No matter how many times Derek has been electrocuted, it never gets easier. It's a unique kind of pain, something that feels like his very nerves are on fire and tearing themselves from his flesh all at once. This time, it wasn't enough to push the wolf back entirely. Just enough to weaken him, allow the hunter to knock him to his knees and use his hair like a handle. Just enough to make the wolf try to fight against it, his teeth growing sharp and eyes flashing red against his command.
Stiles's eyes were brown, had always been brown. He didn't want them to change colors like Derek's, or anyone else's in the pack. They all knew this.
Those brown eyes looked at him first in terror, then they softened and Derek saw pity. Pity and comfort. “It's alright,” those eyes seemed to say, as the other hunter pulled Stiles' arm closer to Derek's mouth. “It's not your fault.”
What did it say about Derek's life that this was neither the first time he'd been electrocuted, nor the first time his body had been used against him like this? Once the job was done, the hunters left them there and locked the door. The steel door, which immediately began to hum as more electricity ran through it than had just been forced through Derek.
“Are you okay?” Stiles asked, even as he cradled his bleeding arm against his chest. He crouched, dripping blood and concern, beside Derek, who was bent over and still reeling.
Gritting his teeth, Derek forced himself to stand. It was a bad idea, and he wobbled, but Stiles was immediately there to steady him. “We should wrap your wound.”
“It's fine.” Shrugging, Stiles helped Derek over to the nearest wall so they could both sit back against it. “I mean, either I'll turn and it heals, or...” He laughed with dark humor, a smirk quirking his lips.
“I'm sorry,” whispered Derek, turning his head away, unable to look at Stiles, to face what he'd done.
Stiles' left hand, the one on his uninjured arm, settled on Derek's thigh. His fingers were long and thin, his palm warm. “Shut up. You didn't do anything, they did.”
“Were used. Again. It's not your fault.”
Derek looked at him then, and a pain welled up in his chest that surpassed anything the electricity could do. “You didn't want the bite.”
Shrugging, Stiles slumped against him a little. “Doesn't matter now. I'll be able to roll with it. Provided, of course, I don't die.”
Time passed, and no hunters came. Stiles had shifted so he was sprawled out along the wall, his head on Derek's thigh. His wound smelled wrong, his blood streaked black. Sitting there feeling helpless, it took every scrap of willpower for Derek not to cry.
“Not looking so good,” murmured Stiles, who looked impossibly pale. “So I guess it's option B, then. Shame. Option A at least kept me in the pack.”
“I'll kill them,” Derek promised, as if the offer of vengeance would help anything.
“Just stay alive. Please. And don't...don't blame yourself.”
Derek swallowed and wondered how he couldn't. How there was any chance he could possibly go on with the rest of his life not feeling guilty for this. He could still taste the copper tang of Stiles' blood in his mouth.
“Hey, so,” Stiles trailed off, bit his lip. “Since I'm probably not getting out of here, I just,” he stopped again, squirmed a little. “Do you think, if this never happened and I went on to live a bit longer, um, do you think we'd ever...like, so. I mean.”
The pain in Derek's heart kicked up a notch, nearly knocking the breath from him. “Tell you what,” Derek interrupted, doing his best to keep his voice calm and gentle, not trembling and broken. “You live through this, and we can go on a date.”
For a long moment, Stiles was very still and very silent. “What kind of date? Like, what would we do?”
Feeling his lips twitch in a feeble, failed attempt at a smile, Derek said, “Dinner. Then maybe back to the house for some dessert.”
“I hope that's a euphemism.”
Despite what they were talking about, Derek still hesitated with uncertainty before allowing himself to run his fingers through Stiles' sweat-damp hair. “What, you don't like ice cream?”
Stiles snorted. “I can think of something else I'd rather drizzle chocolate on.”
“Well that certainly escalated quickly.” This was good. This was their usual banter. It was easy and comfortable and helped Derek feel almost right in his skin again.
“You have no idea how long I've been wanting to have this date,” objected Stiles. “For me, things have escalated at a snail's pace.”
There wasn't much Derek could say to that, because he felt foolish saying “It hadn't happened because I never felt I deserved you,” so he just kept silently stroking Stiles' hair. He swore to himself that if Stiles survived this, he'd take him on a million dates.
When Stiles started coughing up black fluid, Derek's eyes stung, and he pulled him up for a kiss. Stiles scrabbled to cling to Derek during the kiss, and Derek gripped at him with almost the same level of desperation. It didn't matter to him that Stiles tasted like tainted blood. There was no way he'd go the rest of his life not at least having this. “Please live,” he whispered against Stiles' lips. “Please.” Soon the kisses tasted of salt, both of them no longer able to hold back tears.
But then Stiles was slacking in Derek's arms, growing noticeably weaker. Derek carefully moved him back to the floor, his head cradled in Derek's lap. Slowly Stiles drifted off to sleep, and Derek comforted himself in the continued rise and fall of Stiles' chest.
Eventually the hum in the door cut off, heralding the return of the hunters. It was still just two of them, and Derek still couldn't believe they had been able to get the jump on both him and Stiles. They walked with the usual cocky swagger he'd seen with most hunters, twin sneers mimicking smiles. Derek eyed the guns the men had trained on him, trying to calculate where he could afford to be hit and still have the strength to get Stiles out of there.
“Doesn't look too good,” crooned the one on the right, tilting his head at Stiles.
The other nodded, trying to twist his face into a mask of concern that was spoiled by the smirk he just couldn't hold back. “Poor guy.”
“Works either way.” With a little shrug, the first one winked at Derek. “Either we wait until he's a werewolf so we can kill him, or he dies and it strengthens our case for killing you.”
“The code says you need a reason for killing any werewolf,” Stiles objected, voice wet and gravely as he cracked open one dark eye. “You can't go around killing innocent werewolves.”
That pulled some snickers out of the hunters, but no verbal response. Codes were for men of honor, not for men like these. “So I take it you're not Argents.” Stiles' other eye opened, and he scooted up against Derek a bit to better see them. Chris and Allison had done a fine job cleaning up their ranks, and the Argent name had again become one associated with honor. So there was no way these guys were from their group.
First guy snorted. “I'm a McReady. Oliver McReady, Logan McReady's son.” As if that meant anything. Derek supposed the McReadys were supposed to be another important hunting family, though he'd never encountered them before.
“Like the guy from The Thing? MacReady?” asked Stiles, perking up a little but still leaning back heavily against Derek.
“Nah,” the second guy shook his head, “that's M-A-C, Ollie's name is just M-C.”
Stiles slit his eyes towards the unnamed man. “And you? Also a McReady?”
“Kin to, yeah, but my name's Hollister. Wyatte Hollister.”
“Cool names,” Stiles conceded with a little nod. “Oliver McReady. Wyatte Hollister. Those are some cool-sounding names.” He smiled at the hunters, who hesitantly found themselves smiling back. Derek held perfectly still as he realized that Stiles' heartbeat was growing stronger, the stench of wrong growing fainter. Suddenly the air in the room shifted, and Derek felt the hairs on his arms stand up. It wasn't that it had changed temperature or humidity, just that it no longer felt the same.
“Maaaan,” groaned Stiles, carefully holding his black-and-bloody arm to his chest as he rummaged his other hand around in his pockets. “I'm hungry. You guys hungry?” Grinning triumphantly, he withdrew three candy bars.
“I thought you searched him,” snapped McReady, glaring from the candy to Hollister.
“Don't beat yourselves up over it,” Stiles insisted, still holding the candy up as if in offering. “It's just candy.” He gave the bars a little wiggle. “So you want one? There's one for Oliver McReady, one for Wyatte Hollister, and even one for me. Luckily, Derek doesn't like candy, or I'd feel bad for leaving him out.”
Watching Stiles from the corner of his eye, Derek tried to figure out what was happening. The way Stiles had worded his offering was odd, stating their full names. Also, something about the candy bothered Derek—he couldn't smell it.
But the two hunters were eyeing the candy as if it were gold. “Toss 'em over,” McReady ordered, pulling one hand away from his pistol to hold out for the candy.
With a little grunt, Stiles pulled himself up a bit more and did as told. Then he watched with a small, secret smirk as the two men tore into the packaging and began eating. “I really do like your names. Wish I'd gotten a cooler name, myself,” said Stiles. “You know what I got saddled with instead?”
Hollister answered, mouth full of chocolate, “Stiles Stilinski. And yeah, that's a pretty shitty name.”
That little smirk on Stiles' lips grew into a grin, and his eyes suddenly looked like molten gold. There were no whites, no pupil, just glowing, iridescent gold.
“Oh, what a shame. You lose this round.” Stiles delivered the words with a bit of a chuckle, before pulling himself up into a standing position with the ease of someone who hadn't just been bleeding to death and hacking up black goo. “Guess we're free to go.”
Frowning, McReady lowered the chocolate from his mouth and switched his aim to Stiles. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Instead of answer, Stiles just turned to Derek and offered him a hand up. Only when McReady yelled at him to sit the fuck back down did Stiles seem to pay him any mind. “You don't have my name,” Stiles said simply, his eyes still that mesmerizing gold, “so you have no power over me. You cannot hold me. I, however, have your names. And you have eaten my food.” He motioned his long fingers—were they longer now than before?—towards the partially-eaten candy the men still held.
With that, he continued helping Derek up, not seeming to even strain at Derek's bulk. “Enjoy your stay,” he called to the men as he led Derek towards the door. Guns began to click uselessly, as if out of ammo. A glance back at the men showed them struggling to pursue, their feet sinking into the floor as if the concrete were thick, viscous tar.
The door opened effortlessly beneath Stiles' hand, and swung open to reveal a landscape unlike anything Derek had ever seen. Nothing seemed solid unless he looked right at it, everything else seeming to shape and reform in his peripheral. If he looked away from a spot and then back again, it would be completely different. In one moment a copse of trees, in another a path. Blink and the world was different. It was dizzying, to say the least.
Luckily, Stiles only kept them there for a few moments before turning back and opening the door again. Instead of walking back into the basement, they were in the living room of the Pack House. Reeling, Derek looked around with wide eyes. Stiles stood beside him, his eyes back to normal, staring at his hands in giddy awe. “Did you see that?” Stiles whispered reverently. Then he turned a beaming grin onto Derek. “Did you fucking see that? Oh my god, I'm so bad ass!” He began spinning around the room in some sort of victory dance. “I can't believe that worked, holy shit!”
“What just happened?” Derek still couldn't quite wrap his head around it all. Was this really his living room? It smelled right, but how in the hell had they gotten there?
“I'm fucking magic as shit, is what happened!” crowed Stiles, flashing his solid gold eyes before resuming his “dance.”
Derek watched him, mixed between elated that Stiles was alive and healthy, and confused as fuck about what Stiles had done. “What are you, exactly? I don't understand.”
Catching Derek's expression, Stiles settled down and moved to stand close to him. “I think I'm sidhe. Fae. Tua—okay, so I can't actually pronounce that one. But you get the idea. Of the fair folk.”
Stiles shrugged. “Same as with Lydia, I guess? I mean, technically she's a type of sidhe, too. I'm just...a different type.” He looked off to the side in thought. “I'm guessing maybe through my paternal grandmother's side. She was from Ireland. I mean, not to imply everyone from Ireland is fae, just that it's the only link I can think of. Most of the rest of my family is Polish.”
“So what does all this mean?” asked Derek. “For the pack, for us?”
“Us?” Snapping his attention back to Derek, Stiles stared at him with wide, thankfully brown eyes. Stiles licked his lips and stepped closer, and then the air became charged with something that sent a pleasant tremor down Derek's spine. “You still want there to be an us?”
Self doubt threatened to pull Derek back, but he nodded, brow crinkled. “Of course. It doesn't matter to me what you are.” He reached out and cupped his hands around Stiles' hips, drawing him closer. “But I thought sidhe had restrictions. Are you allowed to live here, in this realm?”
Stiles sighed and leaned forward to rest their foreheads together. “Fuck, that's right. My life will be bound by a bunch of weird rules, now.” Then he pulled back, expression firm. “But that doesn't mean I can't be with you. No fucking way am I letting that get taken away right when it finally happens. I'll figure it out. We'll find a way.”
Starting to surge forward, Derek hesitated with their lips just barely brushing. Stiles pressed into it, connecting the kiss, coaxing it into something deeper. The air buzzed with energy, and Derek's nerves tingled, but it was nothing like getting electrocuted. He wanted more, needed more, even as part of him urged him to slow down.
But he'd almost lost this man. This perfect, flawed, smart, fool of a man. For a moment, Derek had been certain that Stiles was going to die, that he'd never get to hear his voice say something infuriating ever again. Yet here he was, his scent perhaps a little different, but otherwise full and healthy and his.
“Do the thing with the door again,” he murmured against Stiles' lips, backing them up towards the front door. “Bedroom.”
Stiles smiled as he continued kissing and nipping at Derek's mouth. He reached around Derek, turning the knob. They broke apart enough to allow Stiles to open the door, but they then stood there in confused shock when they found a tall, elegant man staring back at them.
His skin was both black as oil and pale as platinum, constantly shimmering between the two as if it couldn't quite make up its mind. Eyes the same gold as Stiles' had turned regarded them from a beautifully unimpressed face. Even the man's hair seemed to be crafted out of impossibility, as if someone had taken storm clouds at dawn and spun them into countless fine wisps.
“Mind if I borrow the young one for a moment?” asked the stranger, reaching in to grasp Stiles' hand from where it was still outstretched to open the door.
Derek tried to hold Stiles tighter, but he slipped through Derek's hold like smoke. He watched helplessly as Stiles reached back for him, opening his mouth on silent screams. Then the door was slamming closed, and all Derek could do was try to control his breathing and remain calm. Even though he knew it wouldn't work, he opened the door. All that greeted him was the front porch and the Preserve beyond.
“Stiles,” he choked out, feeling lost.