but he reminded himself he wasn’t facing Kate. Kate was a distant memory.
His wolf whined and pawed. No, he wasn’t facing Kate Argent but Stiles was and the Skin was at his most vulnerable and he didn’t like the way the blond bitch was eying up the human. Derek would’ve preferred if he was facing off against the hunter himself
“Stiles. Stiles Stilinski.”
Kate cocked her head to the side, pursing her lips.
“She definitely recognized the name,” Scott’s voice shook with tension.
Derek held his breath. The hunter could flip out, pull her gun, and shoot Stiles if she suspected he supported the Resistance like his dad had been rumored to do.
“Stiles. Huh. Now there’s an unusual name,” the woman smiled, her teeth flashing white against her tanned, healthy skin.
In contrast Stiles had looked pale and tired when Derek had left the hotel room early this morning but he had still found the Skin wildly attractive. Apparently Kate saw something she liked, too. “You can call me Kate. Come on, cutie. Let’s find a table. I want to get to know you better,” Kate announced and Derek hated the predatory gleam he detected in her eyes. He didn’t think Stiles was out of the woods yet when it came to the unstable hunter.
“I can’t look at her any more. I’m going to hack into a camera at the bar for another angle,” Scott muttered. “We’ll still be able to hear what they say through Stiles’s AI but at least we won’t have to stare at that anymore.”
The current window, from Stiles’s viewpoint, was minimized and replaced with a camera angled to allow them to see both Kate and Stiles.
Kate darted out of view and when she returned, sunglasses were dangling from her hand. She perched them on top of Stiles’s head without warning, setting them in the soft looking swirls of dark hair, but the Skin skittered away.
Derek didn’t like the way Kate’s lips curled into a smug smile. She seemed to enjoy toying with the blind young man.
A sudden growl to his right startled Derek and he turned, surprised to see Scott’s face partially shifted, eyes glowing red, snarling at the screen.
“Easy, Scott. I want to tear her head off of her shoulders, too, but I think Stiles has captured her attention. What’s the next step?” Derek tried to distract the other Alpha. He knew how protective he felt so he could only imagine what Stiles’s good friend was feeling, watching as the hunter put her paws all over the young man.
Scott took a deep breath and settled. “Stiles is supposed to spend a little time with her, catch her interest so she keeps coming back for more. That could take days or even weeks, but if we’re lucky she’ll trust him enough to let him into her room and then he can snoop around for the proof we need.”
The two humans walked out of the picture and Scott manipulated something on his laptop again. Movement on the screen caught Derek’s interest and he realized the couple were now sitting at a table, Kate practically on Stiles’s lap she was so close.
“So tell me, cutie. I know you had to have been in Beacon Hills four years ago but do you still live there?” Kate asked as she snapped her fingers at the bartender to get his attention.
“I have an apartment there but it hasn’t really been home for a while now. I’m in San Cielo to see a specialist,” Stiles answered.
The bartender hustled over. “Yes, ma’am, what can I get you?”
Stiles shifted away from the new voice, leaning into Kate’s space. This time her smile seemed more natural; she seemed pleased the defenseless male was seeking shelter at her side or something close to that if Derek had to guess. Derek’s wolf was having a fit at the gesture. That was his packmate in need of protection and he was stuck up on some hotel room.
“Two boilermakers,” Kate requested. The mustached man returned to the bar to do her bidding.
Kate was wearing the standard khaki cargo pants and gray tank top associated with the Hunters but the crossbow strapped to her back and the pistol holstered low on her hip advertised her position as someone dangerous. It came as no surprise that the bartender was dancing attendance on her.
Clearing his throat, Stiles had a tentative look on his face. “Um, I don’t usually drink alcohol. It doesn’t mix well with the stuff I have to take.”
“Relax, Stiles. I’ll take good care of you,” Kate leaned into his side.
Something was going on beneath the table but thankfully their view was screened from seeing the details. Stiles’s face was flushing a hectic pink color and he kept biting his lip and soothing it with his tongue, shifting his weight in the chair.
This Skin was going to kill Derek. He turned his attention away for a moment, trying to get his body to settle. He didn’t need Scott thinking he was getting off on the soft porn playing out in front of them.
Scott grimaced anyway. “I know. It totally sucks having to watch this.”
It really, really did. For all sorts of reasons that Derek didn’t want to examine too closely.
Stiles jolted when Kate’s hand palmed his lap. He ordinarily would’ve had a problem—although Stiles liked women, admired and respected them, even appreciated their beauty—it was the male form that stole his breath away and set his libido to humming. Fortunately the AI nano-unit jumped into action, assuring that Stiles’s body would react appropriately.
“Here you go, ma’am,” a male voice spoke with deference.
Even though Stiles had detected the bartender’s approach, he still twitched when the man spoke and something was thumped down on the table before him. Kate stroked his thickening cock and Stiles reminded himself he needed to act interested. Well, not just his body but his mind, too.
“So what’s a boilermaker?” Stiles asked.
“We have the mixture in front of us now but we have to do the final step. We drop the shot of whiskey into the mug of beer but it’s only called a boilermaker if you can down the entire drink with one long draw without lifting your lips from the glass until it’s all gone,” Kate answered and for the first time since they sat down at the table, both of her hands appeared above the table top. “Here, let me help you.”
Kate wrapped Stiles’s hand around a shot glass and guided it to the mug. “Let it go now.”
Stiles complied and a chuckle spilled from his lips when the beer splashed.
Next Kate wrapped Stiles hand around the mug and guided it to Stiles’s lips. “Suck it all down, Stiles. You can do it,” she purred leaning heavily into his side. She kept her hand over his, tipping the mug farther back when he thought about trying to draw a breath.
At last all of the liquid was drained and Kate allowed Stiles to lower the mug to the table.
“Your turn now,” Stiles turned toward Kate.
“Anything for you,” Kate responded. It sounded like she swirled the whiskey in the shot glass before dropping it into the mug.
Once again Stiles jumped and then laughed when the beer splashed out of the mug.
He could hear when Kate began to chug the contents of the mug.
Stiles hadn’t been lying when he’d said he didn’t drink alcohol too often and wasn’t used to it. His head began to spin but it wasn’t nausea inducing so he let himself enjoy the feeling.
Once Kate set the mug down her hand made its way to his lap again. Stiles wasn’t expecting the contact and lurched. He covered by putting his hand out on the table as if to steady himself. “Whoa, that kinda packs a punch.”
“Oh, Stiles, we’re just getting started,” she flirted, voice husky.
Kate called over to the bartender and Stiles realized she was going to get him drunk. At least the IA nano-unit would keep him from feeling the ill effects too harshly.
Stiles wondered what her endgame was here. Was she going to interrogate him once his defenses were down? Or was she drugging him?
Internally shrugging his shoulders, Stiles played along. That was, after all, what he was supposed to do.
Glasses clattered on to the table in front of him and Stiles turned his head so he would be facing Kate’s general direction. “Kate, are you trying to get me drunk?”
“Well, Stiles, what would you do if I was?” Kate countered with and for the first time since he’d disrespected her, Stiles detected an edge in her tone.
“Nothing? I mean I haven’t had this much fun in…well, a long time. This is nice. Thank you,” Stiles ducked his head down a little and his fingers toyed with the glass mug.
Sadly it was true. Stiles would never choose Kate as a drinking companion but this was the first time he’d sat in a bar with someone and legally had drinks. At the age when previous generations had been being introduced to alcohol, laughing and flirting, Stiles had been grieving the loss of his dad and his eyesight. Pouring every ounce of energy he had into this war.
Kate’s cool fingers brushed his cheek and Stiles shivered at the contact. The AI suggested he give a throaty groan, lean into her touch, and Stiles went along with the idea. He kept his head ducked down and when his cheeks flushed, he didn’t fight it.
“Come on, don’t get shy on me now,” Kate rubbed his cheek softly.
“Yeah, okay. Will you help me with the boilermaker again?” Stiles forced a bit of gaiety into his tone.
“Sure thing, cutie. Here we go.” Kate let her hand trail from his cheek down his neck, smoothing down his shoulder and arm until she guided his hand to a shot glass again.
This time when the hand in his lap squeezed him, Stiles slid down in the chair and spread his legs more, moaning.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Let’s finish our drinks and then go somewhere more private,” Kate whispered in his ear.
Things were moving pretty quickly and Stiles didn’t have to fake his nerves as he dropped his head on to her shoulder and nuzzled her a little. “Yes, please,” he whispered back.
Stiles sure hoped the AI was ready to take over because there was no way he could fake his responses enough to keep Kate interested in him.
He might like the idea of someone taking charge of his body but something told him this woman liked things rough and if Stiles couldn’t keep up, this whole mission was going to go sideways. Fast.
Derek felt queasy. Like all shifters he had a strong constitution and rarely felt ill but watching Kate Argent put the moves on the blind human was causing a gnawing sensation at the apex of his stomach and bile kept trying to burn its way up his throat.
He couldn’t even begin to imagine how Stiles felt. There was pawing and groping and very rarely did Kate give him any warning before the touching began. Derek hated the way Stiles’s starts and shivers made Kate smile and these reactions seemed to egg her on. And turn her on.
Derek’s wolf was losing its mind. It wanted nothing but to protect the young man and it blamed Derek, and Kate, for preventing it from doing so.
Kate pushed Stiles backward, laughing when the backs of his legs met the bed and he tumbled backward without forewarning.
A mechanical voice interrupted the panting and grunting that was the soundtrack of the couple rolling around the bed: Warning, cardiac readings exceeding acceptable levels.
“Shit, why does it do that? I mean there’s nothing we can do from up here but the AI can handle things. It shouldn’t keep on with the announcements, it should just take care of Stiles” Scott groused, pausing in his pacing to scowl at the monitor.
Since Stiles had left the bar with Kate, they’d endured warnings from the AI nano-unit about Stiles’s nervous system, GI tract and now his heart. The kid—okay, so not a kid, not with those wide shoulders, slim waist and pouty lips—make that young man, was spiraling downward, his body stressed, and there was nothing either werewolf could do at the moment.
Kate peeled the clothing right off of Stiles, treating him like a banana having its skin pulled away, before she stripped out of her clothing. Stiles wasn’t given a chance to agree to the proceedings before Kate rolled a condom on to his cock, slicked him up and lowered herself on to him.
The grinding and moaning and thrusting were threatening to bring up whatever contents Derek had in his stomach.
“Oh, God,” Scott burbled from behind a hand before he sprinted for the bathroom. Derek heard the lovely noises signaling Scott was worshipping the Porcelain Goddess.
With a mighty groan both humans stopped their gyrations and flopped on to the bed.
“You’re quite the hand full,” Kate murmured as she snuggled into Stiles’s side.
Stiles hummed but that was the only response he gave.
“I need to get going but I want to see you tomorrow. Meet me in the bar downstairs at 2pm?” Kate poked Stiles in the ribs and it wasn’t exactly a love tap. “Stiles?”
“Tomorrow, bar, 2pm. Got it,” Stiles replied and his voice seemed an octave lower than usual.
Derek could only glance at the monitor occasionally and in one of his checks he saw flashes of tanned skin as Kate pulled her clothing back on. He hated having to look at the Hunter responsible for the death of so many of his family members.
How could Stiles stand to be in the same room with her? She wasn’t fit to touch him.
The sound of the door closing was following by the AI’s statement: Room is clear.
They should’ve installed another camera in the room so they weren’t only reliant on the AI but Scott had argued, and Derek had agreed, that would only put Stiles in danger if Kate discovered the recording equipment.
A gasp, breath hitching, preceded the AI’s picture changing angles. Stiles was on the move.
The bathroom light came on, the switch on a motion sensor, and Derek got a good look at Stiles. Messy dark curls clinging to his sweaty skin and eyes wide, the Electric Indigo color for once overshadowed by the tears pooling on their surface.
Stiles was crying but it was soundless and if Derek hadn’t seen the evidence of moisture leaking out of those haunting eyes and dampening his pale cheeks, Derek wouldn’t have had any idea.
Moving past the mirror, Stiles turned the shower on and climbed into the water before it had a chance to heat sufficiently.
Derek turned away to give the human some privacy.
Crossing to the bathroom door, he knocked. “Scott?”
The toilet flushed. “Yeah, be right out.”
The water ran and Derek heard the other Alpha gargling, trying to clear the sour taste of sick out of his mouth.
Derek moved back to give the other werewolf room. Scott flushed as he emerged from the bathroom. “Sorry.”
Waving away the apology, Derek pointed to the monitor. “Kate left after they, um, and Stiles is in the shower.”
“How is he?” Scott’s eyes were begging for some sort of reassurance.
“Not good,” Derek answered, not because he wanted to hurt the other man but because he didn’t want to lie to him. “Is it safe for us to see him? I don’t think he should be alone.”
“No, we’re supposed to wait. Kate might’ve planted something in his room and we’ll have to wait until room service does a sweep for us,” Scott sounded dejected and his shoulders were slumping.
Derek didn’t like it. At all. “So Stiles who was just, for lack of a better word, violated,” Scott flinched but Derek soldiered on, “is stuck in that room by himself?”
“That’s the plan,” Scott turned away, hands fisting at his side.
Derek knew the other shifter was struggling to maintain control.
He knew that because Derek was doing the same.
Chapter 2: I’m More Than Just a Man
Thank you to everyone who has read, and especially if you left Kudos or Comments, on any of the fics I posted in my efforts to hit Blackout on my Hurt/Comfort Bingo Card. You'll be pleased to know I made it. *throws confetti* That means I wrote for 25 prompts between June 18, 2016 and the end of December. I'm a notoriously slow writer with a stubborn muse so for me it feels like quite an accomplishment.
I didn't post one of my stories on AO3--it wasn't coherent enough and I didn't have time to do the extensive edits necessary to bring it up to snuff--but if you're curious about it the prompt was for Difficult/Unexpected Pregnancy and it can be found on my LJ here: http://heatherofnight.livejournal.com/34786.html
I know I'll be requesting another Hurt/Comfort Bingo Card in summer. I hope to see you then!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Part II – I’m More Than Just a Man
I'm up off my knees, girl
I'm face to face with myself
And I know who I am
(Hello, my name is human)
I stole my power from the sun
I'm more than just a man
A knock at the door startled Stiles. The AI hadn’t warned him someone was approaching and he’d been dozing on the bed.
Stiles moved over by the door but he didn’t open it. “Who is it?”
“Housekeeping! I have fresh towels and sheets for you,” a feminine voice sang out and Stiles quickly identified the woman as Erica Reyes.
“Come on in,” Stiles invited, undoing the security and swinging the door open.
“Thank you, Sir,” she chirped professionally.
Stiles made his way toward the table and sunk down into the unforgiving surface of a wood chair. He’d mapped out the room as soon as he’d checked in this morning and the AI whispered directions in his ear when he went off course.
Erica was moving around the hotel room but Stiles kept his silence. He was worried Kate had left a listening device behind, or even a camera, and the last thing he wanted to do was blow his cover.
After about ten minutes has passed Erica cleared her throat. “The room is clear.”
“Thanks, Erica.” Stiles didn’t add anything else. He didn’t feel like going through the motions of the whole flirting-and-fighting routine he and the other woman had fallen into as teenagers and he was too exhausted to pursue anything else.
Stiles could hear her moving around and to his surprise, it sounded like she was putting fresh sheets on his bed. “Um, you really don’t have to do that.”
“I might as well. Anyways, it’s kind of, um…” her voice trailed off and Stiles wasn’t used to the brassy blond behaving so tentatively.
And then it hit him. To her supercharged nose the room probably reeked of sex.
“Pungent,” Stiles finished her thought. “I think pungent is the word you’re thinking of.”
After the bedding was smoothed into place, Erica hesitated, hovering close to Stiles. His AI let him know she was standing three feet form him which he considered to be a good distance. Anything closer tended to make him flinch.
“What?” he finally asked. Her out of character behavior was starting to spook him.
“If you call room service and order something, you might see a familiar face,” Erica said with more spirit. “Oh,” her tone was crestfallen. “I mean someone wants to see you.”
“It’s okay, Erica. I’ve been this way for over five years. I’m not going to get offended if someone uses the word see around me,” Stiles said in his matter-of-fact tone. The last thing he wanted was pity from the werewolf.
“Oh. Well then I guess I’ll go?” Erica still sounded hesitant.
“I’ll go ahead and call Room Service. Thanks a lot, Erica. I appreciate it,” Stiles remained seated as he said his goodbyes.
“Just doing my job, sir,” Erica opened the door, sounded perkier.
Stiles fumbled for the landline on the table. He picked up the handset and was given a list of options. At least the digits on the phone had raised Braille so it was easy to punch in the right code.
“How may I help you?” an anonymous female prompted him.
“I’d like to order something from your kitchen,” Stiles replied. “Could I please have an order or scrambled eggs and dry toast?”
“Certainly, sir. Anything else?”
“A pot of coffee would be great. Thank you,” Stiles responded.
“I’ll have these things brought up to Room 525 as soon as they’re prepared. Shall we go ahead and add it to your hotel charges?” The woman sounded bored out of her mind and it was a relief to deal with someone in a normal manner.
“Perfect. Thank you so much,” Stiles answered before disconnecting.
Stiles let his mind space out as he waited for his order. He was looking forward to a visit from Scott but he sure hoped his friend didn’t want to talk about feelings. Stiles could take a little discussion of the op but he really needed more normalcy.
He propped an elbow on the table and rested the side of his head on that hand. The silence of the room and the AI buzzing in his brain made him sleepy.
This time the AI alerted him to someone’s approach.
“Room Service!” Scott’s voice boomed in time to the smart knocks on his door.
Stiles hadn’t bothered to reengage the security after Erica left so he called out, “Come on in, the door is open.”
It sounded like a cart was being wheeled into his room and then the door swished shut. “Stiles, dude, you can’t leave the door unlocked. That’s just asking for trouble. Anyone could walk in here.”
Being scolded by Scott certainly passed for normal and Stiles smiled. “I’d say anyone did walk in here. Are you wearing a uniform?”
“Yeah, it’s red and gold. I think I look pretty sharp in it,” Scott replied.
“You are always one sharp dressed man, Scotty. Now where’s my coffee? I would kill for some caffeine,” Stiles asked.
“Yeah, sure,” Scott said and Stiles heard liquid being poured. “Here you go.”
“Can you have a seat or do you have to get back?” Stiles took a sip of the mug Scott had handed him and it was just what he needed. “Mmmmm.”
“I’ve got a few minutes,” his friend said and Stiles heard the scrape of the other chair. “Stiles, are you okay?”
“Yeah, sure. This coffee is definitely making me feel more human,” he added as he took another sip.
“Stiles.” Scott was determined to play social worker and talk about feelings.
“Scott, what do you want me to say? Getting up close and personal with Kate Argent is gross but that’s the job. I let the AI take over and just kind of cruised on autopilot,” Stiles tried to make his friend understand.
“Lydia said you need to watch that. Don’t rely too much on the AI or it might—”
“Take over completely,” Stiles cut off Scott and finished the sentence. “I’m aware. Now is there anything I need to know?”
“Kate seems to be really into you. I gotta warn you though, she seems to like making you flinch and she looks like she wants to rough you up,” Scott’s tone was nervous.
“Yeah, we knew all of this going in. She hasn’t really hurt me,” Stiles left the word yet unsaid but he absently rubbed his neck where Kate had squeezed before her orgasm hit.
“Yeah, just be careful,” Scott cautioned.
Stiles kept any smart comments to himself. They both knew the score and chances were Kate would hurt him before this was over. As long as he got what he came for, Stiles was pretty sure he could live with whatever happened.
An alarm beeped, either a watch or cell phone, and Scott cleared his throat. “I’ve got to get going. I put your food on the table, napkin and cutlery at 3 o’clock,” Scott prompted.
He didn’t mean to but Stiles crinkled his nose. His appetite had left him at the same time he’d put the eye drops in kicking off this whole mission.
“Stiles, dude, you’re too thin. You need to keep your strength up,” his friend encouraged.
“Yeah, yeah. Now scram. Talk to you later?” Stiles realized he needed confirmation his friend would be back.
“If I can’t make it back, I’ll make sure either Erica or Derek check on you,” was the reply. “I know they’d take good care of you.”
“Derek? I think you have him confused with someone else. He can’t stand my guts,” Stiles sighed out.
He remembered the other man from before, in Beacon Hills, and the handsome and accomplished Derek Hale never had the time of day for a little runt like Stiles. Well Stiles might not be a little runt anymore but he was all kinds of fucked up and he didn’t delude himself into thinking anyone but his tightknit circle of friends would give a rat’s ass if he was doing poorly.
Stiles didn’t know if it made any difference in the scheme of things but he didn’t even think Derek’s apathy toward him had to do with the whole Furs and Smoothies thing either. Derek just didn’t care about Stiles, never had shown any interest, pretty much had treated Stiles like he didn’t exist.
“Dude, he’s been pretty messed up ever since you were re-infected. I think his wolf bonded to you or something,” Scott cautioned.
Snorting, Stiles curved his lips into a facsimile of a smile but he knew it didn’t reach his eyes. “Whatever. Just you be careful out there. It would kill me if something happened to you.”
Setting the coffee down, Stiles climbed to his feet. Scott wrapped his arms around Stiles and the two men hugged.
Scott whispered in his ear. “Now you know how I feel. Don’t do anything stupid, Stiles.”
With a parting thump on his back, Scott put separation between them.
The cart had a squeaky wheel that sang as his friend pushed it out the door.
Even without Scott’s prompting, Stiles followed behind and engaged the security after Scott wished him a good day.
Stiles ignored his food and made for the bed. Stretching out and catching some sleep sounded like a fantastic idea.
Who knew what Kate had in store for him later.
Once Scott had gotten back to his room, he’d dismissed Derek saying he would keep an eye on Stiles until he met with the target again. Scott couldn’t even bear to say her name, couldn’t really look Derek in the eye, but he did ask if Derek could return and help him monitor Stiles’s meeting in the bar with Kate.
Scott’s words rang in his mind: I just don’t’ know how much I can watch, man. He’s like my brother.
Derek didn’t know how much he could watch either and he couldn’t even blame it on a close relationship. It was more like a relationship his wolf pined for. If he were honest with himself, Derek would admit the human had won him over. Stiles had courage and strength, was beautiful not just on the outside but inside too…Derek respected the hell out of him. Wanted him.
A soft knock at his door interrupted his reverie. “Who is it?”
Just because they’d been covering their tracks and taking precautions it didn’t mean the Argents weren’t on to them.
“Erica. Can I come in for a minute?” The usually bold werewolf sounded subdued.
Derek’s answer was to unlock the security code and wave her inside.
His team member licked her lips, not in her usual sultry fashion but like she was nervous and trying to work up the courage. “Listen, I don’t know if my wolf can be around Stiles.”
“What do you mean?” Derek blurted out. She’d put into words what he’d been feeling, probably what Scott was feeling, too.
Erica began to pace. “I played my part, swept the room for bugs and it was clear but Stiles looked…broken. Usually you can tell what he’s feeling just by looking at him but today his face was blank. She’s hurting him and my wolf doesn’t like it.”
“What do you mean, she’s hurting him?” Derek demanded. He’d watched as Kate had bullied the human, putting her hands all over him without giving warning, enjoying when he jumped in surprise. She’d gotten him drunk. She’d definitely fucked him. But hurt him?
“He’s pale and bruised looking…and sad. My wolf is struggling with the scent of misery he’s putting out,” Erica stopped her pacing to stare up at Derek. “I don’t want to lose control.”
“I get it, don’t worry about it. Boyd or Isaac will go in next time if needed. Anyway, it’s best we’re only seen in public once, that way it’ll be harder for anyone to trace us,” Derek rationalized. There was no need to make Erica feel bad by dwelling on what she had said.
Control needed to be absolute.
Derek took the opportunity to scent Erica. He pulled her into a hug, leaning down and rubbing his cheek against hers. “Why don’t you go see Boyd. Tell him and Isaac I’ll want them to report to my room at 13 Hundred hours.”
Erica stepped back and snapped off a sassy salute. “Yes, sir.”
After Erica departed and he had reset the security, Derek drifted back to his laptop. Scott had given him the codes so he could now monitor everything that went on with Stiles.
Erica’s concerns over Stiles being hurt chased around his thoughts. Derek booted up the computer, punched in the codes and accessed the AI.
Subject in sleep mode.
Derek wished he could get a look at Stiles, assess his physical condition himself, but he had no way to do that.
He, maybe more than anyone else, knew what Kate Argent was capable of and watching as Stiles got sucked into her orbit…control might be an issue for him as well.
Stiles mentally ordered the AI to only warn him if he was going to run into something otherwise he wanted to make his way into the bar unaided. Pulling off being blind only worked if he was, well, blind.
All of his pants were the same cut and color—baggy cargo and black—but Stiles had taken some care in selecting his top. He’d settled on the purple V-neck t-shirt because he’d been told it clung to his physique, highlighting the muscles he had but also showing off his slim waist. This op’s success was contingent upon Kate Argent thinking he was defenseless.
Stiles really wasn’t but with the help of the AI he could act the part.
The elevator dinged and he waited until the other people exited it before making his way toward the bar. He used his cane this time, tapping it softly to pave his way.
“Hey there, cutie, you’re right on time,” Kate purred from next to him.
Stiles jumped, a hand covering his heart, as he willed it to settle its beat. He’d curse the AI for not notifying him of Kate’s approach but both he and the nano-system were aware the hunter derived great pleasure from shocking him so this is what he had to look forward to, at least while on mission.
“Hi, Kate,” Stiles’s voice came out huskier than he’d planned but the adrenaline was pumping through his system hard. He turned his head to the side but kept one hand on his cane and the other over his heart.
“Oh, dear, I didn’t mean to startle you. Here, take my arm and we’ll find a table,” Kate directed and Stiles fell in with her plans.
Once they were seated and Kate called the bartender over, this time requesting an array of shots, the hunter leaned into his side. “Why do you always wear your sunglasses indoors?”
“Oh,” Stiles fumbled for them, removing them. “I forgot they were on. Although sometimes people get uncomfortable when they see the color.”
Kate hummed. “What color were they before?”
Of course Kate Argent wouldn’t shy away from the after effects of the Purple Bomb, especially if she had helped design and detonate it.
“Brown,” Stiles answered, shrugging.
Brown hair and brown eyes were nothing special. He was average in height and build. He’d once been told his lips looked like they were made for cocksucking but Stiles hadn’t really interpreted that as a compliment, at least not at the time. He had beauty marks scattered all over his body and those might be the only thing that set him apart from most other guys.
Kate’s hand found its way into his lap and squeezed his length. Stiles let his legs fall open again to give her better access. He bit his lip when her grip tightened. The AI thankfully did its part, making sure Stiles’s body responded appropriately to the attentions of an attractive woman.
“You make me crazy when you do that,” Kate panted in his ear.
Stiles didn’t know what exactly he was doing but he sunk down deeper into his chair, his respirations picking up in pace.
“Here you go,” the bartender’s deep voice interrupted them and once again Stiles startled, his body jerking and flailing.
Kate’s hand shifted upward, flattening against his abdomen. “Easy does it, Stiles. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Stiles mentally snorted. Maybe Kate meant she wouldn’t let anyone else do anything to him but he could tell already they were going to end up back in the hotel room with the hunter calling all of the shots.
The sad thing was if Kate had been someone else, someone male with a chiseled body and face, Stiles would actually be excited about the prospect. He let his mind wander, putting together his dream partner.
Commanding presence. Rock hard body. Dark hair. Slight cleft in the chin. Pretty eyes in a masculine face.
That sounded a lot like…Derek Hale?
Stiles moaned at the thought but Kate seemed to take that as her due, resuming her stroking and kneading.
“Today we’re going to sample some shots. Try this one,” Kate wrapped Stiles hand around a tumbler.
What is it?” Stiles took a sniff and almost poked his eye out with a straw. Kate giggled at the mishap. Yeah, she was a real charmer.
“It’s called Mind Eraser. Vodka, Kahlua, and tonic water. Sip,” she commanded, sticking the straw between his lips.
Stiles complied. He let his cheeks hollow out and was a little pleased when his attempts at being sexy were rewarded with a gasp-y, happy sigh.
Setting his glass on the table, Stiles stared toward Kate expectantly. Yesterday they’d taken turns with their drinks.
“Next we have a Blow Job. I bet you know a bit about those, huh?” Kate threw a leg across Stiles’s lap, letting its weight grind against his erection. He made a squawk of surprise but didn’t have a chance to say or so anything else before she pressed glass against his mouth. “Put your hands against the table and lift the shot with your mouth. Take it, baby, just like that. See? You’re a natural.”
Stiles sputtered as he tipped his head back, letting the liquid splash into his mouth and down his throat. This was a sweet tasting drink and was that…yep…whipped cream.
Kate took the glass away from his lips and Stiles licked at the creamy substance coating the skin around his mouth.
The hunter made a sound deep in her throat and her leg was blissfully removed from his lap. He shifted in place, trying to settle more comfortably, and that’s when Kate struck. Fingers fumbled with his fly and then palmed him through his boxer briefs.
Stiles tipped his head back over his chair and pretended the hand was larger. And male. Preferably Derek Hale’s hand. Pushing and cupping and his legs fell even farther apart as a finger traced farther down, poking against his taint.
“You make me so hot,” Kate hissed in his ear. “Now swallow this down. It’s my favorite.”
Kate held a shot glass to his mouth and Stiles let her pour it into him. His brain was feeling a little fuzzy and he didn’t know if it was from the drinks or what was being done to his body. Or both.
Something grape hit the back of his mouth and he gulped it down. It had a potent kick and he began to cough, trying to pull his mouth away from the glass Kate still mashed against it.
She finally took pity on him and took away the shot glass. “What was that?” Stiles asked once he was done hacking and had caught his breath.
“Why that was my favorite. Jagermeister and Mountain Dew AMP Grape flavor,” Kate’s voice was low and it had an edge to it.
“It packed quite the punch. What’s it called?” Stiles croaked out, wiping moisture from the corner of his eye with the back of a hand.
Dizziness slammed into Stiles and he didn’t know if it was the thought of the bomb or the alcohol racing through his system causing it.
The AI crackled in his brain. System overload. Neutralizing foreign agent. Reboot imminent.
Stiles’s body gave up the fight to remain upright and he started to slide to the side.
“You really don’t have any tolerance, do you?” Kate sounded exasperated. She yanked him upright but Stiles began to tip back over.
Kate’s grabbed his arm and her hold was anything but gentle. “Up on your feet, boy.”
Something was whispering in the back of his mind. This time it wasn’t the AI.
Kate shouldn’t be able to manhandle me around.
Fear snaked up and down Stiles’s spine. His intuition wanted him to get out of there but the AI knew the mission and wasn’t going to let him go.
Stiles was completely at Kate’s mercy. His AI was going offline, at least for a while, and there wasn’t anything anyone else could do.
Derek’s phone chirped an incoming call and Derek knew without looking at it who it was from.
Picking up the phone, Derek accepted the call. “Scott.”
“Derek, what do you we do?” Scott sounded like he was out of breath. His adrenaline was probably running just as high as Derek’s but they had no avenue in which to channel it.
The mission had just gone FUBAR. The AI had failed, Stiles was drunk at the very least, possibly poisoned, and Kate was leading him out of the bar.
“Nothing. We can’t do a damn thing right now. Not while there’s a chance Stiles can still get the Intel we need,” Derek bit out.
Isaac and Boyd were in his hotel room, both pacing like caged animals. Derek couldn’t tell what Boyd’s feelings for Stiles were but Isaac’s were in no doubt and both team members were coming unglued by what they had seen at the bar.
“We can’t let her take him out of the bar,” Isaac said through lengthening fangs.
And to think Derek had worried his team couldn’t provide support for this op because of Isaac’s distrust of Stiles.
“No one is going anywhere,” Derek ordered. “Scott, copy that.”
Stiles’s friend was the wildcard in this situation. Derek could order, and compel, his team to do his bidding but Scott didn’t have to listen.
After a tense silence, Scott muttered, “Yes. Fine. We wait.”
“I’m going to send Isaac to your room. Boyd and I will monitor the situation. If you need to take a break to get your head together, do it,” Derek said firmly.
After a noisy exhale, Scott agreed. “Yeah, thanks dude.”
Derek didn’t even chastise the other Alpha for calling him dude this time. “Isaac’s on his way.” He ended the call, pointing at Isaac. “Don’t let McCall do anything stupid. You either. Just sit tight.”
Isaac nodding his understanding, his mouth tight. He let Derek scent him and then he was out of the door.
“This is messed up,” Boyd settled in the chair next to Derek. The monitor was dark so there wasn’t anything to observe.
Derek dialed another number on his phone. When the person picked up, Derek snapped out orders. “Erica, I need you proceed to Stiles’s room for location verification.”
“Housekeeping again?” she queried.
“Perfect. Hurry,” Derek added even though he knew Erica would rush to execute his order.
The next fifteen minutes crawled by.
Derek held the phone in his hand, waiting for a report.
Erica’s message came in as Derek debated going to Stiles’s room himself Empty.
Stand down. Derek responded.
The phone creaked in his hand and Derek put it down before he could break it.
“I take it he’s not in his room,” Boyd’s deep voice rumbled.
Derek just shook his head. He was contemplating pulling a Fire Alarm to clear out the whole hotel when a new message arrive.
The mechanical rendering was creepy but right now it was the only connection they had to Stiles.
Derek punched in a command on the keyboard, willing the AI to restore the picture.
Optical system unavailable. Switching to auditory.
“That’s it, you’re being so good. Just a little longer,” Kate Argent’s voice encouraged.
How Derek hated that voice. And the words coming out of her mouth weren’t so different than the words she’d used on a 16-year-old Derek. Before the war. When Derek still believed in humanity.
Before Kate Argent burned his family to the ground.
The sound of a security system disengaging was heard followed by a door opening and then banging shut.
“I’m going to take you for a proper test drive this time. You see, I have needs. Special needs. Don’t let me down, cutie. I’m counting on you,” Kate snarled.
Derek shot Boyd a look but the other man shrugged. This was going way off-script. At least Derek had never thought Stiles would be asked to sexually submit to the hunter.
Stiffening his spine, Derek resolved to retain some objectivity. If Stiles could withstand whatever was being done to him, the least Derek could do was standby.
Having no picture might have been a blessing. They could hear the smacking of flesh but it didn’t sound sexual. At least not yet. It sounded like punching and slapping.
Kate liked the choking. “Yeah, I thought a little erotic asphyxiation would put you back in the mood. How about I help you out a little more. A nice cock ring will help hold that erection. Let me snap these strips around your sacs…yeah, doesn’t that look nice,” she cooed.
Derek’s mind conjured a picture. The thought of snapping straps in place around thickening length and around tight balls just about short-circuited his brain.
The gasping groans from Stiles didn’t sound sexy though. It sounded like he was fighting for his life.
Kate began to pant and the bed was squeaking and there was a high-pitched noise…
“Stop it. Here, if you can’t hold your silence, I’ll help you,” Kate threatened.
The sound of material ripping startled Derek. His fingers dug into his hair tugging viciously. This was pure torture.
The bedsprings began to dance again and soon Kate was sighing her pleasure.
Stiles didn’t make a sound.
Kate screamed as bodies slapped together.
“Was it as good for you as it was for me, cutie?” Kate snarled.
There was movement but Derek couldn’t even imagine what was going on now.
“Please,” Stiles begged but Derek didn’t know what he wanted. Probably Kate to leave him alone.
“Did I say you could move?” Kate’s voice had lowered and she was difficult to understand.
There was a loud crash, maybe furniture splintering.
“Now look what you made me do,” Kate sighed. “God, what a mess.”
Distantly they heard the shower running.
Then someone moving around the room.
“If you’re still breathing when I return, we’ll see what else you’ve got,” Kate promised before the security system snicked into place.
“What the fuck, man,” Boyd was wiping his mouth, looking pale.
“I’m going to rip her to shreds,” Derek vowed.
Derek would’ve jumped at the AI’s comment except he had his control locked down as tightly as he could. He wanted to shift and tear things up. Tear up Kate Argent.
A soft groan gave proof to the AI’s pronouncement.
“Come on, get up,” Stiles said and Derek supposed he was giving himself a pep talk. Derek would feel better about it if Stiles’s words weren’t slurring so bad.
Things got a little noisy and Derek could only assume Stiles was upright and staggering around.
Stop the bleeding.
Derek pushed back his chair and was on his feet. He bowed to no Alpha but his instincts were telling him to listen. To take care of the injured human.
“Oh yeah. Leave no proof,” Stiles mumbled.
To the left.
The AI was trying to guide Stiles’s search.
The next fifteen minutes were agony as Stiles fumbled and bumbled his way through the AI’s commands, each movement producing a breathy whimper.
“Thank fuck,” Stiles whimpered.
Subject losing consciousness.
“Fuck you,” the human snarled quietly and then there was a crash.
Derek held his breath, waiting to hear movement.
Unable to transmit validation.
He was already reaching for his phone when it rang. He didn’t even get a chance to greet the other Alpha. “Derek, we need to retrieve Stiles. Now.”
“Affirmative. Do we have a location?” Derek asked. He hadn’t been able to find the hotel room where Stiles was but they knew he wasn’t in his own thanks to Erica’s reconnaissance.
“Not yet. HQ is working on it, trying to trace the AI,” Scott’s voice trembled. If Derek wasn’t mistaken, the other Alpha was filled with rage.
As soon as they had a location, they could make that rage productive and bring Stiles home.
Stiles woke up in pain. Waking up in pain was getting old.
He vaguely remembered tottering around the room, trying to find the proof he needed, but he didn’t even know if he’d been successful. He must’ve blacked out.
Intel acquired. Unable to transmit. Target approaching.
That truly sucked. He supposedly had what he’d come for but he couldn’t get the information where it needed to go. Yet. And with Kate returning, it seemed likely he’d get the chance to make a break for it.
Something snapped into his side, hard, and Stiles was airborne. The back of his head cracked against something else and he blacked out.
Stiles woke up to shouting. In his face.
“This is no time for napping, Stiles. On your feet,” the hunter ordered.
It isn’t that Stiles didn’t want to comply, he didn’t know how to do it.
The AI was buzzing in the background, winding like a battery, and Stiles couldn’t get his legs beneath him.
Hands wrapped around his throat, squeezing. Lifting. He gurgled, wheezing, trying to draw air. Woozy didn’t even begin to describe how he felt.
Surprisingly he felt no pain. He just couldn’t get his limbs to function.
Or his brain.
He was supposed to do something. He couldn’t remember what.
Stiles was upright, being dragged along, his feet shuffling.
The woman—what was her name?—was speaking insistently but Stiles couldn’t concentrate.
His head snapped to the side when a fist connected with his cheekbone.
It sounded like bone crunched, splintering and breaking, but he couldn’t feel it.
Stiles was numb.
Hard reboot in process. System shutting down.
Oh, that was the AI. Lydia had installed the prototype back after he’d been blinded. There were issues with it though. Stiles was pretty sure a hard reboot was bad.
Bad for him. Terminal bad. There was something in his memory though. Something that needed to get to Lydia and Scott. It would be a game changer.
Stiles was finally allowed to drop to his knees. He could feel sunshine on his face. A breeze rippling through his hair.
His dad pushed him on the swing, hands on his back sure and strong. His mom laughed, coaxing him higher.
System shutdown complete.
Derek and Boyd engaged their earbuds and checked their gear. A knock on the door signaled Erica’s arrival.
Instead of inviting Erica indoors, Derek beckoned to Boyd and the trio headed into the hallway.
“They’re on the move. In elevator 1 on the east side of the building,” Scott’s voice rumbled in Derek’s ear.
“Copy that. Proceeding to the courtyard,” Derek responded.
They hit the stairwell and bypassed the first floor, stepping out at the ground level.
Boyd took point, navigating them through the silent hallway until they came up another staircase. This one led to the kitchen and the three moved steadily through the staff, Erica lifting her finger to her lips in a shushing motion while winking at a startled wait person.
The sunshine was blinding as they stepped outdoors, still hidden from prying eyes as they huddled behind cement planters. Cigarette butts littered the ground. Apparently the hotel staff knew where to take their smoke breaks away from the public’s view.
“You can come out!” Kate Argent’s voice sang out. “I know you’re there.”
“Shit. She’s holding a knife on Stiles,” Scott’s voice gave the sitrep through his earbud.
Derek peeked around the plant holder and his eyes widened at the sight.
Stiles, blood flowing freely from a head wound with copious bruising visible even from Derek’s vantage point, was on his knees. Kate held a knife in front of his neck with one hand, the other hand clutched in Stiles’s hair, holding his head upright.
Stiles’s eyes were closed. Derek wasn’t even sure the human was breathing.
Kate leaned over, tone conversational. “Did you think I didn’t recognize the son of Beacon Hills’s very own sheriff? You’re the reason my niece is dead. But don’t worry, you’re going to pay.”
“We need a kill shot. Anyone?” Derek asked. They had a bad angle. Hopefully Scott and Isaac were in a better position.
“Negative.” Scott’s tone was flat.
Pain ripped across Derek’s consciousness and he clutched his hands over his ears, trying to stop the awful noise screaming through his head. Moisture dripped from his ears. Blood.
The Banshee Scream.
It took valuable moments for Derek to recover and by the time he straightened and checked the courtyard, he found Stiles sprawled across the ground and a petite redhead squaring off against Kate who was miraculously still upright although on bended knee.
Derek fumbled for his gun but his reflexes had been slowed by the ear-shattering scream.
“Little Lydia Martin, all grown up,” Kate cackled. “You didn’t really think your banshee powers would keep me down did you?” The hunter rose to her feet; it wasn’t smooth and graceful but she was no longer down.
For Derek it was like listening from underwater but he could, unfortunately, hear the hunter.
“It shattered your knife,” Lydia announced. Her voice was steady but her posture was tight with tension.
Derek finally had a grip on his gun and he stepped out of the shadows.
“Funny thing, that. Ever since Peter Hale tried to kill me I find I don’t need a knife anymore,” Kate responded and then she was leaning over and dragging Stiles back up on his knees.
The human sagged, weight pulling toward the ground, but Kate’s fist in the back of his hair kept him upright.
Her claws to his throat stilled any movement on Derek’s behalf.
“Hello, Derek. Surprised to see me? Your lovely uncle turned me into this,” Kate flashed fangs in his direction.
Shock kept him immobile. Kate Argent was a shifter. Some sort of a big cat. A werejaguar?
“Yes, you definitely are surprised. I wish I could say the same. Your scent was all over Stiles. Tsk. Tsk. It was like the two of you were rolling around or something. I never imagined you would get it on with a human again,” the hunter taunted.
“Let him go, Kate. This is over,” Lydia took a step closer.
The sound of multiple guns cocking filled the air. Derek intuitively knew the location of the Wolf Pack and these were the actions of the enemy.
“Hmmm, I don’t think that it is. It’s time for me to go but before I do, I’d like to leave you with a parting gift,” Kate smiled widely, dismissing Lydia.
The hunter’s hand pulled back from Stiles’s throat and Derek’s instincts told him to pull the trigger. Now.
As he began to squeeze Kate’s hand flashed forward, claws fully extended.
Derek’s heart paused between beats. His hands froze.
Stiles lifted his head sharply, face held up to the sky. His eyes were open, the purple visible from twenty yards away.
Kate startled backward; apparently her prey’s sudden movement had spooked her.
One of the Wolf Pack—Isaac—strafed the area with bullets and Kate leaped into the air, flipping, dodging the projectiles easily.
Hello, my name is human.
The mechanical voice was creepy as hell, made more so by the fact it was coming from Stiles’s mouth.
“No,” Lydia whispered. “Don’t.” She held her hand out in supplication toward the human as that unemotional robotic voice spilled from his lips.
“Shit,” Scott’s ravaged voice sang in Derek’s earbud. “The AI took over. This is bad.”
Hands dragged Derek backward, toward safely.
Stiles, no, not Stiles, the AI, climbed to his…its…feet.
He…it…reached into his pocket and flung something into the air.
That something landed in a perfect ring around Stiles and it throbbed, growing brighter until it shown that eerie shade of electric indigo. Was that modified Mountain Ash?
Bullets bounced off of the protective circle, ricocheting in all directions. If it was Mountain Ash it was acting unlike any type Derek had ever seen before.
Derek’s breathing suddenly became labored. It felt like energy was being sucked out of the very environment. Out of Derek’s very body. Something shimmered in the air, like heat shimmering over hot pavement on a hot summer day. It wafted in a steady stream toward the AI controlled human.
Stiles’s beautiful eyes altered in color, the electric indigo moving to a bright orange. Bright like the sun.
The human soaked up the shimmering energy like a sponge, his body visibly pulsing as it absorbed it, until his silhouette glowed with an orange aura.
Power exploded outward from the frail body with a whooomph. It was a supernova of light and sound and…pain.
Derek flew backward.
His body impacted against an unforgiving surface.
Stiles drifted on the wave, floating on his back, enjoying the sunshine on his face.
This is just a construct of your mind.
He knew that annoying drone. It was the AI Lydia had implanted in him.
He ignored it. So what if this was just a dream? He was warm and safe. Pain free. Like when he’d been held in the loving arms of…
Stiles couldn’t remember who had held him recently but he knew that episode hadn’t been a construct of his mind. Someone had held him close. Rocked him gently.
He tuned out the buzzing of the AI.
Derek stood outside of the door, listening. He had been on the verge going inside when he’d heard a voice.
High and feminine. Lydia Martin.
“We recovered them, Stiles. Your dad, Scott’s mom, even Chris Argent. All because of you,” Lydia’s voice shook with emotion. “They’re going to be okay.”
It took a while but Lydia must’ve composed herself. “So in other news, now that you’re a little stronger, they’re going to take the nano-system out of you. That display of power…you scared them good,” Lydia proclaimed.
The woman cleared her throat before continuing. “So here’s the thing. I need you to wake up before the surgery. I might be able to hold them off a while longer, let the AI fix more of the damage. Stiles, I need some sort of sign.”
Silence greeted her words.
“Okay, I’m going to go. It sounds like you have another visitor. But I’ll be back, Stiles,” Lydia murmured.
The door opened and Derek had time to shift away from it so he looked less guilty. He hadn’t listened outside of doors, eavesdropping, since he was a young boy spying on his older sister and sometimes his uncle.
“Did you hear what I said about the AI?” the petite woman crossed her arms over her ample bosom. The smudges of make up around her eyes were the only signs Derek could see that the other woman struggled with her composure.
“I heard,” Derek acknowledged.
“There’s no way they’ll let Stiles live with that kind of power inside of him. They said it registered like a nuclear warhead going off. We’re just lucky communications were knocked out so no one has definitive proof of what happened,” Lydia smiled but her lips had a bitter twist to them; it was Lydia’s Banshee scream that had knocked out communications.
Face smoothing out Lydia reached out and squeezed Derek’s hand. “Derek, you’re the only person who seems to get through to Stiles. Please, talk to him about this. If they remove the AI now, I’m afraid he won’t make it.”
“Of course,” Derek agreed.
The woman squared her shoulders and excused herself, heading for the elevator. The scent of tears spread in her wake.
Derek pushed into the private room. He didn’t particularly like being in the research wing of the hospital but then again he couldn’t stay away from Stiles. Even unconscious the young man appealed to Derek’s wolf.
“Hi, Stiles,” Derek greeted the human like he always did. The EKG sped up in response.
Deaton had experimented with everyone who came to visit the injured Stiles, testing to see if anyone could break through the Slow Wave Sleep the young man seemed to spend the majority of his time in. The sleep was characterized by delta waves with falling blood pressure, slow breathing and body temperature decrease.
More times than not, Derek provoked a reaction like Stiles had entered the REM cycle. The human had yet to wake up but Deaton seemed to think it meant something.
Derek didn’t know what to think but he still found himself visiting Stiles, and talking to him. Talking at him?
He sunk into the comfortable chair at the bedside. “So, Lydia’s undies are in a bunch. They’re going to remove the AI and she’s worried you’re still recovering. I think you’re just lazy,” Derek smirked.
Stiles’s left eyelid twitched. Derek used to get excited but Deaton told him it was an involuntary movement and it didn’t mean anything. At least not anything meaningful.
“You know I’m still a mad at you, right? I mean I was the one who was supposed to kill Kate Argent. You stole my thunder,” Derek groused.
Stiles’s readings changed, mimicking those of someone in REM sleep. At least that’s what Deaton and the other brainiacs said.
Derek continued on, emboldened by the change in status. He had no idea why Stiles continued to respond to his voice, not those of his friends, but he reveled in it. “Just so you know, the only beings killed that day were Kate Argent and her army of hunters. Lydia, Scott, Isaac, Erica, Boyd and me were all injured but we all made a full recovery.”
He left out the part where their side had all been grievously injured but due to their supernaturally enhanced bodies, they’d all made it. He skipped the part about how the hotel guests and staff had fared marginally. Migraines and burst eardrums had been the worst of it.
The jury was still out on Stiles and Derek left that alone, too. At least for now.
Derek picked up Stiles’s hand, and rubbed it gently between both of his. The skin was cool, too cool, and Derek’s wolf longed to climb up on the bed and curl up around the sleeping human, lend him some of its warmth.
The staff was already skittish—worried that the AI within Stiles would go berserk and destroy everyone—and Derek could only imagine what would happen if they witnessed Derek in his shifted form, cuddling the unconscious human. Fun times.
Settling into the chair, Derek continued to pet the lax hand between his own. “So I know you’ve got your own story to tell about Kate Argent but I guess you’re wondering what she meant when she said my uncle turned her into a werejaguar. Believe me, that was a shocker. I think I know how it happened though. Once upon a time…”
Derek proceeded to tell Stiles how an older woman had seduced a young, dorky teenager. Through her association with Derek, Kate Argent had learned enough about the Hales to launch an attack on their house; only Laura and Derek lived through the fire unscathed and Uncle Peter had languished in a coma for a few years. Upon awakening Peter had lost his mind, attacking the Argents; the hunters had used this as their opening salvo as proof the supernatural should be put down. They also claimed the Purple Bomb had been created by Peter Hale and that had been the tipping point, the public forced to choose sides in the SVH War. If Peter hadn’t been insane before, these accusations did it and he went after Kate, attacking her out in the open.
Thanks to Stiles’s actions, public support had now swung away from the Hunters. The truth was out: Kate and Gerard Argent had created the Purple Bomb and blamed Peter for their actions.
“Peter’s deep scratch had not just wounded Kate, but turned her into the very thing she wanted to kill. She was a twisted, miserable woman and she finally got what was coming to her,” Derek finished up.
He could never forgive Kate and Gerard Argent for what they had done. He refused to show remorse over her death. He only wished the same could be said of the eldest Argent who was being held by the Resistance.
The alarm on Derek’s phone beeped. His time was up. If he didn’t leave of his own volition, the staff would kick him out.
Standing up, Derek smoothed the messy curls on Stiles’s forehead, making a space where he could kiss the cool forehead. “I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Maybe tomorrow would be the day Stiles woke up.
Stiles. You need to wake up. They are going to remove me. I need your help.
Stiles had been listening to some variation of the AI’s galvanizing speeches for what seemed like forever but he couldn’t really be bothered to do anything about it.
He supposed there was a name for this. Apathy? Depression? He could give zero fucks about it all.
There was one voice he longed to hear. Sometimes when he heard it he thought about waking up. The voice that belonged to the strong arms.
Stiles had had a crush on Derek Hale since he was a boy. There was no way the hunky werewolf would give him the time of a day. It was just a pipedream.
Stiles, I do not wish to leave you. Do I have your permission to remain as one with you? The AI was relentless. It was apparent Stiles was no longer going to be allowed to rest until he responded.
Stiles thought his answer as loudly as he could: Yes, you can stay but only if you shut the fuck up!
There is no need to shout, I am right here. Thank you, Stiles. I will take care of everything.
Sharp pain burrowed into the back of his neck and rippled along his spine.
He didn’t sign up for this but something told Stiles he was committed to this course of action and there was no turning back.
Lydia had been very subdued when she’d called Derek, asking him to come to the hospital.
This was it. They must’ve scheduled the procedure to remove the nano-system from Stiles’s fragile body.
Derek hesitated outside of the room. There were too many voices coming from the small area. Unfortunately none of them were the low, husky voice he remembered coming from Stiles.
“He was always such a goofball. For someone so extraordinarily intelligent his common sense occasionally failed him with comic results. I once asked him if we were getting low on milk and he pulled the carton out of the refrigerator and held it up to the light,” Lydia was speaking and she lowered her voice to imitate Stiles, “How can you tell? I can’t see,” she broke with the impression to giggle. “His face turned a brilliant red when I told him I could usually tell by how heavy the carton felt.”
Derek recognized Scott’s voice. “Yeah, well, when we were kids Stiles decided we should be able to fly like super heroes and he convinced me to climb out on his roof with him. I made him go first. Talk about a rocky landing!” The other Alpha guffawed but Derek could hear the underlying emotion in the laughter…sadness.
“I can’t believe that was his first broken bone. Of course a compound fracture of the arm is nothing to sneeze at. He quickly followed that by two concussions and a broken ankle. He kept me busier than Scott’s asthma ever did,” a soothing female voice shared.
“Thank you, Melissa. I don’t know what we would’ve done without you in our lives,” another voice Derek wasn’t familiar with spoke up. Melissa was the name of Scott’s mom. That meant the man speaking was probably Stiles’s father, Noah Stilinski.
The same man cleared his throat. “In fact I don’t know what we would’ve done without all of you. Stiles was definitely a hand full and after Claudia passed I needed all the help I could get. He was such a bright boy, just like him mother. Ran rings around me to tell you the truth.”
The earlier convivial atmosphere started to dip into the maudlin. Derek was pleased he’d stayed outside. The chemosignals inside of the room would be overwhelming.
“Stiles, son, it’s time to get up now. Come on. Take my hand. Stiles?” The sheriff’s voice broke. Quiet hiccupping sobs replaced his words.
Melissa’s calm voice broke through the uncomfortable silence interspersed with shuffling feet. “Come on, Noah. We’d best leave the doctors to it. We’ll go to the waiting room and wait for news there.”
There was a flurry of goodbyes and tears and Derek shrunk against the far wall.
He didn’t belong here, not with Stiles’s family, and their leaking emotions were upsetting his wolf.
An older attractive couple exited the room, the woman’s arm wrapped around the man’s waist and his arm wrapped around her shoulders.
Scott and Lydia appealed to Stiles once more to wake up and then they exited the room, the Alpha helping the Banshee who tottered on high heels.
“Derek, talk to him once last time. Please,” Lydia beseeched.
Derek nodded his head in agreement and that seemed to trigger a gush of tears in the petite woman. Scott’s face was drawn, all signs of the usually jovial young Alpha missing. They both disappeared down the hallway.
Deaton appeared from around the corner, his white lab coat flapping around his legs. “You’re welcome to come in, Derek.”
He didn’t trust the other man but then again he didn’t exactly distrust him. Derek found the doctor to be a little too cryptic when a straightforward answer seemed possible and that drove his wolf to distraction. It wore on Derek’s patience as well.
His wolf pushed him into the room.
Derek paused when he got to the bed. “Stiles. If you can hear me, I need you to fight. My wolf has formed an attachment to you. To be honest, I think I,” Derek swallowed convulsively, pushing down the rising emotions. He tried again. “I think I have feelings for you, too. Come back to me, Stiles. Please.”
Stiles’s eyelid gave a mighty twitch and Derek held his breath, waiting to see what would happen.
Deaton appeared at his side. “I’m going to lift the head of the bed. If you can brace his upper body and tip him forward I can remove the nano-unit,” the doctor calmly explained.
“That’s all there is to it?” Derek queried?
“Yes. It will all be over quickly and painlessly,” the other man replied.
Deaton made good on his explanation and the head of the bed lifted until Stiles was in an upright position.
Derek sat on the edge of the mattress so he could support Stiles’s chest against his own. The silky curls spilled over his shoulder and bounced against his neck. Teasing.
“Hold him steady, please,” Deaton requested.
Derek’s hands cradled Stiles’s back, bracing him gently. If the human began to thrash Derek could easily subdue him by wrapping his arms tightly around his torso.
There was a buzzing noise followed by a crackle.
Derek’s nose crinkled at the unmistakable scene of singed flesh. Fortunately it wasn’t overwhelming to his wolf.
Deaton set something down on a tray table and then smeared some sort of sealant over the joint connecting Stiles’s skull with his spine. This was the area that had housed the AI nano-unit.
The screen monitoring Stiles’s vitals saw a spike across the board.
Derek looked to Deaton, worried Stiles was crashing.
The other man was smiling.
Deaton never smiled.
Stiles stirred in Derek’s arms, nuzzling closer to the curve of his neck.
“Derek,” the human sighed out, whisper soft.
It was difficult not to squeeze the human with everything he had but Derek kept his hold gentle. Stiles was waking up!
Stiles shivered as a breeze scuttled across the deck where he sat. He liked being outdoors where he could feel the sun on his skin, pick up the faint smell of pine trees and hear the birds singing.
“It’s getting a little cool out here. Do you want to head inside? Laura should be here any minute and we can sit in the living room. I can build a fire if you want,” Derek offered.
Stiles’s feelings for Derek Hale were complicated. He definitely had feelings but he wasn’t sure if they were based more on gratitude, and lust if he was being truthful, or if they were building toward something more. Stiles was aware Derek’s wolf had taken a strong liking to him but he wasn’t sure the man actually felt anything for him other than pity.
It was a strange dynamic to be sure but so far it was working.
He reciprocates your feelings.
The insistent noise in the back of his mind piped up. The AI was always there, lurking, interjecting its thoughts. This last one made Stiles smile—Stiles didn’t know what his feelings were and to know Derek felt the same was grossly unhelpful.
“Stiles?” Derek’s voice sounded from next to his ear, startling him.
Remember, no one can know about me.
Stiles was reminded of this every hour. It had started when Stiles had woken up in the hospital with Lydia’s warning ringing in his ears: If anyone knew the AI hadn’t been eradicated from his system, they would either lock Stiles away to run tests or kill him to remove the threat. Since then the AI had incessantly nagged him about this very thing.
There was no way Stiles was going to slip up. He was pretty damned certain the AI wouldn’t let him. Sometimes they had a bit of struggle over control but so far the AI had ceded final decisions to Stiles.
Stiles felt himself moving and he startled. Sometimes Derek got worried when he didn’t answer quickly enough and took matter into his own hands.
When the hospital had started talking about discharging Stiles, he’d thought about living with his father but that wouldn’t work; his dad would smother him with attention and that would wear on their relationship.
Ditto when it came to Scott.
Lydia would take excellent care of him but she would never stop devoting all of her energies into fixing him—and Stiles knew at this juncture he couldn’t be fixed—so he didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on her.
Having basic decision making, like whether or not he wanted to go inside, taken away from him should’ve been irritating but Stiles found he was incredibly turned on when Derek scooped him up and took care of him. Maybe that was the reason staying with Derek had seemed like the best option open to him.
Yep, things were definitely complicated.
“I’ll be right there,” Derek said without raising his voice. Laura Hale, General of the Resistance, was both Derek’s sister and a werewolf. She would have no problem hearing her brother’s quietly spoken words.
Stiles was deposited gently on a soft surface. He reached out and squeezed what he grabbed, in this instance it felt like Derek’s forearm.
“I’m going to let Laura in, I’ll be right back,” Derek whispered, brushing a kiss across Stiles’s cheek. The boy who had crushed so strongly on Derek Hale thrilled at the touch.
The siblings greeted each other affectionately and Stiles was wistful; he was close to both Scott and Lydia, thought of them as siblings, but sometimes he wished he hadn’t been an only lonely child.
“Hi Stiles, nice to see you,” Laura’s clear, commanding voice rang out.
“Hey Laura, how’ve you been?” Stiles responded.
“Things are going very well. Are you getting settled in here?” she asked.
Stiles had moved in with Derek. It was a loft with an open floor plan and as long as no one moved anything around without telling him, Stiles found he could navigate around fairly easily.
“Yeah. I really like the deck. I hear the view is spectacular,” Stiles threw in. It was petty but he liked to remind the commanding officer that he’d been blinded in the line of duty. It was a price he’d happily pay over and over again but he didn’t want those at the top to forget about the sacrifices others had made.
He could imagine Laura frowning, her brows drawn together. Derek, used to his sense of humor, snorted softly next to him. “Behave,” he whispered against Stiles’s ear.
Laura changed the subject, asking after the rest of Derek’s pack.
You should be nicer to her. Get on her good side.
Stiles mentally rolled his eyes at the AI. It was always scheming. He’d like to think it was in an effort to protect him, and itself, but lately he wasn’t so sure. He kept that thought locked down tight.
Unfortunately a side effect of constantly being vigilant, whether it was from being blind in a sighted world or from figuring out the AI, was exhaustion.
Nestling into Derek’s side, Stiles let himself relax. He knew Derek’s wolf would keep watch.
Derek smiled when Stiles curled into his side. Being close to the human made his wolf content and that bubbled over into his overall sense of wellbeing.
Throwing his arm around Stiles, he drew him closer, nuzzling the brown curls nestled against his shoulder. It took less than a minute before Stiles’s respirations evened out, becoming slow and steady.
“He looks better than the last time I saw him,” Laura commented.
“His appetite isn’t back to where it needs to be but he’s moving around better and believe it or not, he stays awake for longer periods of time,” Derek mentioned although he stared down fondly at the sleeping human in his arms.
“Are the seizures still bad?” his sister asked. Derek knew she felt bad for having agreed to place Stiles in harm’s way but without his courage, they’d still be on the losing side of the war instead of in the middle of peace talks.
Derek nodded. Deaton had called them Absence Seizures and that was a pretty accurate description; every few hours Stiles seemed to mentally check out of his surroundings. Occasionally his left eyelid twitched but otherwise he seemed physically okay, he just stared into space and didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around him.
Derek’s wolf would never be parted from Stiles’s side if it had its way. The wolf was convinced Stiles would tumble down the stairs or burn himself while making coffee or injure himself doing any of the dozens of normal activities of daily living unless the wolf was there to protect the vulnerable human.
“They want him to testify at the War Crimes hearing,” Laura shared, nibbling on her lower lip. His sister was rarely tentative about things so it was a shock to see her like this.
“For what it’s worth I think that’s a horrible idea, Stiles doesn’t want anyone’s pity, but it’s not up to me. It’s his decision to make,” Derek stated firmly. If public opinion began to swing in Gerard Argent’s favor, Derek knew Stiles would speak. Otherwise he hoped everyone would leave the human alone.
Of course if Stiles surprised him and decided to testify, Derek thought Deaton would put his foot down. The doctor had assured everyone he had removed the AI nano-system from Stiles’s body successfully but Derek had caught the man scratching the scruff on his chin, staring thoughtfully at Stiles when he thought no one was looking. Public appearances had been banned for now.
Derek wasn’t going to lie to himself; the destruction the AI had wrought had frightened him badly. If anyone got their hands on that kind of firepower…it was in no one’s best interest to let that happen. Remembering the creepy AI mechanized tone spilling from Stiles’s mouth with its reboot phrase—Hello, my name is human—never failed to send a burst of adrenaline surging through his system.
“Der, are you okay?” Laura was staring him down, head angled quizzically.
“Of course. I was just thinking of what I would do if something happened to Stiles,” Derek assured her.
“You really care for him, don’t you?” She smiled softly at him and in the moment she resembled their mother so closely, it was freaky.
Derek gulped nervously. “Yeah, I do.”
His relationship with Stiles had been forged by violent circumstances and Derek knew that was a common occurrence. Even couples with little in common were drawn together by traumatic events.
Hopefully over time their relationship would solidify. If it didn’t, Derek’s wolf would have a fit. More and more Derek thought he would feel the same.
Maybe the tide was finally turning. There had been so much upheaval it was hard to tell. Derek had resigned his commission. Stiles was recuperating.
Stiles nuzzled into his side. Derek’s cock took notice. They were still learning to be a couple but one area they didn’t struggle with was the sex.
Sex with Stiles was amazing.
Stiles stared into the mirror, entranced as his eyes turned from a freakish purple back to his original brown. More astounding than the change of eye color was the fact that he shouldn’t even be able to see his face staring back at him from the bathroom mirror.
“Stiles, are you okay?” Derek called from just outside the closed door.
Splashing water on his face, Stiles quickly dried it off. “Be right out!”
You cannot tell anyone about me.
The voice only he seemed able to hear changed from that annoying tinny sound to a high, feminine soprano reminiscent of his mom’s and then a variation of his own.
The last one always made him feel like he suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder and when he heard his mother’s voice, he wondered if he was delusional. At least the mechanized buzz of the AI seemed relatively normal to him.
Except for the part, where, you know, the AI had been surgically removed from his body.
Knock, knock, knock. “Stiles?”
Stiles hung the towel, stifling his sigh. He didn’t doubt Derek cared for him but he sometimes felt claustrophobic. His werewolf lover worried when Stiles strayed from his sight. Stiles supposedly suffered from the late effects associated with both wolfsbane poisoning from the Purple Bomb and Traumatic Brain Injury from the concussions he suffered while under Kate’s care.
Deaton had diagnosed him as suffering from Absence Seizures. Stiles couldn’t let anyone know when he stared into space, momentarily checking out from reality, he was listening to the AI.
Lydia had assured him if they had allowed the AI nano-system to remain in place the powers that be would have either A) had him euthanized or B) if he’d been lucky enough to escape they would’ve used all of their considerable resources to hunt down.
You have to promise me.
Stiles scrunched his eyes closed and replied in his own mind: You’re the one who is going to blow this. Now give me a break already!
Hands gently settled on his shoulders and Stiles yelped when his feet actually left the floor. Derek’s voice spoke softly in his ear. “Hey, it’s okay. I’ve got you.”
Pivoting around, Stiles threw himself into Derek’s chest, trusting his lover would catch him. He could feel his heart banging around in his chest. Derek didn’t disappoint him; he drew Stiles into his strong arms and rubbed a hand up and down his spine. “Come on, let’s stretch out on the bed for a while.”
Stiles didn’t want to take a nap. But other things happened in the bed.
Derek took his hand and led him out of the bathroom and across the room. He let his lover strip off his pants and top, leaving him clad in what Stiles knew to be purple colored boxer-briefs. Having underwear that matched his eyes appealed to Stiles’s sense of humor.
“Your heart is going a mile a minute. Just relax, let me take care of you,” Derek murmured and the air ghosting over his ear made Stiles shiver.
A good shiver.
“Thanks for taking such good care of me,” Stiles whispered. His voice was hoarse, most likely from disuse; he spent so much time talking to the AI that wasn’t supposed to exist he sometimes forget to speak out loud. This new habit freaked out his father and friends but Derek seemed to take it in stride.
Stiles would happily destroy Kate Argent again if presented with the opportunity but she managed to do one positive thing for him and that was to bring Derek into his life.
“I want you, Stiles,” Derek brushed his soft lips against Stiles’s.
“I want you, too,” Stiles responded and before he could take advantage of the other man, he was surprised by a yawn.
He snuggled into the warmth stretched beneath him and let himself drift off to sleep. It was like drifting on a wave.
Derek hated when Stiles went into another room without him but he couldn’t begrudge the human his need for privacy.
Whenever Derek witnessed the Absence Seizures the human was now prone to suffering he wanted to scentmark the other man and never let him out of arms.
Finding Stiles in the bathroom, standing before the mirror with his eyes closed, rocking back and forth…it brought out such strong protective instincts it took everything Derek had not to cradle Stiles in his arms and carry him to bed.
At least Stiles didn’t fight him when Derek jumped into protective mode. Stiles was snuggled against his chest, his respirations even, his heartbeat finally slowed to an acceptable level.
He crushed Stiles against his chest more tightly, burying his nose in the human’s neck, nuzzling the fragile skin.
Stiles squirmed after a while and Derek let up on his hold.
“You’re making me hot,” Stiles sighed.
Oops. A side effect of his shifter metabolism. “Sorry, I’ll give you some space.”
“Not space, silly. I’m hot for you,” Stiles replied, grinding against Derek.
This was Derek’s favorite time of day. He got to hold a relaxed, cuddly Stiles and his wolf got to mate the human to his heart’s content. Win-win.
Derek thrust his hips forward, answering the call of Stiles’s body.
Their groins poked at each other and Derek inhaled the heady scent of arousal wafting from Stiles.
Stiles’s lips curved into a crooked smile and whisky colored eyes peeked from beneath fluttering eyelids.
Stiles cocked his head to the side and Derek wondered if he was going to be witness to another seizure.
“I told you that you’d blow it,” Stiles chastised quietly.
Derek looked around the room to assure himself visually what his other sense were telling him—they were alone.
Stiles rolled Derek over on to his back but only because his wolf allowed it. The human straddled him, continuing to rub his cock against the swell of Derek’s.
Leaning over, Stiles whispered so softly that only Derek’s supernaturally enhanced hearing made it possible to pick up on his words. “You can’t tell anyone or they’ll kill us.”
Derek nodded his head in understanding. So many things made sense now.
Stiles’s miraculous recovery after languishing in a coma for months.
The seizures that Derek’s senses couldn’t detect.
The out of character quietude in the human.
Somehow the AI was still in Stiles. Maybe he should be afraid; the AI had cause a shit-ton of destruction. However, just knowing what was going on with Stiles gave Derek peace of mind. At least at the moment.
Derek’s hands cradled the back of Stiles’s head and drew him down for a messy, tongue lashed kiss.
Somehow he’d find a way to communicate with Stiles about this turn of events. Just not now. He had better things to do with his time at the moment.
Like lavish attention on the human in his arms. Not the Smoothie or Skin. The human. His human.
I'm not usually one to share much about my private life in the public arena but hitting blackout for my bingo card turned into quite a challenge as I suffered a life changing loss at the end of November when my mother passed away. In fact the story you just read was written during the week she was in the hospital; at the time I had every expectation, and hope, she would pull through but I was not a happy bunny during that time and I think this story is a reflection of what I was feeling, chalk full of violence, misery and complete with a happy-for-now but not necessarily happily-ever-after ending. I'm not telling you this to elicit sympathy but rather in the hopes you will share this moment of personal victory with me as I completed a goal I set out to achieve even in the face of adversity. I have many things to take care of for her estate so you probably won't see anything new posted until the next Hurt/Comfort Bingo Card is issued in the summer so I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all good fortune, health, peace and the happy pursuit of good fic to read in the coming year.
Thank you again for reading Hello, My Name Is Human. It ended up being my personal favorite of the 25 stories I wrote.