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age: a sum of years and experiences

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Derek: 30; Stiles: 15 -- Voodoo Doll 

The doll is made of burlap. It's insides are grass and moss Stiles found in the woods on a walk. Red thread and large stitches attach he legs, arms and head. The red string also gives the doll a mouth of x's. Shiny black buttons gives the doll eyes that glint. 

Stiles makes it for no reason other than because he can. He carries it around everywhere he goes like a favored stuffed animal. He doesn't know why. The doll isn't linked to anyone. It's just a doll. 

His doll is fraying from being in backpacks and pockets so often. It gives it character and makes Stiles love his doll a little more. 

"You haven't used it yet?" Scott asks.

"No," Stiles says. 

"Okay," Scott shrugs.

Stiles loves his best friend a lot. Scott doesn't ask if he needs help choosing a victim or making his doll. He doesn't imply like Jackson that Stiles doesn't have a clue. He doesn't give him a pitying smile and call him a late bloomer like Dr. Deaton. He just nods and smiles and knows Stiles will do it when he's ready. 

Stiles is fifteen. 

That's not too old for his first voodoo doll. Not exactly normal either but it's his first time. He wants his first to be special. 

Lydia's first voodoo doll was of Jennifer Blake at the age thirteen. 

(Thirteen is normal of girls. She's normal. God, Stiles wishes she'd just look at him.)

The woman was Lydia's tutor. Lydia is a prodigy. The pride and joy of the coven. A girl that will grow into a woman to make their coven the strongest and most wanted. 

Some people, like Jennifer Blake, didn't like that.

So Lydia got revenge. 

Lydia carefully unraveled the voodoo doll's threads and Jennifer Blake's skin fell off her bones. 

"I'm a survivor." Lydia says very quietly when anyone her asks her why.

Jackson Whittemore was fourteen when he made his first voodoo doll.

(Jackson is perfect. Perfect reputation. Perfect grades. Perfect body. He's the perfect age for boys when he makes his voodoo doll.) 

Voodoo dolls are personal. 

That doesn't stop everyone from knowing why Jackson overachieved and made two dolls in his adoptive parents' images. 

The Whittemores weren't cursed. That Jackson was such a good boy. He made his dolls for the good of his parents. 

Except.

Mr. Whittemore's constant promotions kept him from home. He slowly became more and more miserable. Clinically depressed even. Mrs. Whittemore was too lucky in love. Her male friends suddenly wanting to be lovers, making her guilty. Suicidal. "Too much good luck," everyone decides because the universe needs balance even if they have to take it out of the recipients' hides.

Stiles knows Jackson did it on purpose.

Everyone does but no one says anything because he's such a perfect son. 

Scott made his voodoo doll at fourteen and six months. 

He made his old school. Straw and sticks binded tightly with his mom's favorite t-shirt. Thread making large eyes and yarn making the doll's hair. 

Melissa McCall was promoted to head nurse. Her job secure despite how she bosses the ER doctors around. She's up for an award for her efforts at the hospital. Her love life is picking up. She's been a few dates, although everyone knows her love life is going to end with her married to the sheriff. She's happy and content.

Now Scott? 

He's the perfect son. 

Allison made her voodoo doll at twelve.

She used it once and then preserved the poppet.

An Argent woman tradition everyone says when asked. "The tradition," Allison told them all quiet and guilty, "is to make a voodoo doll of our fathers and use it against them. It's to remind them they have no power over us."

Stiles feels for her. He loves his dad a lot. He's all he has left in the world. He can't imagine ever using magic against his dad. 

Stiles made a burlap doll at fourteen and makes a voodoo doll at fifteen. 

He's sick of people teasing him. Calling him a kid. Everyone his age is an initiate or higher in the coven. Stiles still has to sit with the little kids at esbats and sabbats. 

He picks a man he sees sitting in the woods.

Everything about him is drooping. 

His head is bowed and his hands limp and hanging. Everything about him is defeated and tired. Stiles thinks about inching forward to cheer the man up a little. He doesn't because the guy came all the way out here to be alone. Stiles can respect that, sometimes at least. 

Every time Stiles comes this far, he sees the man sad and bent.

It isn't a conscious decision to link the man to the burlap doll.

Stiles is inspecting the area and sees blood spattered leaves and shoves them in his doll without really thinking. It just happens. The stitches taking themselves apart and putting themselves back again like it never happened.

The voodoo doll's black button eyes glimmer blue and keep the light.

"Huh," Stiles says out loud. "A werewolf. A killer werewolf." 

Stiles doesn't go back to the woods.

He also doesn't show Dr. Deaton his proof of adulthood.

He keeps the poppet safe.

He sticks the poppet full of white pins. Stiles know in any area besides the stomach is over kill, but the man needs every little extra part of Stiles' goodwill he can force on the doll. He wraps white and blue yarn around the doll's chest. For healing again and for love. Everyone should feel safe and loved. 

He keeps the voodoo doll closer than ever.

He keeps it wrapped in felt that costs him a month's worth of gas. The felt is special. It won't cancel out the magic of the poppet but still keep it safe and keep Stiles safe from the pins. He keeps the voodoo doll in his jacket or hoodie pocket or next to his head on his pillow. 

Stiles loved the burlap doll he made a year and a half ago. He adores his voodoo doll. 

He doesn't really think about the transference of human emotion. 

Stiles doesn't consider the possibility the werewolf will come find him. 

Why would he? He doesn't know about Stiles. Stiles is just some creepy kid that doesn't know how to mind his own business. The werewolves of Beacon Hills aren't privy to the magical humans in their town. For all that Dr. Deaton is the alpha's emissary, he protects his slowly growing coven with a spymaster's ferocity. Stiles sort of doubts any of the werewolves know people like Stiles exist.

He's wrong of course because he's fifteen. 

He's getting ready for school.

It's too early. Outside is pale and barely waking up and school days suck. There's no humane reason for school to be this early in this day and age. Does Stiles look like a farmer? He really hopes that's a no.

His mouth is minty and his bladder is empty after exiting the bathroom. He blearily stumbles towards his closet. The jeans are easy to tug on with how loose they usually are on his frame. His shirts he struggles with a little more. One tight blue shirt, a white worn and thin comic t-shirt so the blue is seen slightly and green plaid button up. He hides everything with a pullover hoodie and yawns so hard his jaw cracks when he pops his head out the hole. 

He's turning away from his closet to grab the voodoo doll when he's violently shoved and pushed. He falls heavily to the floor. His brain is scrambling to wake up and deal with whatever the fuck that was, but he's trapped under the cobwebs of sleep. 

Whatever -- whoever-- it is, is quick to follow him to the floor. Pressing Stiles so hard to the floor, it's a legitimate fear of Stiles' that he's going to fall through the floor. 

He can't see anything. A shock of black hair that smells like mint and rosemary tickle his nose as his attacker presses his face into the juncture of neck and shoulder. Stiles tries his best to shove and jerk away, escape or anything but not die on his bedroom floor. His dad should be coming home soon. That'd be an ugly sight for his dad, coming off the night shift to his son mutilated on the bedroom floor. 

He's rendered helpless when his attacker snarls and grabs his hands to pin down and just stays there. Like all he wanted to do was pin Stiles like a butterfly with his own body and now he's happy.

"Let me go please. I didn't do anything." Stiles babbles for his life, maybe literally. "I won't tell anyone, just let me go."

He stops in his pathetic begging when he feels hot wetness against his neck and that can't be what he thinks, can it? His attacker's shoulders are trembling and maybe it is. Stiles slowly relaxes despite himself. The guy feels like he's--

"Hey, you're okay." Stiles tries to soothe the crying happening on him because apparently it only takes him ten minutes to get Stockholmed. Stiles loves learning fun stuff like that about himself. "You're just looking for a safe place, huh? Let me tell you, Stilinskis are the safest. And cuddliest. Good genetics, y'know. But we only work when alive, so keep that in mind please." 

"You're a witch." His attacker says for the first time. 

"That's kind of sexist." Stiles says because it is.

"You've been using magic on me." His attacker says, voice a little muffled in Stiles' neck. And oh.

Oh.

This is his blue eye werewolf who is constantly twisted in sadness. 

"Just a little." Stiles admits because Dr. Deaton has taught them all how stupid it is to lie to a werewolf. "Only good magic; I swear."

"Thank you," is said close to his ear, goosebumps prickling all over because of the way the werewolf says it. With so much gratitude and gratefulness Stiles doesn't know what to do. 

"You're welcome," Stiles says awkwardly.

At some point the werewolf lets Stiles hands go. Maybe knowing with his wolfy senses that Stiles isn't going anywhere. Or maybe he's just that confident in his ability to keep Stiles pinned with nothing else but the weight of his body, which yeah, Stiles doesn't doubt. Stiles instead chooses to pet the guy in person for once. Stroke his hair and think loud comforting and affectionate thoughts. Stiles is only fifteen, but even he knows the werewolf blanketing him is starved for affection. Like good things didn't happen until Stiles.

Which is weird in itself because when Stiles happens to people it usually isn't a good thing, except for a handful of people, namely, dad and Scott.

Dad is home.

Stiles can hear the car settling in the drive way. The car door opening and jingling as a reminder and then the door closing. He doesn't hear the front door open but he hears it thump shut. His dad will be walking around, most likely pausing in the kitchen because Stiles isn't there crying into a bowl of cereal about the early morning. Stiles scratches his werewolf's -- that's how this works, right? Not that Stiles wants to apply the law of ownership on another sentient being, but the werewolf came to him. He became Stiles' when instead of leaving a gory mess on the floor formerly known as Stiles, hug-tackled him and demonstrated appreciation, well, he became Stiles' to fix and protect and do this for-- scalp. This is going to be awkward to explain.

So very awkward.

His bedroom door starts to open and his werewolf doesn't make any motion to move. Stiles steels himself, be a man, no be a Stilinski, to face his dad. This is all on Stiles; this is his responsibility.

His dad peeks his head pass his door and pales instantly.

"Don't freak out." Stiles orders nervously. "Just, don't freak out. 'Kay, dad? I'm fine. Everything is fine. Ignore the werewolf using me as a cushion and please call Dr. Deaton."

His dad's eyes widen in recognition at the word werewolf. He shuffles like he doesn't want to leave his fifteen year old son underneath a man to make the requested phone call which Stiles gets. His werewolf is very much not a teenager or young adult but a man. Stiles would be nervous too. Never mind that, he is nervous.

"I'm going to call Dr. Deaton." Dad says after too long staring and judging. "And Talia." 

And deliberately leaves like he's forcing himself.

The name Talia means nothing to Stiles but his werewolf nods like he knows so whatever. 

Stiles is getting too hot under his many layers and his werewolf seems disinclined to budge. The sun is brightening his room little bit by bit. He's going to be missing school. He hopes Scott manages without him. They're supposed to have a quiz on Romeo & Juliet today. 

His dad peeks open the door again. Shifting between a scowl and pity, dad looks a little nauseous. 

"Dr. Deaton and Talia will be over in ten minutes." Dad declares. 

Stiles' werewolf nods again, still clutching and hiding his face. Stiles has never given a lot of thought to his fingers before. They're long and strong, but he never really considered them caring before. Or in terms of caressing. He knows how they look, um, intimately, but not in accordance to another person. How another person would feel with Stiles' fingers stroking and massaging. Stiles hopes it feels half as good for his werewolf as it does for him.

His fingers tingle. 

Dr. Deaton and this Talia enter his room together. 

Dr. Deaton raises an eyebrow and starts circling Stiles and his werewolf like a never before seen ritual. Talia is a tall woman with long brown hair and strong features. She looks sad and breathless, her chest moving fast.

"Derek, why didn't you say it was getting this bad?" Talia asks and she sounds like dad when Stiles tried hiding the return of his panic attacks six months ago. 

"Because Talia, it isn't depression that's driven to your son acting like a limpet." Dr. Deaton says. He's picking up Stiles' voodoo doll. Stiles twitches as much as Derek the Werewolf's bulk allows. Dr. Deaton shouldn't be touching his doll. That's just not cool. That doll is important and personal and--

Stiles might see the point Dr. Deaton might be making.

"What is going on?" Dad demands because he's been cool about his son being sort of magic and a man pinning his baby to the floor. The guy deserved answers. Stiles is such a trial to his father. 

"At some point Stiles made a voodoo doll of Derek." Dr. Deaton eyes the doll and touches the tops of the pins and knots of the cords. "Blue for love. White for healing. Wrapped in Bicardi felt." Dr. Deaton smirks slightly. "Always kept close, Stiles has been healing Mr. Hale. Protecting him from his demons. I'd say today Derek found the source of his sudden contentment. Nothing to worry about, sheriff." 

Talia reaches for the poppet. 

Stiles ignores most of what is going on because he knows this. Derek Hale in all his werewolf glory is Stiles' responsibility. Maybe ever since Stiles first saw the werewolf sitting helpless and defeated in the middle of the woods and Stiles just backed off. Stiles isn't stupid. What he's waiting for is the adults to come to the realization and for them to figure out how everyone is going to deal with it. 

"Then, Talia, if you would, remove your thirty year old son." Dad says, barely keeping the hostility out of his voice.

Thirty years old? Stiles stops his petting to think about that. Derek is technically old enough to be his father, albeit if he had been a teen dad. Exactly fifteen years between them. A decade and half a decade. Stiles tries considering if that's a deal breaker but all he can think of are Derek's sad eyes in the woods.

"Alan has explained what happened from an emissary's point of view," Talia says calmly, touching the poppet curiously. "From a werewolf's point of view things are a little more complicated. Your son wished for happiness for mine. For his heart to heal." She touches the blue and white cords twisted together and wrapped around the poppet's chest. "He kept Derek blanketed in affection. We noticed the change in him, but we all assumed he was working alone. He became happier, lighter. More like the man I always knew he'd grow up to be than the one he became." Stiles squeaks slightly after Derek shoves his face harder into Stiles' throat. Almost embarrassed. "Your son surrounded Derek with his scent; Derek fixated. Voodoo dolls aren't compatible with werewolves, not how they are with humans. Your son gave himself to Derek when he didn't destroy the doll after a few weeks."

"What?" Dad yelps.

Stiles hugs Derek tighter.

He's learning all sort of new facts about werewolves today.

"It's okay," Stiles says. "I don't mind." With Derek in his arms, he feels like he's holding the voodoo doll close. His poppet became a real person just for Stiles to hold without sticking himself full of pins. Stiles is okay with being a shield against the shitty things in world. "I just want Derek happy." He adds in case that's a deal breaker.

Dad still looks ready to freak out. He should really start his breathing exercises like the doctor advised. Talia is staring down at him with too kind eyes that shimmer slightly with what looks like tears but the woman werewolf doesn't look capable of crying to begin with. Dr. Deaton is looking at his watch, unsurprised.

"Congratulations, sheriff." Dr. Deaton says dryly. "Your son is considered married in the eyes of spirits and supernatural entities everywhere."

Stiles wonders if he'll get his own reality TV show: Fifteen and Married or I Married Someone Half My Age.

Derek sighs, happily even, and keeps cuddling.

Derek: 17; Stiles: 11 -- Halloween 

Derek is volun-told to take elementary kids trick or treating.

Derek blames Laura and Laura blames him, but mom says it’s both their faults. Something about constant fighting and doing something good for the community. He stopped paying attention because Laura kept communicating with her eyebrows that he was stupid. Derek really wishes he hadn't been. He wishes he hadn't been trying to communicate back with his that he hoped she gets kidnapped by a guy in a creepy white van with no plates.

If he had been paying attention, maybe he would have realized he wasn't helping one kid go door to door to beg for candy, but a whole group of them.

Sometimes having expressive eyebrows sucked.

Sometimes it really sucked he developed a language using them to communicate with Laura.

His group is eight fifth graders.

He's pretty sure he's going to lose a few and inhales all their scents somewhat obviously because shit. He's going to lose one and he needs to be able to track them down to give them back to their parents.

He has two zombies, a dead bride, a pumpkin, a witch, a dinosaur, Robin Hood and a hockey player.

Derek can make it through this.

He nods stiffly to Paige when he sees her because he still loves her.

Two years ago she took the werewolf revelation extremely well. Maybe too well because a year and a half of dating and she tells him she's developed feelings for Laura. Just another reason to add to a long list of reasons Laura and Derek are fighting and being forced to do community service. Even after six months of his sister and his ex doings things and he feels a curl of hurt, but Derek is a good guy. He would never force Paige, anyone, to stay with him if they don't love him. And he's glad Laura is happy but Jesus. Even good guys have their limits.

Thankfully, despite their little petty arguments, Laura helped him put together a costume. "You're my brother and I did steal your girlfriend," Laura said grudgingly. "So let me dress you before you embarrass the whole family."

She picked out a white T-shirt, classic blue jeans, boots and leather jacket and forced him to dress in them with the power of her whining.

She styled his hair with globs of gel into something she calls a pompadour.

Laura is strange, always has been.

"There you look just like James Dean." Laura said smugly.

One of the eleven year old zombies keeps casting him these looks and Derek has to resist messing up hair because he feels so damn stupid. An eleven year old knows Derek looks stupid. Even the cuffs of his jeans are rolled, what.

"You're better looking than our chaperone last year." The witch says frank.

"Great," Derek says properly enthused for dealing with a bunch of kids on Halloween.

He learns their names because yelling, "Dead zombie bride!" Gets him two girls that aren't the dead bride he's looking for.

His zombies are named Stiles and Scott, also known as the terrible twins by all the other chaperones. Apparently the two have a habit of running off and causing Halloween havoc on the neighborhood. He's already confiscated cherry bombs, cherry bombs how the hell do eleven year olds get a hold of this shit, from them, three lighters and brown lunch bags Derek is sure were going to be flaming bags of dog shit. Derek's sure that his mom called the school and personally asked Derek get the worst of the worst. Derek is regretting fighting with Laura for sure now.

His dead bride, and first misplaced child, is named Erica. She's a quiet and shy kid that tends to wander off, as if she forgets she's part of a group at all. She came with a warning about seizures and Derek had to recite a list of things he should and shouldn't do in the event she has one. If only she'd stop wandering away, she might be his favorite. The pumpkin is named Isaac and his dad is the swim coach. Mr. Lahey is kind of smug asshole, and Derek is a little surprised this kid is his. He's too sweet by far. He silently reaches for Derek's hand every time they cross the street and actually listens. Derek didn't know elementary kids knew what the appendages on the side of their heads were used for before Isaac. He's definitely Derek's favorite, even if he has to hold his hand.

The witch, Lydia, is the leader. She decides what houses they go to and which they skip and what streets they turn on. She does a lot of the work Derek was volunteered to do, so all he really has to do is hang back and make sure no one kidnaps one of his kids or steals their candy. The dinosaur is Jackson and Derek swears to God, if someone wants to kidnap a kid he will give them Jackson. The kid keeps whining and complaining trick-or-treating is for babies but he's dressed as a dinosaur and too many times Derek has had to force him to give a little kid his trick-or-treat bag back. Thieving little bully.

Robin Hood's name is actually Allison and Derek wants to ask her parents what they were thinking for giving her such authentic props. The little squeals of glee she makes when she shoots passing children and chaperones are demonic. Zombie-Scott trips over himself to return her arrows, forcing Derek to apologize. Derek doesn't apologize for things Derek does. Needless to say, this is not a fun exercise. Then there's Boyd. On the surface the eleven year old boy is calm and well mannered. And then he whacks someone with his hockey stick and runs to hide behind Derek. Derek has already had to save him from Duke and Enny because Boyd seems to like watching Derek defend his ass.

Over all, Derek is fed up with everyone.

"Lydia, stop hitting Jackson with your broom. I don't care that he deserves it." Derek says flatly. "Isaac, Scott, Allison can be friends with both of you. Boyd stop losing Erica, she's your safety buddy for a reason. Don't make me make you guys hold hands. Stiles-- where's Stiles?" Derek looks around.

"Hopefully getting in a white van because a guy is giving him a puppy." Jackson sneers.

"Hey! Where's Stiles?" Scott shouts, large eyes going rounder in panic. "Derek! You lost him?!"

"I didn't lose anyone." Derek lies, still searching the children on the block for his other zombie. He takes obvious deep breaths, trying to scent the street. There's the thick smell of sweat, sugar and costume make-up. Which isn't very helpful because nine out of ten children smell like those things.

"Way to go," Lydia says sugary sweet. "At least our chaperone last year didn't lose anyone."

"Why didn't Stiles get a safety buddy?" Erica demands. "Why am I the only who needs one?"

"Yeah! I don't want to hold a girl's hand." Boyd says.

Derek closes his eyes and prays for patience.

"Lydia and Jackson, you're safety buddies. Allison, I need you to look out for Isaac and Scott. I trust you to do a good job. Are you happy, Erica?" Derek directs. He sees Paige and Laura across the street with their suspiciously well behaved children. He bets Laura cheated. Maybe went werewolf on their asses. "Across the street, let's go."

"Laura, I need you to watch them for five minutes." Derek calls to his sister, aggrieved. "I lost one."

"You lost one?" Paige sounds horrified.

Derek resists glaring at her. Derek is a good guy. He has no anger towards her or Laura. Honest. He just wishes she didn't sound like he did it on purpose.

Or that she was having sex with his sister.

That too.

"Hi, Cora!" Boyd says brightly.

"Hi, Boyd! Hi, Derek!" Cora waves from Laura's group.

At least Derek had that in his favor. He didn't have Cora. He loved his sister, but he knows she has eggs in her Red Riding Hood basket. He knows because he bought them for her.

"Danny!" Derek's dinosaur tackles what looks like a paleontologist in Paige's group.

Eleven year olds these days.

"Go find your kid." Laura sighs. "We'll take care of your group."

Derek nods in thanks and starts jogging in the direction they just came from.

It doesn't take Derek long to find his missing zombie.

The kid is sitting on the curb with a scowl. His heavily painted face reminding Derek of the ghouls the pack tore apart and burned over the summer. Black-grey around his eyes and white face and make-up used to make his cheeks look hollow. His clothes stained with fake blood and torn up. Derek sits next to him and doesn't feel too weird about it. The kid doesn't look human. Derek is pretty sure he can pretend he isn't to power through this conversation.

"What's wrong?" Derek asks.

"Nothing," He sighs big and heavy. "I just got tired."

"Uh huh, I believe you." Derek says sarcastically at the skip of his heartbeat.

Stiles gives him a face that in a few years Derek will be able to classify as a bitch face. Right now, it makes Stiles look sullen and as threatening as a kitten. Derek shows him his best unimpressed face.

"Scott really likes Allison." Stiles finally decides to say.

"I noticed." Derek says dryly. "So do Isaac and Jackson."

"Yeah." Stiles says quietly. "She's pretty cool."

Derek is strangely reminded of when Paige asked to speak to him after school in the preserve. How she made him sit and she paced and paced, tugging at her clothes and refusing to look at him directly. That conversation had began with a blurted, "I like Laura," and didn't get any better for Derek.

He thinks this might be another situation similar to that.

"But they're not Scott." Derek concludes.

"No," Stiles agrees, fidgeting and tugging at the frays on his shirt cuffs, not meeting Derek's eyes.

"It's okay." Derek reassures. "A lot of people develop crushes on their best friends."

The make-up covers Stiles' face, but Derek is willing to bet the kid would be bright red right now. The way he stills and radiates heat.

"I don't-- he's my best friend." Stiles says, conflicted. "My only friend."

"I'm not saying you should tell him." Derek says. "But it's okay. You're normal." Derek bumps the zombie boy gently.

"That's your expert advice?" Stiles raises an eyebrow at him. "Don't tell him?"

"You're eleven." Derek reminds. "In a few years you won't care that Scott has crushes on girls out of his league. You'll probably tease him."

"I hope so." Stiles rubs his head. The sound drawing Derek's attention briefly. "But what if the Scott thing passes and the other thing doesn't?" He chews his lip and darts a shy look at Derek's face. "The boy part?"

"Does it matter?" Derek shrugs.

"To some people." Stiles says.

"To assholes." Derek says. "It's your life. They don't get a say in how you live it."

Stiles nods his head slowly. "Thanks, dude."

Derek's ass is going numb on the curb. The cold seeping through his jeans and he's getting insanely uncomfortable. But Stiles is still quiet and reflective and Derek doesn't want to rush him. He just wishes he could be a little more comfortable while Stiles rearranges things in his head.

"My ex-girlfriend left me for her best friend who happens to be my sister." Derek says conversationally. "And I still love both of them. You'll be fine."

Stiles looks at him with eyes that glow slightly due to the black make-up around his eyes. "Your girlfriend? And your sister?" Zombie boy's mouth twitches and he shakes slightly, trying to bury a laugh in his chest.

Derek rolls his eyes and chuckles a little, because it is a little funny. Stiles bursts into laughter at the permission.

"I hope she was at least as hot as you, dude." Stiles says cheerfully and stands up suddenly.

"She's my sister." Derek makes a face. "She's gross."

He leads the kid back to the others, occasionally bumping into the kid. A little reminder he isn't alone.

Three days later, at the grocery store, Laura nods behind his shoulder.

"That kid has a crush on you." She sing songs.

Curious, Derek looks over his shoulder to see an unfamiliar face. Tan and dotted with freckles, beauty marks and moles. He's about eleven years old with a buzz cut that looks decidedly more familiar. It's the eyes, Derek recognizes, as light as they are. Stiles is blushing bright red everywhere. His cheeks, neck and ears.

Derek can't help himself, he smiles warmly and bright enough it makes Stiles' heart take off and Laura push at his shoulder.

Derek: 18; Stiles: 18 -- Samhain

"Oh, ew, ew, ew." Stiles chants.

The pumpkin guts squish in his hands as he pulls the handful out. The texture makes him twitch slightly. He plops the mess in the big popcorn bowl for the girls in charge of the dinner to use in soup. He uses the scraper to catch the rest of the mess inside the orange body because he's working with Mr. Anal Retentive himself today.

Derek Hale says nothing, but continues cutting circles into all the tops of the pumpkins. He doesn't even roll his eyes at Stiles' antics. He keeps his eyes on the knife and the orange flesh he's cutting into. The concentration on Derek's face is on par with brain surgery for humans, not pumpkins. Stiles flicks his fingers and gets started on his next pumpkin, repeating the same process again. He ignores the texture between his fingers and under his nails, and focuses on Derek.

As far as the Hale witches go, Derek is especially pretty to look at.

Tan skin and dark hair messily styled. Bulging muscles and tendency to wear tight t-shirts. And his face.

Seriously, Derek's face.

Those cheekbones.

Stiles has had many inappropriate dreams about running his thumbs over those cheekbones and under his eyelashes.

"Pumpkin carving started with the Celtic Irish." Stiles narrates because silence sucks. He's afraid of what he'll say if he doesn't pick the topic first. He has no desire to reveal his epic crush on his classmate by accident. If he's going to make a fool of himself, he's going to do it on terms. Look what happened with Lydia. He did it on his terms and when she turned him down, he turned away sadly but satisfied that he did his best. "Other countries use turnips." And Stiles is off.

Derek wipes the pumpkins off with a white towel when he finishes carving holes on the tops and Stiles is finished disemboweling them. Stiles goes into the house to rinse and dry his hands because there's no point in cleaning them if he's going to spread their guts on their outsides again. When he gets back, Derek is patiently waiting for Stiles so they can draw the faces on. Stiles tried free carving one year and that didn't end well.

They use pencil because Laura is a perfectionist and Sharpie doesn't rub off nearly as well. This year, Laura is in charge of the details. A slight disappointment because Laura was in charge of food last year and it rocked. Not that Stiles is saying Lydia will do a bad job, he just foresees a lot nasty tea and healthy food instead of the apple cider and pie from last year. Case in point, the pumpkin soup Lydia especially asked Mrs. McCall to teach the younger girls to make.

Once the faces are added, Derek silently hands Stiles the carving tools.

Stiles immediately switches tracks and begins discussing the creation of pumpkin carving kits.

It's a lot of busy work.

Thirty-three pumpkins they were charged with. Stiles' hand is sore and cramping by the time he starts his last pumpkin. He has scraps and scratches from his knife slipping. Some of the pumpkin insides are orange-red from his blood. But he works through the pain. A little blood can't hurt.

Not on Samhain.

"Damn it," He hisses between his teeth.

His knife slipped again, making a deeper cut than the tiny ones before. Of course, it'd be his last pumpkin he'd try to maim himself on.

Derek, as silent as ever, grabs his hand to inspect. He eyes it close before sighing, a gentle puff. He gets up and goes into the house, leaving Stiles with a hand dripping blood into a pumpkin.

He comes back with the first aid kit and another washcloth.

As silent as ever, Derek attends to Stiles hand.

He cleans it. Spreads antibacterial ointment. Presses gauze against the large cut and starts wrapping it and tapping it. The medical tape making them both flinch in Stiles' uneasy silence. He really doesn't like the sight of blood, especially his blood. Stiles' blood belongs in his body. Derek nods in silent satisfaction when he when he's done. He brings it close to his eye, studying the placement of the tape, or so Stiles thought. Instead Derek raises Stiles' hand to his mouth to kiss. A gentle kiss that instantly causes Stiles to flush, because the press of lips is soft, a gesture of 'get better.' Derek's eyes, however, burn with intensity.

"Thanks," Stiles whispers, voice caught in his throat.

"You're welcome." Derek whispers back.

The pumpkins all have their faces. Grinning in mischief, some ghoulish grins and other faces of horror. All that is left to do is inserting the candles.

Derek releases Stiles' hand and gets started, Stiles following a beat behind.

Together, they place the white candles in the pumpkins. First dripping wax on to the bottom to get them to stick in place instead of sliding all around.

"Fire is used as a guiding light." Stiles murmurs, only half aware of what he's saying. "But in this case, it's used to protect."

When the coven is done decorating the Hale house, the yard will glow with pumpkins. There will be bone chimes hanging in the corner. An altar set along the boundary of Hale property and the preserve. Stones so white they are luminescent will encircle in the house.

All for the night dead things and sometimes terrible things are free to walk in the living world.

Stiles will sit with Derek in the middle of all the other eighteen year olds, twelve this year, and watch the barrier between them and the spirits for any fissures. A particularly insidious humanoid will circle the barrier, a hand touching it, testing it and everyone but Derek and Stiles will watch with baited breath as the witch-eater circles them. Derek will grab Stiles' hand, the bandaged one, kiss his fingers again with the same fire in his eyes and Stiles will lean in, until it feels like Derek's stealing his soul with his lips and tongue.

Derek: 16; Stiles: 24 -- esbat

"You'll know," Mom reassured. "When you meet your mate, it's like everything about them was created just for you, everything about them entices you."

 Uncle Peter found his mate last year, in the music room.

Paige is a beautiful girl, so young, the same age as Derek, that in another life, he would have crushed on hard. She's high spirited, or so mom says, and has a talent the Hale pack can't help but appreciate. If the intensity every wolf inclined eye pins to her when she plays disturbs her, she hides it well. Her cello soothing more beasts than Peter's.

Peter hates his mate as much as he can't stay away from her.

Derek has seen Peter creep into her space to smell along her neck and in the next instance jerk away like she caused him physical pain.

It doesn't give Derek much hope for his own future, especially with Laura moaning about it.

"It's barbaric." Laura says frequently. "Humans don't have mates."

"Mates are a blessing the moon goddess bestowed in sorrow of our curse." Mom says patiently.

"It's an arranged marriage." She grumbles. "I'm going to be forced into loving someone."

"Peter doesn't like Paige." Derek points out and gets elbowed for his trouble.

"The moon goddess can only guide your hand." Mom says peacefully.

Fraternal twins aren't as common as identical twins in werewolf families. The other embryo, especially if the baby will be a werewolf, always tries to absorb the other embryo. They fight for dominance and most often, one of them wins. Identical twins are a part of each from the second they split. They're equal in their very DNA. Which is why the Hale pack is incredibly pleased with Laura and Derek being born the same starry night. Not that Derek feels particularly lucky. He thinks embryo-Laura only didn't kill him because she knew from the get go how inferior he was.

They aren't very alike either.

Laura dates everyone. If they have a pulse and a basic understanding of the English language, she's had a Friday date with that person. Mom calls her a, "free love child." Derek calls her things that get him punched for slut shaming, whatever that is. If Derek can keep it in his pants, he doesn't know why Laura can't. Now that seems like a double standard.

"Equality," Laura snips. "Look it up, Derek."

Laura is outgoing and everyone loves her. The entire pack and the visiting packs all agree that Laura takes after mom. She'll make a mighty alpha one day, one worthy of the Hale legacy. Derek isn't so-- He isn't Laura. He's shy and awkward unless he has a basketball in his hands. He has a handful of close friends and he doesn't really need, or want, anyone else.

And so Derek is forced to go to the esbats.

Every month, the night of the full moon, there's a gathering. A gathering of druids, hedge-witches, werewolves and people in the know about the supernatural who gather for a night of revelry.

It's incredibly painful for Derek.

There's always a bonfire and tonight is no different.

The bonfire is huge and blazing. Threatening to roast the hair clean off his face better than shaving ever has. He's as far as he can be from the bonfire and still the heat makes him sweat. There's a bunch of stools and chairs brought by the party goers. A potluck set on a fold table by the woods' edge.

Derek carefully sits on the edge of it all.

There's more people than usual.

There's a woman with long blonde-red hair that goes down, down her back. Derek hears people whispering about her being a banshee, a death omen. She doesn't look like a death omen. She's too beautiful. She's wearing a blue short dress and a white robe-jacket thing. "A status symbol." Mom says when he asks. "Instead of hiding what she is, she claims it. A very strong woman. Lydia Martin, one of Beacon Hills' own."

There's another woman by her side dressed in a leather jacket and black jeans. She's fey looking, including the white scars across her face. Without the scars, Derek thinks she'd look too innocent. A pretty thing easily overlooked. With the scars, everyone eyes her warily and shows her respect. "A werewolf hunter." Ennis scowls. "One of the Argent women. One of the less crazy ones, but don't let that fool you."

Hovering behind the women are two men, no, two werewolves.

One is a dirty blonde man with well defined features and sharp blue eyes that stands like an alpha but stinks like an omega. He watches the banshee with his arms crossed, eyes never straying too far from her body. The other man has short curly hair and sharp cheekbones like any of the Hales. If his hair was a little darker, he could easily be mistaken for one of them. Unlike the omega's over-protective behavior, this werewolf keeps one eye on his surroundings and one on the Argent's back, obviously her partner and not her protector.

"Jackson Whittemore and Isaac Lahey," Laura gleefully informs him. "They're a part of the McCall pack. You know a few years back, when we were eight? How Gerard Argent released those rogue alphas in the preserve to try and rally the hunters against us? Guess they bit a few kids and formed their own pack apart from mom's."

"Where's McCall?" Derek asks, looking around for more unfamiliar faces.

There's a short haired blonde woman with a red mouth that screams, 'apex werewolf predator.' She doesn't walk, she slinks. She doesn't slouch, she waits patiently for an opening to the jugular. The way she's dressed is how Laura would dress if mom would let her. Short dress, tall leather boots and leather jacket. A large black man, easily capable of squishing Derek's head between his hands, is leaning against a tree on the outskirts of the gathering. Watching everything with his amber eyes. The two don't feel like alphas. He wouldn't say they were betas but something about them-- "They're petitioning mom to join our pack." Laura shakes her head. "Something about needing new blood before we inbreed like the LeBeaus."

Derek wrinkles his nose. The LeBeaus spent so much time mating within their pack they've turned into the monsters humans think of when people say, "Werewolves." No impulse control those guys and wicked tempers that have brought the hunters down on the South like a rain of fire. Laura grabs his chin and moves head, "That's McCall."

McCall isn't any older than thirty. He's from Hispanic descent. Light brown skin, dark hair and dark eyes. He's not very tall. Derek will grow up to be taller. But he does have a presence. Derek can almost see the wolf under the guy's skin, how it sits and waits for him to use it. The only alpha he's ever seen with that level of control is mom.

"He's a true alpha." Laura says admiring. "When he got bit, he hid it from everyone. No one knew. Not even the pack! When the rogues started biting more teenagers, McCall found them all and created a pack with them."

"Who's his second?" Derek asks curiously. "Lahey?"

"No," Laura says like she the juiciest gossip. "His second is a human. His emissary."

"What?" Derek hisses. Emissaries were supposed to be a secret. Only the alpha was supposed to know who that was and take the secret of their identity to the grave.

"You'll never guess who it is either!" Laura moves his head again. "Sheriff Stilinski's son!"

Derek rolls his eyes at his sister. He is completely capable of turning his own head, thank you. The man Laura has him looking at is the same age as McCall. He's tall and lean. A good thing he can use herbs to protect himself because otherwise he'd lose. He looks strong and capable for a human, but against a werewolf humans shouldn't match with strength, but instead brains. His hair is brown and a styled mess, or maybe the guy rolled out of bed looking like that. His jeans are straight leg, thanks, Laura for making him know these words, and he's wearing a baggy hoodie. He's roasting marshmallows and Derek maybe leans forward in interest.

There's something about him--

"His name is Stiles." Laura declares.

-- The birthmarks on his face like Derek's favorite constellations.

"He's been McCall's second since he was sixteen."

If only he could trace birthmark to birthmark with the tip of his finger. The fire catches his eyes, and for a human, they blaze werewolf-amber. Almost like looking in a mirror, the wild and innocence of a wolf reflecting back at him. Derek doesn't notice moving away from Laura on unsteady feet, his sister fuzzily calling for him. "Derek!"

Stiles hands his marshmallow to one of the kids too small to have his own stick. Laughing, and Derek wants to be right next to him, to hear everything there is about that laugh, how it makes the air rattle in his lungs and clothes rustle when his shoulders shake and the furl of the sound itself. Derek has always been graceful and light on his feet. Mom says he gets it from dad. His talent for acrobatics and for twisting body into shapes that shouldn't be possible and yet, Derek manages. Now, Derek finds his feet are too big, or maybe he's not paying attention to where they go, because he's stumbling until he's standing right in front of Stiles.

The man looks amused with Derek. One eyebrow raised, hands going in his pockets and curl at his mouth. He smells like--

"Uh, Stiles?" McCall says nervously.

Derek doesn't notice him edging into his vision, too busy on placing the scent. It's like rain but not. Stiles smells how the rain makes Derek feel, calm and peaceful and full of desire to sit by an open window in his favorite jacket with a book. But not exactly. Sort of like a forest fire, thick and smoky and lingering in Derek's lungs and clothes. Derek takes a step closer, positive the closer he gets, the more likely he'll be to identify the smell.

"Huh, I have a teen wolf nuzzling me." Stiles says. "Scott?"

"Remember the M conversation we had last year when Danny and Ethan met?" McCall asks.

Derek has his nose pressed to Stiles' skin. He's a little shorter, and he sways into the scent. Stiles' hands holding him steady, not pulling close but not pushing him away either. The scent tingles his nose like mint does when he takes too deep of an inhale. Derek growls in frustration. Why was this so hard? Derek is a good tracker. He can find mom in her wolf form nine out ten times no matter how convoluted her trail is. Hands that aren't his, so must be Stiles', steady him. Derek hums happily, steps in closer.

"I should have known this would happen to me." Stiles grumbles. "No one is wolf married in our pack yet, figures it'd be the token human first."

"Are you okay?" McCall asks. "He's not being too rough?"

The touch of Stiles' hands in his hair and down his back is enough to make him forget the scent quandary. Being touched by these hands is reminds Derek of the cold mornings he wakes up wrapped in his comforter and doesn't have anywhere to go, so he can doze all morning. Derek wraps his arms loosely around Stiles' waist.

"We're fine." Stiles says, and Derek delights in being able to feel the words against his cheek. "Hey, bud, what's your name?"

"I'm Derek." He mumbles and somewhere behind him, he can hear Laura shouting for mom. "He's being weirder than normal!"

"Nice to meet you, Derek. I'm Stiles." Stiles guides Derek's face back so they can each other's faces. He's smiling, warm and welcoming. A homecoming. "Jesus, you're young." Derek doesn't think that was meant for him, but Stiles doesn't draw away, just inspects his face. "And I'm your mate."

"I know," Derek rumbles because like mom said, he just knows.

"How old are you?" Stiles inquiries. "What pack are you from? Where do you live?"

"I'm sixteen." Derek's words squish together like he's drunk, or how his friends sound when they're drunk. "And I'ma Hale."

McCall rubs his face in the corner of his vision. "Good thing we moved back."

"That's good; we'll be living in the same town." Derek likes looking at Stiles. His face more alluring this close. The way his mouth moves and forms words, Derek's body may overload on hormones. "I'm going to be here for you."

Stiles raises a hand to Derek's cheek that he eagerly leans into.

"Stiles, dude, I need you to release your jailbait mate." McCall says, voice wracked with worry. Derek turns to glare at him. That sounds like the worst idea to ever be voiced. For a true alpha, McCall is dumb. "He's not just a Hale he's--"

"Derek," Mom says, nearby. "Who's this?"

"The man with the mind altering drugs?" Laura says under her breath.

Derek ignores her. He's good at it. He's had sixteen years of practice after all. "This 's Stiles. My mate."

"And your mom is Talia Hale." Stiles says, smelling nervous for the first time. "I'm dead."

Mom laughs, "Not tonight, Mr. Stilinski. Tonight, I trust you with my son." Derek smiles, deeply happy with his mom's approval. "Tomorrow morning, however, we will need to have a talk."

"Yes, ma'am." Stiles nods eagerly.

"Tomorrow," Derek agrees, enjoying being in Stiles', his mate's, arms.

Derek: 25; Stiles: 17 -- coronet 

The wedding, such as it is, is simple.

The priestess comes with her cup, bosom and cords dressed all in white. The hood of her robe so deep, her face remains hidden. Her identity a mystery except for the long black hair the witnesses claim belongs to Cora of Hale.

"She would not miss her older brother's wedding for the world." Sir Boyd says quietly when pressed.

Only those the wedding ceremony involves are present: the knights and the priestess.

The priestess who may or may not be Cora of Hale sets the bosom down in front of the audience but behind the couple. She fills the cup to the brim with wine. Last, she unwinds her cords.

The men preparing to marry, stand before her in their good clothes. One is Derek of Hale. Dressed in a plush black surcoat and black leather belt with silver embroidery and soft gray leggings and tunic. Over his breast is the Hale coat of arms, a white wolf head howling with a triskle for his eye, and his shield on his arm, a field of black with the Hale coat of arms larger. The man standing by his side is younger.

Seven whole years younger.

The palace gossip loves to hiss, "Sir Stiles was just a tiny page when Sir Derek was already a green knighty." The gossip of their ages is the mildest piece the palace has. After all, Derek is marrying Stiles right after the young man earned his shield. If it's not for money, the Hales in the Gold Book and the Stilinskis in the Copper Book, then it must be love. The courtship must have taken place when Stiles was a squire.

Sir Argent's squire to boot.

The feud between Argent and Hale still ongoing centuries later.

The filthy things, Sir Derek must have been doing to young and impressionable Squire Dracoaxoch of Stilinski to get back at Sir Christopher.

Sir Dracoaxoch, "Love of the Gods, call me Stiles," is wearing a red surcoat. Gold vines decorating his finery like tendrils of ivy. A rowan tree over his heart. A cream colored tunic and leggings underneath. His shield solid red but the gold tree with thick and tangled roots and large branches.

Behind them, their friends and family stand in support.

"What is your desire?" The priestess asks Derek.

"To be made one with Dracoaxoch." Derek says the name very slowly but correctly. Stiles smiles slightly. It had taken hours for Derek to learn to say it. Behind them, one of their friends whistles, impressed.

"And what is your desire?" The priestess asks Stiles.

"To be made one with Derek."

"Then, I being this ceremony in front of your family and friends." The priestess says.

Behind them, the gathering noticeable straightens. The only blood family either man has in attendance being the priestess who may or may not be Cora of Hale. War keeping the lords of both families from the ceremony.  

"Will you cause him pain?" She asks of Derek.

"I may." Derek says.

"Is that your intention?"

"Never," Derek says.

Will you cause him pain?" The priestess asks Stiles.

"I may." Stiles says.

"Is that your intention?"

"No."

"Will you share each other's pain and seek to ease it?" She asks them both.

"Yes." They say together again.

"And so the first binding is made. Join hands." The priestess wraps a cord around their hands.

Stiles wiggles his eyebrows at Derek. Their little love affair hasn't been easy so far. The fighting. The distance. The year apart where neither spoke to one another or wrote. The secrecy of their relationship taking its toll. Pain was going to happen, but it was nice knowing it wasn't intentional, he guesses.

"Will you share his laughter?" The priestess asks Derek.

Softly, Derek says, "For as long he laughs."

"Will you share his laughter?" The priestess asks Stiles.

"Yes." Stiles beams, eyes watering.

"Will both of you look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?"

"Yes," They say together again.

"And so the binding is made." The priestess wraps another cord around their hands.

Their entire relationship, Derek would insist in the twilight hours, was built on laughter. On the humor that Stiles used as easily as breathing. The brightness drawing the surly knight's attention and keeping it.

And so the priestess continues asking, Derek and Stiles answering until the sixth cord is tied around their hands in the spirit of a love knot.

"May Derek of Hale and Drac...Stiles of Stilinski know great love together. With the joining of Derek and Stiles, I join the Houses of Hale and Stilinski."

"Derek, if you would present your husband with his wedding gift?" Isaac steps forward with a polished wooden box. Derek opens the box and removes a coronet. The coronet is silver, delicate lines recreating the love knot that bound their hands together repeating on the band, the lines made of the ore Hale made its wealth from, moonstone. Gently, he places the coronet on his beloved's head. "I welcome you to the House of Hale, and bind you always to my heart."

"Stiles, if you would present your husband with his wedding gift?" Scott steps forward with another polished wood box. Stiles opens it with difficulty, his fingers trembling. When he manages the latch, he opens the box to reveal a miniature tree that looks a lot like the rowan tree on his shield and surcoat. "I welcome you to the House of Stilinski, and bind you always to my heart."

For a wedding, it's simple, but enough.

Derek: 18; Stiles: 27 -- Hunter 

Derek and Stiles fuck in a bar bathroom first.

Stiles doesn't remove his shirt, and he won't let Derek remove it either.

(For the first seventy-two hours Derek knows him, he doesn't allow it.)

At eighteen, Derek has enough encounters like these to know some people are born different and some are forced different. He tries not to let it bother him.

Derek met Stiles' eyes across the bar.

Stiles sequestered in a corner. Derek at the door for a sister that is always making him wait on her bad decisions. She disappeared thirty minutes ago with a giant of a blonde and he knew if he stepped into the parking lot, he'd hear the moans and smacking of flesh.

Derek is messed up enough.

Stiles is older.

The best and worst kind of older.

Stiles wore a tired red plaid over overly washed t-shirts. His jeans started a dark sturdy blue, but now the color hangs in limbo between dark and light. His boots have worn spots on the toes, but otherwise they're the most looked after piece of his outfit.

His hair was long enough for a fist full, but not so long to flop in his eyes. It's an average brown that still makes Derek think of blood in dirt. He seemed fey, and after they're all they have left, Derek will ask if he's a changeling. There's a birthmark, a smattering of them but this one in particular, on his jaw that Derek couldn't look away from.

(The predator in Derek wants the predator in Stiles; he just doesn't know it yet.)

Stiles tilted his head towards the bathroom and Derek met him there before the man could even put his beer down.

They don't exchange words or names.

Derek ignored Stiles' whispers, "So pretty. So gorgeous." Because that was before Stiles knew Derek and what he needed. He likes what Stiles says now, "Mine. My baby boy. So good for me." He likes to think Stiles never said anything at all in that bathroom, until he pulled out and helped Derek straighten his clothes.

That had been new for Derek.

Normal the dirty fucks in bar bathrooms in a small town are ignored to the best of everyone's abilities. It's a situation everyone comes out feeling ashamed and disgusted. Not Stiles. Stiles got rid of the condom, zipped his jeans up and fixed his belt. He raised an eyebrow at Derek's barely tugged up jeans and the stretched collar of his shirt, then Stiles used his hands, that had gripped his hips so hard if Derek had been human there would have been bruised, to zip his jeans for him. Tug his shirt in place so the stretch of the collar looked fashionable instead of sad.

"You're not old enough to be in here, are you?" He asked.

"Old enough." Derek shot back because he was. He lived through murder attempts, hunters and the death of his family. Derek was too old for eighteen.

Stiles has the type of amber eyes Derek used to before he became a man killer, Paige, so sorry, and back then, they burrowed into his soul.

"Do you want to stay?" Stiles asked. "I have a room for the weekend. That sister of yours," Derek didn't think at the time it was odd Stiles knew he was waiting for Laura. Stiles just knew things, he saw things no one else thought was important. "Doesn't seem like she'll be waiting for you. I've seen the type."

"Yeah," Derek nodded. "Okay."

It wasn't sensible or smart, but Derek hasn't ever been either one of those.

It's a lost weekend.

A happy time Derek dreams about later, tears squeezing out of his eyes wishing that type of life was possible for someone like him. Laura comments on it only once, "Was there someone?" and when Derek says nothing at all, "I'm sorry,  Der."

Derek left that motel, knowing he'd never see Stiles again.

But he's wrong.

Of course he is.

The gang of omegas and drifters they're squatting with are ambushed.

Too many werewolves with blue eyes, and not enough with Derek's guilt and conscience, in one place. Hunters were bound to come cracking down. It's their code, after all. It's deserved.

"Run!" Riley roars. "Hunters!"

And the warehouse bursts into activity.

Derek flees to the woods.

Others follow because Derek isn't the only one from a small town with woods. Trees and coverage makes them feel safe. Derek can't be the only one taught, "When in danger, go to the woods." The city werewolves, however, might be on to something with running towards densely populated areas. Hunters can't kill in front of witnesses. Not if they want to avoid prison.

He's breathing hard.

They have AVs and those damn wave transmitters. He can hear hunters shouting, speaking in sharp orders and codes to each other. Like in war movies. Some have arrows that explode with flash bombs. Others have crossbows with perfect aim for the back of knees and throats. Men and women carrying blades to finish the stumbled werewolves. It's the ones with the guns he fears. Derek can in theory heal from any mortal wound, except one caused by a wolfsbane bullet.

All Derek can do is run.

It's with a sinking heart, kill or be killed, which is it going to be Derek, that he hears movement in front of him. He thought he lost his pursuers when Jeremy fell. Evidently not. The hunter comes out of hiding, gun pointed directly in Derek's face. He can smell the wolfsbane bullets already used his nose is so close. Looking up the rifle, Derek comes to face with a dream.

Stiles is hard.

His eyes are cold. The heart under his chest a lump of ice. Hands that once caressed Derek don't shake or tremble in their grip on his rifle. His heart is fast, but Derek has heard it this fast when Stiles would thrust into him, sweaty and hot. This man in the same red plaid and worn out jeans doesn't look like the Stiles Derek met in a bar. He doesn't look anything like the man that treasured him for a handful of days.

Stiles blinks amber eyes slowly, would they be blue like Derek's, and before he can decide anything, a shot rings out.

Derek grunts and curls forward at impact. His shoulder burns. He's injured and it must be a gunshot, he's going to die, isn't he, this is it, because it's a wolfsbane bullet. He meets Stiles' eyes, and his mouth is turned down. Angry and upset, but the rifle lowered and unused.

The shot came from behind Derek.

"Derek?" The hunter-lover asks, waiting for confirmation.

"Finish it," Derek grinds out. "We both know aconite poisoning is slow and painful. I'd prefer a humane death."

Derek's words spur the hunter into action. He does something to the rifle, Derek can hear a click, and swings it over his shoulder. In the next instant, he has Derek's arm around his shoulder. "You'll start losing your coordination first." Stiles quirks a smile, side eyeing him. "I'll take you back to my motel."

"Why are you helping me?" Derek forces out.

Stiles doesn't answer for a long time. They pass hunters that call Stiles, Stilinski. Stiles is able to shout a few words and get them to leave, claiming Derek is someone named Miguel. "Stupid bastard got tore up!" Stiles shouts. "Told you he wasn't ready!"

"Make sure to clean it out!" A voice orders in the walkie. "There's an alpha bitch in this group."

"Will do," Stiles tells the radio cheerfully. "I'm out for the night." He switches the radio off.

It isn't until Derek is in the bathroom, being told to rip apart a bullet to get to the wolfsbane does Stiles answer.

"I like you." Stiles says. He sets the dried flowers on fire and shoves them in Derek's wound, making him howl. "Now, you're going to tell me what you were doing with this group. And if I don't like what I hear, I'll put a bullet in your brain."

So Derek tells him.

Stiles is older, more predatory, everything Derek isn't, Derek will tell him everything, anything he wants as long as he asks.

"Oh, baby boy, are you even old enough to have those eyes?"

"Old enough." Derek says, Paige pinging his heart, and stares in Stiles' eyes.

Derek stays hidden in Stiles' motel room for a week. Stiles asking around for Laura, but as much as the locals figure, she disappeared in the 'drug bust.'

"Want me to find her?" Stiles asks seriously. "An alpha female? One of the last of the Hales? People will talk about her eventually."

"No," Derek says. "That's fine."

And so Stiles makes plans for Derek to travel with him.

They don't fuck for weeks. Derek tries not to let it bother him. Tries not to think that if he were human... But he's not. He suffers in silence and wishes for a lost weekend until it aches.

"This is stupid," Stiles says and pulls his shirts off.

His hair sticks up wildly.

"I want you. Tell me you want this too." Tell me you want me too. It could have been a desire and plea straight from Derek's mind.

"I want you." Derek whispers.

Derek understands now why Stiles didn't want Derek to see him shirtless now. The man has scars all over his torso and back. Claw marks and molds of bites. Knife wounds and bullet holes. Stiles tells the story behind each with lazy contentment when Derek asks, hand stroking his hair like Derek is something is to be loved and cherished.

(The wolf doesn't care. The human does, and he thinks at last, he's found someone capable of it. Someone strong enough, and sturdy enough.)

"Thank fuck," Stiles says. "This would be embarrassing otherwise." He unzips his jeans and tugs them down. "Now, baby boy, lose the clothes before I cut them off."

Figures they'd both be hunters.

Derek: 94; Stiles: 90 -- Chair

In front of a suburban house, there's a porch.

On that porch are two chairs. Two chairs meant for comfort pushed together as closely as the chairs will allow. Two quilts hang on the back of the chairs for the mornings and evenings that are brisk. A small table is next to the front door. There's always a dispenser full of iced tea and two cups that are dutifully rinsed every time they're used.

Every morning, two men exit the house to sit in those chairs.

They watch the world continue, holding on to each other as they have done for seventy years, waiting for the last part of life they haven't yet experienced. Confident the day one departs, the other will depart shortly.

Every evening, two men go back into the house.

They remember good times and bad times; wonderful times and terrible; exhilarating times and heartbreaking times as they help each other into the house, and think, Thank you for loving me.

Thank you for staying.