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Mortal Peril On the Side

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Stiles lunges forward fist first, plenty of shoulder behind it, and he feels the impact all the way up his arm when his knuckles connect with Derek's left cheekbone.

He dances backwards like a boxer, hands loose, outrage thrumming through him on the back of the adrenaline surge. "Stop throwing me into things! For Christ's sake, Derek, why do you keep - what is your problem with me?"

Derek stares at him, surprised into stillness, as though he can't quite parse the situation. As though he never saw Stiles coming, which is ridiculous.

"Dude, I'm on your side, or haven't you noticed yet? 'Cause if you haven't, I don't even know what to do with that. Oww." Stiles shakes out his right hand, licking at his bruised knuckles. "Dammit, that hurts. I always forget how much it hurts to clock somebody with your bare fist. Hey!"

Stiles lurches back, skittish, but Derek has simply taken hold of Stiles's hand, trapping it between both of his own.

"Stop flailing," Derek scolds.

Stiles tries to hold still, jittering in place while the warmth of Derek's hands seeps into the bruises forming over his knuckles, the ache in his wrist. There's a bruise blossoming over Derek's cheekbone, but Stiles knows it won't last, which is not fair at all.

"Throw me a clue here, Derek. What is it about me that brings out the worst in you? Please don't tell me it's because I talk too much, because that's a given, and while I admit certain sensitive individuals may have been tempted, nobody but you has ever actually knocked my head into an unyielding surface on account of that. I don't think asking for an explanation here is out of line."

Derek rubs at the back of Stile's hand. It's comforting and unsettling at the same time, so at odds with what Stiles knows of Derek. What he thinks he knows of Derek. "I don't know why."

Stiles gawps, tugs sharply at his hand. Derek lets him go. "What, no reason, that’s just the way you deal with the Stilinski kid?"

Derek frowns, makes a frustrated noise, turning sideways.

"Good to know. Thanks. I'll remember to keep my distance from now on, because hey, Derek might be feeling twitchy."

"I don't know why," Derek snaps. "When you're around I never know what to do with my hands!"

Stiles blinks at him. "You... Wait, what?"

Derek falls back against the stained living room wall, his broad shoulders thudding against the blackened paint. Rain threatens over their heads where the Hale house's roof used to be.

Derek rubs his hands over his face, up into his hair, spiking it even more out of order than usual. "You confuse me," he complains. "Most of the time when you and I are in the same space there's some kind of, of bloodshed going on, my adrenaline's through the ceiling, the wolf is howling in my head, you get under my skin, I keep feeling like I need to touch you, and I do not know what that means!" Derek blinks rapidly and sucks in a sharp breath, as though surprised by how many words he’s capable of stringing together at one go. He swallows awkwardly. "And I'm sorry."

"Huh." Stiles leans back next to Derek. "Lately the universe does seem to be fucking with you on a regular basis."

Derek huffs softly.

"I'm sorry I suggested you knock down your family home," Stiles says. "And that I socked you."

"Don't be. I had it coming."

“Although I still think a fresh start--“

Derek growls.

"Right, sorry.” Stiles swallows and clears his throat apologetically. “You know, until recently - and excepting Jackson, because as long as I've known him he's been a tool - I was not the kind of guy who solved his problems by punching people in the face."

"Yeah," Derek says, and there's a soft, mournful note to his voice. "Neither was I."

“Derek…” Stiles chews his lip as he sorts the puzzle pieces in his head. Derek isn't often this talkative, and Stiles doesn’t want to miss the chance, but one wrong step and Derek will slam shut like a cemetery gate, and Stiles might not get a word out of him for days. “You didn’t come back to Beacon Hills expecting to become an Alpha,” Stiles ventures. “You showed up looking for your sister. She didn’t tell you why she was coming out here?”

Derek shrugs. “All she said when she left was that there were some loose ends in Beacon Hills she wanted to tie up. She promised to call me, let me know she was okay. She didn’t.”

“So… then why’d you take the Alpha power from Peter? I assume you had a life in New York that you left behind. I’ve always wondered--“

Derek frowns, and Stiles backpedals, “I know, I’m nosey, tell me to shut up, but I can’t help wondering why you stay when so many horrible things have happened - keep happening here.”

Derek shoves his hands into his jacket pockets, looks down at the dirty floor. “I had a job I liked. People I respected. I could survive on my own, but werewolves are pack-oriented by nature and unless I want to go back to Queens and join up with one of the established packs as a refugee… I’d rather not. And lone betas don’t do well.”

Because his brain is a whimsical thing Stiles latches onto, “Queens?”

A smile ghosts across Derek’s face, turns wry as it lingers. “Engine 293, Woodhaven Wild Cats, Queens, New York.”

Stiles boggles. “Engine--you were a fire fighter?”

“Rookie still. But I liked the job.”

“Oh my God,” Stiles marvels. “Oh my God, that is like the hugest ‘Fuck you’ to the universe ever!” He grins. Derek is volatile and broody and scary, and Stiles’s new hero. “I bet you were awesome at it.”

Derek smiles at him, almost shy, from beneath his eyelashes. “Yeah. I was.”

~~~~~~~~~

Derek listens to the sound of Stiles’s old blue Jeep churning its way down the road from the Hale house toward the main road. He winces as it grinds a little in second gear, the transmission growling as Stiles engages the front wheel drive to negotiate that rough patch where Derek has to be so careful with the Camaro. The rain threatening earlier looks to be in earnest. Derek can smell it, feel the dampness in the air. He heads for his car, puts the key into the ignition, and turns on the radio. The radio tunes into the middle of Bruce Springsteen wailing softly, “...one step up and two steps back…” and doesn’t that just sum up Derek’s life for the past year.

They had an apartment together, Derek and Laura. A little place in Queens. Laura had just finished up a degree in graphic design at NYU. Derek was on a 24/48 schedule at the station. Every time it was Sanjit’s turn to cook he had to make an effort to keep the heat down for the rest of the guys, except for Kenny and Derek. Sanjit made a lamb curry with rice, sweet with coconut milk and hot enough to take the top of a guy’s head right off, and Kenny devoured it like bread and jam.

”Jesus Ken, I’d think you’d be the last one to get addicted to that stuff.” Bobby nodded at Derek. “Except for Hale, who eats every damn thing.”

“I’m makin’ up for generations of pasty Irishmen spending their short, miserable lives shivering around stinking peat fires, boss. Why d’you think I became a fireman?”

Bobby snorted, “’Cause your family’s been knockin’ down fires in New York since they fell off the boat from Cork?”

“Exactly!”

Which made sense, if you maybe played it backwards, but that was Kenny.

Then Laura went looking for the person responsible for the murder of their family, and Derek’s world was turned upside down for the second time in his life, all of it suddenly dumped out into a shallow grave.

“Raze the damn house,” Stiles shouted. “Light the fire yourself, finish the job with your own hands. Fill in the fucking basement, sell the lot of it. Purify it and build something new, if you can’t make yourself part with the land, but for fuck’s sake Derek, quit torturing yourself, and move on! Give yourself a fresh start. Endlessly guilt-tripping yourself over your family, over your sister--“

--which is where Derek had snapped and slammed Stiles against what had once been a living room wall.

Rain drops, heavy and loud, start to scatter over the Camaro’s windshield. Derek smirks in the lowering light. Laura would have loved Stiles. So much alike, the two of them. Laura couldn’t let go of unfinished business and Stiles is perpetually knee-deep in trouble because he can never resist a loose end. Laura would have gathered him under her wing like a second baby brother and the two of them would have been hell on wheels together.

Stiles is right in that the only direction left to Derek is forward, and he’s going to have to manage it without Laura. He’ll never be a fire fighter again, not with a young pack to bring up, and Laura is dead. Murdered, torn apart, buried and gone, and Derek won’t ever get her back. That is the reality of it. Derek slouches in the front seat of the Camaro, covers his face with his hands and at last lets the grief take him, lets it shake him apart, leave him howling inside the meagre privacy of the Camaro. The rain is loud on the roof and it shrouds the windows, as though there was anyone around to see.

~~~~~~~~~

“Stay away from blood magic,” Shelly advises Stiles. She hands him the bag of tea he’s just bought at her shop, and looks him in the eyes.

“Um, okay,” is all Stiles can think to say. His dad thinks the Dragon Well jasmine tea smells nice, and Stiles has got him into the habit of drinking it in the evenings instead of coffee. Neither blood nor magic were on Stiles’s mind when he came into the shop today.

Shelly is a small woman, with bright red hair turning white at the crown of her forehead. She’s small boned, all her corners rounded, like a ginger sparrow. She takes Stiles’s hand between hers and he feels a soft buzzing against his skin, as though Shelly’s touch is mildly electric.

“Earth magic takes a strong will to use,” Shelly tells him, “but the access to it is given freely. Blood can make a powerful magic, but it’s a brute force and it taints you, always. So you stay away from it. The spark to your magic is your faith, Stiles.”

Stiles blinks at her. “I’m not a mage.”

Shelly smiles at him. Her small hands are warm and strong on his. “You have your mother’s eyes,” she says.

~~~~~~~

Stiles presses back against the wall, trying to make himself smaller. “Oh my God, slime and claws. Slime WITH claws, I don’t even know where to go with that!”

“This was not in the werewolf handbook,” Boyd mutters, leaning back next to Stiles. “Death by mucus and shredding.”

“What happened to our nice noisy Friday night ignoring our english homework and playing mindless arcade games after hours?” Stiles complains. “There’s a werewolf handbook?”

“No, there is not a werewolf handbook,” Boyd says bitterly. “Man, I have been shot with arrows, stabbed, electrocuted, talked down to by a whole pack of snotty Alpha werewolves, had Lydia Martin look down her nose at me, but this? This is the absolute worst horror so far. I have damn near soiled my armor.”

“Wow, did you just make a Monty Python--?“

“Concentrate!” Boyd demands. “We need a plan.”

Stiles fishes in his jacket for his phone. “How about for starters we call Derek?”

“No! Derek makes the worst tactical decisions ever,” Boyd declares. “Not every problem can be solved by charging in roaring and slashing. I am the only wolf here at this moment, and I refuse!”

“Right, agreed, frontal assault is off the table. Lacking Derek’s badassery then, what you and I need here is guile, my friend. Guile, trickery, and base deceit. We freeze it.”

Boyd raises an eyebrow. “Freeze it?”

“Lure it onto the ice, zap it with the fire hose. Then you smack it into pieces with the Zamboni.”

“You know the resurfacer only hits a top speed of 15 miles per hour, right? And that would be on the highway. On the rink you’re talking maybe 8, 9.”

“Okay, the freezing will slow the slavering beast down, and there’s a restaurant--“

“You go ahead and call it that, sure.”

“--at the back of the video arcade. There will be sharp kitchen implements. You do have a fire hose around here?” Stiles turns in circles, trying to locate the nearest red ‘Break Glass In Case of Fire’ sign.

Boyd rubs at his eyes. “Who’s going to lure the twelve foot long mutant slug onto the ice?”

Stiles shrugs. “I am. You’re the one strong enough to handle the fire hose.”

Boyd sighs heavily. “Fine. Let’s get this over with. Try not to get eaten. Derek will yell at me and stomp around like a walking storm front for weeks if you get eaten.”

“I find that strangely gratifying,” Stiles decides.

“Assuming we manage to freeze and dismember this thing without getting ourselves killed - and by the way, after it’s frozen I am calling Derek, because otherwise we’ll be here all night - how are we going to explain the mess? Because there’s no way we’re getting that kind of a stain out of the ice.”

“You got security cameras in here?”

“After tonight I expect we will.”

“We don’t explain anything. We run away like bunnies, leave the mess for, well, for my dad and the fire department. They’ll make up a story that will satisfy the press and preserve their own sanity.”

“That works?”

“Surprisingly well,” Stiles says cheerfully.

Boyd regards him blandly. “You are a comfort to me, Stiles.”

~~~~~~~

Stiles is in the kitchen eating a sandwich and finishing off his algebra homework when he’s startled by someone banging on the kitchen door. He coughs on his dinner and whirls in his seat. It’s nearly eleven, and with the kitchen lights on he can’t identify the shape moving in the dark outside the window in the door.

“Stiles.”

It’s Derek. He sounds wrong.

Stiles opens the kitchen door to find Derek half draped over Erica’s shoulders. He’s barely standing, and she bends beneath his weight.

“Jesus, what happened?” Derek is a horror show, pale and covered in blood. Stiles stands aside. “Get in here!”

“We were out in the south acres, up against the preserve, tracking that weird smell,” Erica explains.

“The lizardy smell?”

“Some local bird watchers were scared off by something big and reptilian this morning. The rangers couldn’t find it, but we thought--We ran into hunters. Three of them.”

“I don’t think it was a coincidence,” Derek says.

“That round was meant for me,” Erica tells Stiles. “The guy had me, and Derek stepped in front, took the bullet for me. Can you get it out?”

Stiles gapes at her. “Me? Are you kidding?”

Derek pulls his shirt off over his head, swaying unsteadily and growling at the pain the movement causes. He drops to his knees on the kitchen floor.

Stiles stares at the gaping wound in Derek’s belly. “That’s a bullet hole? Are you serious, that looks like you’ve been mauled by a bear!”

“He tried to dig it out himself. I wouldn’t try.” Erica frowns at Derek. “Because I didn’t want to make it worse.

“It hurts,” Derek snarls. He twists on the floor, hugging his stomach. “I can’t heal. I can’t shift.“

“The wound’s got a strange smell,” Erica says.

“Fucking rue,” Derek complains. “The bullet was loaded with it. It’s a hollowpoint, like the Argents use. Shredded on impact.”

Stiles rubs at his scalp. “Rue. Fabulous. And hollow point. Given the location it’s probably damaged your liver, and God knows what else, which you didn’t help when you tried to perform surgery on yourself with your claws. I can’t even - holy - what were you thinking? I need to call Dr. Deaton.“

Derek grabs hold of Stiles wrist. “Just reach in and find the pieces!”

Stiles jerks loose. “What! No! I am not rummaging around in your insides looking for chunks of bullet!”

“I don’t trust Deaton!”

“I get that, but he’s got the skills you need right now. “

“That shitstorm at the warehouse was partly his plan,” Derek growls.

Stiles counters, “Derek, even if I can get all of the pieces of the slug out of you, the rue is still going to delay your ability to heal for a while. You need someone who can put you back together again until it wears off, and I don’t have those skills!”

“Do not call Deaton, Stiles! Fuck, if you can’t do this, I’ll go--“ Derek struggles to get up, but Erica grabs at his arm and Stiles shoves at his shoulder.

Derek falls back onto the floor, panting hard and drawing his knees up to ease the pain in his stomach.

Stiles grabs for his phone on the table. “Seriously, you’d rather bleed out on my kitchen floor than call the one guy we know who could--“

“Yes!” Derek’s protest rides out on a miserable groan.

Stiles sends a quick text to Isaac and to Boyd. “I swear Derek, you are the most stubborn…”

Erica’s voice is small. “Please, Stiles.”

She takes hold of Derek’s left hand. His grip is white-knuckle tight and Stiles half expects to hear the crack of broken bones. Instead he hears her start to softly whine as she inches closer to Derek, and he reaches a bloody hand over to stroke her head. Of course, Stiles realizes. Derek’s Alpha instinct to comfort a distressed pack member overrides the pain and helps to calm him. Clever Erica.

Stiles tosses his phone onto the table, sits back on his heels and takes a long breath. Derek’s blood soaks into the knees of his jeans and he swallows hard on the urge to panic. “Right.”

The first thing, Stiles thinks, is for Derek’s body to quit bleeding so much, and as Stiles is not a surgeon there’s only one way he can think of to make that happen, if he can make it happen.

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” Stiles opts out of mimicking the Yoda voice aloud. He wishes Scott was here. He rests his hands on either side of the gaping wound in Derek’s belly and makes a wish.

Isaac shoulders through the kitchen door when Stiles is four fingers deep under Derek’s skin. Derek clings to Erica’s hand and grinds his teeth against the hurt, while Stiles tries not to think about the slick, hot feel of Derek’s vital organs sliding under his fingers. There are three small, bloody chunks of shrapnel lying next to Derek on the kitchen floor.

Isaac comes to an abrupt halt. “Oh fuck me sideways!”

Which sums up the situation pretty neatly.

Stiles doesn’t look up. “Boyd?”

“At his grandmother’s house. He’ll come as soon as he can get away. How can I help?”

“Go up to my room - second door on the left. Go into the closet. There’s a footlocker on the floor. It’s a first aid kit. Bring it down here.”

From the sound of it Isaac takes the stairs three at a time. Stiles barely notices when he gets back.

Stiles feels something hard and sharp against the pad of his right ring finger deep in Derek’s left side. He chases it, fishing gently so as not to lose it. He’s working blind, feeling his way through. Story of his life, these days.

Stiles maneuvers the ragged piece of metal so that he can grasp it between the tips of his forefinger and his middle finger and he slowly pulls it free. The air is cold on his fingers after the heat of Derek’s body. Stiles studies the chunk of shrapnel. “That’s it,” he says. “It’s the biggest piece.” He shows it to Isaac and Erica. “Look, it’s still got the core mostly intact.”

Isaac makes a face. “That where they loaded the rue? It smells weird.”

Stiles throws it on the floor with the other pieces of the slug. “Grab that roll of paper towels for me, will you.”

“Derek’s out,” Erica says.

Stiles snorts, “Now? Of course he is.” Stupid, stubborn werewolf. He’d say Derek’s pale face looks like death warmed over, but Stiles has in fact seen him look worse, which seems a sad commentary on all their lives.

Boyd arrives while Stiles is smoothing down the edges of a length of medical tape across the curve of Derek’s stomach. He has used the largest size of gauze pad in the kit, carefully taped down over the top of two more like it, folded and pressed against the open wound.

“Sweet Lord Jesus,” Boyd says. “It looks like a war zone in here. How many bullets were there?”

“One was enough,” Isaac says. “Stiles had to operate.”

Erica grins at Stiles. “He made Derek stop bleeding with magic. I could smell it. Nice work, Batman.”

“Thanks, Catwoman.” Stiles’s bloody fingerprints smear the white gauze. He hates the way Derek looks - too still, too vulnerable, and the night’s not over. Derek took the bullet meant for someone else. Derek always takes the damn bullet. Stiles takes a deep breath. His hands have begun to shake. He is very, very tired.

“Is there a reason,” Stiles’s father asks, “why Derek Hale is lying in a puddle of blood on my kitchen floor instead of in a hospital emergency room?”

“Oh God,” Isaac whimpers. His eyes flash blue in surprise. He curbs it quickly, but Stiles's dad isn't stupid.

Well. That’s that, then. “Cat, bag, meet my father,” Stiles says. He’s torn between abject panic and a calm sort of resignation. The lies couldn’t go on forever. He’s always known that.

Stiles turns to Isaac, “You three carry Derek upstairs. Put him in my bed and get his jeans off of him. Be careful, I don’t want bits of him falling out after I just got through taping him together.”

“Gonna be blood in your bed,” Boyd cautions as he and Isaac coordinate the lift. Derek is silent and limp between them. Erica takes hold of Derek’s knees, helping to keep his body level. They look as though they're carrying a fallen prince from the battle field. Good night, sweet Hamlet.

“Not terribly concerned about the sheets just now,” Stiles says quietly.

Stiles’s father makes way for them, watching silently as they move carefully up the stairs.

Stiles looks down at his clothes. His jeans are stiff with Derek’s blood. He is stained with it all the way up to his shoulders. Nothing he’s wearing is salvageable. He stands up straight, looks his father in the eyes and braces himself for too many truths coming out.

Stiles’s father crosses the room toward him and reaches out to brush one hand against his cheek. He says, so gently, “You look weary, son.”

Stiles crumbles, defenseless against the love in his father’s eyes. “Dad… There’s so much I've wanted to tell you, but I didn’t know how to explain.

Stiles’s father guides him toward the kitchen sink. “I’m guessing,” he says as he turns on the hot water tap, “that that business with locking Jackson Whittemore in the paddy wagon was not in fact a joke.”

Stiles gulps for air, his eyes clouded with tears. Grief, relief, he can't sort them out right now. He rubs his nose on his shoulder. “No. No, that really wasn’t ever funny at all.”

Stiles’s father simply nods, and reaches for the soap at the back of the sink. He takes Stiles’s hands between his and runs the warm water over them, and Stiles stands quiet and exhausted, leaning against the solid warmth of his father while his father helps him wash the blood from his hands.

~~~~~~~

Derek drifts upward into a painful half awakening. His body aches, deep and sharp. He can smell the heavy, sour tang of his own blood drying on his skin, and he can smell Stiles all around him. There’s a faint residual buzz of magic. Derek is in Stiles’s bed.

There are people in the room. Someone. He opens his eyes, tries to focus. He’s tired and he hurts, and he wants to sleep, just sleep, but there is someone in the room. Sheriff Stilinski.

This is Sheriff Stilinski’s home, his territory, and he’s the alpha here. Derek tenses. He is afraid. It’s not a new feeling. He’s been mostly terrified since he got back to Beacon Hills and found half of his sister mangled on the forest floor near the ruins of their family home, but one thing he’s learned quickly is that all he needs to do is come off crazy half the time and the other half act like an asshole, and it’s easy enough to convince most people that he’s not afraid of anything. But that won’t work here, not now. Right here, right now, he is damaged, weak as a child, and just plain scared.

Sheriff Stilinski pulls Stiles’s desk chair next to the bed and sits down. He reaches toward Derek. Derek flinches.

“Easy, son,” Stiles’s father lays his hand softly against Derek’s forehead, and the gesture reminds Derek so much of his own father that he can’t help but turn into the touch. He makes a small, plaintive sound that he’d be embarrassed by any other day.

“Sometimes I forget how young you are,” Sheriff Stilinski says. “7 years ago when you and your sister left town you were what, 15 years old?”

Derek doesn’t know what else to do but nod and wait to see what comes next.

Sheriff Stilinski pulls Stiles’s blankets up to Derek’s shoulders. “You and I have a lot to talk about, son. But for now, you rest.” He stands up and turns to go, then hesitates. “No one’s going to hurt you here,” he tells Derek. “Not in my house.” He turns off the bedside light and closes the bedroom door behind him when he leaves.

Derek takes a long, careful breath. He can hear voices downstairs; his betas, Sheriff Stilinski.

“…need to call Mr. Argent, let him know we’ve got rogue hunters in the area.”

“You don’t think they’re his?”

“If he wanted Derek dead he’d have done the job himself, and he’d be using wolfsbane.”

“Maybe they were hunting the lizardy thing?”

“Lizardy thing?”

“Or maybe the lizardy thing is theirs?”

“Someone want to explain to me about…”

Derek doesn’t hear Stiles amongst the voices. Stiles is… Derek identifies his heartbeat across the hall. Derek tracks the rhythm. It’s steady, slow. Stiles used magic to keep Derek from bleeding out while the rue works its way through Derek’s system, and now Stiles is asleep in the room across the hall from Derek.

Derek’s belly throbs where Stiles’s fingers dug out the hunter’s bullet, where Derek’s own claws ripped through skin and muscle trying to get the rue-laced slug out of himself before it took effect. But the bed is warm and soft, and it smells like Stiles, and Stiles’s father has promised him he’s safe. It’s been a long while since Derek felt safe. He closes his eyes, and lets himself sleep.

~~~~~~~~

Susan Kim was a friend of Stiles’s mother back in college, though Stiles hasn’t seen her much since the funeral. She stands just over five feet high, weighs maybe a hundred and ten pounds fully clothed and soaking wet, and she has just thoroughly kicked Stiles’s ass.

She tosses her long, dark braid of hair over her shoulder and offers him a hand up from the mat. Stiles makes a noise like a dying steam engine and gripes, “You enjoyed that. Don’t lie.”

Sensei Kim’s dark eyes sparkle at him. “You show promise.”

Stiles pauses in rubbing at his right shoulder. “Really? ‘Cause that felt a lot like me completely sucking at this.”

“Of course you suck,” Sensei Kim agrees, “you’re a beginner. But you won’t always be a beginner.” She eyes him speculatively. “Your dad says you’ve got some incentive to get real good real fast, but he didn’t elaborate.”

Stiles shrugs and offers, “Let’s say I run with a tough crowd.”

“Uh-huh. You know I play bridge with Shelly Newberry down at the tea shop, right?” She raises an eyebrow at him.

Stiles stares back at her for a few seconds, trying to decide if she’s hinting at how much she knows. Bridge requires a foursome. Four people. This could be problematic. He dodges, “Can you teach me to fight with a staff?”

Sensei’s other eyebrow rises, and her eyes gleam at him. “I've got an oak staff in the back. It’s old, hard. A head-breaker, if you know what you’re doing.”

Stiles feels his heart rate rev, as though the air in the dojo has just shifted, become charged. “I was thinking maybe ash.”

“You know your mother was Welsh,” Sensei tells him. “So was your father’s mother.”

Stiles takes a slow breath, feels the charged air drawing down into him, filling his lungs. “That’s not a coincidence, is it.”

“No,” Sensei Kim says. “It really isn’t.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You could learn your magic a lot faster if you’d stick with Dr. Deaton.” Scott droops over the back of a kitchen chair. “You could be really good. He said so.”

Scott’s mother has come home from a late afternoon shift at the hospital, and she stands at the kitchen doorway with her keys in her hands.

“I don’t know how much we can trust Deaton,” Stiles says. “Derek doesn’t trust him at all.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “And Derek makes such great decisions.”

“Right, okay, I’ll give you that. Hell, Derek would give you that, but as Exhibit A for dodgy decision-making let’s look at that plan to get rid of Gerard that Deaton helped you come up with. Exactly whose idea was it to leave Derek out of the loop?”

Scott frowns irritably. “Stiles, the plan worked. And I don’t answer to Derek. He’s not my--”

Stiles flaps an impatient hand at Scott. “Yeah, yeah, he’s not your Alpha. He’s just the guy who came for you when Victoria Argent was trying to murder you.”

“Murder?” Mrs McCall whispers. She clutches fretfully at her key ring.

“The plan at the warehouse was a hail Mary and a miracle, Scott. There were a hundred what-ifs that could have gone horribly wrong. Luring Derek in blind was needless and risky, and it was a dick move. Deaton is older than us, and supposedly wiser, and he should have known better.”

“Gerard threatened my mother, Stiles, you know that! He stabbed me in the stomach with a hunting knife and he threatened my mother. I needed to deal with him.”

“Stabbed?” Mrs. McCall squeaks softly. “Honey, he stabbed you?”

“But you didn’t need to screw over Derek in the process! How hard would it have been to text Derek to let him know Gerard had made you give him up?”

“We don’t owe Derek,” Scott insists. “He helped me at the rave, but we’ve helped him, too. Derek is fine, Stiles. And he isn’t even the one who helped me deal with suddenly being a werewolf. That was you! You, and Deaton and Allison. Derek’s not my Alpha, and I don’t owe him anything.”

Stiles takes a deep breath, lets it out slow. “Scott, you getting turned was not your fault. It wasn’t Derek’s fault, either. I have to share some of the burden for that, I do, but after that? So much of the shit that’s gone down afterward has happened because you can’t keep your dick in your pants! Mrs. Argent got mad and ran you over with her car, Derek had to fight her to rescue you, she killed herself rather than turn - you know that's what had to have happened, after a fight with Derek. Then Allison lost her ever-loving mind and went on a hunting spree after our friends--

“It wasn’t Allison’s fault,” Scott argues staunchly.

Stiles flails, “Was she under a spell?”

“I know her family’s a problem, but…” Scott shrugs and smiles sheepishly at Stiles. He looks so much like his old self, the way he and Stiles used to be together that Stiles’s chest hurts. “I love Allison. It’s like we’re Romeo and Juliet, and Dr. Deaton is helping us.”

Stiles says flatly, “Dr. Deaton is your Friar Laurence?”

Scott nods happily, “Yeah, like that.”

“Let’s take a moment to think about how that story turned out, shall we?”

“What? What’s wrong? Romeo and Juliet were in love, and they didn’t let anybody tell them they couldn’t--Stiles?”

Stiles whirls and excuses himself past Mrs. McCall. He strides through the McCalls’ living room, focused on the front door and out, just out.

“Stiles, come on, buddy, don’t be mad.”

Stiles yells as he’s reaching for the door knob, “They died, Scott! They were young, and blind to the reality around them, and they died!”

He hears Mrs. McCall's voice behind him, gentle with sorrow. "And Mercutio, too.”

Scott asks, "Who?"

Their front door slams behind Stiles, and he’s alone in the gathering night.

~~~~~~

Stiles and Derek are sitting on the floor of Stiles’s bedroom, eating cheeseburgers and curly fries by the light of Google search on Stiles’s laptop. Stiles is using a stack of books he recently unearthed from the jumbled back room of a used book shop downtown as a makeshift table. The top volume is over a hundred years old, held together by layers of frayed binder’s tape and sheer, stubborn will, and Stiles has covered it with a t-shirt beneath the wrapper of his dinner.

Thus far this evening Derek and Stiles have concluded that the large reptile haunting the forest between the Hale property and the Beacon Hills preserve is not a Komodo dragon. Or a giant iguana, or, or.... They’ll tackle the books next, but right now growing supernatural crime fighters need carbohydrates, grease and sodium.

Derek pauses with an especially curly curly fry half way to his mouth and declares, "You did not!"

"I swear, by Princess Leia's haughty sneer,” Stiles says. “I duct taped his wrists behind his back and lobbed lacrosse balls at his head until he figured out how to keep his wolfy shit together. And he did it. Give my man credit."

Derek tilts his head back and laughs at the ceiling, young and loud.

Stiles stares, struck dumb. Derek is beautiful when he’s happy.

Stiles decides that he would like to see Derek being happy much more often, not only because Derek is breath-stealingly gorgeous when he’s not busy being Mr. Broody McBroodypants, but a happy Derek is much less likely to want to shove Stiles into things, which means Stiles is less likely to feel the need to punch Derek in the head. Advantages all around.

Plus there’s that bit where Stiles just really enjoys the idea of Derek being happy. He wonders when his investment in Derek’s continued bliss replaced his everlasting love for Lydia Martin. Lydia Martin continues to be brilliant and beautiful, so why hasn’t Stiles continued to be in love with her? He wonders if all along Lydia’s keen mind has made her aware of something about Stiles that he’s missed about himself. This is unsettling, not so much because of what Stiles suspects he’s missed, but because he missed it, when Lydia didn’t.

He should probably take some time to contemplate this discovery about himself. Not today of course, but some day when the concept of Stiles being deeply invested in Derek’s happiness for its own sake is less likely to drive him straight off his nut. Which would be some time around never. Right, fine, Stiles thinks. That’s settled.

Derek pops the curly fry into his mouth, still chortling with unholy glee. His nose wrinkles up adorably.

Adorably.

Oh God, this is a disaster.

~~~~~

There’s no point in going to the hospital. They won't know what to do, and there's no anti-venom for this. Even Derek doesn’t know what name to give the great, gleaming white snake that bit Stiles before Boyd cut its head off. Stiles will have to ride this out, if he can. He's freezing, cold down to his bones, all his muscles cramping up trying to keep warm. Everything hurts, his skin feels flayed. He doesn't want to be touched, fights the pack when they try to pile up against him, trying to keep him warm.

Derek makes a soft, whining sound of distress. Stiles can't help but turn into it, something in the back of his brain making him want to comfort that noise. It’s a dirty goddamn trick. It shouldn’t even work on Stiles. He’s not an alpha. He’s not even a wolf. Stiles quits thrashing and Derek wraps himself around him, Derek’s body radiating heat through his t-shirt and his shorts. It’d be sexy as hell if Stiles didn’t feel like screaming and crawling out of his skin. The bed dips behind Stiles, and more heat snugs up against his back, more arms to pin him in place. Isaac.

Stiles’s fists clench, his arms tucked up tight between him and Derek. The muscles in Stiles’s neck cramp, the long muscles in his back, in his thighs cramping sharp, burning cold. He sobs in frustration against Derek’s chest. Isaac rubs one thumb hard against the back of Stiles’s neck. The contact feels like sand paper against his skin, but the muscle pain in his neck eases up. It takes a long time for the heat from Derek and Isaac to soothe Stiles into an uneasy sleep.

Stiles half awakens in some pre-dawn hour that he can’t name. He’s still crushed up against Derek, the air between them close, over-warm. His right thigh throbs with icy fire where the white snake’s fangs cut deep.

“Hey.” The whisper is soft against the back of his neck. Not Isaac’s voice. “You’re still with us.”

Stiles can’t quite find his own voice, and he’s too exhausted to push. He manages to nod, and then he’s sinking back down into sleep against the heartbeat rhythm at Derek’s throat. He knows Scott understands.

~~~~~~~

“Judo,” Sensei Kim reminds Stiles as she peers down at him sprawled on the dojo’s practice mat, “is one of the softer martial arts.”

Stiles winces and raises up onto his elbows. “Is it? Because I think you just rearranged my spleen.”

“It’s about guiding energy,” Sensei says. She crouches down next to Stiles, comfortably balanced on the balls of her feet. “Yours, and your opponent’s. Let the other guy be the one to land on his ass.”

“I appreciate the concept.”

“Of course, you take on some serious motherfucker like, say, Derek Hale in a knock-down go for blood fight and he’ll have you eventually.”

Stiles stutters, “Dehhh, you…?”

“This is a small town, Stiles.”

“It’s not that small.” Stiles wonders whether panicking here might be simply a waste of time.

Sensei’s eyes narrow. “Derek is a force of nature. That’s what he’s been given to work with. Your superpower is your belief, Stiles.”

The question is out before he can think to stop it. “Would my superpower have saved my mother?”

Sorrow dulls Sensei Kim’s eyes. Her voice softens. “Some things are fixed. They need to happen.”

Stiles fights down a surge of rage. “My mother needed to--? My mom. How can I assume that I’ll get the help I need when I need it? How can I know?”

Sensei shrugs, “Ask and ye shall receive. That’s faith.”

“That’s the Bible. I’m pretty sure they weren’t big on witches.”

“Listen. Your mother and father started teaching you what you need to know when you were a little kid. What’s the magic word, Stiles?”

His answer is a reflex. “Please.”

Sensei Kim grins. “Amen.”

~~~~~~~

Stiles is crunching his way through a rapidly squishifying bowl of Rice Krispies and contemplating his imminent history test when his father ambles into the kitchen, rubbing at his eyes and bee-lining for the fresh pot of coffee.

“Shelly Newberry came by the station last night,” he says. He pours milk into his coffee cup and sips happily. “Had a message for Derek. Thought I ought to know, too.”

Stiles’s eyebrows lift. “So, news for both of you, then. Are we talking trouble?”

Stiles’s father shrugs thoughtfully. “She says a man came into the tea shop yesterday. Bought some… vervane? Anyway, she says he started asking questions about the Hale house, wondering if the current owner of ‘the old ruin’ might want to sell it.”

“Someone wants to buy Derek’s house?”

Stile’s father sits down at the table and starts buttering a cold piece of toast. “Shelly said, and I quote, ‘Sheriff, I did not like the vibrations that man was putting out. He felt wrong, as though a darkness followed him into and out of my shop.‘ And she thought I should know, on account of how I’m like a father to Derek these days.”

Stiles splutters, “Father to--you’re--really? What, are you two going fishing on the weekends, now?”

His father grins around a bite of toast. “Sure. You think maybe a little fly fishing might teach Derek some patience? He’s got no plans for getting rid of the place, has he?”

“No,” Stiles says. “He does not. Did this guy leave a name?”

“Nope. Which did not ease Shelly’s suspicions, nor mine. Average build, dark hair, pale blue eyes, pasty complexion. ‘Sallow’ is the word Shelly used, like he’s spent a lot of time underground.”

Stiles makes a face. “Creepy. I’ll get hold of Derek, and warn the others at school.” He lets out a huff. “Something’s brewing, isn’t it.”

“Yeah,” his father agrees. “Can’t put my finger on it yet, but… How’s that snake bite healing up?”

Stiles meets his father’s eyes. “Still aches, but it’s coming along.”

~~~~~~~~

“This way,” Stiles urges. “We need to be here, right here!”

Derek means to lead his pack to the barely defensible position of the Hale house ruins, but Stiles darts to the back of the house, where the land rises toward the trees and Derek, Boyd, Isaac and Scott follow, as though it’s the most natural thing in the world that they should.

“Stiles, why are we here? We’re out in the open!”

“They stopped shooting at us a ways back,” Isaac observes. “Is that good or bad? ‘Cause I’ve got a feeling it might be bad.”

Derek nods, “If the hunters have backed off that means the mages are falling back on a Plan B.”

“I hate Plan B’s.” Isaac complains. “Plan B’s always suck.”

“I think I know what they’re after,” Stiles says. He reaches the top of the rise, lit dimly orange in the overcast afternoon light and he turns, taking in the forest, the house, the preserve stretching out. He looks at Derek. “It’s the ley lines,” he says. “I can feel at least three of them meeting right here beneath our feet. These people want you gone, or even better, dead.”

“Story of my fucking life,” Derek growls.

“I smell blood,” Scott says.

Isaac nods, “Human blood. It’s wrong though, altered.” He makes a face, looking uncomfortable.

Derek scents the air and picks up what Isaac and Scott have caught. “Blood and magic. They’ve summoned something. Something more dangerous than the hunters.”

“Plan B, incoming,” Isaac sighs.

Damp leaves rush across the ground in small flurries. The slenderest branches on the trees begin to shift and shiver, dropping their loose leaves, orange and red drifting down, picked up in the quickening air.

Derek hears roaring from within the preserve. There’s something moving fast, rushing at them from all four directions. He wonders what fresh hell the universe has decided to visit on him and his. He senses the heat, and feels his stomach lurch.

Scott groans, “Oh crap, fire demons? Really?”

The breeze picks up. Heavier branches on the trees bend, all in the same direction. Derek realizes that the wind centers here, on the rise. He notices that the light has turned from hazy orange to purple, and is darkening to grey.

Derek turns, “Stiles--“

Stiles stands with his eyes closed at the top of the hill, his arms at his sides, hands open.

In the gathering grey Derek catches the glow from the fire spirits approaching. Spirits, demons, elementals. Derek wishes he could give them a name. There is power in knowing a thing’s name. Stiles could maybe do something with that. They appear vaguely human-shaped in that they seem to have arms and legs and a sort of head, but Derek wonders whether that’s a natural form for them, or whether they have been bound to it. They stand tall, maybe eight feet, black smoke rising from where their heat scorches the trees, the ground, the leaves they walk on. Even with the dampness of the forest in winter Derek wonders that they’re not setting the whole place alight. He can only guess that whatever they are, wherever they’ve been summoned from, they’ve got the same control of their own fire as Derek has over his wolf.

Derek turns to Scott. “If Stiles can’t stop them you run. You take Boyd, Isaac, and Stiles, and you get the hell out. Chances are the fire giants won’t follow you.”

Scott frowns. “And leave you behind to fry? No! That plan sucks, Derek.”

“It beats you dying for no good reason,” Derek argues. “If I tell you to go, you go.”

Scott’s expression sets, stubborn. “There has to be a way to deal with this. If they were brought here, there has to be a way to send them back.”

“Scott, I need you to get Stiles out of here if things turn to shit, which is looking more and more likely. Whether he wants to go or not, you take him out of here.”

Scott nods, still reluctant, but Derek can see that he gets it. “Okay. If it comes to that. But you know he’s going to be super pissed if you die.”

The breeze Stiles summoned has kicked up into a strong wind, leaves circling the rise in loose, rattling swirls, and more clouds have gathered overhead, dark and promising, but the fire giants are close. Derek spots a human figure in the trees just behind the nearest giant. It’s a man, a stranger, his arms stretched out in front of him. He’s mouthing something, maybe a containment spell, maybe instructions. The stranger’s face is set hard with concentration. Hard work, managing a fire spirit that, Derek suspects, isn’t here of its own free will.

The fire giants clear the trees and advance on the house. They’re less than fify yards away and with four them the rise is effectively surrounded. Derek turns to check on Stiles, ready to give Scott the order to get him out of here.

Stiles stands at the crest of the hill with his arms raised, swaying slightly, his face tight, sweat beading across his upper lip, the hair at his temples damp with it. His flannel shirt flutters in the wind whirling around him. Stiles is young and inexperienced, and the effort it takes to control the wind and to guide storm clouds gathering two miles above them is too much. He simply hasn’t got the power… Not on his own.

Derek pelts up the hill, ripping his shirt from his back. He lands hard on his knees, skidding in the leaves. “Stiles--“

Stiles slaps his right hand flat against the triskele tattooed between Derek’s shoulder blades. Raw power floods up through the ground where the ley lines meet beneath Derek’s knees. Brilliant, pale fire flickers behind his eyes, blinding him. The power shakes him, thrums through his blood, rattles his bones, a howling cataract of energy that scours Derek of everything he’s willing to give as it rushes through him.

Stiles moans. It could be pain, or ecstasy. The palm of his hand is hot against Derek’s back.

Derek can’t see what’s happening, but he feels the heat and electricity as lightning arcs down and slams into the Hale house. The thunder of it beats down like a massive fist. Derek cries out, shaking as though he’s coming apart, and clenches his fists in the damp loam.

The clouds let their rain go - pounding down, loud against the leaves of the trees, the earth, pelting against Derek's scalp, his bare shoulders, drenching him until he's forced to breathe through his mouth.

The fire giants roar. Men scream - the mages, all of them, high-pitched and terrified - there's the sickening stench of burnt flesh, and then a great rushing noise that reminds Derek of the noise a back draft makes. He braces himself for the scorching of flames, but there's nothing. Just the sound of the ley lines in his ears, and behind it the rain and the deep grumble of thunder.

The pale fire running through Derek backs off abruptly, leaving him gasping. He still can barely see, the echo of fire flickering like a photographic negative behind his eyes. Derek crouches trembling in the gentling rain and retreating thunder, poured out empty between the earth and Stiles.

“Jesus,” Scott whispers.

Stiles drops to the ground next to Derek and gathers him into his arms, an embrace of wet flannel with Stiles warm and shivering beneath. Derek hears howling from the foot of the drive toward the house. Erica, and Sheriff Stilinski. Derek presses his face into Stiles’s neck and Stiles holds him tight, tight, the two of them kneeling together amongst the old leaves and fresh mud.

~~~~~~

When Stiles wakes his body is leaden but his memory is clear, right up until the screaming started, and then it gets fuzzy. Stiles suspects his brain might be self-editing for sanity’s sake. There’s daylight gleaming around the edges of the window blinds, but what time or what day Stiles doesn’t know. He’s at home. The house is quiet. He is not wet and covered in mud, but rather dry and warm in his own bed, and dressed in flannel pajama pants and a red t-shirt. His dad must have helped him clean up, but Stiles can’t recall more than blurry images after the fight on the hill. He stretches, groaning softly as sore muscles stretch. He rubs his eyes and wonders why his back is so much warmer than his front.

He rolls left and lets out a startled yip. Derek is watching him. Derek, shirtless, but Stiles assumes not pantsless, because this is his father’s house, not one of Stiles’s fantasies.

“Um,” Stiles says intelligently.

One side of Derek’s mouth twitches upward. His voice is soft, almost tentative. “You wouldn’t let go of me. Or maybe I wouldn’t let go of you. My memory’s a little sketchy.”

Stiles scratches at his nose. He remembers the clinging. Nice to hear it was mutual. “They left,” he says. “The giants broke loose, and they turned on their summoners… summoners?” He thinks about it for a moment. He smothers a yawn. “Do you remember that?”

Derek shakes his head. “I couldn’t see anything at all. All I can remember is the power from the ley lines, and you. You were amazing.”

“I was terrified. And then I made a wish.”

“End of the day, you were the last magic user standing.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you,” Stiles tells him. “What I was granted was too much to handle by myself.” He feels changed, as though small echoes of the added power Derek gave him remain, ringing in his bones, humming along his nerves. It’s weird, but it’s nice. He reaches out to touch Derek’s face, thinks better of it, then decides to hell with it and brushes lightly over Derek’s left eyebrow. Derek feels warm. “You knew what to do to help me.”

Derek shrugs, “I had a hunch.”

“Good hunch,” Stiles says.

“Had to manage one eventually.” Derek bites his lip. “Am I your familiar now?”

Stiles laughs softly, “My familiar?” Derek as Stiles’s familiar is an intriguing and, he’ll admit it, slightly arousing idea, but… “Isn’t that usually a black cat? Or an owl?”

Derek looks a little disappointed. “I guess so.”

Stiles ghosts one thumb over Derek’s left cheekbone. “You can be my familiar if you want to. It seems to work for us.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for Stiles to lean into the small space between them and kiss him. He frets for a moment about morning breath maybe ruining the moment or Derek pulling back and hurriedly explaining that making out is not included in a familiar’s list of duties, but neither seems to be an issue.

Derek leans into the kiss, wraps an arm around Stiles and pulls him over on top. Stiles inches downward to scrape his lips lightly over the dark stubble of Derek’s chin, onto his throat. He licks at Derek’s neck. Derek makes a soft noise that Stiles likes very much and arches beneath him, baring his throat. The gesture sets off a surge of lust and affection in Stiles that’s nearly overwhelming.

“You trust me,” Stiles murmurs against Derek’s skin.

“Always.”

Stiles presses his lips against Derek’s heartbeat thumping through his jugular vein.

Derek’s hands clench against Stiles’s back, grasping fistfuls of his t-shirt, stretching it tight. Stiles grabs a handful of Derek’s hair and kisses him down into the pillow, Derek’s mouth opening wide for him. Stiles kisses his chin. Derek takes a deep breath and lets it out in a low rumble as Stiles grinds against him, sweet, sweet friction, and oh, hello. Derek hisses, lets out a soft moan, and then goes completelly still.

“Ugh, wait,” Derek groans, “We’re in your father’s house.”

Stiles’s forehead thumps against the pillow next to Derek’s head. “Crap.”

“And you are seventeen years old.”

“I feel very old for my age. Does that count?” Stiles wants to whimper, or possibly weep with frustration.

“Not to your dad, or to the State of California’s penal code.”

“Heh. Penal code.”

“I rest my case, your honor.”

Stiles pulls back and glares at him. “Assuming I manage to survive my senior year of high school, swear to me we will revisit the sex idea the day I turn eighteen. Swear to me now, or I will be very grumpy.”

Derek grins, rumpled and beautiful against Stiles’s sheets. “I swear, we will revisit the sex idea the day you turn eighteen.”

“I’m pretty sure we could get away with just kissing until then.”

“As long as your father doesn’t shoot me. Or threaten to take me fishing.” Derek tugs Stiles forward. “And if anyone else tries to visit the sex idea with you before the day you turn eighteen, I swear I will eviscerate them. With deliberation and malice aforethought.”

Stiles bites at Derek’s chin. “Love is a many splendored thing.”

~~~~~~~

“You make the other wolves nervous,” Stiles says. He wriggles beneath Derek, tilting his hips for a better angle. There. Nice.

“If nobody’s thinking of making trouble, they’ve got nothing to worry about from me,” Derek argues amiably. He moves his hips against Stiles, only a little, teasing. His forearms bracket Stiles, Derek’s fingers curled forward over the backs of his shoulders.

“It’s not the badge,” Stiles insists. He nuzzles against the soft place below Derek’s jaw. Derek shaved this morning, and the skin is smooth. “Okay yes, it’s partly the badge. But Berkeley is neutral territory, and you’re an Alpha. Though Nicole actually finds you a comfort. Sharing an Alpha mate’s apartment is probably the safest place around here for her, especially with that whole needing to hide her seal skin thing.”

“See? And I’ve been nice. Did you remember to leave the sock on the doorknob this time?”

“Yes… I’m pretty sure.”

“Because last time she muttered something about brain bleach that didn’t sound at all complimentary.”

“Yes, yes, I remembered the damn sock!”

“Tch. Testy.” Derek nuzzles into that tender spot just behind Stiles’s jaw. Derek’s breath is warm, and it tickles. The pleasure zings all the way down to Stiles’s crotch.

“Unf, stop distracting me. I’m trying to make a point, and you insist on being devastatingly attractive.”

Derek bites at Stile’s earlobe and moves against him again, still too lightly for Stiles to get anywhere with it besides wanting more. Bastard.

“Listen. We were almost to fall mid-terms before any of the supernaturals - including Nicole - dared to talk to me.” Derek grunts encouragingly as Stiles wraps his legs around Derek’s hips. “We’re all a long way from our territories, everyone’s a little unsure of themselves, and I’m walking around smelling of Alpha Werewolf.” Stiles runs the arch of one foot down the back of Derek’s left calf.

Derek shivers a little, then frowns. “You want me to quit coming to visit?”

Stiles’s fingers trace the tattoo between Derek’s shoulders. The ink is raised so slightly that it’s barely noticeable to the eye, but the design buzzes faintly beneath Stiles’s hands. “I will explode from sexual frustration if you quit coming to visit. However, if you were to refrain from openly flaunting your service weapon--“

Derek snickers, because he is a cretin.

“--and glowering in that extra carnivorous way that you do whenever you imagine anybody might be even considering flirting with me, we could perhaps ease the general aura of impending mayhem that tends to surround you, and by association me.”

Derek noses at Stiles’s throat and his fingers tighten on Stiles’s shoulders. “I don’t like it when other people flirt with you.”

“I am cute and personable, and just one of approximately twenty-five thousand rambunctious university undergrads. They don’t mean any harm. Let it go.” He shifts again, just… there, side by side in the cradle of their hips. It’s perfect, it’s delicious, the two of them sliding together, hot, hard, slick… Stiles’s arms tighten across Derek’s back and he digs his heels into the bed, bucking upward.

Derek’s eyes flutter shut. His argument is muffled into Stiles’s neck. “If--if there are twenty-five thousand of them--ah, fuck me--“

“I am trying to!”

Derek mouths at that spot just where Stiles’s shoulder sweeps up into his neck and Stiles slides his hands through Derek’s hair at the back of his skull, pressing him forward.

“--mmmmf-- you can’t be certain none of them mean you any harm.”

“Fine.” Stiles groans, his body curling upwards towards Derek. The biting thing is cheating. It’s a dirty Alpha trick guaranteed to turn Stiles’s brain to goo, and Derek is a great big werewolf cheater, but Stiles does not care. “Permission granted to fold, spindle--oh my God…”

Derek laughs as his hips rock forward hard, his knees digging into the mattress for purchase. The bed squeaks. Stiles moans. Derek swears and keeps laughing. It’s a fucking symphony.

It’s a beautiful day.

 

---#---