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No Rest for the Wicked

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Stiles comes with Derek’s chest pressed along his back, Derek’s hand stroking his cock with the perfect rhythm, the perfect tightness. He moans and shoves back against Derek’s hips, and Derek follows him over the edge, body shuddering against Stiles’. It’s good.

Sex with Derek is always good. Derek is strong and gentle and knows Stiles’ body better than anyone else.

But after they’ve cleaned up and kissed goodnight, Derek rolling over to face the wall, Stiles remains on his back, staring up at the ceiling. Five years with Derek and he should be ecstatic that the sex is still good. Scott and Allison hit a rough patch around the three year mark that Stiles had to hear all about for months before they got the spark back, or whatever. Stiles supposes that’s normal.

Thing is, the sex used to be crazy good. Like, insane. Derek once tied Stiles down and made him come with nothing but his fingers and his tongue. Stiles once pushed Derek, bare-ass naked, against the floor-to-ceiling window of a 17th story hotel room and fucked him until he came all over the glass.

Stiles can’t remember when, exactly, they stopped doing that kind of stuff. He knows it’s probably as much his fault as Derek’s that things have gotten so… formulaic. Maybe a little sucking or frotting first, then it’s one finger, two finger, three fingers, cock. But it’s hard to initiate anything more when Derek seems just fine with this.

Maybe if it were just the sex, Stiles wouldn’t be so concerned. But it’s not.

&

Stiles stumbles into the kitchen the next morning to find Derek already dressed and making breakfast. “You’re going to be late,” he says, not turning away from the stove.

“Perks of being the quirky computer guy,” Stiles says with a crooked smile that Derek doesn’t see. “The very, very few flaws I do possess are overlooked because of the collective gratitude for fixing the shared printer. Again.”

He gets a sort-of-grunt by way of response. After an awkward moment, he says, “I’m going to take a shower. Save some of that for me?”

Derek finally turns to look at Stiles. “Of course,” he says, like he’s a little hurt that Stiles felt he had to ask. Another pebble of guilt drops into the rock pile that’s made its home in Stiles’ gut.

“Uh, thanks,” Stiles says, giving Derek a quick smile before heading into the bedroom.

By the time he’s out of the shower and dressed (jeans, Chucks, flannel shirt – the uniform of a laid-back IT genius), Derek is snapping his briefcase closed, his blazer and tie already on. The suit is perfectly cut, the lines accentuating the breadth of his shoulders and chest, and by all rights, he should look mouthwatering. Except that, as long as Stiles has known him, he’s never quite looked comfortable in a suit. Weird for a super-successful PR guy who’s worked at Hale & Hale since he graduated college, but Stiles has to say he prefers Derek out of the suit.

“You gonna be late tonight?” Stiles asks, trying to sound as non-judgmental as he can.

“Probably,” Derek says. “Peter still treats me like his secretary instead of a partner.”

Stiles ignores the delectable-looking plate of French toast on the table in favor of approaching Derek and smoothing down his lapels. “One of these days you’re just going to have to tell ol’ Uncle Peter to shove it.”

Derek’s expression goes blank and Stiles knows he’s said exactly the wrong thing. Peter may be a monumental dickhead who Derek complains about constantly, but he’s Derek’s only living family member. Sometimes Derek will take Stiles’ stabs at Peter with good humor, but Stiles has never quite figured out exactly where the line is.

Obvious he’s crossed it now, though. Derek simply says, “Right,” steps back out of Stiles’ reach, and grabs his briefcase. “See you tonight.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, following Derek to the front door like a lost puppy. “Tonight.”

Derek closes the door behind him and Stiles locks it, then leans his forehead against the wood. “I love you,” he mumbles quietly.

Because he does love Derek, loves him desperately despite the growing space between them that seems to stretch a little wider every day. He loves Derek, but he’s losing him. And Stiles knows it’s his own fault.

&

The lobby of the Shiruba Consulting Agency is sleek and shiny, all polished chrome and mahogany. The Argents are nothing if not image-conscious – the sofas and chairs are overstuffed leather, even though no one ever sits in them. Stiles says hello to Mrs. Argent behind the front desk as he passes her. He’s too afraid not to – her smile is all teeth and there’s an old-school M2 carbine under the desk.

He keys in this week’s 9-digit passcode to get into the hallway, breathing a sigh of relief when the bulletproof, blast-proof door shuts behind him. There’s only one door at the end of the hall, and Stiles has to wait for his retinal scan before he can verify his voiceprint with a phrase he picked out himself. “The only water in the forest is the river,” he says, and with a buzz, the solid titanium door clicks open.

Intel is three levels down, where he’s supposed to meet Lydia for a briefing. If he’s lucky and it’s a slow day, he and Allison might be able to head up to R&D to check out Danny’s latest gadgets. But after this morning, Stiles isn’t feeling particularly lucky, and sure enough, both Allison and Chris are hunched over the table-sized touch screen with the interactive mapping software. And Lydia only lets other people – including their boss – play with her toys when they have a new target.

Stiles crosses every possible digit when Allison looks up at him. “Vampires,” she says.

Goddamn it.

“Not it!” Stiles cries immediately, touching his nose. Which is probably not the best response when his immediate superior is in the room, but Chris is so used to Stiles being… well, Stiles that he doesn’t even blink.

“Good try, Stilinski, but Allison is still walking off the sprain from the qilin attack.”

“I thought those only punished the wicked,” Stiles says with a wink. Allison just rolls her eyes.

At least Stiles has the wits not to say anything about Allison being the boss’s kid. Besides, Allison must still be in genuine pain if her father can tell – she’s usually pretty good at hiding it. And even if she were at 100%, she specializes in precision kills at a distance, and fighting vampires is all about hand-to-hand (well, hopefully stake-to-chest) combat. Still, motherfucking vampires are the worst.

What all those movies and teen novels forget is that vampires are dead. They look dead. They smell dead. They don’t feel pain and, given half the chance, they will turn you into the human version of a raisin in about 30 seconds if you’re lucky. They’re more like zombies (which, thank god, do not exist)(yet) except they sort of explode with coagulated blood when you stake them. The whole thing is just so… messy.

Stiles clings to one last hope. “Didn’t Greenberg just get back from Santa Cruz?”

“He’s still in decon, scrubbing off the slime,” Lydia says, not looking up from her computer. “He’ll stay in quarantine for at least two weeks until we figure out what he got hit with and whether it’s contagious. There are pustules.” She looks up and narrows her eyes at Stiles. “Glowing pustules.”

Stiles resists the urge to make a face at her because he is a professional, and because vampires might actually be preferable to pustules of any kind. Maybe. Doesn’t mean he has to like it. “At least tell me there aren’t many of them. I swear to god, my pores are still leaking garlic from the last time.”

“Just three of them,” Chris says, “but they’re close. They’ve been spotted on the outskirts of Oakland and we’ve narrowed down possible locations to half a dozen abandoned buildings near the port.”

Stiles sighs, resigned to his fate, and heads to the armory to gear up. On the way, he texts Derek that he’s going to be late for dinner again. Even if he finds the vampires quickly, he’s going to be spending a long time in the sterile shower afterward.

Why does it have to be vampires?

 

&&&

 

Derek sighs in relief when he sees Stiles’ text, then immediately feels guilty about it. But at least he won’t have to lie about what he’s doing tonight. Or, for that matter, suffer through another awkward dinner where they talk about everything except how they’re drifting apart.

“Erica,” he says, and she’s immediately perched on the edge of his desk, already-short skirt hiked to near-obscene levels, when he looks up. “You ever get the urge to tell Boyd what you do? What you are?”

She bites her bright red lower lip and appears to think it over. “Not really. It would make some things easier, but he’s just so… not like us. In a good way. I want to keep him out of our world as much as I can.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, his tone betraying his uncertainty.

“You’re not thinking about telling Stiles,” she says, dropping her voice. The walls are supposed to be soundproof, but Peter’s hearing is scary good, even for an alpha, and he’d raise holy hell if he thought Derek was considering talking about them or their work to an outsider.

“Not really,” Derek sighs. “Just… all the lying. I don’t think he knows, but it’s still pushing him away.”

Erica leans over and hugs him, which mostly results in her breasts pressing against his face. If he were inclined that way, he might be tempted to do something terribly unprofessional. But instead it just makes him feel awkward, and he’s pretty sure she knows that.

“Poor thing,” she coos, stroking his hair. “Don’t worry. You’ll work it out.”

“I am uncomfortable in my place of employment,” Derek says, his voice mostly muffled by Erica’s… by Erica.

“Sorry, big guy,” she says, pulling away and patting him on the cheek in a way that belies her apology. “I can tell you’re upset. I thought a little light sexual harassment would help take your mind off it.”

“I think you misunderstand the core concept,” Derek says, but he can’t keep the corner of his mouth from twitching up.

“So report me,” Erica says with a grin. “It would amuse the hell out of Peter, if nothing else.”

“Yeah, he’d find a creepy punishment to fit the creepy crime. I don’t actually want to subject you to that.”

“I appreciate it,” says Erica, hopping down off the desk and straightening her skirt. “I’ll be nothing but professional from here on out.”

Derek grunts, trying to keep a straight face. “You’re a worse liar than Isaac.”

“Oh please, I wasn’t even trying.”

“I like these talks that we have. We really should do this more often.”

She pulls a face at him. “Who’s the liar now? All right, you want to talk shop? What’s Peter got you on today?”

“Group of hunters coming into town around sunset. Only surveillance duty so far.”

“No Codebreakers?”

“No word on that from Isaac, but Peter wants me to stay on top of them just in case.”

Surprisingly, Erica ignores Derek’s phrasing in favor of leaning down and whispering “Is it just me or does Peter seem to be getting more and more para—”

“Paranormal?” Peter interjects, because of course he chooses that very moment to come out of his office. Derek barely manages not to flinch at the smirk on his face. “I don’t see how that’s possible, though I suppose I could always try my hand at necromancy.”

Derek’s saved from having to respond by Erica, who turns with a smile like nothing just happened and asks Peter, “So, anybody need slicing and dicing today?”

“Not yet,” Peter says with a disturbing red glint in his eye. “But it’s not even noon.”

&

These are brand new hunters, Derek can tell. They made no attempts to disguise their movements as they came into town, but it wasn’t out of bravado – they genuinely don’t seem to know what they’re doing. Their base camp, while obviously temporary, is basically indefensible, and they haven’t even bothered with mountain ash. Derek almost feels sorry for them, but then, inexperienced hunters can do just as much damage as experienced ones if they stumble into a little luck. Plus, Derek has no idea what they’re even doing here, and that’s what he needs to find out.

So far, it’s mostly been inane small talk and extremely Freudian weapon cleaning. Derek wonders if they even know how to use half of what they have. He doesn’t have an uninterrupted line of sight from his perch in the rafters, but he knows there are five of them, including one kid who can’t be more than 15. Unless he’s older than he looks, that’s a violation of the Code right there: no minors. It makes Derek worry what other rules these hunters might be willing to break.

Still, it’s hard to stay focused, because Stiles keeps drifting back into his mind. He thinks of the dark circles under Stiles’ eyes – his boss always keeps him too late, debugging payroll software or whatever it is that he does. He’s obviously good at it, to which their joint bank account can attest, and Shiruba seems to need him around often enough. They even send him out to do on-site troubleshooting and training out of town, sometimes for days. It’s coincidentally great for Derek, who also has to travel for his job, even if he can’t say why.

But Stiles has never really expressed any enthusiasm for what he does, and frankly, Derek has a hard time imagining him sitting still in front of a computer all day. Derek knows his own constant lies are the main source of their problems, but Stiles’ job isn’t helping any. Derek is the last one who should tell someone – particularly Stiles – to quit their crappy job, as Derek is currently crouched in the skeleton of an abandoned warehouse, spying on a group of heavily armed people he hopes he won’t have to kill, but it seems to Derek that Stiles could do so much more with his life. He misses the bright, passionate man he first met, and wonders whether long-term relationships are supposed to—

Then he’s snapped back to the present by one of the hunters saying the name “Argent.”

“…must have some scary good people. Shit, Dash just texted me that a guy singlehandedly took down an entire coven of vampires in Oakland today.”

Despite Derek’s general disgust for hunters, that’s a hell of a thing; vampires are fucking nasty pieces of work. A woman in the group, looking awed, nods her head. “That’s got to be Argent work. They only hire the best.”

“So what makes you think they’ll hire any of us?” the young guy asks. “If we can even find them.”

A big, burly guy answers. “We know they’re based out of San Francisco. How hard can it be to find them?”

Holy shit, Derek may have stumbled onto something big. Peter has long suspected that the Argents’ base is local, but they’ve never been able to prove it. Despite what the big guy is saying, though, San Francisco is a big, weird place, and the Argents have always been tremendously well-hidden. They generally keep to the Code, but when they don’t… Well, that’s why Derek keeps doing his job at all.

So Derek does his best to push all guilty thoughts of Stiles out of his mind and listens for anything that might give him further clues.

&

It’s nearly dawn by the time he gets home, absolutely no wiser about the whereabouts of the Argents. A painfully green group of hunters like that was hardly likely to have better intel than the Hale pack, but stupider people have stumbled onto bigger secrets before, usually without realizing it.

When Derek gets to the bedroom, he sees Stiles passed out across the bed, too deeply asleep even to snore. His prescription painkillers sit next to a glass of water on the bedside table – his carpal tunnel must really be acting up, because Derek knows Stiles doesn’t like to take medication unless he absolutely has to.

Derek sits lightly on the edge of the bed. Stiles’ face is smoothed out in sleep, no worry lines creasing his soft, pale skin. Derek forgets how young Stiles is sometimes – hell, Derek forgets how young he is sometimes – because Stiles can seem like such an old soul, so smart and determined. Derek loves the hell out of him, has since the day they met. So why can’t he seem to say it anymore?

 

&&&

Five Years Ago

&&&

They met in Beacon Hills, of all places: Stiles’ hometown. It was the first time he’d been back since his dad had passed, but he managed to push that out of his head – he was there for the job. A Darach had been making sacrifices, trying to reactivate the Nemeton, and what a fucking shitstorm that would’ve been.

Except when Stiles got there, she’d already been killed. Claw marks, clean and precise, the width of a human hand. Had to be a werewolf. Intel didn’t mark her as the current emissary for any known pack, but she could’ve gone rogue or been seeking some kind of revenge against an old pack.

That was why Stiles liked werewolves – he’d never actually had to fight one. Pack structure meant they took care of their own, which included keeping disputes internal. In the rare event of a dangerous omega, a pack would either take it into the fold or dispatch it. Neat and tidy, no need for humans to get involved.

Druids, on the other hand… Well, Stiles assumed there were some light, peaceful Druids out there somewhere, but he’d never run into one.

Only problem was the werewolf had simply left the body near the Nemeton, which could’ve ended up inadvertently finishing what the Darach started if Stiles hadn’t buried her a safe distance away and used a leaching spell to draw her blood out of the ground before it could get to the Nemeton’s roots.

Even though Stiles wasn’t looking to stay in town any longer than necessary, he stopped in at Jungle, the only gay club in a 50-mile radius and one of his old haunts. He didn’t usually do the club scene anymore, but he’d come into town prepped for a magical fight and he needed to ground himself out somehow.

He’d seen Derek from the back first, sitting at the bar, all broad shoulders and defined triceps in a black t-shirt. The type Stiles would usually brush off as a meathead gym bunny, but something about the empty bar stool next to the guy beckoned him over.

He sat down just as Derek ordered a top-shelf whiskey, and Stiles let out a low whistle. “Celebrating? Or drowning some very potent sorrows?”

Derek turned to him then, and to this day, Stiles is surprised he didn’t simply fall off the stool at the sight of Derek’s face. “Just broke up with my girlfriend,” he’d said, but the slight glimmer of amusement in his eyes was at distinct odds with his stony expression. “It didn’t end well.”

“You don’t look too choked up about it,” Stiles said, heart nearly pounding out of his chest as Derek didn’t look away.

Instead, he looked Stiles up and down at a very leisurely pace. “I’m sure I’ll get over it.”

“Need help?” Stiles asked with a grin, emboldened by the magic and adrenaline and pure lust pumping through his veins.

The bartender set Derek’s drink down, but Derek just tossed a wad of cash on the bar, leaving the whiskey behind in favor of pulling Stiles onto the dance floor.

They’d barely entered the crush of other bodies before Derek had reeled Stiles in close, his hand spread possessively against the small of Stiles’ back. The beat of the music was quick and light. Stiles smirked, moving in until their foreheads were almost touching and leading Derek in a playful rhythm that was little more than a tease, feeling Derek’s breath ghost over his lips.  Derek was grinning, too, as Stiles ran his palms down Derek’s arms and back up again. Stiles did a little shimmy with his hips and Derek laughed, hands slipping lower to cup Stiles’ ass. They moved so easily together it was as if they’d been doing this for years, and seeing the intensity in Derek’s eyes, Stiles felt another tug deep in his gut.

Then the beat suddenly changed to a slow, pounding bass rhythm and Derek robbed Stiles of all remaining thought by spinning him around and hauling him in hard until Stiles’ back was pressed against the living wall of muscle that was Derek’s chest. Stiles’ body reacted before his mind could catch up, reaching back to drape one arm around Derek’s neck, closing his eyes and tilting his head back until it was resting on Derek’s shoulder.

When Derek started up a slow, sinuous roll of his hips, Stiles couldn’t help groaning aloud – Derek was holding Stiles so close that he could feel the heat of Derek’s erection grinding up against his ass, and Stiles went from half-hard to get-me-out-of-these-jeans-now. Stiles pushed back a little harder on the next downbeat, drawing a hungry growl out of Derek, whose hand slid from Stiles’ hip to his stomach, fingers stretching out until his pinky was dipping below the waistband of Stiles’ jeans.

Stiles didn’t give a shit if everyone in the club was watching them, he just wanted Derek’s hand to keep pushing down, wanted to feel those thick, strong fingers wrapping around him. He hadn’t had a drop of alcohol, but he was so drunk on pheromones and lust that all he could think to regret was that he couldn’t see Derek’s eyes in that moment, know if the heat in them was anything approaching the heat of Derek’s skin.

But Stiles would get his chance later when Derek was pressing him down into the bleach-scented sheets of the closest motel, thrusting into Stiles at that same languorous pace that made Stiles feel like he was burning up from the inside. Derek’s eyes were indescribably beautiful, not just for their undefinable color but for the way they focused so completely on Stiles in between wet, breath-stealing kisses. And when Stiles wrapped a leg around Derek’s waist, deepening the angle and pulling him in closer, Derek swore breathlessly and fucked Stiles harder – not faster, but harder – until Stiles had to brace his hands against the creaking wreck of a headboard.

Just when Stiles was sure he was going to go mad from it, a strong, sure hand wrapped around his cock and he felt his eyes start to roll back in his head. When it finally hit, his orgasm felt like it had been pulled up from his toes, and he gasped Derek’s name for the first time all night. There was a shocked, hoarse sound above him, and Stiles realized Derek was coming, too. Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek and they held tight to each other, rocking their way back down until Stiles was too sore and Derek too sensitive to take any more.

The next morning, Derek seemed every bit as stunned at still being in bed with Stiles as Stiles was. But it was a surprise of contentment, not regret, like Derek couldn’t quite believe Stiles hadn’t bolted in the middle of the night.

Truthfully, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure his legs still worked, but he put his hand to Derek’s face, letting his thumb trace Derek’s lower lip. It was far, far too intimate for a club hook-up, though soon they’d be eating breakfast together at a diner down the street, happily realizing that they both lived in San Francisco and were just passing through town.

But still in bed, Derek nipped at Stiles’ thumb, and Stiles let out a little sigh of disbelief. “It’s like you were waiting at that bar just for me.”

Derek grinned, and Stiles’ fingertips explored the new shape of Derek’s mouth. “I wasn’t planning on going home with anyone. Turned down three guys before you got there.” He flicked his tongue across the pad of Stiles’ middle finger, making Stiles shiver. “So, yeah, maybe I was waiting just for you.”

 

&&&

 

Stiles kicks his feet up on his desk. Well, not his desk, per se, since his job doesn’t actually require a desk, but it’s the one desk in Lydia’s massive workspace – which essentially takes up the entire floor – that Stiles is allowed to touch. He watches Lydia’s intel peons scurry about, tracking selkie migration patterns and trying to sort the genuine leads from the hoaxes. Something about the chaos is soothing, and Stiles realizes that as long as he doesn’t think about Derek, about how he didn’t come home until close to sunrise again the other night, Stiles actually feels pretty good. The vampire thing went about as smoothly as it could have, considering there were seven vampires, not three. Stiles didn’t get badly injured – only a pulled muscle in his back, hurt like a bitch but didn’t leave a mark – and he even got Chris to double his bonus because he never should have been sent in alone against seven vampires. Hell, even three was pushing it.

Lydia fired one of her underlings for the bad information, so maybe Stiles shouldn’t be down here, but Danny banned him from the lab for causing a smallish chemical fire this morning. Plus, Lydia gets all flushed and snappy when she’s angry, and even though that particular ship sailed a long time ago, Stiles can still appreciate the singular beauty of her unquenched rage.

Eventually, she stomps over to Stiles – a pretty impressive feat in Louboutins – but he’s not holding his breath for any kind of apology. Sure enough, she throws her hands up and groans, “Incompetence. I am surrounded by utter incompetence.”

Stiles just grins. “They can’t all be geniuses like us, Lyds.”

She narrows her eyes, but apparently the “genius” comment cancels out the hated nickname. “We have a reputation to maintain here. I can’t be sending hunters out into the field with bad intel. It makes us look reckless and sloppy.”

“Aw, I’m touched,” Stiles coos, clamping a hand over his heart. “I’m glad I’m still alive, too. But you’ve got to stop spending so much time worrying about me. I’ll admit that seven vampires is a personal best, but there’s no need to get all aflutter.”

Lydia’s mouth forms a thin line, and for a moment Stiles worries that he’s gone too far. Even if she’ll never admit it, he knows she feels guilty for putting Stiles in danger and ashamed in general for having made what could have been a costly oversight, even though it’s not directly her fault. But after a moment, she just sighs and shoves his feet off the desk, nearly sending him toppling off the chair, too.

“What we need is more informants and better mapping software. Danny can make some modifications, but Argent’s got him working on offense so much that he’s practically got to help me off the clock. You know he was working with wolfsbane yesterday?”

Stiles makes a face. “When’s the last time we had to deal with a werewolf?”

“Exactly!” Lydia says. “I haven’t registered any ferals or unusual pack activity in months. Allison seems to think something big is about to happen, but unless Chris knows something and isn’t sharing – which he’d better not be, for his sake – it’s just the same old shit.”

“He’s probably just, I dunno, being prepared.”

“Does Chris strike you as the Boy Scout type?”

Stiles instantly gets a mental image and groans. “Please don’t make me think about my boss and best friend’s father-in-law in a scout leader uniform. My boner is easily confused these days.”

Lydia quirks an eyebrow. “’These days’?”

“Not now. Take me out after work and get me shit-faced and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Please,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes. “Apparently it’s taken you five years to realize you’re in an actual, functional relationship and now you’re panicking.”

Stiles opens his mouth to protest, but before he can, Allison’s coming over.

“Stiles, my dad’s looking for you,” she says.

“Hello to you, too,” Lydia snaps.

“Sorry,” Allison mutters perfunctorily, immune to the unquenchable rage. Then, to Stiles: “It seemed pretty urgent.”

“Any idea what it’s about?” Stiles asks, sitting up properly in the desk chair.

“No, but he said to tell you to meet him on B5.”

Lydia’s eyebrows shoot up, mirroring the look Stiles is sure is on his own face. B5 is the lowest level of the complex. It’s supposedly something of a panic room crossed with a bomb shelter, and the only one with an office in there is Gerard. Stiles and Danny have a bet going that the old man actually lives down there, because in the seven years that Stiles has been working for the Argents, he’s seen Gerard precisely once a year at the annual state-of-the-company meeting. And once a year is plenty to creep Stiles out. He isn’t allowed on B5; only Chris and possibly Allison ever go down there.

“Why do I have the feeling I’m either being promoted or I’m never going to be heard from again?” Stiles asks, glad his voice doesn’t crack.

Lydia just rolls her eyes again. “If they were going to disappear you, would they be this obvious about it?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles says. “For all we know, Danny made them a memory eraser and doesn’t even remember doing it. They might just Eternal Sunshine me out of all your minds! Oh god, what if we’ve had dozens of colleagues— Ow!”

Stiles rubs his ear where Lydia just flicked it, and Allison tells her, “Thank you.” She turns. “Stiles, they’re not going to do anything to you. I see the books – you’re one of our most valuable assets.”

At least Stiles has the presence of mind to take some offense. “One of?”

“Get your ass out of my office and downstairs, Stilinski,” Lydia says, and Stiles hops to his feet before Lydia can reach for his ear again.

“Right. I’ll be going now… to accept my medal for Most Vampires Killed Singlehandedly. That was seven, by the way. Seven vampires. Ah-ah-ah.”

Neither of them even crack a smile at his hilarious Count impression, so he scoffs in their general direction and heads for the elevator.

&

 Chris is waiting for him when he steps out onto B5, and the smile he’s wearing is small but genuine. “Excellent work with that coven, Stiles. You probably saved a lot of lives.”

"Thanks,” Stiles says, feeling like he should stand up for Lydia as much as he can. “Four of them were recently turned. They’re almost never that aggressive about recruiting, especially near major cities.”

Chris, who’s forgotten more about vampires than Stiles will probably ever know, shoots him a look that says he knows exactly what Stiles is trying to do, but he just turns to the control panel next to the biggest, shiniest set of blast doors Stiles has ever seen. Stiles watches in silence as Chris goes through multiple scans and types in a long series of codes. More confirmation that Gerard must be one seriously paranoid dude. Stiles takes a moment to pray he’s not about to be led into a bunker filled with jars of urine and toenail clippings.

But Gerard’s office – or whatever it is – is lushly furnished and immaculate. If Stiles didn’t know he was five stories underground, he might’ve thought he was standing in a penthouse, save for the lack of windows. It seems the Argents intend to ride out the apocalypse in style. There’s a huge mahogany desk at the far end of the room, and the man himself stands up as Chris and Stiles approach.

“Ah, Mr. Stilinski, so good to see you,” Gerard says, offering a pale, bony hand to shake. Stiles manages not to wince at his smile, but barely – it’s the expression of someone who knows all the mechanics of a smile but not the reason behind it, and the few times Stiles has seen it, it’s always creeped the hell out of him. Today is no exception.

“You too, sir,” Stiles says, focusing on calming his heartbeat. It’s usually something he only needs to do around creatures with supernatural hearing, but the skill comes in handy here.

Gerard walks out from around the desk and walks over to the overstuffed leather couch, motioning for Stiles to sit. Then Chris comes over with two tumblers of scotch, one for Gerard and one for Stiles, and that’s when Stiles really starts to get concerned. He tries to turn down the drink – he’s never liked scotch, and Derek is always telling him he has no appreciation for the finer things in life – but Chris basically forces it into his hand. “It’s Macallan ‘39,” Gerard says. “You might find you’ll need it in a moment.”

“I’m going to need to drink before noon?” Stiles asks, trying to force out a laugh. “How many vampires are there this time?”

“I’ve been very impressed by your work, Mr. Stilinski, though that’s only part of the reason you’ve been selected for this particular assignment. The good news is I’m funding this assignment myself and I’m prepared to be extremely generous upon its completion.”

“Implying there’s bad news,” Stiles says, not inclined to talk around anything at the moment. Gerard didn’t get to be the wealthiest hunter in the western U.S. by being generous. “Who’s the target?”

Chris holds up a file folder. “The target is a werewolf.”

That can’t be all there is; it’s unusual, but not especially dangerous. “Why hasn’t the pack taken care of it?”

Chris sighs. “Because he killed most of his pack.”

What?” Stiles says. He’s never heard of that kind of behavior from a werewolf. It would go against their most basic instincts.

Gerard’s face creases with some approximation of sympathy. “I’m terribly sorry to have to give you this news, Mr. Stilinski, but I think in time you’ll come to appreciate finally knowing the truth. Chris?”

Chris opens the file and lays it on the table in front of Stiles. Dozens of pictures inside show Derek’s face. They’re all profile shots, but the subject is unmistakable.

“No,” Stiles croaks out quietly, carelessly dropping his glass on the table to sift through the pictures and documents. “No, this is wrong. I’ve been with Derek nearly as long as I’ve been with Shiruba. This has to be a mistake.”

“I’m afraid not, Stiles,” Chris says.

“Think back,” Gerard says, leaning forward in his chair. “In all the time you’ve known him, has Derek ever been sick or injured?”

“No, but he just… He works out a lot, he takes good care of himself.”

“How many photographs do you have of him looking directly at the camera?”

Stiles thinks of his favorite picture of them, the one he always uses as a bookmark in whatever he’s reading at the moment. In the photo – taken by Allison – Stiles is cracking up at something Scott said and Derek is looking at Stiles, not the camera, an expression of open adoration on his face. “He… he doesn’t like having his picture taken,” Stiles says, his voice growing weak.

A warm hand squeezes his shoulder, and when Stiles looks up, there’s real sympathy on Chris’s face. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you to hear, but it’s true. Derek’s a killer, and we hunt those who hunt us.”

Stiles’ mind is reeling, trying to latch on to something other than no no no. Not Derek. Not the man who laughs at Stiles’ lame jokes and knows exactly how much sugar goes into Stiles’ morning coffee. Not the man who gripes about doing dishes and rubs the knots out of Stiles’ back until Stiles is little more than a puddle of goo. Not Derek.

“But… okay, say it’s true. He’s a werewolf. Say…” Stiles tries to swallow, but his throat is too dry. “Say he did kill his pack. We still only target supernaturals who kill innocent humans. Technically.”

“He did kill a human,” Gerard says icily, and there’s nothing even approaching sympathy on his face.

“Who?”

Gerard grimaces. “My daughter.”

 

&&&

 

Derek’s about to leave for the day – at 5:00, a miracle to end miracles – when Peter stops him before he can make it out the door. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow?” Derek sighs.

“We have a huge lead on the Argents.”

Peter says it just like that, no sly hinting or verbal jabs at Derek. That’s most of the reason Derek turns back around. “Did you just find this out? We’ll need to call everyone else back in. I think Isaac and Erica are still in the parking lot.”

“No,” Peter says. “There’s something I need you to take care of on your own.”

Something about the way Peter says it sends a chill down Derek’s spine, but that’s all the more reason to find out what Peter wants from him. It can’t be good, not if it needs to be kept private.

They go back into Peter’s office. Derek’s never liked it in here – there are no windows, for one thing. Then there’s Peter’s collection of taxidermied birds, which is way too Norman Bates-y for Derek’s liking. But ever since the fire, Peter’s been a little… off, which is understandable, and he’s still Derek’s alpha. He’s never once commanded Derek to do anything patently immoral, though he easily could. Truth be told, he can usually talk Derek into doing what he wants. It’s a little disconcerting how easily he can get into Derek’s head, but he’s the only family Derek’s got.

Peter shuts the door behind him even though there’s no one else in the office, heightening Derek’s instinctual sense of claustrophobia and making him edgy. The predator in him senses danger, so Derek is thrown completely off course when Peter asks, “How’s Stiles?”

It’s bizarre, not least because Peter never seems to care about Derek’s personal life, and Derek wouldn’t bring problems with his relationships to Peter, either. “He’s fine.”

“Travels a lot, doesn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Comes home late?”

“Not all the time, but I’m usually—”

“How much do you know about what he does?”

“I don’t really know much about computers,” Derek snaps, annoyed by all the questions. “What does any of this have to do with the Argents?”

“I think we’ve isolated one of their hunters. I had Isaac take a closer look into that vampire attack last week.”

“Since when do we care about vampires?”

“Derek, where does Stiles work?”

Derek rolls his eyes at the non sequitur, but Peter stares him down. “Shiruba Consulting. He’s in IT. Will you just—”

“Not Shiruba, Shiruba,” Peter says, gliding lightly over the r and rubbing the bridge of his nose as if Derek’s stupidity is physically painful to him. “As in the Japanese transliteration of silver.”

It takes a moment for the pieces to fall into place, and even when they do, Derek’s mind automatically rejects it. “That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

“A man matching Stiles’ description – down to the plaid shirt – was seen entering and leaving the warehouse in Oakland. And your group of hunters was right – it was an extremely professional job. Tell me, did Stiles come home that night?”

Yes, he was asleep when I got…” Derek trails off, remembering the bottle of pain pills on the dresser, Stiles’ pinched look the next morning when he got up. He’d had a few extra bruises, but then, Stiles is always coming home with odd bruises. He’s clumsy, he’s always bumping into things… “Are you trying to tell me Stiles is a hunter?”

Peter narrows his eyes. “I’m telling you that Stiles is one of the best hunters in the country. And to get that way, he had to be Argent-trained.”

“Do you need me to count all the leaps in that logic for you?” Derek snarls, but his mind is reeling. Peter is making some huge assumptions, but… it’s not impossible. Derek knows very well that Stiles is stronger and tougher than he looks. And he has scars – each one with a story of clumsiness or youthful recklessness, of course. What Peter’s saying can’t be true, but Derek is hard-pressed to think of hard evidence to contradict it.

Peter’s still talking when Derek tunes back in. “…didn’t want to believe that any of us, let alone my own nephew, could be duped into getting close with a hunter, but…” Peter smirks sadly. “It’s happened before.”

White-hot rage flashes through Derek’s system. “Don’t you fucking dare compare Stiles to her! He’s not a hunter and he has nothing to do with the Argents.”

Peter’s eyes flash red, and it’s only then that Derek realizes he’s got a clawed hand around Peter’s throat. Peter doesn’t look the least bit cowed, though; in fact, he looks as smug as ever, like he’s just won a bar bet instead of turning Derek’s life inside out. “Prove me wrong” is all Peter says. “Come back tomorrow and tell me it honestly isn’t true, that Stiles is exactly who you think he is, and I’ll believe you.”

“Fine,” Derek says, dropping his hand and sheathing his claws. He doesn’t know why, but he feels like he’s already lost something to Peter. He tries in vain to slow his racing heart. “Fine.”

“But if it is true,” Peter says slowly, fixing Derek with a penetrating stare, “you know what you have to do.”

&

Stiles is already home when Derek gets there and has started to make dinner – unusual in itself. Derek had thought all he’d have to do was look Stiles in the eyes and all the doubts Peter had planted in his mind would vanish, but instead Derek finds himself almost wanting to back out of the room. When he looks up, there’s a coldness in Stiles’ eyes that Derek’s never seen before.

“Hi, honey,” Stiles says with false brightness. “Hard day at work?”

It doesn’t necessarily mean Peter’s right, but Stiles’ guard is all the way up. He’s so closed-off that it’s in his scent. His heartbeat is even, but then, the first training any decent hunter gets is in biofeedback for concealment. And Stiles is acting unnaturally calm.

“Not too bad,” Derek replies evenly, watching for Stiles’ response. “Yours?”

“Started work on a new project,” Stiles says, turning his attention back to the vegetables he’s chopping.

“Anything interesting?” Derek asks, slipping out of his suit jacket in case he has to move fast.

“Oh, the usual. You know.”

Derek sees an opportunity to get information. “Um, no, actually I don’t. You don’t talk about your work much.”

“Thought you weren’t interested in computer stuff.”

“Try me.”

“All right,” Stiles says. “But first, can you hand me the potato peeler? It’s in the back of the drawer by the dishwasher.”

Derek is about to retort that he knows where the potato peeler is because he’s the one who usually cooks, but before he can say anything, he yelps and yanks his hand back. Instead of the tray that usually sits in the back of the drawer, there are half a dozen very sharp and very much not kitchen-related knives arranged point-out. The cuts on Derek’s hands aren’t deep and they’re quickly healing, but Derek is still trying to process what the hell is going on when he whips around to face Stiles.

Who is staring intently at Derek’s already-healed hands. Shit.

“What the hell are you?” Stiles asks quietly.

“I think you already know,” Derek replies.

Before Derek can blink, Stiles hauls back and throws the knife in his hand. It’s an expert throw, the knife spinning blade over handle, and Derek catches it mere inches from his face. He has less than a second to glimpse the rage on Stiles’ face before Stiles vaults over the breakfast bar and pulls a handgun from somewhere beneath.

Derek dodges the first three bullets – clustered at the level of his heart – easily, but the smell of wolfsbane hits his nose and he ducks out of the kitchen altogether. The living room windowsills are lined with mountain ash, and even though Derek could probably make it to the door, he has to deal with this now. “What the fuck, Stiles?” he cries out, searching the room for an advantageous position.

“You can’t be that thick,” Stiles taunts, entering the room with gun drawn. “If I know what you are, you must know what I—shit.”

Derek springs from behind the couch and Stiles only has time to get two wild shots off before Derek knocks the gun from his hand. One of the bullets grazes Derek’s shoulder – not enough to put a lethal dose of wolfsbane in his system, but it stings like hell and keeps him from healing. It slows him down just enough that Stiles eludes his grasp, tumbling sideways behind the loveseat.

“Stiles, you don’t have to do this,” Derek growls, because he can’t even begin to think I don’t want to have to kill you.

“You broke the Code,” Stiles says, his voice strained. “You killed an innocent.”

Derek feels like he’s swallowed mistletoe. How does Stiles know about Paige? Nobody outside of Derek’s family knows about Paige. “It’s… more complicated than whatever you’ve heard.”

“Oh yeah?” Stiles says, poking his head up to look at Derek. “What color are your eyes? Show me.” When Derek hesitates, Stiles says, “That’s what I thought.” And brings out a double-barreled shotgun.

Derek dodges most of the buckshot, but not all of it. Fortunately, it just seems to be regular buckshot, but his body quickly heals around the hot metal piercing his abdomen and he howls. Stiles pulls the trigger again, but Derek’s already in the dining room, swatting chairs out of the way and putting the table on its side – he can hear Stiles reloading.

“You work for Argent,” Derek says, not making it a question.

“Yeah, you remember the Argents, don’t you?” Stiles swings around the corner into the room, blasting more buckshot for cover. “Chris, Gerard… Kate.”

At the mention of her name, Derek roars and instinctively shifts, not so much bursting through the upturned table as reducing it to splinters. Seeing him wolfed out seems to freeze Stiles in place, because he doesn’t fire the second cartridge before Derek grabs the shotgun and snaps it in half. He backs Stiles up the three steps to the wall, then grabs him by the throat and lifts him easily off the ground.

“Gonna kill me?” Stiles chokes out, thrashing so hard that Derek nearly loses his grip. “Gonna kill me like you killed Kate?”

Derek’s laugh comes out as a snarl. “I didn’t kill Kate Argent. I wanted to, but somebody else got there first.”

“Right,” Stiles says with a sneer. “It was just the rest of your family you burnt to a crisp.”

Derek vaguely registers his hand loosening, Stiles slipping through his grasp and landing on the floor with a loud curse. But all Derek can see is flames, he hears screams and smells the smoke and ash filling his lungs. Stiles thinks Derek was responsible for all that. And maybe his blindness to what Kate was, how she was using him, played a part in it, but Stiles is accusing him of lighting the match.

He’s brought back to reality by a burning point of pain at his throat. Stiles had obviously been hiding a very sharp dagger, and even the scent of the wolfsbane it’s coated in burns Derek’s nostrils. But that all seems inestimably far away, particularly compared to the look of disgust on Stiles’ face. All the fight drains out of Derek at once, his claws and fangs receding. He can see a hint of puzzlement flit through Stiles’ expression, but his hand with the dagger is completely steady.

The moment drags out, the sound of their breathing loud in Derek’s ears. Finally, he manages to say, “Do it.”

Stiles twists the knife a little, digging the point in until Derek feels a drop of blood roll down the skin of his throat. “I will,” Stiles warns, his heart already beating so fast that Derek can’t tell whether it’s a lie. “My orders are to bring back your head. Literally.”

There should be some kind of animal instinct driving Derek to protect his own life, but all he feels is numbness. “Go ahead. If you believe I murdered my own family, that I burned eleven people—”

“Werewolves.”

“—eleven werewolves alive, then kill me. You’re all I have, and I can’t live with you believing I deserve to die.”

A tiny tremor runs through Stiles’ hand. It’s very slight, but it’s there. “This is some kind of trick,” he says, sounding anything but certain. After all, if Derek wanted to kill him, he could have done it easily a moment ago.

“I’ve lied to you about a lot of things,” Derek says, “but I’m not lying about this. If you honestly think I would do that, for any reason, put me out of my misery. Isn’t that what you do? Put down wild animals?”

“Goddamn it, Derek!” Stiles hisses, but his eyes don’t leave Derek’s.

He must find whatever he’s looking for, because after a few tense moments, he drops the dagger altogether.

All Derek wants to do is slink away. He doesn’t know where he’ll go from here and he’s definitely not safe from the Argents, but he can’t think any farther than getting out of this wrecked room.

Except as soon as he starts to leave, he hears Stiles say “No.” Derek turns back, fully expecting to see the dagger pointed at him again, but instead Stiles’ hands are empty and open at his sides. His eyes are wet, but his voice is strong. “You don’t get to just walk out of here.”

Derek’s heart sinks – Stiles may not be able to do the deed himself, but he’s still going to try to drag Derek in front of the Argents for execution. Derek would almost rather die at Stiles’ hand.

But when Stiles moves toward him, his hands fist in Derek’s shirt and he crushes his mouth to Derek’s in a searing kiss.

 

&&&

 

When Stiles was little, he was rarely without a cast, splint, or bandage for very long. People assumed he was accident-prone, but his mom knew the truth – Stiles didn’t just want to know that the stove was hot. He wanted to know exactly how hot the stove was and if all four burners were the same. His mom kept saying he’d drive her to an early grave, which was funny right up until it really, really wasn’t.

Point is, Stiles has never been afraid to dive right in, to suffer the consequences if it means getting to experience that one bright flash of adrenaline. So maybe the fact that he’s throwing himself at an alleged murderer – and a confirmed werewolf – isn’t all that surprising.

Stiles can’t think through all of the conflicting information, the lies upon lies, but he does know two things for certain: the Derek he knows would never kill those he loves, and if Derek walks away from him now, Stiles will never see him again. The thought of life without Derek, whatever he is, is intolerable. He’s everything to Stiles, and Stiles can’t let him leave at least until they figure this clusterfuck out.

Also, the sight of quiet, buttoned-up Derek roaring and turning their dining room table into toothpicks? Unexpectedly hot.

He has to know whether Derek still feels the same way about him, because all of Stiles’ secrets have just been dragged into the spotlight as well. And since they’ve told each other so many lies, he doesn’t trust Derek’s words.

He does, however, trust the tongue invading his mouth and the hands lifting him until he can wrap his legs around Derek’s waist. God, Derek’s been hiding the full extent of his strength this whole time. He could snap Stiles’ neck without breaking a sweat, but instead he’s holding Stiles tight, and this should be so low on his list of priorities right now, but all Stiles can think about is the fucking crazy things they’ll be able to do in the bedroom.

Or, y’know, against the wall of the kitchen. Whatever.

Because when Stiles moans long and loud, Derek takes the opportunity to bite with blunt human teeth at the juncture of Stiles’ neck and shoulder. Derek’s always paid special attention to that spot, to the point where it gets a Pavlovian response from Stiles’ dick. He tilts his head back, baring more of his throat, and Derek practically sobs, grinding their hips together. Stiles is already rock hard in his jeans and he can feel that Derek’s getting there. Fuck, yes, they’re doing this right here, right now.

There’s no room between them, but Stiles scrabbles at Derek’s shirt anyway, sending buttons flying. In response, Derek somehow shreds Stiles’ shirt down the back without so much as scratching Stiles’ skin. It’s so efficient that Stiles can’t even be mad about (what used to be) one of his favorite shirts.

It’s not enough, though, and they have to untangle their limbs – and Stiles has to return to the ground – to get to more skin. They can only make it so far before they can’t stand to be apart anymore: Derek ends up shirtless with his pants pushed down to his knees, while Stiles has his shirt half-on but his jeans are only hooked around one ankle. In his defense, he tried to get out of them completely, but as soon as he had one leg free, Derek guided it up around his hip and thrust forward and Stiles completely forgot to care.

There’s too much friction for it to be perfect, but something about that feels right, and Stiles moves against Derek’s hard thrusts with an almost painful urgency. This, this is what he remembers it being like, Derek fucking him like the world is ending, like this is his last chance to make Stiles scream.

As it is, Stiles can’t even find it in him to speak, especially when Derek licks his own hand and slides it between them to encircle both of their cocks. The tight, hot slide of skin on skin makes Stiles tremble, glad that Derek's  still holding his thigh up. Part of him feels empty, wishes Derek were fucking into him for real, but Stiles couldn’t pull out of Derek’s grasp even if he wanted to. They both need this so badly, hell, Derek’s whimpering, and somehow Stiles finds the words to urge him on, to tell him to go faster, grip tighter until Derek suddenly shivers and comes, growling so deep that Stiles can feel it rumble in his chest.

Amazingly, the motion of his hand barely slacks, and he can jerk Stiles harder now that his hand is wet with his own release. That’s the thought that sends Stiles over the edge, shuddering and crying out as he digs his fingers into the hard muscle of Derek’s shoulders. If he had his own claws and fangs, Stiles thinks, he wouldn’t be able to hold them back now.

 

&&&

 

They don’t even make it to the couch. Luckily, Derek manages to pull his pants up before sinking to the floor, so at least his bare ass isn’t on the tile. Stiles doesn’t seem to mind, though he’s put most of his shredded shirt on – backwards. Derek still can’t stop looking at him, at his kiss-reddened lips and wide, dark eyes. He somehow manages to look completely wrecked and content at once, and it’s a look Derek hasn’t seen on him in a long time.

For a while, they just sit there, breathing – facing each other, almost close enough to touch, but not quite. At some point, Derek’s eyes slip closed so he can focus on Stiles’ rabbit-quick heartbeat as it starts slowing back down. Unsurprisingly, Stiles breaks the silence. “Never had to kill a werewolf. Never even had to fight one before.”

Derek opens his eyes and Stiles is smirking, the little shit. “No kidding,” Derek shoots back, lifting an eyebrow.

“Shut up,” Stiles groans. “You’ve got claws and fangs. I’ve got—”

“Really shitty aim. I noticed.”

Stiles squawks indignantly and half-heartedly swats Derek in the chest. “’f I was really trying to kill you, you’d be dead. Pretty sure the reverse is also true.”

He says it lightly, but there’s a profound truth there that cuts through all the bullshit. “What do you kill? Other than vampires.”

Stiles actually brightens at that. “You know my work!”

“I know you don’t have carpal fucking tunnel syndrome.”

Stiles frowns. “Well, not from typing. I might have a repetitive stress injury from all the staking.” He looks up at Derek, more earnest now. “I’ve never killed anyone or anything that hadn’t already murdered at least one human. And the intel always came from my friend Lydia before. This is the first time I was working directly on Argent orders.”

Well, Stiles definitely believes what he’s saying, and Derek doesn’t think it’s wise to question this Lydia’s loyalties at the moment. “I’ve never murdered anyone, human or otherwise.”

Stiles bites his lip and Derek hears a distinct skip in his heartbeat. “But… the blue eyes…”

“Not Kate,” Derek says, squeezing his eyes shut. He doesn’t want to tell Stiles this story, but Stiles isn’t going to believe anything less than the truth, if he believes Derek at all. “Paige. The first girl I fell in love with. Peter convinced me she needed the bite, then found an alpha to give it to her before I could think it through. It… didn’t take, and she was in so much pain… The only thing I could do for her was end it.”

“Jesus,” Stiles mutters.

“We were both 15.”

There’s a long moment where Stiles seems to be working something out in his head, and he finally says, “Wait, the Argents told me you set… that the fire was set 20 years ago. That would’ve made you 15. So…”

“There really was a fire,” Derek says, figuring he may as well get it all out now. Whatever happens, there’s a strange feeling of relief that comes with unburdening himself to Stiles. “My parents didn’t die in a car crash and I’m not – I wasn’t – an only child. But Peter really is the only one left.”

“And, um.” Stiles looks like he has to force the words out of his mouth. “And Kate?”

“She… seduced me. I didn’t know who she was and I was still so fucked up after Paige that I told Kate everything.”

“Wait,” Stiles interjects shaking his head, “I saw Kate’s birth and death dates. She was ten years older than you.”

“My first girlfriend had died in my arms and a pretty older woman was paying attention to me. I’m not… I made a lot of bad choices, okay? And I may be partially responsible for my family’s death, but I didn’t kill them.”

“No, no, that’s not where I was—” Stiles smacks his forehead in exasperation. “God, Derek, Kate killed them? And committed statutory rape in the process?”

Derek looks away. “You don’t have to believe that, if it’s too much. Just as long as you know I didn’t, I couldn’t, murder my family.”

“Derek, look at me,” Stiles says, taking Derek’s face in his hands when he does. “Just say it one more time for me, please.”

“I didn’t kill my family,” Derek repeats slowly. “And I still love you.”

Well. He didn’t quite mean to say that, but it’s no less true.

“I believe you,” Stiles says, his heartbeat and breathing steady. “And I still love you, too. I think I’d still love you if you were a murderer.” Derek’s face must do something obvious, because Stiles quickly follows that up with, “But I believe you when you tell me you’re not. And the jury’s technically still out on this, but I think you’re probably the same person I’ve always known.”

Derek lets out a breath he didn’t even know he’d been holding. “And you?”

Stiles drops his hands and shrugs, his cheeks flushing. “I’m a hunter and I stick to the Code, but everything else is just me. I couldn’t be anyone else if I tried. And I have, believe me.”

At that, Derek reaches out and pulls Stiles into his arms. He’s never erred on the side of being too trusting before – not since Kate – but he hangs on to the fact that Stiles didn’t kill him. Barely even hurt him, in fact. Except… “Fuck, where’s the kitchen knife?”

“Uh, wherever you dropped it?”

“I’m going to need it,” he sighs, pressing Stiles’ fingers against the bits of buckshot healed beneath the skin of his abdomen.

Gratifyingly, Stiles turns a little green.

 

&&&

 

Stiles has dealt with a lot of nasty things in his life, but according to his roiling stomach, nothing beats performing minor surgery on his… on his magically-healing werewolf husband. In hindsight, it makes one hell of a lot of sense. “I knew you looked too uncomfortable in a suit,” Stiles mutters as he removes the last piece of metal from Derek’s flesh.

He didn’t think Derek heard him, but as Derek sits up, he says, “And I knew you were too built, considering you eat entire tubes of cookie dough in one sitting.”

“Okay, the guy with the werewolf metabolism does not get to criticize my eating habits,” Stiles says, dropping the knife when he realizes he’s sort of punctuating his words with it. He doesn’t want to point anything sharp at Derek ever again. “Do you, um.” Stiles swallows loudly. “Do you even want me around anymore?”

Derek pauses, tugging his shirt back around him. “I hate what you do. Or at least who you work for. But I don’t want to— I can’t do this without you, and we’re both in danger now.”

“So… what do we do?”

Derek’s eyes go blue, and Stiles feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “We fight back."

Chapter Text

Stiles unearths his bug-out bag from the pile of old clothes in the back of the closet.  Derek’s turns out to be beneath the false bottom of a tool chest in the garage.  Secret agencies are even better than the Boy Scouts when it comes to being prepared – three minutes and they’re ready to go.

The only problem is where.

“You can’t be sure the Argents don’t know about your bolt holes,” Derek growls.

The problem isn’t that Derek’s right; it’s that Stiles doesn’t have any better suggestions.  “We still aren’t going to Peter.”

“I know you don’t like him—”

“It’s not about not liking him,” Stiles hisses.  “I don’t trust him any more than I do the Argents.”  Derek’s eyes start to glow blue and Stiles holds up his hands.  “Okay, poorly phrased, but there is something really off about him.  I never thought he had your best interests at heart, and that’s when I thought your ‘best interest’ was making partner.  I know he’s your alpha, but I think that’s what’s keeping you from seeing it.”

“So what’s your master plan?”

“I’m open to suggestions,” Stiles says, practically grinding his molars.  “As long as Peter’s not involved.”

“Fine,” Derek huffs, sitting down on the edge of the bed.  “How much time do we have?”

Stiles checks his watch – it’s nearly nine o’clock.  “I last checked in when I got home around five.  They’ll probably call soon, and I can stall them for a few hours, but then I’ll have to leave my phone so it looks like I’m still here.  When they figure out they can’t reach me, they’ll send someone else, probably a team.  I’d say we’ve got ‘til dawn at the very latest.”

Derek nods.  “I don’t think Peter’s expecting to hear from me until tomorrow morning, but.”

“What about the rest of your pack?  Erica, Isaac… anybody else?”

“Just those two.”

“I hate to ask, but… where are their loyalties?”

Derek glances away.  “I honestly don’t know.  Pack is supposed to be family, but I’ve never quite felt that with Isaac and Erica.  They’re strong fighters, which is why Peter turned them, but… I guess I just don’t feel like I really know them that well.  But Peter’s their alpha.  Their loyalty is to him.”

Sighing, Stiles reaches out and runs his fingers through Derek’s hair.  He’s managed to broach what looks to be a pretty sensitive topic.  “Well, we’ll deal with that if we have to.  But for right now—”

His phone – the secure work line, a beat-up old flip phone – rings and he and Derek stare at it where it’s sitting on the bed.  The screen says “unknown caller.”

“Is it them checking in already?” Derek asks.

“Could be,” Stiles says, mind racing through the possibilities.  “They’ve never called from a listed number, though.  It’s always either Shiruba or a restricted number.  Protected lines.”  He picks up the phone, but his thumb only hovers over the “answer” button.  He exchanges looks with Derek, who seems to have no better idea of what to do than Stiles does.  Stiles sighs.  “But no one else knows this number.  Worst case scenario, it’s a telemarketer, right?”

Derek rolls his eyes, but Stiles answers it.  “Hello?”

“Stiles, it’s me.”

There was a time when Stiles would’ve rejoiced to get an unsolicited call from Lydia; now, his heart’s racing for a completely different reason.  “Lydia, hey, what’s—”

“Shut up and listen.  I found the last pay phone in San Francisco, so I know they’re not listening in, but I might have been followed.  I’m not sure exactly what’s going on, but Allison got a call to go down to the basement about an hour ago.  Chris was with me and even he didn’t seem to know what it was about.  Danny was in the armory when she came back up, and he heard your name mentioned.  They’ve got everyone else working frantically on a supposed harpy sighting that didn’t actually happen.  It’s nowhere on my radar.  It’s got to be a distraction.”

Stiles meets Derek’s eyes – he’s heard everything and his mouth is set in a tight frown.  “A distraction from what?” Stiles asks.

“Allison’s coming after you,” Lydia says.  “And she’s got the new weapons Danny’s been working on.”

“The wolfsbane stuff.”  He tries to swallow, but his throat is bone-dry.

“Stiles, I don’t know what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into, but be careful.  Whatever Gerard told Allison… it was bad.”

“Just Allison?  Not a whole team?”

“As far as I know, just her.  But don’t expect her to show any mercy.”

Stiles nods stupidly, like Lydia could even see it.  “Why are you even telling me this?  You’re better friends with Allison than you are with me.”

“Because I’ve never seen her so angry, and it’s a huge breach of protocol to send her in alone, especially after your vampire thing.  I get the feeling Gerard’s using her for something.  And…” Stiles can practically hear her eyes roll.  “And I don’t want to have to break in any new operatives, not after I finally got you trained.  Well, mostly trained.”

Despite everything, it makes Stiles crack a small smile.  “Watch out there, Lyds.  Don’t start crying over me yet.”

She huffs.  “Just try not to let Allison kill you.” Then she hangs up.

Stiles is still smiling a little when he looks up to see Derek frowning even harder.  “Who’s Lydia?”

Stiles gapes at him.  “Are you actually jealous?”  Derek doesn’t seem to be able to meet his eyes.  “You are!  You’re totally jealous!”

Derek just grunts, refusing to rise to the bait for now.  But Stiles realizes that, no matter what else happens, Derek and Lydia must never meet.  Stiles wouldn’t survive it.

“Look,” Stiles says, “she risked a lot to give us a valuable warning.  I’m very, very good at what I do, but Allison is better.  Hunting is in her blood.  Gerard only trusts family, and he’s probably using her to clean up loose ends.  I’m willing to bet he told Allison you killed her aunt and now I’m helping you, so she’s gonna come at us with everything she’s got.”

“Wait, this isn’t… Scott’s wife, Allison?”

Stiles cringes.  “Um, yeah.  She’s not really a yoga teacher.  Surprise.”

“Jesus fucking—” Derek breaks off in a groan and scrubs his hands over his face and through his hair.  Stiles takes a moment to marvel at the unfairness of the fact that Derek looks even sexier with his hair disheveled.  When he meets Stiles’ gaze again, his eyes are narrowed, but his voice is surprisingly soft.  “We’ve both told so many lies.  How do we know we can trust each other at all?”

Stiles looks down at his hands – hands that were very recently flinging knives at Derek’s face.  Then they were pulling Derek’s body closer, running over his bare skin like it was the last chance Stiles would ever get.  “I guess… I guess we can’t know for certain.”  Without thinking, he reaches up to press his fingers into the bruise Derek sucked into the base of his throat; Derek’s eyes follow the movement of his hand.  “But I’m choosing to trust you to have my back.  Because no matter what you’ve done, I couldn’t live with the knowledge that I didn’t do everything I could to keep you safe.”

For a long moment, Stiles isn’t sure it’s enough.  After all, he’s the one who tried to kill Derek; Derek only defended himself.  But then Derek’s eyes soften.  “I choose to trust you, too.  Because I believe you still love me.”

Suddenly, Stiles is overcome with the need to touch Derek, if only for a moment, to reaffirm their connection, this bond that’s survived so much deception.  So that, of course, is the exact moment the bedroom window smashes and a stun grenade rolls to a stop at Stiles’ feet.

&&&

Derek reacts immediately, pushing Stiles to the ground and covering him with his body.  There’s no shrapnel, but the sound of the explosion is loud enough to cause crippling pain to shoot through Derek’s head.

Stiles recovers faster, rolling out from beneath Derek and pulling him to his feet.  He can’t hear what Stiles is saying, but he gets the gist of it when Stiles starts to drag him out of the room.  He can’t tell how much is smoke and how much his vision was temporarily damaged by the flash, but it’s hard to see much of anything.

Stiles pulls him into the hallway – where there are no windows – and Derek flattens himself against the wall, waiting for his eardrums to heal.  Stiles doesn’t have enhanced senses and hopefully Derek’s body muffled most of the sound, but his ears have to be ringing, too.  He mouths something that looks like wait here and pulls the cord to open the door to the attic.  Next thing Derek knows, Stiles is opening a black gear bag full of firearms.  It probably shouldn’t even occur to Derek to find the precision with which Stiles handles guns arousing, but Stiles’ fingers…

He’s snapped out of it by Stiles pushing a huge and extremely phallic gun into his hands.  Derek doesn’t smell wolfsbane on any of the equipment, but that doesn’t mean he wants to handle it.

Stiles obviously picks up on the way Derek is holding the gun so gingerly.  He sighs, “Seriously?”

“When would I need a gun?” Derek growls, flashing fangs and blue eyes.

“Fair enough, but Allison’s not going to get close enough for claws.”

“I don’t even know how to aim this.”

“Just point the shooty end away from you.”  Derek rolls his eyes, but Stiles presses on.  “Aim for the legs.  I actually want to avoid killing Allison if at all possible.”

“She’s an Argent.”

“And she was lied to, just like me,” Stiles says.  “The fact that she didn’t lead off with a real grenade means that she at least doesn’t want me dead.  I can try to talk her down later.”  Stiles dons a belt with multiple holsters and starts filling them.  “Now we just need to get to my Jeep.  The glass is bulletproof and it’s charmed against fire.”

That one takes Derek a second to catch.  “Wait, charmed?”

Stiles shrugs, but the tips of his ears turn red.  “I can do some low-level spell work, manipulate certain magical objects.  The Argents never liked it, but—”

“You’re a spark,” Derek finishes for him.

“Kinda.”

Derek sighs, looking down at the ridiculous penis substitute he’s holding.  At least he knows Stiles isn’t trying to compensate for something with his arsenal, but that probably makes it even more unsettling.  “You and I need to have a long talk one of these days.”

“Alright, Captain Obvious, try not to trip over your cape on the way out.”  Derek hears the sound of the front door being hit with a battering ram.  Stiles stands up, firearms tucked into every pocket and holding what looks like an anti-aircraft weapon.  “That’s our cue.”

Before Stiles can move out, Derek puts a hand on his shoulder.  Despite the fact that Stiles obviously knows what he’s doing, Derek still can’t get his mind around the idea of his husband stepping willingly into the line of fire – fire that Derek can’t protect him from because it’s designed to take down werewolves… and everything else, really.  Be careful sounds like a stupid thing to say, even in his head, but he feels like he should say something.  He squeezes Stiles’ shoulder.

“Dude,” Stiles says first, “I’m just going to take out Allison’s car.”

“It’s not Allison I’m worried about,” Derek grits out.

“Aw, shit, that’s so sweet, baby,” Stiles says, grinning.  “But I’ve already killed seven vampires this week.  Seven!”

Instead of saying something embarrassingly sappy, Derek tugs Stiles in for a hard kiss.  When Stiles pulls back, his eyes look a little dazed but his voice is firm.  “Follow me and stay low.  Allison is a freaky-good shot.”

They have to cross through the living room and into the kitchen to get to the entrance to the garage, and Allison is surely somewhere in the house by now.  Stiles has a handgun out, the bazooka tucked under his other arm, and he lays out some cover fire as they round the corner.  A ring dagger thunks into the wall not far from Derek’s head, but at least the angle means she’s not directly between them and the kitchen.

They duck behind the couch and Derek hears Allison – sweet, dimpled Allison who always makes those amazing cookies with the butterscotch chips when they have dinner at her and Scott’s house – yell, “Give him up, Stiles.  I’m not here for you.”

“If you’re here for Derek, you’re here for me, too,” Stiles says.  “They lied to you, Allison.  He didn’t kill Kate.”

Allison laughs bitterly.  “That’s what he told you?”

“That’s the truth.  Gerard is using you, just like he tried to use me.”

“My grandfather would never—”

But Stiles, for once, seems to grow tired of talking and uses Allison’s momentary distraction to get Derek into the kitchen.  A crossbow quarrel misses Derek’s ear by millimeters, and while she’s reloading, they go through the door to the garage.

“Okay, big guy,” Stiles says while grabbing a handful of grenades from behind a stack of paint cans and tossing them in the back seat of the Toyota.  “Use those werewolf muscles and put the freezer in front of that door.”

Derek can already hear Allison coming through the wrecked kitchen, so he doesn’t bother to unplug the storage freezer before shoving it into place.  The barricade will buy them the time it will take for Allison to realize she’s stuck and run back around the house, which won’t be long.  When Derek looks up, Stiles is staring at him and shaking his head.  “And we paid people to move the furniture into this place.”

Before Derek can think of a snappy comeback, half a dozen shots ring out in quick succession, and it’s a damn good thing neither of them was standing in front of the door.

Stiles tosses the keys to Derek, eyes wide, and says “You drive.”

“Can Allison lay mountain ash?” Derek asks as he buckles in – some habits die hard.

Stiles stops rolling down the passenger window and shuts his eyes to concentrate.  “Not well.”  He makes a brushing motion with his hand, then opens his eyes again.  “We’re good.”

“You’re sure?”

Stiles rolls his eyes and hefts the bazooka onto his shoulder, maneuvering the business end carefully out the window.  “Drive the car, Derek.”

Allison has to be outside by now, so Derek doesn’t bother to open the garage before slamming into reverse.  There’s one terrifying moment where Derek worries that Allison’s car is blocking them in, but the only thing that crashes behind them is the garage door.  The fucking thing’s always breaking down anyway, so Derek doesn’t feel too bad.

“Swing right!  Swing right!” Stiles yells.  Derek yanks the wheel and Stiles groans.  “Your other right!”

Derek corrects and stops when Stiles tells him to.  Allison bursts out of the house already shooting at the driver’s side of the car, bullets pinging off the window, but Stiles leans out of the passenger window to yell, “I’m really sorry about this!”

Then he fires the rocket launcher at her sensible hybrid sedan.

The explosion doesn’t flip the car or shoot flames like in the movies, there’s a decent amount of glass and what might be engine bits raining down all over their front lawn. Allison’s definitely not going to be able to follow them.  Apparently she’s still going to try, though, because she starts running at their SUV, drawing a wicked-looking dagger, and Stiles drops the spent weapon out the window and screams “Go, go, go!”

As Derek peels out of their neighborhood, he sees old Mr. Jacobs bringing his garbage out to the curb.  But the can is laying sideways on the ground as the man stares, open-mouthed, at the smoking wreck in front of the Hale-Stilinski house.

&&&

Stiles sighs, checking the clip in his gun for the third time.  “I just want to go on the record as saying I don’t like this.”

“So I gathered,” Derek grumbles, merging onto the highway.  “But since you vetoed Peter and don’t have any better suggestions—”

“Scott.”

“Stiles…”

“He’s my best friend!”

“And Allison’s husband,” Derek says, squeezing the bridge of his nose.

Stiles isn’t convinced it’s the best idea, either, but it’s better than a pack of werewolves that Derek barely knows.  “We’ve been best friends since we were five.”

“Stiles, don’t force him to make that choice,” Derek says, his voice surprisingly soft.  “It’ll destroy him either way.”

Derek looks so painfully vulnerable in that moment that Stiles’ heart breaks a little.  However sure he is of Scott’s loyalties – and it’s not 100%, to be honest – Derek’s right about impossible choices.  If the tortured look on his face is any indication, he’s thinking about Paige.  Stiles has only heard rumors about what happens to humans when the bite doesn’t take, but if it’s even a fraction as bad as that… Stiles can’t imagine what he would do if that happened to someone he loves.  What he’d have to make himself do.

He sets his hand on Derek’s arm where it’s resting on the console and does the only thing he can: he changes the subject.  “So this guy…”

“Werewolf,” Derek reminds him, but there’s no anger behind it.

“This werewolf was a friend of your parents?”

“I don’t know if ‘friend’ is the right word, but my mother counted him as an ally.”

“Just your mother?” Stiles asks carefully.

“She was the alpha of our pack.  I haven’t seen him since I was a child, but he should at least recognize my scent, and his home is pretty secluded.”  Derek sighs, taking his eyes off the road just long enough to shoot a look at Stiles.  “I know what you’re about to ask, and no, I’m not sure we can trust him.  But his pack is powerful and the one thing I’m sure of is that he’s got no love for the Argents.  And the enemy of my enemy…”

Derek slides his arm back until he’s holding Stiles’ hand.  A few minutes pass in silence, and Stiles tries to look at Derek’s expression without staring.  Derek has never wanted to talk about his family, and Stiles always assumed it was because it was too painful.  That’s turned out to be true on more levels than Stiles could know.  Eleven members of his family gone in one day, leaving Derek feeling responsible for it. Did he have brothers and sisters?  He’s never mentioned them, but then, he’s kept so many secrets.

If they survive this, Stiles is committed to working things out with Derek, but even now he can’t stop from asking himself how well he really knows the man – werewolf – sitting beside him.  And it’s not as though Derek knows him any better.  Before he can stop himself, he blurts out, “I didn’t go to a Stargate fan con in Vacaville last year.  I mean, I was in Vacaville, but there were a bunch of renegade pixies that started biting people and I had to go round them up.”

The non sequitur doesn’t seem to throw Derek.  Instead, he replies, “I’ve snuck out of the house while you were sleeping for probably 95% of the full moons since we’ve been together.”

“To do what?”

“Werewolf things.  You wouldn’t understand.”

Stiles should really come back to that, but he’s just made a startling discovery.  “Oh shit, I just figured out why you never let me hang mistletoe at Christmas.”

“It’s tacky.  It’s unnecessary for actual couples and just plain creepy for single people who aren’t into each other.”

“It’s cute, Derek!  It’s a fun excuse for some PDA, and it’s not creepy unless you make a big thing about it!”

“It’s a poisonous parasite, Stiles,” Derek deadpans, but he’s squeezing Stiles’ hand and there’s the tiniest curl to the corner of his mouth.

Stiles takes a deep breath.  “Look, this is probably not the right time for this question, but… what do you do all day?  I’ve been to your office, so I know it’s real.  How are you a professional werewolf?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “It’s kind of a cover for a communications network.  We pass encrypted digital messages from one pack to another.  We’re a small enough pack that we don’t pose a threat, so we work with most of the packs on the west coast. Peter set it up, but now it’s mostly Erica and Isaac who maintain it. Peter doesn’t draw a salary, he lives off his inheritance, but he just loves being called ‘boss.’ At least he pays the two of them.”

Stiles nods, trying to take all of it in.  “Wait a minute, have you just been pretending to be helpless with computers all this time?”

“No,” Derek says, a little defensively.  “I mostly just intimidate anyone who walks in the front door.  But I don’t like using my part of the insurance money, so I do some… freelance work for our werewolf clients.”

Stiles leaves it as long as he can, which is not long.  “Freelance work?”

“I’ve done a little bit of bodyguarding at some tense pack meetings, and I occasionally gather intel that helps the packs steer clear of hunters.  But mostly…” Derek sighs heavily, his eyes firmly on the road.  “I’m a CPA.  I do their bookkeeping and taxes.”

Stiles tries to hold it back, he really does, but the snigger escapes before he can stop it.  Then it turns into a chuckle, and then a full-on guffaw.  “I’m sorry!” he wheezes.  “I’m so sorry, it’s just-- my sexy badass werewolf husband is an undercover accountant, oh my god!  If you’d told me that first, I would never have believed the rest of it!”

“I’ll have you know that accountancy is extremely badass,” Derek deadpans, but Stiles can tell his lip is quivering, and that just makes it funnier.  Stiles laughs so loud that he honks, and that cracks Derek up until he has to merge into the slow lane so he doesn’t drive them off the road.

Eventually, with a lot of hiccupping and eye-wiping, they wind back down into silence again, but it’s a comfortable one. Stiles takes Derek’s hand again and presses it to his lips.  Regardless of what’s ahead of them, for that one moment, Stiles is happy.

As they pull onto the exit ramp, Derek says, “Before we get there, I should probably tell you: this werewolf we’re meeting?  He’s blind.”

&&&

They’re not even in the house yet, and Derek’s half convinced he’s about to see Stiles die right here on the doorstep.  He’s not sure either of them will survive the day, but it’s still happening a lot sooner than he expected, and in a much less dignified manner.

They haven’t even seen Deucalion yet.  Instead, Stiles seems hell-bent on starting a dick-measuring contest with the bald gorilla who answered Deucalion’s front door.  Luckily, there’s no one around in the woods to see it.

“No hunters,” the massive werewolf growls through lengthening fangs.

Derek has to give Stiles credit – the red eyes don’t faze him in the least.  It’s a combination of courage and stupidity that Derek is quickly coming to associate with his previously mild-mannered husband.  Why another alpha is in Deucalion’s house is something Derek will worry about once he’s gotten Stiles out of imminent peril.

“I’m not here for you, chrome dome,” Stiles says, holding up his empty hands and waggling his fingers.  “Look: unarmed.  Sniff all you want.”

It’s true – Derek had insisted on it – but there’s still enough wolfsbane residue on Stiles’ clothes to smell suspicious.  Also, Stiles decides to follow it up with, “If I wanted you dead, you’d already be in multiple pieces, so fucking chill, dude.”

Said unchill dude opens the door wider and gets right up in Stiles’ face.  He’s not much taller, but he has at least twice Stiles’ mass.  Stiles doesn’t so much as flinch, and were they under less life-threatening circumstances, Derek might find Stiles’ smirking confidence hot.  Or maybe irritating.  Probably a little of both.

Luckily, before there’s bloodshed, Derek hears the soft tap of a cane.  “Young mister Hale,” a voice calls out behind the oaf in the doorway.  “What interesting company you bring to my door.  Ennis, don’t be rude.”

At that, the man finally steps aside and Derek hurries them into the house.  With Ennis’s eyes on him, he steps up and rests a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, claws extended, in a show of dominance: this is my human, he obeys me.  It’s risky, since Derek didn’t think to mention it to Stiles beforehand – didn’t think it would be necessary, but Stiles reads the situation quickly and goes still and relaxed in Derek’s grip.  It’s a massive show of trust on Stiles’ part, particularly after the arrogance directed at Ennis, and Derek could kiss him for it.  “I’m sorry to just show up here, sir, but it’s an emergency.”

Deucalion waves a hand, simultaneously dismissing Ennis and Derek’s formality.  “There’s no need for this ‘sir’ nonsense, Derek.  I’ve known you since you were born.  Please, make yourselves comfortable.  I’ll just have to ask your… friend here to refrain from practicing his craft.”

Derek can feel Stiles’ hackles raise at that, but this time, Stiles even manages to keep his heart rate under control.  “You have my word,” he says, teeth only grinding a little.

“Ah, the word of a hunter,” Deucalion muses, turning to lead them deeper into the house.  “Albeit one married to a werewolf – yes, I know you’re married.  I’m sure that makes for some interesting conversation over dinner.”

Stiles shoots Derek a look, and all Derek can do is shrug.  Despite what he said to Stiles, Derek didn’t even know for certain that Deucalion would recognize his voice or scent, but the alpha already seems to know more than Derek and Stiles did twelve hours ago.  Derek drops his hand from Stiles’ neck to squeeze his wrist gently, trying to communicate stay alert with his eyes, though it’s unlikely Stiles needs the reminder.  Derek inclines his head, and together they follow Deucalion.

“I’m here because I trust Derek,” Stiles says firmly.  “And he told me he trusts you.  That’s all.  I have no interest in you or any of your pack.”

“Quite a touching display of trust,” Deucalion intones.  “You will, of course, forgive me if I don’t let you near any sharp objects.  Your reputation precedes you.  Derek, how is your uncle these days?”

It’s not, Derek supposes, an unusual question, but Deucalion hasn’t even asked why they’re here yet.  Does he already know somehow?  “Peter is… fine.”

“Fine, full stop, or fine for Peter?” Deucalion asks, perching on an overstuffed chair as if it were a throne.  As if on cue, Ennis re-enters the room and stands at his right hand.  Added to the ornate furnishings in the room, there’s an unmistakable feeling like Deucalion’s holding court.  “As I recall, Talia’s dear brother was never quite the same after the fire, was he?”

Derek has no idea what Deucalion’s getting at, whether he’s looking for a specific piece of information or just trying to keep them off-guard.  It’s fuzzy, but Derek seems to remember his mother saying that Deucalion and Peter didn’t exactly get along.  “He lost his wife and children,” Derek says.  “That would be enough to break anyone.”

Broken,” Derek hears an all-too-familiar voice say.  “That’s an interesting choice of words.”

Stiles goes tense beside him.  “Peter, what are you doing here?”  He almost manages to keep the disdain out of his voice.  Almost.

“Who do you think let Deucalion know you were coming?” Peter says, and it doesn’t escape Derek’s notice that that’s not an answer.  “It’s a bit rude to just show up unannounced at someone’s house, especially someone as prestigious as this.  Some might call it… presumptive.”

Derek doesn’t miss the stern expression that crosses Deucalion’s face or the way it seems to shut Peter up quickly.  Nothing shuts Peter up quickly.

Trying to redirect, Derek says, “Peter, you were right about Stiles being a hunter, but he keeps to the Code.  He’s never hurt a werewolf and he’s no danger to us.”

Peter’s eyebrows shoot up.  “And you believe him?  He’s been lying to you for five years.”

“We’ve been lying to each other,” Stiles breaks in.  “But that stops now.”

“Interesting,” Deucalion muses.  “Peter, I do believe the boy’s loyalty lies with Derek.”

“Of course it does,” says Stiles, bristling at the condescension but fortunately keeping his anger in check.

“And yet, I imagine the Argents are none too pleased with this turn of events.”

Stiles shakes his head.  “This is all Gerard’s doing.  Allison is a rational person, and I’m not convinced Chris was in on all of it.  If they find out that Gerard’s been lying to them about Kate’s death—”

“Only if you can convince them that Gerard is lying,” Deucalion says pointedly.  “That’s an entirely different beast.  Blood runs thicker than a steady paycheck, I’m afraid, and Gerard’s been using his family for his own ends since before you were born, my boy.”

Derek decides it’s time for him to jump in and, if it’s still possible, proceed with the original plan.  “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Sir, we just need a safe place to stay while we figure out what our next move is.  Do you know where we can go?”

A grin spreads across Deucalion’s face, and deep in Derek’s gut, he feels something sink when Deucalion says, “Why, of course.  You can stay right here for as long as you like.”

Derek glances at Stiles, and he’s not surprised to see suspicion in the other man’s eyes.  It’s too easy.  Deucalion doesn’t owe Derek anything and he has no reason at all to trust Stiles, and Peter’s unexpected presence is never a good thing.  Still, Derek needs to be diplomatic.  “Thank you, but we’re still too close to the Argents’ headquarters.  We don’t want to put you or your—” Derek glances at Ennis, still throwing a menacing glare from across the room “—friends in harm’s way.  It’s only a matter of time before they track us here.”

“Really?” Deucalion asks, feigning indifference.  “Then how, exactly, does your leaving keep us out of harm’s way?  Do you imagine the Argents will show us mercy if you’re already gone?  That they’ll politely ask us where you’re headed and be on their way?”

“Look, we’re not trying to start a turf war,” Stiles tries.

Deucalion’s mood immediately shifts, the polite apathy dropped as his unseeing eyes grow red.  “The war was started a long time ago, boy, and not by us.  I lost my eyes and half of my pack to Gerard, but Derek and Peter lost even more.”

“Then we’d better go,” Derek says quickly, already taking a step backward and preparing to grab Stiles and run.  They should’ve left the second Peter showed up.  “If our scent trail clearly leads away from here—”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Deucalion growls, staring right into Derek’s eyes.  The wolf in Derek is whining to submit, even though Deucalion’s not his alpha.  Maybe he can resist it, maybe he—

There’s a blur of motion to his left, and suddenly he’s knocked face first toward the ground, pain shooting through his back to his chest.  At first, when he can’t breathe, he thinks he just got the wind knocked out of him, but he can’t figure out why he’s not quite lying on the floor but hovering maybe a foot above it.  The pain is spreading out from his chest, already threatening to consume him.  He can hear Stiles screaming, but he can’t make out the actual words.  There’s blood all over the floor in front of him, so much blood.  Is it his?  Is it Stiles’?

Everything seems to slow down.  Derek turns his head – the only part of his body he seems to be actually able to move – and watches Stiles launch himself at a woman Derek’s never seen before.  She’s barefoot, long claws sprouting from her toes, so a wolf.  Red eyes, so another alpha.  Derek should help Stiles; he needs to help Stiles.  He’s the one who convinced Stiles to come in here unarmed.  Who promised Stiles he’d be safe.  If Derek can’t get up—

Paige’s face flashes before his eyes.

Derek coughs, more blood spattering across the floor.  So it’s his.  Good, then – at least it’s not Stiles’.  He tries again to move, but that only sets off a nauseating sliding feeling in his chest, and his face inches closer to the floor.

Even in his dazed state, he feels the tip of a cane pressing underneath his chin, and somehow it doesn’t surprise him to see Deucalion staring down at him.  “I’ve waited twenty years to find the Argents, to draw them out of hiding.”  He grins, and an agonizing shudder runs through Derek.  “And now, not only do I find out they’re practically in my backyard, but the very bait I need comes knocking at my door.  Besides, I’ve never quite forgiven you for killing my emissary several years ago.  She was about to become a very powerful Darach.”

The last thing Derek hears before everything goes black is Stiles screaming his name.

&&&

The handcuffs are the only thing keeping Stiles from having a panic attack.  He hasn’t had one since high school, but he remembers the signs all too well, and he’s held it back by recounting the details of the kidnapping and his present circumstances.

The sack they put over his head about an hour ago was made of burlap and smelled faintly of peanuts.  The vehicle they were thrown in was probably a van, definitely had a V8 engine.  For a while, he’d tried to keep track of the turns it was making, but then they got on a freeway and drove for over an hour.  The big guy – Ennis – removed the sack after chaining Stiles up, revealing them to be in an abandoned warehouse.  The handcuffs chaining Stiles to the pipes against the wall are better than standard police issue.  They’re heavy, possibly military grade.  Derek’s trussed up in a similar fashion, but slumped and hanging from the cuffs.

The goddamn hole in Derek’s chest still hasn’t healed.

At least he’s breathing.  It’s a labored, gurgling sound, and every time it pauses, Stiles’ heart stops.  But clearly the pole missed his heart and one lung, and at least Derek doesn’t sound like he’s getting any worse.  Doesn’t sound much better, though, and Stiles feels the panic start to close around his chest again.

Back to the handcuffs, then.  They’re looped through a labyrinth of metal pipes close to the wall, keeping Stiles’ arms over his head.  He can bend his elbows enough to keep the blood flowing to his hands, but Ennis hasn’t given him anything to work with in terms of picking the lock.  The cuffs are on so tight that Stiles doesn’t even think he could slip out of them by breaking his thumb.

Next to him, Derek gives a series of wet, painful-sounding coughs, and Stiles turns in time to see him spit out a mouthful of blood.  He finally appears to be conscious.

“Derek, Derek, you scared the shit out of me!” Stiles yelps.  Derek makes a horrible wheezing sound and Stiles shakes his head.  “No, don’t try to talk yet.  You still need to heal.”

Derek looks down at his own chest and seems shocked at the wound there.  For a second, Stiles is afraid the Derek’s going to panic, and then Stiles will be completely lost.  Derek just takes a few deep breaths – now rumbling instead of gurgling – and gets his feet under him so he’s not hanging from the handcuff chain.  Just like Stiles’ restraints, there doesn’t seem to be anything anchoring Derek to the wall, nor does there appear to be any electricity coursing through him.  It all speaks to a plan that’s been hastily thrown together, and odds are good that their captors are counting on the whole ambush happening before Derek can heal himself enough to fight back.

Stiles works hard to control his breathing, his heartbeat.  It’s a safe bet that Deucalion and his lackeys have made sure that he and Derek will be easy for the Argents to track down.  Stiles can’t see or hear any werewolves, but they can’t have gone far waiting for the ambush.  Stiles isn’t going to be able to get out of the cuffs on his own before it goes down, but the faster Derek heals, the better both their chances of surviving.  All his weapons are back in the car, and Stiles has no illusions about how he’ll fare against a werewolf pack and an unspecified number of hunters without Derek’s help.  He only has one long-shot idea of how to speed up the healing process, but anything’s worth a try at this point.  Now, with the seed of a plan forming in his head, Stiles can push the panic away with some success.  He just has to keep Derek centered, too.

“Derek, hey,” he says as calmly as he can.  “Don’t talk, just nod or shake your head.  Can you do that for me, baby?”

Nod.

“Are you healing?”

A slow nod.

“Did they dose you with wolfsbane or mistletoe or anything like that?”

Shake.  Possibly they don’t have a human emissary to handle it for them.

“Are you strong enough to get out of the chains yet?”

A soft grunt as he tries, another shake.

Stiles digs deep into his biofeedback training to keep the stress out of his heartbeat and his voice.  “You’re doing great, okay?  All you have to do is heal right now.  Nothing else.  You are one seriously tough son of a bitch, you know that?  I don’t mean to freak you out, but you took a pipe through the chest.”  He tries to banish the mental image as soon as it arises and keep talking to give Derek something to focus on.  “You’re already back on your feet.  That is some hardcore shit.

“You know that scar I have on my left foot?  The one that looks like a burn?  Manticore venom, the year before I met you.  It was my first assignment.  I cried like a baby for hours.  Seriously, I think Lydia took video of it.  Apparently, it was hilarious enough to break all kinds of security protocols, because everyone I work with has seen that video.  Not that any of them know what it feels like to be burned by manticore venom.  It’s neurotoxic, it goes right after your pain sensors like—”

“Stiles,” Derek grates out.  “Shut up.”  But despite his eye roll, the corner of his mouth is quirking up and he already looks stronger.

Stiles forges on.  “Oh my god, you’ve got some serious Batman voice going on there, baby.  It would be totally hot if it weren’t for… you know.”  Stiles jangles the handcuffs.  “When we get home, we’re going to have to trade stories.  I mean, I know you haven’t got any scars – which definitely should’ve tipped me off, by the way, because everybody has some scars – but you’ve gotta tell me about some of the shit you’ve gotten into on all your ‘business trips.’”

Stiles is interrupted by the groan of metal on metal, a sound that makes his entire body clench up until he finally hears the snap of one of the links on the chain between Derek’s handcuffs.  Derek’s arms fall to the sides, and then he staggers to the wall to hold himself up.  Despite his own restraints, Stiles strains toward him, softly calling his name to keep him alert.  Apparently, using that much strength was costly.  Stiles is going to have to pull out all the stops here in a minute.

Derek probably only stays slumped against the wall for a few minutes, but to Stiles, it seems like hours.  When he finally moves, Derek seems to go in slow motion, pushing upright and taking careful steps, as if expecting his legs won’t hold him.  But they do, and Stiles breathes a sigh of relief.  As soon as Derek breaks Stiles’ handcuffs apart, Stiles takes Derek in his arms, glad for every ragged breath he can feel Derek take.

“We don’t have long, do we?” Derek asks, his voice rough.

“No,” Stiles admits.  “Even if they don’t have Lydia tracking us down, it won’t take them long to find us.  I’m pretty sure we can expect all Argents to be in attendance.”

Derek pulls back to look Stiles in the eye, cups his face with a gentle hand.  “Whatever happens…”

Stiles can’t bring himself to finish that sentence either.  All he can manage is “Yeah,” before leaning in to kiss Derek tenderly.  He can tasted the dried blood on Derek’s lips, but it’s hard to care.  Derek was always a spectacular kisser, and that hasn’t changed in five years.  He sometimes has trouble expressing himself in words, but Stiles has always been able to tell exactly how Derek feels from his kisses.  What he’s feeling now makes Stiles want to weep.

Instead, with Derek momentarily distracted, Stiles slips a hand between them, resting his palm over the healing wound in Derek’s chest.  He whispers the words against Derek’s lips, a simple incantation that he’s long known but never needed to use before.

Derek gasps, feeling the effects immediately as Stiles channels his own life force into Derek.  His skin grows warm under Stiles’ hand as the wound heals rapidly and completely.  If Stiles did it right, Derek shouldn’t have so much as a hangnail.

Of course, it’s not without consequences.  Thankfully, a hole doesn’t open up in Stiles’ chest, but he does feel as if someone’s pulled a very important plug in his circulatory system.  It’s only because Derek’s holding him that Stiles doesn’t slide to the floor.  “What the hell did you just do?” Derek demands.

“Gave you a little boost,” Stiles says with a weak smile.  “Just means I’m gonna be running on low for a while.”

Stiles.”

“Hey, d’you see any weapons around here?  Any mountain ash or wolfsbane?  Any wooden stakes for that matter?  You’re our best chance of getting out of here alive, big guy.  You need to be at full capacity.”

Derek just stares, and for a few moments, Stiles is worried that Derek is literally going to try to shake some sense into him.  Instead, he mutters, “You fucking idiot,” and tucks Stiles in a tight embrace.

“I know,” Stiles says, and the tears are coming now.

“Let’s just go,” Derek whispers into Stiles’ neck, his voice cracking.  “Let’s just run to Mexico and let them all kill each other.”

“We can’t, Derek.  They won’t all die, and even if they did, they have allies.  I don’t want to live on the run, looking over my shoulder all the time.  I’m done living as someone I’m not.”

“Me too.”

There’s so much more that Stiles wants to say – he’s not giving up, but he’s got to be realistic here.  The Argents have specialized in killing supernatural creatures for generations, and neither Gerard nor Chris will show the same restraint that Allison did.  He needs Derek to know that he regrets the lies, but nothing else, not a single moment they’ve spent together—

Before he can say more, he hears the sickening creak of a rusty door sliding open at the other end of the warehouse.  For a moment, the only thing he sees through the doorway is a pair of headlights, but then two figures come walking in front of them.  From their silhouettes, it must be Gerard and Chris, but Stiles knows better than to think it’s just the two of them.  Allison is likely on the roof trying to find a sniper position, and there’s probably at least a dozen anonymous goons from Gerard’s personal security force surrounding the building.

There’s nowhere to hide, but it hardly matters.  Gerard’s polished shoes tap loudly on the bare concrete as he walks right toward them, a sharp contrast to Chris, who’s constantly checking the corners of the room and barely making any sound at all.

Derek turns to face them and tries to shield Stiles with his body, but Stiles needs to face this head on.  He’s also not entirely confident that he can stand without Derek’s help at the moment, so he plants a firm hand on Derek’s shoulder.

“Mr. Hale,” Gerard says, his voice echoing ominously.  “How long has it been now – nineteen years?  Twenty?”

“Twenty,” Derek growls.  “Since you and Kate killed my family.”

Chapter Text

Right next to Derek’s ear, Stiles draws in a quick breath.  Derek hadn’t had time to explain everything earlier – how Gerard had tried to kill his mother once before and, upon failing, had ordered Kate to burn the entire pack.  That information had come from Peter many years ago, but Derek had little reason to doubt it.

“I’ll admit,” Gerard continues, “I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could finally cross the entire Hale family off my list. I was certain you’d have allies, but I never imagined…”  He glances around the shadows in the warehouse.  “Deucalion, old friend.  What an unexpected pleasure.”

A roar louder than Derek’s ever heard seems to come from every direction at once – he wouldn’t be surprised if the walls of the warehouse were shaking with it.  Stiles grips his shoulder tighter and Derek tenses, waiting for Deucalion to launch himself out of the shadows, but nothing happens.  There’s commotion outside, the sound of dozens of boots hitting the ground and weapons being cocked, but still, Deucalion and his pack bide their time.  Derek wonders if they’re waiting for the Argents to take him and Stiles out first.

Gerard chuckles.  “I suppose I should know better than to try and bait you.”  Then, to Derek: “Have you met his pack?  That ridiculous bald ape, those vapid twins?  Kali, well, she might be quite lovely if it weren’t for those toe claws.  An entire pack of alphas, and yet they’re all as vile as any other mangy animal.”

“What do you mean, a pack of alphas?” Stiles wheezes from behind Derek.

“Ah, hello again, Mr. Stilinski.  Such a shame.  You had a promising career ahead of you, and now here you are, cowering behind your pet werewolf.  If only you’d done as you were told, we could have avoided this mess.”

Derek barely holds back on a snarl, but he reaches a hand back to Stiles’ hip.  He doesn’t know whether Gerard is stalling or he genuinely loves the sound of his own voice this much, but Derek’s not inclined to start the bloodshed any sooner than he has to.  Not while Stiles is still so weak.  So Derek pipes up, “Alpha packs are a myth.”

“Not so, my boy.” Gerard seems to relish the opportunity to be patronizing.  “They were for many years, but no longer.  You see, the formation of an alpha pack requires a tremendous amount of death, and most werewolves pretend to be too civilized for that.  But that’s what I’ve always liked about Deucalion – he doesn’t fool himself with regard to his animal nature.  He accepts that his kind – your kind – is born of violence.  He embraces it.  He gained his power by killing every member of his pack, and then he somehow convinced four more alphas to do the same.  Imagine that.”

Just the thought of it makes Derek’s stomach turn; killing one’s own pack members is more than a taboo, it’s an abomination.  For an alpha to kill their pack is the worst perversion of werewolf instincts.  The closest human equivalent would be a parent killing their infant child.  “Gerard, if that’s true—”

“Of course it’s true,” Gerard scoffs.  “Your kind eat their own.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, since it makes my job easier.  However, I tend to take it personally when they kill one of mine.”

“But Derek didn’t!” Stiles calls out.  Considering how weak Derek knows him to be right now, he’s still plenty loud.  “You seem to know everything, so you should know that.”

Gerard just chuckles, a horrible crackling sound.  “He’s a murderer, Mr. Stilinski.  They’re all murderers, sooner or later.  Sooner, in your pet’s case.  Did he tell you about his little high school sweetheart?  Did he tell you how he slit her throat with his claws and watched her bleed to death?”

A growl starts building in Derek’s chest before he can stop it, but Stiles’ fingers, digging surprisingly hard into his shoulders and side, keep him from moving.  He’s got no idea how Gerard knows the details, but he does remember telling Kate about his previous girlfriend who’d died tragically.  The Argents must’ve somehow put the pieces together.

Derek’s just about to wrench away from Stiles and go on the attack – if he’s going to die tonight, he doesn’t want to sit through any more taunting first – when there’s an audible skirmish outside.  A lot of scrambling, some gunfire, and then a loud voice – possibly Chris Argent’s – yelling “Incoming!”

Of all the people in the world to come crashing into the warehouse, followed by cursing and more gunfire, Derek didn’t expect Isaac and Erica.  There’s a third werewolf with them, someone Derek’s only seen in pictures on Erica’s desk, but Boyd exudes the feeling of pack enough for Derek to figure he’s been recently turned.  It sickens him to think that Peter might have been recruiting foot soldiers, especially from among their small pack’s loved ones.  Their eyes burn gold and there’s already blood on Isaac’s claws.

Derek doesn’t have any time to process this, since Ennis takes advantage of the momentary distraction to come streaking out of the shadows at Gerard.  He might have been fast enough, too, if not for the arrow that thunks into his shoulder at a high angle from an unseen archer.

“Allison,” gasps Stiles.

It gives Gerard enough time to draw a small-caliber pistol and fire at the bald Alpha.  Even though the bullets must be coated in wolfsbane, they only seem to make Ennis angrier, and there’s just enough of a crack in Gerard’s expression that Derek figures the hunters’ carefully-developed weaponry might not have the same effect on members of an alpha pack.

Then Chris Argent runs through the doorway, crossbow ready to fire, and all hell breaks loose.

Two more Alphas rush the Argents, knocking Derek’s fellow betas aside, but they’re met by a hail of bullets from what Derek can only assume to be a small army of hunters trying to enter the warehouse.  If the heavy door had been opened more than about three feet, the werewolves would have been in serious trouble, but as it is, the bottleneck at the door prevents more than two hunters from getting in at a time.  The few who’d already made it inside are trying to slow Ennis, Deucalion, and a female Alpha – Kali, Derek guesses – down long enough for more of their compatriots to join them.

The upshot of all this mayhem is that Derek and Stiles seem to have been forgotten for the moment, not posing an imminent threat to either side.  Derek scoops Stiles up and carries him to the corner of the warehouse where they’d been chained just a few minutes ago.  There’s no cover, but at least he’ll be out of the way.

As he sets a weakly-protesting Stiles down against the wall, he notices that Erica has followed him.  When Derek looks her in the eyes, she looks more frightened and confused than angry – god only knows what Peter told her and the others to get them here.  He gets an idea.  “Stay with him,” Derek commands.

“But Peter said—”

“He’s pack, Erica,” Derek says.  “Right now, he can’t defend himself.  I know ‘pack’ hasn’t meant a whole lot to us in the past, but that’s all we have right now, and Stiles is as much a part of it as Boyd.  He’s weak at the moment, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to need him if we want to get out of here alive.”

She nods, looking grateful to have an objective.  Derek turns to look at Stiles who, pale as he his, shoots a wink back at him, and it actually makes Derek feel a little better.  He opens his mouth with no idea what to say, but then Erica grabs him by the arm.

“Keep an eye on Boyd?” she asks in a strangely vulnerable voice.  Derek nods at her, then at Stiles, and then leaps into the fray.

He finds Boyd first, holding his own reasonably well against two of the hunters armed with barbed daggers.  The humans are surprisingly clumsy, though, and Derek has the presence of mind to wonder at Argent-trained hunters fighting so badly.  When he gets closer, he picks up immediately on sun-bleached sand, creosote, javelina droppings – unmistakable desert smells – and remembers the group of idiot hunters in the warehouse a few days ago.  The Argents must have put out a call across the country and not been picky about who showed up to fight.

It’s a small blessing in the midst of the madness, and it’s probably the only reason that Boyd’s fighting as well as he is.  He’s strong and agile, but his technique is sloppy – Derek doesn’t even know how long ago he was turned.  When a third hunter rushes Boyd from behind, Derek’s able to cut her down with claws between the ribs.

The other two freeze when they see their comrade fall.  Boyd takes one out with a kick, and the other simply runs away.

“Derek?” Boyd growls through his fangs.

Derek nods; not exactly how he wanted to introduce himself to the love of Erica’s life.  “Keep your back to the wall, try to stay in the shadows.  They’re not here for you.  If we’re lucky, they’ll all kill each other and you can just walk out of here.”

“Where’s Erica?”

“She’s with St— she’s protecting my human husband.  Whatever Peter told you, he’s pack and he needs to be kept safe.  If you can get to her, great, stay there and defend your position.  Get Isaac, too, if you can find him.  If not, just… try not to get killed.”

It’s not the best advice Derek’s ever given, but he sorely hopes Boyd takes it.  Unfortunately, Boyd wants to argue, but suddenly Derek feels a sharp burning pain streak across his arm and he howls.

The arrow clearly had enough wolfsbane on it to do severe damage if it had been a solid hit, but as it is, the scrape is just going to hurt like hell.  Derek drops to a crouch to present a smaller target while trying to glance around to spot the archer.  There’s hardly any light in the upper reaches of the warehouse, but he sees a slight movement in a shadow up on the catwalk a few dozen yards away.

In the otherwise empty warehouse, the only real cover is the seething mass of bodies, and Derek ducks behind a clot of hunters fighting… some kind of massive beast that’s the size of two werewolves put together.  Derek can only guess that it’s some kind of sick alpha magic and be thankful that so many hunters seem desperate to be the David to that Goliath.

As soon as he can get around that mess, he follows the advice he gave to Boyd and hugs the wall.  The catwalk seems to run the entire perimeter of the warehouse about thirty feet up, and it’s not long before he finds a series of rungs bolted to the metal wall.  Derek pauses, listening for motion above him, maybe the draw of a bow, but there’s nothing.

He hopes he knows the archer, and that she’ll have a harder time shooting him if she has to look him in the face.

Derek climbs the ladder as fast as he can, knowing his back is vulnerable the entire way up.  He makes it, but before he can even climb out onto the catwalk, he spots Allison.  She’s only a few feet from the ladder, but she’s facing away from him, staring intently down at the melee through infrared goggles.  The fighting is loud, but Derek holds his breath anyway, knowing he’s only got one chance at surprising her.  He turns his body around on the ladder, then pushes off from a rung into a leap.  He doesn’t land as close to her as he’d intended, but he still manages to knock her bow away and clamp a hand over her mouth before she can turn around.

Derek’s expecting to get his hand bitten or his crotch kicked, but instead, Allison goes dead weight in his arms and he nearly drops her.  There’s a perilous second where they’re both teetering off balance near the edge of the catwalk, about to plummet three stories onto a writhing mass of guns and daggers and claws, but he yanks them both backwards and lands hard on his ass, still holding Allison tightly around the head and waist.  Though the bow and arrows are gone, she’s got weapons strapped to every inch of her body, so he does everything he can to keep her arms pinned to her sides.  Beneath them, the catwalk creaks ominously.

“Allison,” he says, his voice coming out in more of a snarl than a plea.  “Allison.”  It’s having no effect – she keeps squirming against him, trying to open up some room in his grip, and Derek takes a moment to regret his lack of a plan.  He’s got no hope of convincing her like this; Stiles might, but there’s no way Allison will calmly let Derek take her to him.  Anyway, she’s still probably pissed at Stiles about her car.

There’s only one thing that Derek can think to do, and it goes against all his instincts when he’s facing a mortal threat.  It looks like the infrared goggles are askew, so Allison can’t see him, but she can surely feel the point of his claws against her cheeks.  And she’s starting to tire.  “Allison, pay attention,” he tries again, poking her once with his claws before forcibly retracting them.

At that, she goes still save for her heaving breath, but Derek knows she might just as well be regrouping for a renewed escape attempt as listening to him.  Still, he’s got to try, and he forces his fangs back as well.  “I didn’t kill Kate.  I didn’t kill your aunt.  I know Gerard told you I did.  He told Stiles the same thing, because he wants me dead.  He wants all werewolves dead, whether they’ve harmed a human or not.”

There’s no response, but she’s still not trying to fight, so Derek takes a calculated risk and loosens the hand over her mouth.  He’s pretty sure no one would hear her over the din if she screamed – no one who’d be interested in helping her, anyway – but maybe it shows that he’s interested in this being a conversation instead of a monologue.  Her mouth unblocked, Allison takes huge gulps of air, but still doesn’t speak.

“I don’t want to do any of this, Allison.  I don’t want to fight you.  I could kill you right now, slit your throat, but I won’t.  I didn’t start all of this, Gerard did, even before Kate died.  I don’t know who killed her, but it wasn’t me.”

Derek doesn’t know what else to say, so for a long beat, there’s nothing but their breathing and the sounds of the fight below.  Just when Derek’s starting to wonder what the hell else to do, Allison says in a scratchy voice. “Grandpa said—He also said you killed your own family.”

“No,” Derek says, biting his lip before he can spit out the truth about Gerard – all he needs to convince her of right now is that he didn’t kill her aunt.  “They were killed by hunters.  I can tell you what I know, about their death and your aunt’s, but I can’t do that if you kill me.  Or Stiles.  If you can’t trust me, at least trust Stiles.  You’ve worked with him for a long time.  I told him the truth and he believed me.”

“Of course he believed you,” she snaps.  “He loves you.  He’d believe anything you tell him.”

That gives Derek pause – he’s genuinely not sure whether to be frustrated at Allison’s stubbornness or a little hopeful that Stiles’ co-worker is confirming Stiles’ love for him.  But he doesn’t have to choose, because just then, the catwalk starts to tremble with footsteps.

Derek bolts upright, pulling Allison to her feet as well.  It’s the female Alpha, Kali, and Derek suddenly sees what Gerard meant about the toe claws.

“Hate to break up this… whatever,” Kali says with a wicked grin, “but I’m going to need Little Miss Sunshine’s head to bring back to her granddaddy.”

Derek lets Allison loose and, without even thinking about it, shoves her behind him.  “Your fight is with Gerard, not with her.”

“She’s just another one of Gerard’s minions now, and I’ll—” Kali doesn’t get to finish her sentence, because a ring dagger reeking of wolfsbane whizzes over Derek’s shoulder and Kali has to duck.

She quickly gets back to her feet and charges, and Derek only has a split second to think.  He can’t let Kali kill Allison, but he has no desire to act as her shield when he’s still not sure he won’t get hit by unfriendly fire from behind.  Also, the catwalk is rusty and starting to creak, and he has no idea how many people it was supposed to hold even when it was brand new.  He does the only thing he can think of: he grabs Allison by the waist, runs down the catwalk to a break in the railing, and leaps into the fray below.

&&&

Stiles is so busy watching Erica and Boyd take on one of the Argent mercenaries that he temporarily ignores the loud, wet thunk into the concrete floor behind him.  It’s only when the two werewolves have dispatched the hunter that Stiles spins to see Derek, maybe twenty feet away, lying still on his back and breathing raggedly.

Climbing up off his prone body is a disoriented Allison, but before Stiles can get to them, she regains her bearings and draws a serrated dagger from an ankle sheath.  She points it at Derek, who curls up into a hacking cough, and Stiles’ stomach drops at the sight of the blood coming up – he could’ve easily broken a rib in that fall, punctured a lung.

Allison looks like she wants to say something, but she just holds the knife at Derek, the point of it shaking in an uncharacteristic show of nerves.  Stiles is drawing breath to yell her name when Peter steps out of the shadows and swats her away as if she were a fly.

She hits the wall hard near Stiles, sliding down to land in a sitting position on the floor.  For a moment he’s torn between them, but Derek catches his eye and nods toward Allison.  Stiles isn’t sure he should leave an injured Derek with Peter, but Derek will heal in ways Allison can’t.

Stiles crouches down to check her pulse, but she’s still conscious, albeit with the wind knocked out of her.  He checks the back of her head for blood and finds none, so he gets her attention.  “Breathe,” he says, “You’re okay, you just need to get your breath back.  Focus on me and breathe.”

She visibly struggles for a few seconds, eyes wide with panic until her chest muscles relax enough for her to take air in.  Stiles glances up – there’s fighting all around them, but no one seems to be watching them.  Allison doesn’t seem interested at killing Stiles at the moment, which is a good sign, but he doesn’t want to leave an injured Derek alone with Peter for too long, and between Derek and Allison, Allison is more capable of taking care of herself in this situation.

“I gotta go,” Stiles says, starting off before turning back and saying, “Please don’t die or kill either of us before we get a chance to talk.”

She silently flips him the bird, still catching her breath, and he figures that’s fair.

When he spins back to find Derek, Stiles is reminded of his own weakened state.  He can walk under his own power, but he’s nowhere near strong enough to fight Peter.  The best he can do now is stall until Derek can heal, and maybe clear up a few things in the meantime.  If there’s one thing Peter can’t resist, it’s talking about himself.

Where’s Isaac?” Stiles bellows at Peter as loud as he can.  It’s not a volume he’ll be able to sustain for long.  “You wanna tell Derek what happened to Isaac?  What you did to him?”

Peter glances back at Stiles but merely rolls his eyes.

Stumbling, Stiles makes it close enough to them that he doesn’t have to shout.  “You attacked him.  I saw it happen.  He was fighting somebody else and you came up behind him and nearly took his head off.  I don’t even know if he’s still alive.  Why the fuck would you do that to a member of your own pack?”

“Alpha pack,” Derek wheezes, coming to the conclusion that Stiles had been pushing for.  “You… want to join… alphas.”

Peter looks down at him and smiles a sickening grin.  “I thought that much was obvious.  It’s a shame Deucalion insisted on setting up this unsightly melee.  I’d just as soon have killed you while you were impaled on that pipe.”

“What is wrong with you?” Stiles yells, trying to put himself between Peter and Derek.  “What happened to you that made you want to kill your own pack? Were you not hugged enough as a child?”

“They’re hardly a pack,” Peter snarls.  “They’re practically children.  And you’ve managed to emasculate my nephew to a truly startling degree.  I can’t believe I actually sent him to kill you – he couldn’t even bring himself to kill rabbits in the woods as a pup.”

“Werewolves like you are the reason hunters exist!” Stiles cries. “How many humans have you killed?”

Stiles has a hunch, but he doesn’t know how far he can push it until Peter laughs and says, “Just one.”

“Kate?” Derek asks, pushing himself up on his elbows – he’s healing.

“Of course Kate.  It was an absolute pleasure, too.  I would’ve shared the kill with you but—” Peter stops mid-sentence, possibly because of the dagger now sticking in his shoulder.  It makes a horrible wet sound as Allison draws it out.

Peter turns slowly, dramatically, to face her.  “Seriously? You really think that poking me with that little—”

“Just needed to get your attention,” she says, and her other hand comes flying up holding a long, curved blade.  Peter ducks, but Stiles would swear that she managed to trim a few hairs off the top of his head. As for Stiles, he drops to his knees, gathering Derek up in his arms as well as he can.

Peter rolls backward, missing Derek’s feet by inches, and immediately starts to shift.  It’s nothing like what Stiles saw Derek do in their kitchen – Stiles swears he can hear Peter’s bones cracking and see oily black fur tear through his skin.  The form he takes is neither like a wolf nor a man, but some kind of twisted horror movie monster with glowing red eyes.  Stiles spares a glance at Allison, and even she looks like the blood has drained from her face.  True to form, though, she recovers quickly and has both sword and dagger ready when Peter leaps.

“Where the hell was she keeping that sword?” Derek says, his voice no longer sounding like a cracked bellows, and Stiles pulls him into a tight embrace.

“Oh my god, Derek, never cough up blood again.  It’s disturbing.”

“I’ll do my best,” he deadpans, and Stiles can’t help but grin.  Then Derek inclines his head toward the fighting blur behind them.  “We’ve got to help Allison.  I’m not sure she can take Peter by herself.”

Stiles nods, but says, “If we do, are you prepared to take him down? As in, for good?”

Derek shuts his eyes, his whole face creased with pain both physical and emotional.  “Yes.”

“I’m sorry,” Stiles whispers, stealing a quick kiss.  Derek’s blood-stained lips taste coppery, and it gives Stiles an idea.  “Okay, I don’t think either of us is back up to full steam yet.  Are you down if I try something… kinda weird?”

Despite their current predicament, Derek manages to shoot him a look that perfectly indicates the amount of weirdness they have already dealt with today and how easily it dwarfs whatever Stiles is about to do.  Stiles kind of loves him for that.

“Okay, blood magic is… controversial.  It’s not dark, exactly, but it’s dark-ish.  If there really are fifty shades of gray, this is at least number 27.  Maybe 28.  And it’s not 100% reliable, but—”

Stiles.”

“—it’s what we’ve got to work with.  Right.  So.”  Stiles reluctantly lets go of Derek and crawls over to the small pool of Peter’s blood spilled by Allison’s dagger.  He puts his hand in it, closes his eyes, and allows the words to form in his mind.  Werewolf blood is powerful, alpha werewolf blood even more so, and the liquid beneath his hand is practically humming as he murmurs the hemokinesis spell.  When he finishes, he manages to limit his disgust to a grimace as he seals the spell by licking his palm.

Stiles has only ever tried it before on small animals.  The effect isn’t immediate or dramatic – it’s not exactly pulling marionette strings, but with a little concentration, Stiles is able to reach out with his senses and feel a pulse that isn’t his own.  It’s wickedly fast, racing through Peter’s twisted form with incredible efficiency.  At first, Stiles thinks it’s too strong to control, like trying to dam a river, but once he feels the rhythm of it, it’s not too hard just to give it a little… push.  To tell the blood that maybe Peter’s right arm isn’t the place it wants to go.  There’s no way he can cut the flow off completely, but he can change it enough to slow down some of Peter’s reaction times.

As if on cue, Peter howls, and Stiles’ concentration is broken long enough for him to see that the alpha is bleeding from a gash in his right forearm, and Stiles quickly focuses again to see if he can’t make it flow even more freely.

Though his eyes are shut in concentration, Stiles can sense the presence of Derek beside him, senses him hesitate to join the battle and leave Stiles vulnerable.  But even with Allison and Stiles joining forces, Peter’s rage maintains his frightening alpha strength, and with a gentle squeeze to Stiles’ shoulder, Derek gets to his feet to jump to Allison’s aid.

Then Stiles is completely keyed into the flow of Peter’s blood.  He doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to maintain the spell and trying to do more than one thing at a time with it doesn’t seem to be working.  He’s lost for a moment, trying to wrest control of another limb, before gets an idea.  He pours all his strength into one thought: down.  He tells the blood how heavy it is, how hard it is to fight gravity and make it all the way up to the head, how easy it would be to just go down.

Stiles is nearing exhaustion from the effort when Peter falters, not enough oxygen getting to his brain.  It’s no dramatic collapse, but it’s just enough for Allison to jam her dagger into his neck.  Stiles shuts his eyes to focus on the blood again, this time pushing out, but now it doesn’t need much encouragement.  In less than a minute, it’s all over.

When Stiles opens his eyes, Derek and Allison are standing over Peter’s body, both looking a little lost.  In death, Peter has shifted back into human form, and his body looks twisted and pathetic.  Stiles staggers through the blood -- it’s a lot of blood -- and puts his arms around Derek, who buries his face against Stiles’ neck.

Looking over Derek’s shoulder, Stiles addresses Allison.  “Go find your dad.  You two are the only ones who can stop this.”

She looks around, dazed.  “It might be too late for that.  I think some of the hunters are even fighting each other.”

Stiles shakes his head.  “You’ve got to try.  As far as Derek and I are concerned, the Alpha Pack are the only enemies here tonight.  Peter’s taken care of.  Have Chris give the order for the hunters to fall back and the rest of us can concentrate on the Alphas.”

She nods, presumably ducking off to find a way back up to the catwalk, and Stiles does feel for her – he had his own world upended just over 24 hours ago, and it wasn’t fun.

He holds tighter to Derek, wishing he had a spell to take away the pain of losing your last family member.

&&&

Derek spares a quick glance at his uncle’s broken body.  It occurs to him that he should feel something – shame at what he helped Allison do or relief that there’s now one less threat to deal with.  He even had the stray thought that if he were the one to kill Peter, he’d inherit alpha powers.  Derek can’t even start to process this, not with all the betrayals and new alliances forming every minute and the loud fighting that’s still going on all around them.  It’s entirely too much.  But Peter is not a factor right now, so he and Stiles can…

Do what, exactly?

He remembers falling from the catwalk.  He remembers fighting against Allison and then alongside Allison, and somewhere in the middle was terrible, gutting pain.  Then they were all supposed to work together to do something, something important.  And then Peter turned into something twisted and wrong, and then they were fighting, and Allison...  Derek’s senses are filled with the sounds of weapons clashing with claws, the stink of blood and panic and something even fouler.  It’s all too much, and for a second he’s completely overwhelmed by it.

But Stiles is there, his arms around Derek’s waist, his forehead pressed against Derek’s.  “Hey, sweetheart, stay with me,” he whispers.  “I know this is all crazy and you’re still healing from… too many things.  But we’ve got a chance now, okay?  You convinced Allison.  You did that.”

Derek’s not entirely sure he did, but maybe Stiles remembers it better, so he grunts in affirmation.

“And I’m feeling a lot better now,” Stiles continues.  “Just listen to my heartbeat.  Can you hear it?  I’m pretty sure that it’s stronger than it was before.”

Derek listens, and yes, Stiles’ heartbeat is strong.  Too fast, but strong.  “What… what was the plan?” Derek manages to get out.

“Allison’s going to try to get Chris to call off the hunters and focus on taking down the Alpha Pack.”

“What about Gerard?”

Stiles frowns.  “We’ve got to hope Chris and Allison will overrule him.”  He takes one look at Derek’s face and mutters, “Well, I didn’t say it was a good plan.”

“Have you seen any of the other betas?”

“Erica and Boyd were holding their own.”

With a twinge of fear, Derek remembers what Stiles had been yelling at Peter earlier.  “And Isaac?”

Stiles’ heartbeat stutters.  “I don’t know, but… it didn’t look good.”

“We have to find him.”

For a second, Stiles looks like he wants to argue, but then he just nods and lets Derek pull him back into the brawl.

They only get a few steps before a horn sounds so loud at such a high pitch that Derek drops to his knees.  Stiles, who doesn’t seem incapacitated drops, down with him anyway and Derek can see his mouth moving, but his ears are still ringing too much to make any of it out.  Around them, there’s a flurry of movement – toward the exit, Derek realizes after a moment.

They stay hunkered down and nearly everyone ignores them.  Finally, the ringing subsides enough for Derek to hear Stiles saying, “—must have been the fall back signal, shit, look at them run!  Hey, assholes, head back to whatever slime holes you crawled out of!  Oh, can you hear me again? Derek?”

He nods.

“The other werewolves seem to be incapacitated, too.  Well, that gigantic ugly one, at least.” He points at a massive, werewolf-like beast with a seam down the middle, its hands still covering its ears; Derek’s never seen anything remotely like it.  “Actually, it’s two of them combined, you wouldn’t believe—”

Before Stiles can say what he wouldn’t believe, Derek sees an arrow hit the beast square in the thigh and the giant alpha roars with rage.  Another arrow just barely misses his head and Chris comes charging at him, a gun in each hand.  If the bullets are indeed coated in wolfsbane, they don’t seem to be having much effect, because the beast grabs the guns and yanks them away, Chris twisting at the last second to avoid being thrown across the room.  He pops up again with a blade in hand and goes back in to attack.

Derek stands, pulling Stiles up with him.  “We need to help.”

Stiles nods, looking around.  “Yeah, let me just—”  There’s a pile of what looks, at first, like garbage, but when Stiles approaches it, Derek can see it’s actually the mangled bodies of several hunters who were wearing camouflage garb.  Stiles, far from seeming upset about the carnage, digs through it in a quick search for weapons, coming away with a shotgun and several daggers, which he starts tucking into his belt.  “Ah,” he says, deftly loading the gun, “much better.”

“I’m never helping you kill a spider again,” Derek says with a sigh.

Stiles pulls a face.  “But spiders are gross.”

Before Derek can argue, there’s a shout from the catwalk as Allison leaps down onto the giant alpha’s shoulders, barely even causing it to stagger.  It reaches up, trying to grab her, but Stiles yells “HEY BIGFOOT!” and fires a slug into the monster’s chest as soon as it turns to face him.  There’s a flurry of limbs as the giant alpha tumbles backwards, and Allison has her chance, drawing her sword across its throat.

By the time they hit the ground, the beast separates, and two dead werewolves, their throats slit from ear to ear, lie on the ground.

“What was that?” Derek gasps.

Stiles sighs. “I was kind of hoping you could tell me.”

Derek trots over to check on Allison, and it’s then that the betas come hobbling out of the shadows.  Erica is out of breath, but seems to be otherwise unhurt.  She’s helping Boyd carry Isaac, who’s clearly unable to walk on his own.  When they step toward Derek, Boyd is limping.

Derek looks at Isaac.  “How is he?”

“Alive,” Boyd says.

“He’s lost a lot of blood,” Erica adds, “and he’s in and out of consciousness.”

“We need to get him -- and you -- out of here,” Derek says.  “Did you drive here?”

“Yes,” Boyd says, shifting Isaac’s weight away from Erica and toward his own side.  It causes him to flinch with pain, but he’s ultimately steady on his feet.  “Where should I take him?”

“I don’t know where we are right now, how far from Beacon Hills—”

“Not far,” Erica interjects.  “Probably half an hour’s drive.”

Derek nods and leans in, just in case there are humans listening in. “Find a vet in Beacon Hills named Deaton.  He’ll be able to help, and you’ll be safe there until this is over.”  Boyd doesn’t move, his face blank, so Derek flashes his eyes.  “Move.” 

They do, and Stiles and Allison walk up.  Allison’s cleaning off her knives on her pants leg.  “Let’s finish this,” she says.

Derek nods, and Stiles’ eyes dart among the combatants.  “I can take care of Ennis, neutralize him right off the bat. Allison, try to put some arrows in the other two, slow them down a bit before diving in.  They clearly don’t know how to fight together, so if we can—”

Stiles is cut off by a horrible wet crunch and Chris screaming “Dad!”  Derek looks over in time to see something that might have once been human-shaped slam against the wall.  Allison screams, too, and takes off running.  Derek looks to Stiles, who nods, and they follow.

It’s Kali who turns to see what the sound is, and she doesn’t smell seriously injured to Derek.  She intercepts Allison before she can get to Gerard’s body, and soon Allison is slashing wildly with her curved blade.  Beside Derek, Stiles lifts the shotgun, firing at Ennis.  The big alpha wheels around, clearly not suffering as much from the impact as the twins had, and Stiles only has time to say, “Get Deucalion away from Chris” before charging at Ennis, wielding the empty gun like a cudgel.

As much as Derek doesn’t especially want to risk his life for Chris, it’s harder to watch Stiles run into danger and not go right behind him to back him up.  Derek hopes he never has to get used to that.  But Stiles can clearly hold his own, and considering the number of hunters from all over the country they’ve killed tonight, saving Chris might be the only thing that keeps them both from having to spend the rest of their lives on the run.

With a deep breath, Derek shifts, dropping down on all fours to dart between Kali and Ennis without drawing their attention.  Before he can think better of it, he barrels right into Deucalion’s back, sending them both crashing through a stack of wooden pallets that the hunters had been using as paltry shelter.

Deucalion must recognize Derek’s scent, because he inhales and roars, throwing Derek off.  Derek’s ready for it, though, and rolls back to his feet immediately after hitting the ground.  Behind Deucalion, he sees Chris on hands and knees, crawling towards his father’s body.  Deucalion seems to have forgotten Chris completely for the moment, focused entirely on Derek.

Derek half expects another taunting monologue from Deucalion, but when he gets a look at the alpha’s shifted face, he knows the time for talking is long past.  Derek’s never seen a shift like this before, Deucalion’s features contorted into something nearly demonic, far too animal for speech.  It’s legitimately sickening, like visual evidence of the perverse ambition that led him to kill his whole pack.

This all flashes through Derek’s head in the split-second before Deucalion comes at him, but he has the presence of mind to roll with the momentum, taking Deucalion with him to the ground.  Up close, it seems like Deucalion’s body is a pincushion of broken-off blades and arrows, some of which surely have to be laced with wolfsbane.  Derek can’t imagine how he’s even able to stand, let alone fight.

Deucalion must be thinking the same of Derek, because his first move is a blow to the center of Derek’s chest.  It can’t even be the alpha’s full strength, but it would have been plenty to take Derek down… if he were still healing from his earlier chest wound.  As it is, Deucalion stiffens when Derek stays on his feet, and Derek takes advantage of his surprise to jam his claws in the alpha’s upper arm.

Deucalion howls, but Derek has to yank his hand back, the tips of his fingers burning from the sheer amount of wolfsbane in Deucalion’s blood.  Derek doesn’t know what kind of advantage being the leader of an Alpha Pack has, but there’s no way Deucalion can survive this – it’s the last rage of a dying animal.  He might not even be healing anymore.

Before Derek can take advantage of this new knowledge, Allison shrieks somewhere behind him, and Deucalion seems to suddenly forget Derek’s even there.  He charges past Derek entirely, heading for Allison where she’s fending off Kali.  Chris is with her, but he’s distracted by grief and his hands are visibly shaking.

Derek gets a running start and leaps, landing hard on Deucalion’s back, and the two of them knock Kali and Allison apart.  There’s a flurry of claws and Derek feels burning pain stripe across his abdomen.  He curls up protectively, realizing too late that it allows Deucalion to knock him to the ground.  He looks up, sees Deucalion raise one clawed hand…

…and then something pointy and covered in blood protrudes from his chest.  Deucalion snarls, hardly seeming to feel it but unable to move.  Ignoring the pain in his stomach, Derek pops up and wastes no time in swinging his claws to tear Deucalion’s throat out, nearly taking his head off in the process.

Deucalion’s body crumples, and behind him is Stiles, holding the end of what looks like a long wooden stave, probably broken away from one of the pallets.  Stiles shoves it, along with Deucalion’s corpse, off to the side and Derek staggers toward him.  Stiles catches him before he can fall and gets his arms under Derek’s armpits to support him.

“Hey, hey, I got you,” Stiles soothes.  “Are you okay?”  Derek glances down at his stomach and Stiles gingerly lifts his shirt.  “Ick.  But I don’t see anything on the outside that’s supposed to be on the inside, so I don’t think he got past the muscle.  You’ll heal though, right?”

Derek nods.  “Slowly, but yeah.”

Stiles face sags with relief.  “Okay, good.  We got all of them.  I’m just gonna set you down real quick over here.”  He gently guides Derek back toward one of the walls, helping him slide down until he can sit rested against it.  “You stay here and heal.”

It’s a little embarrassing, the sound Derek makes, but he doesn’t let Stiles go.  “Where are you going?”

With a wince, Stiles says, “Oh, um.  It’s super gross, right, but I gotta make sure he’s gone for good, y’know?  So I have to cut Deucalion’s head off a little bit.  Uh, all the way off.  It’ll just take a sec.”

He extricates himself from Derek’s grip and Derek sags back against the wall, turning his head from the gore.  Maybe 50 feet away is Kali’s body.  Derek’s not sure what went down there, but Chris is hugging Allison tightly and neither of them looks concerned about Kali.  Back in the corner with the pallets is a huge, bloody lump of something, and Derek doesn’t intend to ask Stiles what happened to Ennis and the leftover hunters.

Derek closes his eyes for a second – just a second, he swears.

&&&

It’s not like Stiles hasn’t ever beheaded a violent paranormal creature before, it’s just… what are you even supposed to do with the head?  No one’s ever asked him to, say, stuff it in a sack and bring it back as proof of death.  Ultimately, that’s probably for the best, but it would feel more poetic than just setting the head down next to the body, then thinking better of it and moving it a few feet back because… well… just in case.

When he’s done, Stiles drops to his hands and knees and retches.  He’s been running on adrenaline since this whole thing started and now it feels like it’s burning his veins.  He’s safe – and, more importantly, Derek’s safe – and he should maybe be comforting his husband right now, but he’s still reeling from having Derek in the middle of all of this.

Derek was always his safe place, his escape from this world and all its brutality, but not anymore.  He nearly saw Derek die in about four different ways over the past hour, and as happy as he is that their secrets are out in the open, it still turns his stomach that he got caught up in Stiles’ life.  So he gives himself a moment to take a few deep breaths and let the world stop spinning.

When he sits back up, Allison is a few steps away, looking hesitant.  “Hey, co-worker,” he manages.  “The staff meeting tomorrow is gonna be a bitch, huh?”

She cringes.  “Stiles, I’m so— I’m sorry about… your house.”

Stiles lets out a short, braying laugh.  He’d honestly forgotten about that.  “S’okay.  We were due for a remodel anyway.”

“No,” she mutters, shaking her head.  “That’s not what I meant to say.  I mean, I am sorry about the house, but that’s probably last on the list.  I’m not even sure where to start.”

“Allison, how the fuck did it come to this?  I believed in the work we were doing, in protecting people from the things that hunt them.  I thought we were the good guys.”

Stiles goes to stand up, but instead Allison flumps down on the floor next to him.  It’s kind of shocking to see Allison – a professional badass to the core – tuck up her knees and wrap her arms around them.  After all, she had been trying to kill him not too long ago. “I thought so, too.  Does that mean you’re quitting?”

Groaning, Stiles rubs his hands over his eyes. “I don’t know.  At the moment, I want to say I’ll never kill a living thing again, but I also know what’s out there.  I can’t un-know that.  I just think about my dad and Scott’s mom and all the people who aren’t able to protect themselves from supernatural threats.  But the only reason I’m not questioning whether every single fucking thing I’ve ever killed is a mistake is that I trust Lydia’s intel.”

Allison is quite for a moment, then says, “You should take some time.”

He laughs humorlessly.  “Believe me, I will.  But after today… I don’t think I can come back to Shiruba.”

Shaking her head, Allison says, “It can’t be Shiruba anymore.  With everyone that died today, no one -- human or supernatural -- will trust us.”

Stiles’ eyes dart over to Chris, who’s kneeling over by what Stiles assumes is Gerard’s body.  Stiles gets the feeling he doesn’t have much of a boss anymore.  Then he checks in quickly with Derek, whose eyes are closed but his chest is rising and falling with regular breath.  “Let it be known that Gerard is no longer in charge and start forming alliances with werewolf packs.  We killed an Alpha Pack and a lot of Code-breaking hunters today, so that should get us in the door.  With the Hales, obviously, but with other packs in the area, too.  I don’t think ‘live and let live’ is enough anymore.”

Allison nods, taking in the carnage all around her.

Stiles takes a deep breath.  “Allison, if you want to keep doing this and save the organization… I don’t think anyone named Argent can be in a leadership role.  Not right now, anyway.”

Her mouth twists unhappily, but she doesn’t disagree.  “This is all I’ve ever done.”

“I know,” Stiles says quietly.  “And I think it’s still worth doing.  Just… not like this.”

&&&

Derek comes slowly back to consciousness with a hand stroking through his hair.  He hears the tone of Stiles’ voice, the soft rising and falling, but not the individual words.  Slowly, his vision starts to coalesce into shapes, then outlines, then the scenery of the warehouse.

And bodies.  Lots and lots of bodies.  With human-sized figures moving in between them, though they seem to be ignoring Derek.

He tries to sit up but only succeeds in twitching, and then realizes he’s more or less lying on his side with his head in Stiles’ lap.

“—and I didn’t even realize vengeful mummies were a thing in this part of the world, but apparently there are Mexican bogs that preserve tissue well enough to… Oh, hey, are you awake?”

Derek grunts and tries to push off the floor again.  This time Stiles helps him, and he makes it to an upright position, though the world spins at least twice before it settles into place.

“I thought I’d get all my secrets out while you were unconscious. I assume you passed out because you were healing,” Stiles says.  “I mean, you’re not healed healed, but you’re also not, like, leaking anymore.”

“How long was I out?” Derek attempts to ask, getting at least three of the words out.

“Seventeen years.  We all have hovercars now.”

Derek blinks a few times and spies the warehouse door that Gerard had come through an unspecified number of hours ago.  He can’t see the sky, but the ground is bathed in rosy light.  It must be nearly dawn.  A though suddenly occurs to him and his senses sharpen.  “What happened?  Is everyone gone?”

“Chris and Allison left a few minutes ago,” Stiles says, rubbing his hand up and down Derek’s arm.  “The clean-up team just started work.  Lydia’s here to supervise and make sure they leave us alone.  I think Lydia might be in charge of… everything now."

“What about the Alpha Pack?”

“Dead. I haven’t seen the rest of your pack, but I assume you know where they went.”

“I sent them to… a safe place,” Derek says, the old habit of lying – or at least hedging the truth – rearing its head before he can stop it.  He takes a breath and then starts over.  “I have an old family friend in Beacon Hills.  I thought they’d be safe there.  He’s a veterinarian named Deaton.”

“Dr. Deaton?” Stiles exclaims with a laugh.  “I always thought he was kinda weird.  I just figured he was really into hentai or something.  Or one of those dudes who marries a pillow.”

“If he is, it’s unrelated,” Derek says, trying to get his feet under him.  It takes some effort and the support of Stiles’ elbow, but he makes it to standing.  “I’ll call him and let them know… Can we…  I mean, where do we…?”

“Home,” Stiles says.  “Or, y’know, what’s left of it.”

“It’s safe?” Derek asks, his hands on Stiles’ upper arms.

“Yeah, it’s safe,” Stiles says with a smile.  “I mean, from people.  Structurally, your guess is as good as mine, but I don’t think Allison took out any load-bearing beams or anything.”

Derek groans.  “If Mr. Jacobs hasn’t called the FBI, the CIA, and Homeland Security.”

Stiles snorts.  “Please.  He’s nosy, but he’s not a snitch.”

“We’re really okay to just go home?”

“You’re officially cleared,” a small red-headed woman says, approaching them with the tick-tick-tick of stilettos on concrete.  “Though I imagine that means about fuck-all to both of you right now.” She catches Derek’s eye and nods.  “Derek.”

“Lydia, I presume?”

She nods again, her mouth pursed tightly.  “I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances.  The future of our organization is in question, but rest assured that something like this will not happen again.”

Derek only has the vaguest idea of Lydia’s actual job, but nonetheless, she has an air of authority that makes him believe her.

“Lyds, I think we’re gonna clear out,” Stiles says, wrapping an arm around Derek’s waist.  “Aaaand I just remembered we have no car.”

“Danny’s going to drive you home once he’s collected all the stray weapons,” she says, then looks to Derek.  “If that’s acceptable.”

Derek looks to Stiles, who nods.  “Yeah, we trust Danny.”

“We trust Danny,” Derek tells her, and Stiles squeezes him gently.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, waving a quick goodbye to Lydia and steering Derek toward the door.  “There’s a whole lot of shit to work out, but I think we can do it.  Shiruba will have to dissolve or become… something else.  I want you to be involved in that, you and your pack.  If this thing is going to get rebuilt, we need to do it together.”

A smile starts to curl Derek’s lips.  “I think I’d like that.”

&&&

ONE WEEK LATER

&&&

Stiles digs blunt, ragged fingernails into his palms as he grinds his molars together.  Sweat is already pooling in the hollow of his throat, and try as hard as he can, he can’t stop himself from crying out.  It feels like it’s been hours.  He’s been tortured before, but never like this.

Every nerve in his body is screaming for release, but he can’t.  He can’t let go.

Derek has to come first, or Stiles will be doing the dishes for the rest of the month.

So Stiles redoubles his efforts, jerking Derek’s cock with long, twisting strokes and thrusting up as hard as he can into the heat of Derek’s body.  He’s got the angle perfect, has Derek riding him mercilessly, but Derek is so fucking controlled, swiveling his hips as he spears himself over and over again on Stiles’ cock.  With Derek’s weight pressing him into the bed, the only advantage Stiles has is his mouth, but he’s so far gone past the point of dirty talk that even forming words is asking too much of him.

Not for Derek, apparently.  “God, fuck,” he groans, falling forward on his hands.  “I’m so fucking close.”  He grins, predatory, and Stiles feels his pelvic muscles start to flutter, to weaken.  “But you’re closer, aren’t you?”

Stiles might be the loud one, but Derek is rock hard in his hand, dripping all over Stiles’ belly, and Stiles focuses all his attention on his hand, finishing each upstroke with his thumb massaging beneath the head of Derek’s cock.  Derek’s hips stutter and Stiles snarls in victory, buying himself a few more precious seconds.

But then he makes the fatal mistake of looking Derek in the eyes.  Stiles can feel everything – the small tremors in Derek’s thighs, the hot clutch of Derek’s inner muscles, the puff of Derek’s hard breath against his face – and it all narrows down to a single bright point of light deep in his gut that goes supernova when Derek’s eyes flash blue.

It’s all over.  Stiles doesn’t so much fall as get catapulted over a cliff, Derek expertly milking a climax out of him that has Stiles bowing up off the bed.  The pleasure burns through him like he’s nothing but flash paper, and he can’t tell whether he’s screaming or making no sound at all.  Distantly, he feels Derek pulsing in his hand and he squeezes tight, half to bring Derek along with him and half to just hold on.  He’s been so close for so long that the orgasm annihilates him, leaves his chest heaving and lights flashing at the edge of his vision.

Derek is slumped over him, still clenching on Stiles’ dick and thrusting weakly into Stiles’ fist.  His face is burrowed against Stiles’ neck and Stiles can feel his mouth moving, branding silent words into Stiles’ skin.  They come back down together, holding tight until Stiles softens enough to slip out of Derek’s body.

Fortunately, Derek seems to have it together enough to move, stretching himself out alongside Stiles, one heavy leg thrown over Stiles’ thighs.  Derek is panting for breath and Stiles grins, his own gasps curling into laughter.  He still can’t get over the fact that Derek can run for miles without breaking a sweat, but Stiles can – has always been able to – leave him breathless.

Eventually, Stiles groans, reaching up to run a hand through Derek’s soft, sweat-soaked hair.  “Fuck, all right, you win.  You win all the things.  So worth it, though.”

Derek snorts against Stiles’ shoulder and lifts his head to watch his fingers rub through the mess on Stiles’ stomach.  “And here I was going to be generous and call it a tie.  I made it maybe half a second longer than you.  Jesus, Stiles, the look on your face…”

Stiles has no idea what look that is – at least, not after sex like that – but he’s not above taking credit for it.  “Maybe I’ll do the dishes on weekdays?”

“Sounds fair,” Derek murmurs, settling with his head on Stiles’ chest.  “No letting them pile up until the weekend, though.”

“D’you really think I’d do something so devious?”

“Absolutely.”

“Mmm, you’re prob’ly right,” Stiles admits, sleepily nuzzling into Derek’s hair and saying a silent thank you to whomever might be listening.  They’re still working through things, through old secrets and newly-minted honesty, but they’re doing it together.  Derek’s even brought him into the pack, though they’re still figuring out the hierarchy with Peter gone.

Stiles will never let himself take Derek’s faith in him for granted.  After all Derek’s been through, Stiles wants to be wants to be worthy of Derek’s trust, of his love.  He wants to be so generous with his own love that Derek never has cause to doubt him.  If that means being completely open with Derek, and even doing the dishes every goddamned day of the week, Stiles will.  “You wanna get cleaned up?” Stiles asks, pressing a kiss to the top of Derek’s head.

“Too comfortable,” Derek says, holding Stiles a little tighter.

Stiles is secretly pleased, but still whispers, “Don’t complain when you’re all gross in the morning.”