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Pale Moon

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Stiles lifts his head and squints, blearily, at his environment.  It’s.... Damp. Dark. Cold. He smells mildew and soft, rotting wood, and some kind of fust he associates with rat droppings, although really, he’s not sure he’s ever been around rat droppings, so what would he know;  but still, rats exist, and they’d no doubt love a nasty, dank hole like this, so he’s probably right.

His mouth is so dry he can feel the sandpapery barbs on his tongue, like a cat's, and his lips are cracked, which is just.  Irritating. Stiles closes his eyes again to have a good think about the sitch he finds himself in, but maybe inadvertently falls asleep for a little while instead.

He might dream of rats, scurrying around his legs, nudging cold little noses under his knees and dragging their wormy, naked tails across his hands.  But he couldn’t swear to it.


 

Stiles had spent the evening, as he regularly did, carousing at the Drones Club with his côterie.  He and Scotty had played a desultury game of billiards that involved rather more whiskey drinking than ball-shooting, and then livened themselves up a bit and staggered into a rowdy hand of whist with Danny, Jackson and Greenburg — conspiring to strip Jackson of as many IOUs as they had paper for.  It was a fine night, ending with Stiles crashing about on the piano, singing and whooping it up with the lads until they’d all been politely booted out the door and told to make their way home and sleep it off.

London, at 2am in December, was rather unappealing.  Dark and drizzly. He’d shared a cab with Scotty, but declared he’d walk the remainder of his route once Scotty’d been dropped off, because really, it was only a few blocks, and Stiles might, maybe, in some sense of the word, have lost a good deal of the ready in his pocket to Greenburg, of all blokes, who’d been having an inexplicable streak of luck this evening.

He jammed his hands in his pockets and weaved gently along the sidewalk, singing It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’  softly to himself in the hopes that it might magically influence the weather.  Also, it was a catchy little tune, as well as being the last one he’d played at the club.

Well the butterfly flits on wings of gold,
The June Bug wings of flame,
The bed bug has no wings at all,
But he gets there just the same!

Stiles snorted to himself, kicked at a puddle, staggered slightly into a lamppost.  “Ain’t gonna rain no mo’, no mo’, no no no–”

And at this point, with altogether no warning, two large men popped out of the darkness to loom over him.

“Oh, I say,” Stiles blinked at them, startled, not really expecting company at this hour, here on the deserted streets of London.

Before he could continue, the man closest to him sniffed, no, snuffled, at him, growled, “This is the one, then,” and clocked him a good one right along his temple.

Lights out.


 

When Stiles wakes up again, he feels a little more clear-headed.  Which is to say, he feels less squiffy from all the drink, but definitely more concussed.  He doesn’t actually figure that for an improvement. He tries to press his hands over his eyes, but they don’t budge.  (His hands, that is. His eyes are free to roll every which way, but as it is dark, this does him no good.) He fights to move his arms for a while before actively realizing that he is tied up!  Bunged up tight against a wide vertical pipe, sitting on the icy floor of this, this hole-in-the-ground cellar-thingy. With, you know, rats. Probably. Probably with rats. He pulls his knees up, and they come easily, ankles free, so he supposes, if he were trying to find silver linings, that his legs being not-tied-up might be one of them.  He can’t quite think of another.

He is, sadly, without Hale.  That is the opposite of a silver lining.  It is, rather, the whole dark cloud. Hale is usually just where Stiles needs him, popping up in his severe black suit, brandy and soda on a salver, ready to solve all Stiles’ problems.  Like that time his Aunt Melissa had been bound and determined to marry him off to Lady Allison (apparently oblivious to the fact that her own son Scotty was ass over teakettle for the old girl).

That had been a romp that was... more fun in hindsight than actuality.  Stiles’ cunning scheme to make Scotty shine through an advantageously timed rescue (after he subtly pushed Lady Allison into the drink) was… less than successful.  Because Scotty had absent-mindedly wandered off, Stiles had had to jump into the pond and save the lady all by himself, damn it, and he was not the fellow who needed to appear heroic.  Also, it is very hard to swim whilst dragging along a shrieking woman bundled up in miles of billowy fabric, dash it all, and Stiles had quite accidentally ripped off most of her skirts with his kicking feet by the time he’d muscled her to the shore.

Hale had never said told-you-so, of course.  (Although he had, actually, said that it was a terrible idea the night previous when Stiles had excitedly relayed his brilliant plan to help along Scotty’s nuptials.)  Hale was much too classy and reserved for such recriminations. But he had that look. That soupy, judgemental thing that his eyebrows did, along with the squiggle-eyed glare.

And yet, while Stiles had been evading Allison’s increasingly amorous attempts to thank him for saving her from drowning to death, Hale had been behind the scenes – quite sans permission – orchestrating future events so that Stiles would look like a right idiot… enough so, that Allison had precipitously withdrawn her pursuit and begun making calf-eyes at Scotty once again.

The whole thing had been quite admirably resolved, as long as Stiles had no attachment to his dignity.  Well, Hale certainly seemed to think it was worth the cost. And he supposed, in the whole, as long as that meant the Aunts stopped heaving available maidens at his head and fortune, that looking a fool was a compromise he could make.


 

But now here he is, tied to a bally pipe in the dark, and no Halesian eyebrows in sight to help him.  Stiles frowns with his own eyebrows at the thought, but he feels they rather fall short of expressing the proper amount of dégoût de la vie (or whatever is the opposite of joie de vie) that he is currently feeling.

Concussed and cold and, well, not to put too fine a point on it, worried as Stiles currently is, he decides a fine choice at the mo’ is to shout for his trusty valet.  Because desperate times, and what have you, something about measuring… .

“Hale!  Hale!  Help!  Hale!” He points his face towards the ceiling, at the very faint silhouette of a grill that might denote a sidewalk-level window.  It makes little sense, seeing as how Hale is no doubt tucked up in the butler's room, all comfy in his robe and slippers, reading something massive and erudite whilst awaiting the young Master’s return.  But, well, Stiles is willing to admit that his intense need for his valet’s sober mein and quick thinking is quite overcoming his common sense. (Over which the remaining Stilinski tribe despairs, anyway, for poor Stiles, scion of the line and future heir to the peerage.)

When the door opens, to the left, an electric light is switched on and most disappointingly, the face revealed is not Hale’s confoundingly handsome countenance.  Stiles straightens up and blinks a few times, gathering up a bit of the old stiff upper lip.

A rough gentleman (one might even call him a thug) steps in, moves to the side and is replaced by someone rather more dapper:  very spiffy dress, given the hour and the fact that they are all in a nasty basement. His white hair gleams in the light, and when he tilts his face up, Stiles recognizes him.

Stiles clears his throat.  “Right, ho,” he tries. His voice is a bit rusty, but he motors bravely on.  “Lord Argent. I imagine there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding here.”

Argent gives him a droll moue, rearranging the wrinkles on his face into a most unpleasant pattern.  “Not at all, Mr. Stilinski. You are precisely the gentleman we wished to knock on the head and tie up to a pole.”

Stiles is rather taken aback by the admission, and at a loss for where the conversation should go from here.  “Whyever so?” he finally asks. “Is this because of Allison’s dunking? Because I swear I never even looked once I realized I’d kicked off her skirts.  I really had no interest, I swear, especially since her heart belonged to another.”

Allison’s terrifying grand-père laughs at him, saying, “Allison could take on ten of you.  She’s a superb huntress.”

Ah, Stiles thinks, thinking of her skill at archery.  Perhaps just not quite as superb a swimmer, then. He wisely drops the subject.  “A... kidnapping for ransom, is it? You find yourself in need of bit of the old do-re-mi, the happy cabbage, the oof–”

The venerable Lord Argent lurches forward at that, interrupting him, bares his teeth and grabs him by his paisley cravat (which had caused much chill and silently judgmental discord between he and Hale earlier that evening), and Stiles’ balls might clench up and start looking for safer, interior climes.  He jerks himself free and knocks his head again on the pole, adding a nice ringing of the ears to the aggressive basso rumble in the room, which seems to be coming from the thug whose… eyes are glowing blue. Yes. They certainly are.

“Oh, I say.  I say, now. What–”

“I care nothing for you, you silly boy.  I’ll have your mate.”

Stiles is thoroughly befuddled.  “My mate? Scotty? Danny? I’ve. I’ve got a lot of mates–”

Through the window, the rain evidently dissipates and clouds thin out in front of a pale moon.  Stiles thinks he can see a glimmer reflect off of… . Wait. Is that a fang? Does the thug have fangs?  This is a rummy thing indeed, if not downright petrifying, but Stiles is a Stilinski, by gum, and they came over with the Agincourts, and there’s not a noodly spine among the lot of them.  So he slouches as low on the old tailbone as he can and kicks out viciously with the leg closest to gramps (the eye-glowy, growling, befanged thug is too far away to reach) and biffs him a good one right along the side of his knee, relishing the thump that results.

Okay, alright, that might not have been the best decision.  Argent hunches forward, gasping, but only needs a moment to recover before leaning in and resentfully pummeling Stiles about the face.  For a little while after that, time is a blur of fear and pain and confusion. Clearly, the old Lord’s supply of the milk of human kindness has drained short by many gallons.

When the beating stops, Stiles lifts his head and he’s staring right at the ruffian, whose entire face has changed:  now there’s hair where there wasn’t before, and a disturbingly heavy brow, and very definite fangs along with glowing blue eyes and claws, and there, over his shoulder, is the full moon, and, well, Stiles knows that many people consider his intellect to be something of a joke, but really, he is not an idiot and.

And.  This man is a–

“W– werewolf!” Stiles stutters.  Because really, now, what else could he be?

The brute glares at him, menacing and snarling and disconcertingly hirsute.  He lifts his monstrous head and howls, and it’s fierce and challenging and dangerous.  Stiles might start to, well, he definitely does, have trouble breathing, because, shit, this is.  This is bad.

Lord Argent just laughs and snaps his fingers, as if bringing a dog to heel.  The monster falls quiet and commences to pacing behind his master, growling and snapping his jaws.

Stiles’ lungs are stone, they don’t flex, and he can’t breathe, and his blood is all ice under his skin, and Stiles kicks his legs and jerks on his hands and struggles because all he wants to do is jump up and race around, preferably several blocks away, until he can catch his breath.  Little choked gasps and whimpers float around the periphery, and while Stiles figures they are coming from him, he really doesn’t bally well care because it’s more important to get away from this creature before he suffocates.

The werewolf lunges at him, slavering, and Argent laughs when he cringes.  “Go tell Hale we have his mate,” he tells his werewolf lackey. He comes closer, close enough that his exhaled breath moves Stiles’ fringe, and puts a intimidatingly large knife against his heaving chest.  He smiles. “We’ve got plans for you,” and then he curls his fingers around the blade and draws it down to rip through Stiles’ shirt, etching three furrows from his neck past his sternum, reminiscent of a claw.

He jerks Stiles’ bloody shirt and waistcoat free, mopping up blood along the way and hands it over to his thug.  Then, without any further word, they leave. Stiles doesn't’ know how long it takes for him to breathe again, but when he does, he’s cold and shivering and his mouth is dry and his hands are going numb, and this isn’t fun anymore.  They’d turned off the light, and he just stares up through the high window, watching the pale, fuzzy disk of the moon through the clouds. His chest burns, the pain hot and agonizing and completely overwhelming.

“Hale,” he rasps, pleading.  But there’s no answer.

Chapter Text

Stiles falls into a kind of… meditation, blinking slowly at the faint light through the sidewalk window.  The moon has moved on.

It’s an unusual condition for him to be in, this… calm and somewhat stupefied lethargy.  Typically, Stiles is raring to go, fingers tapping at piano keys or his knees, eyes darting about, thoughts spinning like a flashy top.  But right now he feels strangely slow; his brain is stalled out and everything is cold except for his chest, which burns with pain whenever he twitches a muscle.  Or breathes.

Stiles eventually hears some commotion upstairs, although he can’t place what’s happening.  Just stomping, and the slam of a door or two. For all he knows they’re bally well making kippers and toast.  But his heart clenches and speeds up, in case they’ve brought Hale, as they said they wished to. Because, well, not to put too fine a point on it:  in spite of Stiles’ protestations that he can always solve his little dilemmas by himself, he’s quite aware that it is Hale’s clever, fish-fed brain behind the satisfactory resolution of most of their more spectacular imbroglios, and when all resettles spiffily it’s generally due to Hale’s machinations behind the scenes.

Wood creaks in that way it does when people descend old steps, and the door opens at last.  The blue-eye-flashing grunt-cum-werewolf from earlier enters and flicks on the lights, which is a startling enough contrast to the darkness that Stiles has to close his eyes for a moment in defense.  When he opens them again, Hale is there, standing just inside the door, and surrounding him are no less than three other blokes of a distinctly opprobrious nature, each holding a pistol pointed at his head.  Next to Hale’s ponderous poise, they all seem diminished, hiding behind the might of their weapons, whilst Hale is as regal and confident as he ever is.

Stiles’ body doesn’t know whether to melt in relief or go rigid with fear (due solely to the ludicrous number of deadly weapons about), so it shakes between the two instead, rendering his voice quite unsteady as he says, “What, ho, Hale.  Something of a pickle, I’ve found myself in, eh?” It doesn’t come across near as cheeky as he’d hoped.

Hale himself is cool as a cucumber, no sign of worry on his mein re: all the bristling guns.  Actually, he has the relaxed (yet murderous) expression his face always assumes when it is at rest.  He smooths a folded packet of fabric that Stiles recognizes as the bloody shirt and waistcoat they’d taken from him.  Hale’s nostrils flare out, and Stiles watches him take a deep breath, lips slightly parted. “Are you in good health, Sir?”  Hale inquires.

Stiles snorts, incredulous, and the slight heave of his chest sets it to bleeding again.  Hale’s eyes drill holes somewhere over his heart, and his teeth clench, and maybe Stiles is hallucinating a bit, because he thinks his manservant’s eyes might briefly flash red.  But when he looks again, they’re the same unperturbed green as always.

“If I may –” Hale says to Lord Argent, soupy and aloof, tipping his head towards Stiles.

“No tricks,” Argent replies.  “I’ve got my own pack, now.”

Hale’s eyes sweep disdainfully over the four other men in the room.  “Omega trash,” he dismisses, “and a cluster of ignoble hunters. But you will want me in an… amenable mood for this.  Argent.”

Argent shrugs in the manner of a man with all the best cards in his hand and gestures carelessly at Stiles.  “He stays bound until my change,” he directs, inexplicably. “They’re instructed to tear him apart if you give me any trouble.”  There’s a long pause, in which the blue-eyed werewolf chap leers and Hale stands there, fastidious and implacable as you please, hand still atop the neatly folded and bloody wreck of Stiles’ clothing, eyes fearlessly locked with Argent, who scoffs and twitches his head.  “You’re an Alpha without a pack, Hale,” he spits. “You’re nothing.”

Hale smirks.  “I am indisputably something to you,” he taunts.

Argent lurches forward, wrinkled skin flushing with fury.  “I only need an animal like you because of the consumption–” as if to underscore his point, he stops to cough, wrackingly, into a stained handkerchief.

Hale ignores the old man and glides forward to drop on one knee in front of Stiles.  Suddenly everyone else in the room is trivial. Hale’s face is expressive, for once, not just with the vague air of a villainous halibut but warm and soft and caring and angry.

“Stiles,” he sibilates on an exhale.  And this is not the first time Hale has called him by his first name, but it is the first time he’s said it like this, intimate and possessive.

Stiles searches for something witty and nonchalant, but everything dries up on his tongue save a small whine, and he pushes his body forward, as close to Hale as it can go.  He’s met halfway, propriety bedamned. Hale’s fingers are hot against his neck and the line of his jaw, and curled around the ball of his shoulder where it’s wrenched back; they speak of strength and reassurance and there’s never been a burden or a problem that Stiles has had, since Hale came into his life, that he couldn’t lay on those shoulders.

Hale has touched him before.  Touches him every day, in fact.  Stiles is not nearly as oblivious as everyone believes him to be.  He can read a room, can feel an undercurrent, and there have been times, unbearably intimate, when the electricity between them is enough to cut short his breath, lift the fine hairs of his body.  The occasions when Hale slips off his shirt and stands too close, pauses for too long, breath humid on the back of his neck; when his hands just faintly curl against his skin as they sweep the fabric down his arms.  Sometimes, when Hale tilts Stiles’ neck to attend to a stubborn cravat, Stiles can’t disguise his shudder at being compelled to bend his head – and the very air around them will go still and sharp and predatory.

Oh,” Stiles says in the present, in the basement, tongue thick and dumb in his dry mouth, the pipe cold between his naked shoulders.  “Hale–” The pleading lilt in his voice is embarrassing, it’s private and personal and shouldn’t be witnessed by the avaricious glee of Mr. Argent, or his uncouth private army.

Stiles has long cultivated his jaunty and carefree persona, but now he is stripped bare, too disoriented and afraid and hurting to draw it over him like armour, and he is grateful for the muscled bulk of his valet between himself and this threat, impending above him, giving him a moment to pull himself back together.

Hale trails his hand down Stiles’ neck to draw a path parallel to the sluggishly bleeding, semi-crusted cuts on his chest.  “Who did this to you, Sir?” he asks, palm flat over Stiles’ thundering heart, ignoring the goosebumps that flare in response to his caress.

Stiles’ eyes bounce over to Lord Argent before he thinks better of it, and Hale….  Hale growls. It’s deep, and it vibrates through their points of contact, like a strange massage against his skin.  Hale’s eyes flicker again, an eerie crimson glow that lasts a little too long for Stiles to be able to tell himself it was a trick of the light, but somehow the idea that Hale might be… more than human – another fae creature prowling under a full moon – is far less frightening than it would be if applied to anyone else.  Stiles has been safe in Hale’s hands for the year they’ve known each other, and his faith runs too deep to be thrown off now. Not when his man shows up at 5am in a filthy basement, where Stiles is bleeding and bound and confused, and murmurs for his ears only, quiet and steady, a thumb running along his bottom lip, “I will get you out of this, Sir.  Trust me.”

Stiles nods minutely, trapped in a gaze that flicks red once again, and unexpectedly, Hale grins at him, flashing unmistakable fang.

Having delivered that whispered encouragement and somehow leaving Stiles in less pain than he’d been in previously, Hale rises, lithe and athletic, turning as he comes up so that he faces Argent and his lackeys.  He stands there, subservient as you please, and yet as confident as if he controls the whole room.

“And what will you do, my lord,” he asks, “if it turns against you?”

Stiles is befuddled.

Lord Argent lifts his eyebrows, wiping at the corner of his mouth with his crumpled handkerchief.  “I’ll have plenty of time to kill the both of you,” he says, tetchy.

Stiles twitches.  He has no idea what they’re discussing.  No idea, indeed, what Lord Argent could possibly want from his valet:  for as brilliant as the man is, he can’t possibly cure the consumption that has obviously taken hold of the old man.  He slides one foot forward a bit, until it’s pressed against the back of Hale’s shoe. Just for comfort. He can always say it was accidental.

Hale nudges his foot back in acknowledgement, but none of the rest of his body moves.  “There are herbs,” he says slowly, grudgingly, “known to my family from generations back, that are said to increase the likelihood of a Bite taking well.”  He moves his arm in an aborted, jerky and entirely un-Hale-like motion, confusing Stiles, but perhaps making Argent somewhat more convinced of Hale’s reluctance.  “I could… acquire some for you. Only to ensure Mr. Stilinski’s safety, you understand.”

Argent smirks and leans back against the wall, arms crossing over his chest.  The crumpled handkerchief is tucked away, and the old fish appears to feel that he has the upper hand once again.  “Trading family secrets for your mate’s life, Hale?”

Hale glares, and clenches his hands into fists, and Stiles watches, fascinated, because he’s fairly certain that every move is calculated and performed to one of Hale’s exacting schemes rather than revealing any genuine emotion.  “I’m sure you are aware that you have me over a barrel,” he says, and the lack of a ‘sir’ is so glaringly obvious that Stiles actually physically startles (which is dumb, because it draws attention to himself and also because it hurts).

Argent, the wiley old coot, bares his teeth in a very self-satisfied, cat’s pajamas tenor.  “Roanoke and Gould will go with you,” he declaims, like a fossilised sultan. “Be back no later than 8, or young Master Stilinski here starts losing his fingers.”

Stiles gags at the thought, because ouch, but also, he’s not really sure how he could navigate life without his piano playing skills.  He twists his hands against the rope around his wrists, but it is as tight and unyielding as it ever was. He has a brief flash of sheer panic at the image of one of these heavies slipping behind him in the dark, when he can’t see… grabbing at his trapped hands, with the snick of a hinged pocket knife, and then the sharp pain, the shouting, the blood.

Hale’s foot presses back a little harder against his own, gives a small jiggle, as though to offer a pat of consolation, and Stiles makes an effort to get his breathing back under control, stave off the ratcheting of his heart and breath.

Hale is on the case, and he has never failed Stiles before.

“I’ll be back in under four hours,” Hale says, steady as the Rock of Gibraltar.  “I don’t keep these herbs at home in the kitchen, you know. I must wait until Deaton’s apothecary opens.”

“What do you need?” Argent asks.

Hale pauses, making a show of his hesitation.  “I must make a tisane of kingsfoil, vervain, asphodel, friar’s cap, snakeroot and stramonium, to keep you calm and slow your body’s resistance.”  He stares at Gerard and then a frightening, flat smile twitches the corner of his mouth. “And of course, Mother always put in some mint and honey, to make it go down sweetly.”

Argent’s a sudden flurry of movement, then, and Stiles’ view is partially blocked by Hale’s broad back, but he’s pretty sure Argent just hit him in the face with the knob of his walking cane.  Hale lifts an arm to wipe at his cheek and when he drops it again, Stiles can see blood smeared across the back of his hand. “I take it you don’t want the honey, then,” he says, dry as vermouth.  He mops delicately at the smear of blood with Stiles’ discarded clothing and shoots each cuff.

“I shall leave immediately,” Hale continues, and his words are what he would say to Aunt Melissa in format, but the respectful tone he usually employs has turned into something wolfish and dangerous.  “Allow me one last… service… to my mate.”

He doesn’t wait for acknowledgement, but turns immediately to Stiles, shrugging out of his suit coat and crouching to tuck it around Stiles’ shoulders, covering his chest if not his back.  He slides his hand to the back of Stiles’ neck, and all Stiles can think of in the harsh electric light there in that dank old cellar is that Hale looms huge and his hand is warm and possessive and assured and… somehow… making Stiles’ lingering pains ebb and vanish.

After several long moments, in which Stiles’ discomfort seems to transform into euphoria, Hale says, “Very good, Sir,” as though they’d been having a conversation.  He rises with the vigorous grace that often surprises Stiles (who is considerably more of an layabout) and strides out of the room so suddenly that Argent’s lackeys startle and mill about in confusion before sorting themselves out.  In less than a minute, everyone has left Stiles in the dark, without a backward look. But that is alright, because Stiles. Well, Stiles feels positively potty at the mo’, and lolls his head against his shoulder, breathing in the comforting scent of his manservant, expanding under the residual body heat which still clings to his jacket.

Hale had come, and he had touched Stiles, spoken to him in a voice Stiles had only dared dream of, and told him that everything would be okay.  And sure, he’s bleeding and bunged up against a pole, but Hale is on the case, and Stiles is loopy, and Hale had said four hours. Stiles can wait for four hours.

Chapter Text

They all just left him sitting there in a dark room.  The floor under his ass is very hard and very cold… as is the pipe he reluctantly and involuntarily clasps against his back.  The moon has entirely moved on, and the sliver of sky he can see through the window darkens and then lightens again with creeping dawn.  At this time of year, dawn is scarcely earlier than 8 o’clock, which means Hale should be here within the hour.

His aches and pains come back from wherever they’d receded.  His head throbs with each beat of his heart (he’ll assign that pain to getting coshed across the skull rather than last night’s modest sozzlement).

Hale has always had a magic hand with a hangover cure, his gustatorily punishing concoctions of foul ingredients combined with a brisk neck and shoulder rub has always made the lingering and painful effects of the previous night’s excesses entirely vanish.  And now the similar trick with his current abuses is wearing off, apparently. Stiles hopes his man will be back soon, hopefully with a key to the door and the freedom to escort him home. One can always dream, for it is the dreamers who win… something. Or however that aphorism goes.

Stiles fidgets.  He tugs at the ropes around his wrists until he’s burned the skin underneath them, and pulls away from the pole until he’s stupidly strained his shoulders and reopened the cuts on his chest.  But it’s either that or start talking – or yelling. And while no one’s ever credited Stiles with an ounce of survival instinct, he does, in fact, have a modicum of it. So he chews on his lips and silently twists against his bonds.

Stiles hopes Deaton opens his shop bright and early.  He’s always enjoyed poking around the apothecary, curiously going through herbs and bottles and bundles of recipe cards while Hale stocks up on ingredients for his hangover cures and his headache powders and all the tisanes and teas he pulls out for Stiles and his friends at convenient times.  Stiles has always thought that Deaton’s is a throwback to an earlier era, before electricity and science: more quaint, but also darker and… witchier-feeling than bigger more modern storefronts like Harrod’s.

Hale is a traditional fellow, though, who definitely likes his routines.  Stiles often accompanied him on his morning stroll, and it was usually predictable:  stop to chat with Erica, selling flowers and fruit outside the apartment (Hale always took a carnation or rosebud to slip into Stiles’ buttonhole, which Stiles would fiercely remind himself had nothing to do with sentiment, even though he looked forward to the press of Hale’s fingers against his chest and the warm huff of breath against his neck as Hale focused on this small task);  stop in the bakery to pick up loaves and muffins for the day and say hello to Isaac the baker’s assistant; stop at Deaton’s for medical powders or cooking herbs and tea; stop for a cut of meat from the reticent and reserved Boyd at the butcher’s.

Eventually the basket would be full, although Hale never seemed to be carrying anything heavy, and Stiles would swing his walking stick about (never noticing how other pedestrians would dodge to avoid being struck) and talk nonstop and enjoy being the focus of Hale’s gimlet attention.  If the day were particularly nice, they’d detour into the park and pass an hour wandering the paths or tossing crumbs at the ducks.

Stiles wonders what part of the morning routine Hale is engaging in currently, trailed by two heavies instead of his slim and laughing master.  He’s not jealous, of course. Just… trying to determine how much longer until Hale gets here.

The jacket Hale tucked around his shoulders has slipped down to his waist, and Stiles shivers in the chill air.  He wonders if the damp of blood on his chest is making him cold, or if it is rather the loss of the warm stuff in his veins affecting him.  He wishes he could drag the garment back up and tuck his nose into the collar, huff in Hale’s warmth and his scent: a very subtle cologne, hair cream, lavender from the water he uses to iron their shirts.

Stiles doesn’t bother to wonder whether Hale’s brain is currently ticking over, birthing and discarding actions and solutions for their current predicament.  He’s certain that it is. This is rather more bloody and agonizing than their usual conundrums, but less convoluted, in many ways.

Well, except for werewolves.  That part is pretty damned convoluted.

He’s interrupted at that point in his musings.  The cellar door is carelessly flung open and the electricity snapped on with the crack of a switch.  He has to blink a few times to acclimate, but self-preservation dictates that he quickly discern the intruders.

Not Hale.  Dammit. It’s Argent and his two remaining minions.  With no pause or explanation, the two men (werewolves, perhaps?) with him quickly approach and loosen his bindings, hauling him unceremoniously up.  While Stiles tries to stay still, pushing down nausea and fighting the gray spots in his vision along with an intense wave of vertigo, his hands are wrenched behind him again and tightly bound with rope.

“I say–” he begins, but a rag is shoved in his mouth, another wrapped around his head to keep it in place, and then a rough burlap bag is pulled down to his shoulders and he can’t see or speak.  And a Stilinski never shows fear, of course, but Stiles is certainly feeling it. The hands on him suddenly become twice as terrifying, now that he can’t see what’s going on, and he instinctively struggles when he’s shoved forwards.

“Just get him in the car,” an impatient-sounding Argent barks.  “If he makes a noise, hit him in the head again. I frankly don’t care what shape he’s in when we get there, as long as he’s breathing.  Hale won’t do anything if he’s dead.”

Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck.  Stiles would panic except for how he totally can’t, because doing so might cost him his life.  His blood is icy, his fingers are numb and his brain spins as futilely as a bicycle wheel with no chain.  What’s happening, where are they taking him, how badly is he about to be hurt….

Rigid and clumsy with dread, Stiles lets himself be pushed ungently up a flight of stairs, down a hallway and then outside.  It’s still dark, he’d just noted the fact only ten minutes gone, so he knows no one will see him. Which is unfortunate, because three men accompanying a fourth who is half naked and bloody with it, not to mention bagged and bound, should be enough to stimulate curiosity and concern from any passerby, if only there were one.

“Get in,” says a new voice, probably one of his escorts.  Stiles has no concept of what he’s being asked to do, however, and doesn’t move.  His knees are kicked out from under him, and his shoulders shoved, and when he collapses, he’s pushed forwards to fall on a hard surface somewhat lower than his hips.  He’s shoved back, head tucked down, and then his knees are roughly pulled up to his chest and pushed back further. His feet catch on an edge and are mercilessly bent and packed inwards.  Are they putting him in the boot of a car? Curled up as he is, feeling walls on all sides, he can only assume that he is, and the metal thwunk of the closing lid cements it for him.

Well.  This is going to be a deuced uncomfortable ride.  Not to mention freezing, oh, the metal is so icy against his bare skin, and he can’t stop shivering, although the gag presents an interesting obstruction to the way his teeth want to chatter.  There is further talk outside, but Stiles is too panicked to focus on what they say. Oh, god, he does not do well in small spaces, and he can’t think of one smaller or less comforting than the boot of a car.

It feels as if hours pass.  It is so cold that his nose drips, and as it is his only means of breathing, due to the rag tied in his mouth, each breath requires effort and echoes with a nasty wet crackle that simply adds misery and embarrassment to fear.  He’s packed in like a contorted sardine, can hardly wiggle a foot, so there’s no hope of squirming sufficiently to scrape off the bag, or bring his arms around to the front, or find some miraculous release from the inside. Although, small blessings, at least he’s all hunched in against the cold.

Altogether, he vehemently dislikes this kind of travel:  he’d rather have been dragged from the metrop by the proverbial raging wild horses.

He’s shaken about, banged against one wall and then the another, hard metal smacking him regularly and punishingly on his head, his shoulders, hips, knees, back and ankles.  After a while, he looks forward to each sharp bruise, to distract him from the cramps of being balled up as he is; all his muscles tight and shivering with cold certainly doesn’t help.  The drive is interminable, hours at least, and possibly days. Stiles is suddenly, wretchedly, made aware of his bladder, which he’d emptied before leaving the Drones, but there had been alcohol yet to make its way through his system, not to mention the hours which had elapsed since then.

He eventually enters a kind of fugue, an effort to abandon his body, a kind of walking away from the phone, as it were, ignoring all the incoming messages of discomfort.  He’s probably got a twenty minutes at most before he pisses himself.

Where is Hale?


 

Stiles manages to rally round a bit and recover some of the renowned Stilinski equanimity under threat of fire by the time the car stops and the trunk is popped open (heralded by a veritable flood of fresh but frigid air.  His bladder is so taut he’s afraid it’ll pop just from the movement when he’s hauled out of his most uncomfortable pigeon-hole and then dragged down a graveled path for a bit (his cramped up legs rage with pins and needles and he has trouble figuring out where the actual ground is under his feet, since he can’t reliably feel it) before he’s ushered up a few steps and thankfully, into a building.

For a Stilinski, silence is a most dreadful prospect, so he speaks, regardless of the gag and the dry mouth and the blasted bag over his head.  “Mm mmrmp rrrapah mmmrp mmrha mmrha…” and so forth in that manner until the bag is ripped away.

It’s Argent’s two plug-uglies, looking a bit windswept and irritable.  Stiles crosses his legs tightly and does the preschool bouncing thing, imagining such body language must be universal regardless of class or background.  “Mmmrmmmwa mmmwrhha ruuumrr unhrhrm–”

He doesn’t know about them, but if Stiles were to undertake a spot of kidnapping, he’d rather not indulge in it with a victim saturated in eau de urine, as it were.  The blighter on the left (who’s eye glowing has yet to be discerned, so Stiles promptly dubs him Maybewolf) curls up his lip into a moue of disgust and disdain, as if he’d never experienced nature’s call himself.  “His lordship needs to tinkle,” he says. As Stiles is not yet, and hopefully never will be, a peer (the earldom of Beacon Hills still being held by his uncle), he assumes there is some sarcasm involved here.

This is no time to hold a grudge, however, not with clean pants at risk.  He nods fervently. “Rrrann mmmmffw.”

The werewolf with the blue eyes (they are brown now that they aren’t glowing) laughs crudely, and pulls out, heavens, a very long and shiny knife, and Stiles totters back a couple of steps until he abuts a wall.  Both men laugh at that, but the creature of the night (with a knife like that he can’t be anything but Brutuswolf) just spins him around and saws at the rope around his wrists.

Before Stiles can examine the results of this casual butchery (he’d imagine he could feel blood, but actually, everything from his forearms down is completely numb) they escort him through a couple of hallways and then open the door to a water closet.

“In you go,” says the Maybewolf of unknown supernatural status and sneering habit.  “Do your business. Anything funny and we start chopping off bits, clear?”

Stiles amenably bobbles ye olde bean once again and slips inside, utterly relieved to smack the door shut in their faces.  He fumbles at the light switch before pressing it on with an elbow and then frantically fumbles at his trousers. He has zero dexterity, and there is a small amount of blood dribbling down his palms, but gross motor skills prevail and he pushes down the offending clothing while bypassing buttons and zips and barely points himself in the right direction before the flood begins, a relief so intense he cannot stifle a full-bodied frisson.

This lasts for a while, and he’s not necessarily proud of his aim, what with the shaky mess of his hands, but he’s not responsible for cleaning, and there’s nothing on his pants or shoes, so that’ll be fine.  There’s a small octagonal window on the side of the room, and it might accommodate his head, but never his shoulders, much to Stiles’ despair.

Stilinskis never bow their heads in defeat, however, and courtesy of the endless stream voiding last night’s hooch, Stiles has plenty of time to noodle his neck around and evaluate the room for weapons, gasping drippily through his nose all the while.  There is depressingly little useful at hand, especially considering that Stiles has never been much of a brawler. Not to put too fine a point on it, not only is he not in the habit of brawling, he has actually never engaged in fisticuffs whatsoever, a condition which, sadly, he doesn’t imagine applies to the two coves waiting for him on the other side of the door.

When his bodily business finally concludes, the first thing he has to do is pull his trousers back up, no easy task.  He’d been able to pull them down with the meat of his palms, but he actually needs his fingers to grasp for the journey back up, and it takes an appalling amount of effort and coordination to get that done, especially since he’s warmed up fractionally enough that he is wracked with continual shivers.

A glance in the mirror over the sink shows his face, pale to the point of looking mostly dead, dark swaths under his eyes, hair wildly disordered from the bag and a dried up scrape at the temple where he must have fallen last night.  The nasty red fabric wound around his face holding in god knows what kind of dirty sock or hanky is the only slash of color to him, at the mo’, other than some smears of blood around his wrist and more liberal swaths of it across his bare chest, which is otherwise fish-white and pebbled purple with cold.

He scrabbles at the gag fruitlessly, simply lacking the facility to untie the knot, and finally manages to tear it down around his neck and spit out the saturated bit he’d held in his mouth.  He fumbles at the sink and gracelessly manages to fill his hands with water sufficient to slurp some of the stuff down to quench his thirst. It’s fairly revolting, but when he runs the stream over his wrists to clean them up, it stings something fierce, and he gives up quickly.

The only thing that looks remotely weapon-like is a little bronze towel-stand next to the sink.  With the Stilinskis, to think is to act, so Stiles discards the hand towel, grabs up the stand and flings open the door.  Brutuswolf is on duty, leaning against the wall opposite, and Stiles launches himself forward, filled with noble bravery and verve, and thwaks him across the cheek, quite as hard as he can.

Brutuswolf explodes into motion, growling horrifically, pulling the small rack out of Stiles’ hand and snapping it into two pieces while stalking forward until Stiles has backed himself against the wall on the other side of the hall.  There’s a reddened bruise on his face, from being smacked, but it fades so quickly Stiles has to doubt he even left a mark. “Next time,” Brutuswolf says, leaning in and breathing quite into Stiles’ mouth, which is too close by any measure, “see if you get bathroom privileges.”

Hmmm, Stiles may have not factored in everything he should have before attacking his kidnapper.  This is the kind of sitch that calls for Hale and his cooler head and tactical brain. “Er,” he offers, voice raspy and dry.  “Sorry. I just, erm. Wasn’t looking where I was going.”

Maybewolf wanders in at that point and lifts amused and frankly insultingly disbelieving eyebrows.

“Quite, then,” Stiles continues cheerfully, ignoring the tight swooping of his belly and the nauseating waves of panic and instead putting his all into projecting the famed Stilinski insouciance.  “Where will I be staying, while we wait for Argent and Hale to get this all sorted out?”

Chapter Text

Stiles is left alone in the room where they’d locked him.  It’s quite nice, actually, with a large bedroom and an en suite with a claw-foot tub.  (It lacks a rubber ducky, but well, Stiles supposes the accommodations are intended to be used as a prison.  Maybe they took the rubber ducks out as part of some subtle, psychological punishment.) There were lovely, large windows, which Argent’s grunts had hammered not-so-lovely, large boards over, preventing his egress.  Stiles had wrapped himself up in the blanket from the bed and critiqued over their shoulders as they had done so, meanwhile managing to identify that one ancient twisty yew at the crest of the hill as belonging on the Argent estate.  (It’s familiarity was due to he and Scott having fallen out of it on several occasions.) Which meant he must be in the guest cottage to the rear of the manor.

Once the men (men? werewolves?  he hadn’t seen any further flashing eyes or overt muttonchops) leave him, conspicuously locking the door behind them, Stiles explores.  Unfortunately, the space has been emptied of practical weaponry: not even a towel stand in the bathroom. Unless Stiles wishes to haul off and hit a goon with the wardrobe or nightstand, he’ll have to rely on his wits instead of his brawn.

Probably just as well.  Stilinski wits are sharp and deadly as rapiers, and only grow more pernicious with repeated application, while their brawn is less widely renowned.  He huddles up in the bed and determines that he must take control of his own fate, rather than relying on Hale to come to the rescue.

Although, really, he’s fairly confident that Hale will realize the Argent estate is a likely base and come looking for him there.  But until then, Stiles will take care of himself!

His plan begins with washing up his chest, because Stilinskis are bold, and brave and have been turning battles since Crécy and Agincourt, but there’s never been a need to do so whilst prickling with desiccating blood.  An infection might slow down both his acute physical reflexes and also, cogitation. He shuffles towards the en suite and optimistically turns on the hot tap. The Argents evidently treat their (voluntary) guests well, for hot water appears – and actually, Stiles notes that it isn’t freezing in the house, and his room even has its own radiator, which is a very good thing although, alas, not useful a weapon.

He mops the itchy gore glued to his (perfectly adequate) chest hairs, and picks it off where it isn’t actually attached to the wounds, but the chore results in a giant, smeary, reddish mess and he feels quite queasy by the time he (literally) throws in the towel.  He holds a clean one to the newly seeping tears and bundles himself back off to the bed for a breather.

He wakes up eventually and pops up for another look around.  The boards over the windows leave a lot of space for peering out.  The winter sun is as high as it gets in December and Stiles stares forlornly out through the gaps.  His view is of a long, manicured lawn with yews and oaks marking the verge. As there is no driveway, he must be in the back of the guest cottage, and indeed, there is no other structure in view.  He evaluates whether it’d be worth it to find a way to break the glass and try to call for help, but eventually decides that the influx of cold negates the scant chance of arresting the attention of a gardener or something who is not loyal to his master.

He bruises and scrapes some fingertips trying to pull the boards away, but they’re firmly attached and the struggle flexes his chest and frankly the smell of fresh blood on top of the fierce sting of the ragged edges of his flesh rubbing against one another is a bit more than he can take.  So vaguely woozy and rather less confident in his prowess, he withdraws to the bed once again.  Surely Hale will be along soon. He’s as reliable as Big Ben.


 

Indeed, some time later, there is activity outside his door, and Stiles jolts from his uneasy doze.  He scrambles to his feet at the sound of voices and the scraping of the key in the lock. Brutuswolf enters first, tall and looming, as if that’s enough to make Stiles nervous;  but no, not at all, Stiles refuses to be made leery by a bloke his own age, handsome visage and supernaturally glowing blue eyes or not.

Then, visible the instant Brutuswolf slides sideways, Hale appears, stepping toward the bed... and Stiles is moving forward before he’s aware of his actions.  “Hale,” he says, and if it sounds a little choked, hopefully, no one is judging him.

“Master Stilinski,” Hale replies, cool as you please, but his eyes are fierce and glittering, and he crowds close enough that Stiles can’t see anyone over his shoulder, and the room immediately feels smaller, safer and more intimate.  Hale reaches out to brace Stiles’ upper arms, hands warm even through the blanket, and he drags them down to Stiles’ elbows, curling insistent fingers around each bony prominence in a possessive grasp, pulling Stiles closer still until he feels off balance, caught between confusion and delight.

“Are you all right, sir?”  Hale’s inflection is as froggy and proper as it ever is, but his expression is ardent, and Stiles can feel his mouth drop open in the gape his Aunt Melissa disdains as his ‘vacancy within’ mein.  

“Er, yes,” Stiles eventually fumbles, dreamy-eyed as a beazel ranting poetry, and accidentally entirely forgets for the moment where they are and what the sitch actually may be.  “Yes, of course H-hale.”

This is.  Hale doesn’t usually get this close to him from the front, only whelms him occasionally whilst standing behind him, the heat and presence of his larger body at Stiles’ back always causing the little hairs to lift up at his neck and a pleasant shiver of goosebumps crawl across his skin.

Hale is so close to Stiles now that Stiles has his head tipped back to meet his eyes, and Hale’s slow exhale fans down across his face and through the gap in his blanket, across his throat and down, cooling, to his chest.

“You should call me Derek… Stiles.”  He says this barely above a whisper, and the sound of his first name in Hale’s mouth – Derek’s mouth – has a weakening effect on Stiles’ knees, and he kind of lurches forward those last few inches, supported only by Hale’s – Derek’s – hands under his elbows.

“Oh.  Right ho… Derek,” Stiles manages, dazed, and then his voice chokes off into nothing, because Hale (Derek) has his nose pressed against Stiles’ neck, the heavy bristle of his cheek scratching along his collarbone, and the combination of wet lips, warm breath, the dizzying closeness, the tiny burn of sandpaper scruff means that Stiles is moaning without being fully aware of it, and his fingers release their strained grip on the blanket and move to Hale’s upper arms instead, holding on for balance, because the entire room has gone all swoopy like he’s a cork in the rapids.

Hale... (Derek, oh, how Stiles has pretended – at night, biting his lip for silence and thinking guiltily of the man in the next room – that he could have that right, that casual liberty of calling Hale by his first name, and have that privilege returned.  How often has he imagined, in the dark and privacy and security of his flat, that they could do that, could do… forbidden things… together. And perhaps, in those late-night fantasies, Stiles’ bed could be their bed, and no one would ever need know….) Derek lifts one hand to cup the back of Stiles’ head, and Stiles eagerly lets the weight of it fall to him, body burning and strangely liquid, and he can feel his skin heat and flush and plump.  He gasps, lungs straining because the air feels so very thin. His man, his valet, his… Derek… tilts Stiles’ head so that he can drag his cheek against the other side of Stiles’ neck, breath moist and lips a soft contrast to his beard shadow, until all Stiles can do is pant and swallow dumb little ung ung ung sounds.

But, wait, the guard, the guard.  Stiles stiffens (ha, in other places, too, which is awkward, and oh Hera, is he glad he’s still wearing pants and socks and shoes and even his bracers, dangling along his thighs as they are, because he’d be entirely too vulnerable if he were wholly naked under the blanket wrapped around his shoulders) and tries to shake Hale into awareness, because guard, and kidnapping, and danger.

Stiles only winds up shaking himself, of course:  he’s a willow in the wind compared to Hale’s stalwart frame, but it seems to bring Hale back to attention.

“G-g-g-guard,” Stiles stutter-whispers, leaning around Hale’s shoulder to see what the man is doing, to see why he hasn’t done anything, when his valet is very nearly embracing him, here, in enemy territory.  Brutuswolf, lounging against the wall like he’s posing for a portrait, catches his eye and smirks at him, which has Stiles’ mouth dropping open once more. He tries to shake Hale again (with similar results).

Hale straightens up and assumes his formal disposition.  Turning slightly, he says, “Stiles, meet Ethan Steiner, my new beta.  Ethan, my mate, Mr. Stiles Stilinski.”

Stiles goggles, still clutching at thick, rounded biceps like an Aunt would her pearls.

Brutuswolf (Ethan) loses his insouciant air and bows formally.  “A pleasure to meet you, sir,” he says, with a completely straight face.

Stiles goggles some more.  He’s supposed to say something like, ‘The pleasure’s all mine’, except it isn’t and just.  What? “You said you’d start cutting off my bits!” he accuses, not at all hysterical. “You.  You.  You stuffed me in a trunk and–”

“Mmmm, yes.”  Brutuswolf (Ethan) interrupts.  “That would have been my twin, Aiden.”

Stiles needs to do something more than goggle, but really, the sitch has just taken a most singular turn.  He tries to shake Hale again, out of sheer desperation. “What–”

“Outside the door, please, Ethan,” Hale commands, and there it is, the red eyes flash again.

Ethan nods respectfully and slips into the hallway, closing the door softly behind him.

“What the dickins–” Stiles cuts himself off and just shakes his head.  This is so very rummy.

Hale guides him along with his hands until he’s turned and covered the distance to the bed and then sits them both down, facing each other;  their knees are touching, and Stiles stares at them, two disparate knees, right there, touching, in the context of a bed no less. He is utterly adrift in how queer everything has become.

“Events are well in hand, sir,” Hale says.  Stiles pouts, because ‘sir’, and he thought they’d agreed.  Hale catches the moue and his eyes smile, even if the rest of his face remains static and grumpy.  “Stiles,” he corrects, and lifts a hand so he can rub a thumb along Stiles’ temple, which Stiles certainly does not lean into.  “I brought a valise, and the things you might need.  Let me get you cleaned up.”

Stiles stares at him, aghast.  A valise!  “Hale. Hale. Derek.  No. No, not at all, certainment non, pas de tout.  We must shake the dust of this adventure off our spats at once, my good man.”  He bounces to his feet (and then staggers a bit, brow crunched in pain, as his abused body and aching head protest his vigor).  “Oh, erm…” he trails off, combating vertigo and waves of headache, putting out one hand which Hale immediately grasps and stabilizes.

“Quite so, sir.  Stiles,” he corrects, with another invisible smile.  He stands up, so they’re vis-à-vis again. “I have a plan, of course.”

“Of course you do,” Stiles says faintly, not at all bitter because Hale’s plans so often have a way of working out where Stiles’ tend to… become more complex and bedeviled the more he enacts them.  “Right ho, then. Let’s have it.”

“Mmmm, best if you don’t know all the details, but suffice it to say, I believe you’ll be quite safe here, and I shan’t ever be far away.”

“What.  What?  You’re leaving me here?  Alone?” Stiles intends to be indignant, but he’s chagrined to note that his voice wavers, and he’s clings to Hale’s arms, swaying inward, just, slightly, more dizzy and cold than he was a moment prior.

“Hey.  Hey, shhh.”  Hale closes the space between them and pulls Stiles fully into an embrace.  Hale! Embracing him! Stiles’ brain whirrs about in a futile effort to gain some traction, but his body is two steps ahead, melting against his valet’s broad chest, and there, his head droops down to rest on Hale’s shoulder, temple nestled under his echinate jaw.  Hale’s arms tighten around him, pulling him closer, and Stiles lets his own fall sufficiently to slip under Hale’s jacket, feel his way around Hale's waist and warm cold hands against the heat and strength of Hale’s back, radiating clear through the thin cotton of his pressed shirt.  Bemused, he fingers the long groove of spine and muscle under his palms.

“I need a few days,” Hale murmurs.  “I’ve got a plan, I told you. You’ll be safe:  Ethan will always be in the house, and Erica, Boyd and Isaac are on patrol outside.”

Stiles' poor, bruised brain feels remarkably inflexible, because none of this makes sense.  He shakes his head, not lifting it from Hale’s shoulder, and he’s pulled in tighter, molded against Hale’s body while the broad hands he knows so well smooth the blanket across his back, spread wide to cover as much of him as possible, as though to prove that Hale will shield him.

“The flower girl?”  Stiles groans, eyes tightly closed.  “And the baker. I don’t understand.”

“My pack, si– Stiles.  They’re my pack, and they’re here to keep you safe.”

A werewolf pack, he must mean.  Actually, Stiles can kind of believe that of Erica, who’d always been sharp and present and occasionally laughingly menacing as she teased him over a flower bud.  It is honestly something Stiles had never considered (not that he’d ever spent much time considering werewolves at all prior to last night) – the fact that some werewolves might be female.

“Well, this is a right rummy turn up,” Stiles finally says, not moving at all, because frankly he’s right where he’d always imagined being, and he doesn’t want it to end.

Hale’s chest lifts and falls with a quick huff – the stoic valet’s version of laughter.  “You could say so, indeed,” he says, and then runs his hand over the back of Stiles’ head and down to rest across his neck.  “So let me get you cleaned up and dressed, si– Stiles. Argent could be here soon, and we must let him believe he has everything under his control.”

Chapter Text

As it happens, there is not time for anything beyond a bracing cup of tea (liberally laced with brandy) and a handful of biscuits before Hale, who has shimmered off to scavenge bandages and clothing, strides back through the door, Brutuswolf’s more amiable (and indistinguishable) twin at his heels.

“Raleigh’s coming back this way,” Derek says, tidying up Stiles’ tea onto its tray and handing it back to Ethan without looking.  He tucks his bundle under a pillow and smooths it out so that it’s well-hidden.

“Maybewolf?” Stiles asks, snatching the final biscuit off the tray and shoving it into his mouth before it gets whisked away.

Derek freezes for a moment, and then cocks his head to the side, waiting.

“The other bloke,” Stiles elucidates, and points helpfully at Ethan.  “The eater of broken bottles, the gumboil. You know: the other one with the tying up and kidnapping.  He, who, along with your esteemed twin, licked me quite to a splinter, just last night–”

Derek growls at the mention of Stiles being hurt, but Ethan snorts a laugh, hopefully at the description rather than the thought of Stiles’ pain.  “Aye, that’s Raleigh,” he says.

Derek brushes crumbs from Stiles’ lips and blanket and lifts a sardonic eyebrow.  “Maybewolf?”

“Well, obviously he,” Stiles stops and corrects himself, dropping the accusatory finger, “I mean, his brother, wasn’t human, what with the lighted eyes and the fang-y teeth.  But I didn’t know about the other one.  Maybe, maybe not.”

“Ah,” Derek gestures Ethan out the door with one hand while pulling Stiles to his feet with the other.  “No. Raleigh’s a hunter; and albeit a sorry excuse for one, he is human.” He straightens the blanket and rewraps it around Stiles’ shoulders.  “I have to leave for a while. Don’t worry about anything you hear, please, just remember that it’s happening the way it should, and I have a plan.  No heroics.”

Stiles rolls his eyes, because asking a Stilinski not to engage in heroics is like asking a fish not to bicycle.  If that’s the right metaphor. But his thoughts are aborted when Derek dips his head to do the thing where he rubs his face along Stiles’ neck; and when Stiles is gasping with it, angles instead toward his lips.

And then they’re mouth to mouth, they’re kissing, they’re… Derek rumbles and Stiles can feel the reverberations through his own chest, and Derek’s holding him firmly with one hand large at the cradle of his back and the other spanning the back of his head, and Stiles has….

This is new.  He’s kissed a beazel or three (sometimes there’s just no avoiding it, especially if the threat of matrimony looms and they get to feeling entitled) and never really saw what the fuss was about, but this, the enticing burn of Derek’s cheek and his lips working over Stiles’:  sliding, pushing and tugging until Derek can bite lightly at Stiles’ lower lip. There’s this zing that electrifies his senses, like a thunderbolt outside a conservatory, rattling his brains and illuminating his body; and even the thought of evil Argent and his merry band of homicidal hunters closing in on them cannot distract him right now.  Stiles moans into Derek’s mouth and presses his body closer, loving the growl and the heat, and the shivery, wet introduction of tongue. He shudders and opens his mouth to it, because this is Derek

And then Derek’s hands are on both his cheeks, holding him still while Derek draws back, eyes blazing with frank carnal edacity, silvery green limning dilated pupils.  His mouth is wet and red and obscene in its frame of sooty stubble. Stiles tries to move back in, hungry for more, lips parted in anticipation; but Derek keeps him away. His expression is stern but for the muted delight in his eyes.

“Not now,” Derek instructs, and Stiles can’t help but settle back onto his heels, so accustomed is he to following Derek’s directions.  “Not now. I’ll be back. Stay calm, Stiles, and don’t worry.”

Stiles would scoff, because obviously Derek should know about Stilinskis and their tendency towards unsolicited fretting, but instead Derek leans in, kisses him quickly, runs a thumb along his jaw, and then vanishes into the hall, sealing the door behind him with the unmistakable snick of the lock.

Stiles ambles back to the bed and falls to his seat, fingers pressed against his lips.

Hale had kissed him.


 

Only moments later, it seems, Stiles can hear the front door slam, and the tread of boots on parquet, snarling voices and a muffled thud that vibrates through the walls.  He creeps up to the keyhole and places his ear there, to ascertain what is happening, squating on the balls of his feet, so he can jump away if someone should approach.

That’s Argent himself, impatient and coughing, with a muffled shout contributed from an unknown personage.  Then Derek, tone wrecked and pleading, which makes Stiles’ hair stand on end it’s so wrong. He certainly hopes that Derek is acting.  Voices continue – frustratingly blurred through distance and interference – and fade as they move further away. Stiles retreats to the bed again, lips pursed in frustration, but pops up seconds later, unable to relax when danger may enter at any moment.  He paces, instead, like a disenchanted tiger in a, a tiger-holding place.

Eventually, footsteps troop down the hall and his door is unlocked and thrown open.  Two men enter: Raleigh, with his ugly sneer and condescending attitude (absurd, given that he’s clearly of the lower classes) and another of the hunters from the London attack.  Derek comes stumbling through next, off balance and shoved in front of another hunter. The side of his face is reddened and smeared with blood, and his normally impeccable dress is mussed.

Stiles gasps and takes a step forward before he wises up, faced with a warning bristle of guns from the two hunters, Argent and Ethan.  Derek wipes some blood off his cheek and shakes his head at Stiles. “Sir, no, please–”

Stiles freezes, eyes stretched wide and mouth going dry, because this fazed and beseeching Derek is a long way removed from the confident and cool man he’d been only ten minutes prior.  He allows a hunter to manipulate him into a corner, watches Derek get crowded into another one. A fifth man, whom Stiles distantly recognizes as a proper Argent footman, comes through the door bearing, of all incongruous things, a tea tray with three cups, pot gently steaming with a pleasant minty-herbal scent.  He sets it on the dresser (the only possible surface left in the room besides the floor), and fastidiously pours the cups.

The footman turns to Argent with brows raised in inquiry and hand hovering over the sugar tongs.  Argent tips his head at Derek, who backslides into his stuffed-frog persona and says, “Add whatever you fancy, sir, it won’t change its efficacy.”  So the servant adds two sugars to one cup, places it slightly apart from the others, bows to Argent, doesn’t even glance at Stiles (or the collection of armed men; or the bleeding valet), and sweeps back out of the room.

Stiles gawps.  (It has become a default response.)

Argent says, “Stilinski will drink it first.”

This is surreal.  Over the past five or six years, Stiles has spent many weeks at the Argent estate:  summer gatherings instigated by Allison and zealously attended by a poetry-spouting Scott. He has sat in the lounge with Lord Argent before, drinking tea or scotch;  and although he never was comfortable with the old warthog, he was never afraid. And now here he is, the fathead, nodding one of his men to bring Stiles a cuppa, and there’s something rather terrifying about it.  Argent’s eyes are fierce and avid and utterly callous, like a, like a hungry shark.

Stiles shivers and seeks out Derek, wanting to ask him what he should do.  Derek gives him the tiniest, nearly invisible facial tick, what might almost be a wink, and nods his head.  Not that there appears to be any choice, but watching Derek bleeding and pushed around by men with large guns might have moderately reduced Stiles’ confidence in the circs.  He worms his hand out of his blanket cocoon to accept the tea and grows himself some bollocks.

“I don’t understand,” he says to Argent.  He shakes his head. “I'll be dashed, sir. I really....  What–”

Argent gestures sharply at him.  “Do you think I care what you do or don’t comprehend, you empty-headed gasbag?  You’re to drink the tea, that’s all you need to know.” He smirks over at Derek.  “Better hope you don’t become ill.”

Derek ever so slightly rolls his eyes.  “Do you think I’d be such a fool? It’s perfectly safe for humans.”

“And beasts?  How about that?”

Derek ignores Argent's implied slur and reaches, slowly, for the other cup on the tray.  “Salut,” he says dryly. He takes a sip, so Stiles follows his lead.

The tea is just shy of hot, its color watery and murky green, and it tastes nothing like the oolong that Stiles prefers.  There is something sharp and piney in it, and mint with a strong undertone of dirt. He makes a face, but it’s not terrible;  and since he obviously has no choice and it is equally obvious that Derek doesn’t foresee he will be in danger, he drinks it as quickly as possible.

He finishes with a flourish, feeling somewhat more confident upon not immediately expiring.  “Thank you, sir,” he says sarcastically to Argent, because whereas Derek may be no fool, Stiles definitely (occasionally) can be.  He likes to keep his hand in, anyway. “No biscuits then? Tea cakes?  Whatever’s happened to the famed Argent hospitality?”

Argent dismisses him, after checking him thoroughly, presumably for signs of poisoning.  Derek ingests his own cup and sets it neatly on the tray. His every move is followed with the menacing barrels of four guns, which he ignores with aplomb.  Argent nods to himself, takes a sip of the tea, makes a moue of disgust and then turns on his heel and saunters out the door, teacup held delicately before his chest.

“You’ll need another in the morning, sir,” Derek says to his back, not raising his voice.  Argent lifts a hand in acknowledgement but doesn’t turn.

Stiles sucks absently on his teeth and watches everyone with wary bafflement.  What the devil was that all about? Tea with the enemy, for heaven's sake.

After Argent vanishes from view, one of the hunters comes back in burdened with shackles and chain, and Derek is then thoroughly and boorishly gyved up to the radiator, the sole piece of stable furniture in the room.  Following that, he’s somewhat redundantly wrapped up with a rope that is clearly damp and smells funny and leaves Derek slightly grey and panting.

Almost everyone departs after this.  They’re left alone except for Raleigh, who has pulled a chair inside the room and sits with his rifle across his knees, bored and venomous at the same time.  The minutes drag, and twilight lengthens into full dark. Stiles huddles against the headboard, darting glances the hunter, but mostly just watching Derek.  Raleigh turns on the sconces from the switch and mostly just stares at the wall, picking at his cuticles and tapping an unlit pipe against his thigh.

Derek looks savage, fettered in chains and sitting on the floor.  But then, Derek always looks murderous, unless his face is actively doing something else.

Stiles dozes, he can’t help it.  His stomach is a little unsettled, and sometimes he feels like he’s floating, but that could just be situational.  (Although it’s difficult not to suspect the tea, such a spectacle had been made about it.) He wishes someone would give him some supper:  he’s beyond peckish and it has been a jolly long time since he has had a proper meal.

Stiles awakens with a jolt when the door creaks open.  Ethan is there, his own rifle resting in the cook of one elbow.  A quick check shows Derek with his head down, slumped against the radiator.  Ethan and Raleigh exchange shifts with a minimum of verbiage and fuss, and Ethan sits silent in the chair for a good fifteen minutes while Derek slowly tips his head back and stars at him through slitted eyes.  At some point, which both the wolves seem to recognize but doesn’t stand out as particularly notable to Stiles, Ethan rises and walks out the door, leaving it open.

He returns with keys and a pair of leather gloves, which he draws on before unlocking Derek’s cuffs.  He looks at Stiles expectantly. Stiles glares back, eyes narrowed and confused.

“What?”

“You’re human, aren't you?  Come undo these knots.”

Stiles just stares at him, quizzically, caught short and speechless.

Derek gives him that soupy look, the one that inevitably has Stiles wondering what he did wrong and how soon he can rectify it.  “The ropes are soaked in wolfsbane,” he explains. “Come undo them if you can, they’re… painful… for a wolf to touch.”

Stiles is game, if still somewhat perplexed.  He clambers off the bed, dropping his blanket en route, and goes over to examine the ropes.  The knots are not complicated, although they are prolific, with a helix of rope rising from Derek’s waist to his neck.  At the cost of a few fingernails, Stiles eventually works them free. Derek gasps in relief when the coils fall away, and pulls forward, shuddering briefly, like jelly in a high wind.  Stiles morbidly notes the ragged burns on his skin wherever the ropes had touched.

He is dismayed.  Unable to stop himself, he thumbs the reddened lines – so similar to his, actually, from struggling against his own bounds all night and half the day.  Derek’s arm is heavy in his hands. “Are you okay?” he asks, shifting his gaze to the contusion on Derek’s cheek. Strangely, it seems that all that remains of that is the messy smear of dried blood atop unbroken skin, and Stiles knits his brow in confusion.

“I’m fine, Stiles,” Derek returns.

“You’re not,” Stiles huffs, annoyed, and Derek’s face relaxes into his almost-smile.

“Wolfsbane rope,” he explains laconically.  “Wolves have a… bad reaction to it.”

While he’s been occupied with freeing Derek from his hempen restraints, the not-evil twin, Ethan, had vanished and now he returns with a loaded tray.  Stiles mouth waters at the sight of a cold kidney pie, hard bread with butter, and a few apples. Ethan leaves it on the dresser before moving Raleigh’s abandoned chair into the hallway and shutting the door.  Evidently, for this shift, they are to have some privacy.

Derek rises, limber and strong in spite of his reaction to the ropes, and serves up two plates.  They’ve barely settled before Stiles inhales the majority of his comestibles in far less time than society would condone.  He washes it all down with cooling tea (properly black), liberal doses of b and s, and muffins for pudding. Derek eats his portion with far more decorum.

After, Derek puts the dishes back on the tray and sets it outside the door.  “I’ll tend to you now, sir,” he says. And then corrects himself: “Stiles.”

Stiles stands, too, in all his gangly and uncertain glory, thin chest and disparately broad shoulders fully exposed, trousers hanging on his hips and skin pebbling in the cool air.  “Oh. I–”

Hale just shakes his head at him, plucks out the bundle he’d stashed under the pillows, and then heads for the bathroom.  Stiles trails after him, still feeling a little foggy, but more solid now that he’s eaten and Derek is free.

He has many questions, and a Stilinski in pursuit of answers is like a bulldog.  Derek hasn't a hope of dodging them.