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Oh My God, It's a Sterek Blue Lagoon AU

Chapter Text

Newcastle Port disappears from view and the ship now has no company but for an overcast sky and an endless sea. Stiles searches the mist for birds and finds nothing. They are probably blotted out by the clouds.

The three of them stand together on the deck of the ship, their faces dampening with spray each time the wind kicks up. Cora is on his left, wide-eyed. Her hand is clasped in his. On her other side, Derek stands with his arm around her, frowning in the direction of their lost home. Peter beckons them three times before they finally go below to their cabin.

It’s strange to think they’re on a ship when they’re in the cabin; it’s more like a lavish hotel room. At least that’s what Derek says. He’d traveled a little with his parents, before. The only time Stiles had traveled was to make the trip from Maine to stay with Derek’s family. Before. Stiles can feel the soft swell of the ocean beneath his feet from time to time but until those shifts happen it just seems like they’re in a beautiful suite with soft linens and pastel walls. The sad, hollow feeling of where they aren’t and who isn’t there echoes through the quiet room, as they try to sleep.

When he wakes again, he’s already on his feet, in his nightclothes. Derek tugs him along in a dead run, the sound of breaking timber left in their wake. Peter is so frantic when he finds them, Stiles could swear his eyes are red against the churning blackness of the sky and the sea. 

They’re on their little stolen rowboat for a day and a night and day. Possibly another night and day, because Stiles isn’t sure when he sleeps. There’s bits of food and then none. There’s no water. There’s Peter assuring Derek that he got Cora into one of the first emergency boats out with the women and children. There’s Derek, sunlit and staring out at the endless sea. It’s blue now, and his hand rests on top of Stiles’.

He doesn’t remember seeing the island, the way Derek tells it to him later. He only remembers being knees in the sand, Peter thumping on his back to spit the last of the seawater out, and they’re alive. They’re alive.

*

Peter kills what he says is a rabbit and then two birds he calls pheasants but Derek isn’t so sure. He helps Derek drag large tree branches to tip against each other while Stiles happily fulfills the request to bring back smaller sticks for kindling. Stiles could look for sticks for hours. It distracts him and often they need to distract him from the nightmare they’ve found themselves in.

It’s Stiles who finds the iselet, like a speck of sand amidst the ever-shimmering blue and green tumult of the sea. 

It’s funny, the first thing Derek finds at all funny since they were shipwrecked, that he and Peter, two werewolves with supposedly keener senses, never even noticed there was more land on the horizon but Stiles did. But then, that’s Stiles.

He finds things.

He found the first of the three trunks that had washed ashore, leading Peter to search extensively along the shoreline and drag two more back. Derek figured out how to crack the lock on the first with a sharp downward thrust of a black stone. The look of pride on Stiles' and Peter’s faces made him think for a moment he was glad he hadn’t gone down with the ship.

It was Stiles who said they’d find Cora, over and over again, until Derek threatened him with that same rock, shaking in rage and shame. Stiles had fallen back into the sand, dread on his face and for a moment Derek nearly ran, but no. He didn’t know what else was living there with them yet, didn’t know if he’d come back alive if he ran.

Honestly, he didn’t care that much, except for how much Stiles had already lost. His mother so ill, being sent to stay with the Hales, and now this. Derek had his own losses, of course, but somehow Stiles' seemed worse. So he sat and scowled at the water’s edge instead, pretending not to hear Peter’s schoolmaster-like instructions to Stiles on building the fire, cooking their small game enough not to get sick from it, how to tamp the fire down enough to safely sleep on the sand together, a lump of three shivering souls once Derek got past his own mistakes, and joined them.

Stiles finds things but Peter comes across the lagoon a few days in, which saves them in many ways. They’ve found wood and things to hunt, a couple of trees with fruits that Stiles devours and Derek gags down for his own good. But freshwater and all the life inside it, easily caught and easily prepared, it saves them. They have enough stability and strength now to build shelter. 

It’s slow going at first. Stiles is nine and lost and hungry but his energy rises -- alarmingly, Derek sometimes thinks with a smile -- whenever he is put to a task. Peter is a natural teacher but hardly a master builder and gets so frustrated with his own fumbling attempts at construction that he forgets to give Stiles anything to do, which ends poorly.

Derek learns to bridge them, his uncle and his cousin. Eventually it is second nature to him to check on Stiles’ progress sifting through the trunks, laying out things like dry tack and photographs to warm in the sun on leaves wide as his mother’s serving platters; then to move back to Peter with handfuls of Stiles’ discoveries -- bolts, tallow -- and in this way keep them both happy. He finds his own happiness in this mix of caring and servitude. He wonders if this is what his future might have been like as Laura’s beta, and then he sends that thought skipping out across the ocean where all the rest of their grief lies.

*

When Stiles first sees the rowboat, repaired and reinforced, he begins to cry.

“I can’t,” he says. His body is still but his hands begin to shake. He feels his lower lip tremble. The timber of the ship cracks behind him again and this time he can pick apart the other sounds. Furniture falling over. People screaming. Some awful low keening he doesn’t understand, perhaps the ship falling apart in front of their feet or perhaps the ocean itself. 

“Stiles,” Derek says and Stiles snaps back to the moment, reeling and trying not to show it. “We’re not leaving. Nobody expects to cross the ocean in that. Not even Peter.” His smile is warm but measured and Stiles sneaks a look at Peter through tear-filled eyes.

“No, not even me,” Peter replies as nicely as he can, which is passable. “Stiles, you spotted that islet. I’m going to take the boat across and explore it. You and Derek should stay here.”

The sun is high overhead, which Derek has explained means it’s early afternoon, but Stiles still doesn’t like the sound of this, is wary of Derek holding his hand tighter as if he knows more is coming.

“For how long?”

“I’ll be back by morning.”

*

“I don’t understand,” Stiles says. He knows it’s the eighth time, he’s kept count, and it’s pretty certain when he gets to ten Derek will lose the false front of an even temper. But it is black as pitch save for the full moon, so white and featureless it’s almost more spooky than the sky. It’s the first full moon they’ve seen since they arrived here, nearly three weeks ago.

The little cabin they’ve managed to scrounge together has open windows for now, through which Stiles can look out into the endlessness from the mattress he and Derek share. It’s on the floor and not very comfortable compared to the beds in Derek’s home in Cheshire, but it’s better than the sand or the bare floors. It’s clothes they couldn’t use from the trunks stuffed with leaves and tied off at the ends with twine. Stiles is certain his head is resting on someone’s stored wedding dress, which is less disturbing than the ladies’ undergarments.

“Why did he have to go all night, Derek? He could have been there and back for supper. Why leave us alone?”

“Stiles,” Derek says, for the eighth time as well, but this time the rest of the sentence is different from the vague reassurances that they’d be alright. “Look. You don’t know Uncle Peter very well, I know. And he’s been very strong through this whole ordeal. But I’ll be honest with you, Stiles, he’s given to. . .strange proclivities.”

“Really?” Stiles sits up, the mattress crunching beneath him. He thinks he hears Derek sigh. “What sorts of proclivities? Seances? Ladies of the evening?”

“No, not -- ladies of the evening? How do you even know what that is?”

“I reeeeeeeeeead, Derek,” Stiles says back. Derek pinches him lightly in the side over his bedclothes, which are just someone else’s old shirt. Stiles yelps in response and shoves at Derek ineffectively.

“You read things that don’t belong to you,” Derek says. “I’m guessing things that belong to James?” he asks, naming his older brother. It’s the first time he’s said James’ name since this happened, Stiles thinks. Derek’s siblings, Stiles’ older cousins, Laura and James, back in England, heartbroken? Frantic? And Cora? 

“Anyway,” Derek continues. It takes Stiles a moment to remember the conversation. “No, I mean he’s always been a little odd and liked time to himself. This has been more family time than he’s probably ever had in his life.” Derek actually chuckles a little and it makes Stiles brave enough to chuckle a little, too.

 “He just needs time,” Derek says and Stiles presses against him a little more against him, willing himself to feel safe with just Derek here. He surprises himself by feeling exactly that, just as he starts to fall asleep.

Derek sits on one of the trunks outside that they’d emptied and not quite found a use for yet. The breeze is cool and the sun is just breaking. He could hear Peter’s footsteps when he came ashore at daybreak, several minutes ago. Now he waits while Stiles snores, rumbling but peaceful, within the little shack.

Peter emerges from between the trees. Although he’s been away for less than a day, somehow Derek can see how he’s changed in the last three weeks more clearly than he had before. His hair hangs about his face, his skin is darkened from the sun. His clothes, like all their clothes, are rumpled and worn, stiffened in places from exposure to air and seawater.

But even though he looks less composed, less correct than the Uncle Peter he knew in England, he does look a bit more at ease, a bit more like himself.

So he did change last night.

“Are you well, Nephew?” he asks. He has a rucksack over his shoulder that appears full, so maybe he found things on the iselet that they can use. “And Stiles?”

“Yes, Uncle,” he says. “And you?”

“All well, Peter says. He glances at the open window and gestures by pressing his fingertips together with a questioning look.

 “Still asleep,” Derek says. “He slept fine.” Peter nods, beginning to appear weary again. He drops the sack by his own feet.

“And the Moon?” Derek asks. It is not exactly proper for children to ask their elders how their full moon went. It would be so different at home. But here, where Derek is the only one who knows and there is no estate, no community, no one and nothing but the three of them and the little sustenance they have, perhaps it makes it less improper. Perhaps Derek is a little more like a beta than he realized.

Peter runs his hand down his face but then looks up at Derek and gives a brief grimace. “Acceptable,” he says. “Definitely safer for you two for now if I’m there. I can’t get across the water as a wolf.” He kneels down and opens the sack, pulling out what Derek realizes might be a coconut, then --

“What is that?” he says, just as the figure becomes clear to him. A rough stone carving of a dog. Or a wolf.

“It’s not inhabited now but it was, once. Others might know of it. There’s -- kind of a clearing, Derek, and an altar. I can’t make sense of it. You boys shouldn’t go there for now. We’ll figure out something to tell Stiles so he won’t be -- you know, Stiles,” he intones, waving his hand as if to show the full breadth of Stiles’ potential for overexcitement.

Derek nods and stays quiet as Peter rummages through the bag, pulling out some large, lovely shells, unbroken. Conchs, he thinks they’re called. Inside the hut, Stiles stirs, his sleep coming to an end.

Chapter Text

On the wall opposite where their mattresses are kept, there is a series of small, precise hatch marks indicating the number of days with a cross hatch pressed through each seventh day. Two hatches through the end of a month. They remind Stiles of the Patriarchal Cross. The day they reach a year, Stiles watches silently from his and Derek’s shared bed as Peter pushes his pocketknife three times along the length of the hatch. He stands there for a moment, folds the knife up and leaves the hut without a good morning.

Peter has been speaking less and less the last few days. He takes the rowboat to the islet for day trips now too, maybe once a week. On those trips he comes back before dark, seeming more dour and quiet than when he leaves. He says he's plotting out a map of the islet so Derek and Stiles can safely navigate it in the future, but Stiles hasn't seen any such map. 

It’s beautiful outside today -- the sky is completely clear and the water is a shade of green that only exists in this place. But the weather seems like mockery in the face of such an anniversary. Stiles stares at those three marks, a triple cross. It looks wrong somehow, like a sacrilege.  

He sits up and glances at the spare clothes he has hanging on a peg hammered into the wall by the foot of his mattress. A year on the island has softened and blurred the lines of propriety, between the lack of resources and the lack of need to keep up appearances. But Derek’s peg is empty, so he must have changed from the clothes of the last day or two. Stiles throws his head back and casts his eyes briefly to God, and throws himself out of bed toward the fresh clothes before he can change his mind.

Stiles wears what was once a man’s small undershirt and Derek’s old pajama pants, cut down to short pants with the old waistband cut out. The nightshirt he washed ashore in is long gone, the ghost of it still haunting their little camp here and there as a patch or a rag. He takes a mango from the roughly carved bowl Derek recently made and bites right into it on his way out the door, spitting a mouthful of bitter skin into the sand as he goes.

He doesn’t see Peter or Derek but the straight razor is sitting in its little bowl, a wet patch near it in the sand. Peter has been teaching Derek to shave and thus Stiles has a new chore: sharpening the straight razor against a leather strap twice a day now that two people need to use it instead of one.

It was hilarious when Derek started growing whiskers out of his chin. Hilarious to Stiles, anyway, and the parrots who sometimes imitated his laughter from the trees. It made Derek angry. Derek seemed angrier in general lately, not participating in the teasing that had marked their friendship but glowering and folding his arms in response to Stiles, say, dabbing mud on his face and saying he was Big Man Derek with a beard.

At least Peter thought it was funny.

Peter had explained to Stiles that Derek’s body was changing, that he was becoming a man and that he would get taller, grow hair, start to look more like Cousin James and Uncle Thomas. And Stiles could see that Peter was right; Derek did look more like them about the body now. His facial features still favored Talia with her raven hair and strong brow, the incisive way she met people’s eyes with her own, fearless. Stiles had missed his mother so when he first went to live with them in Cheshire. Talia was nothing like his mother but he’d loved her immediately, her directness and fierce protectiveness. Qualities Derek shared with her, as well.

Stiles had always taken after his mother in looks and, by extension, Uncle Thomas. He wondered what he would look like when he started to change into a man, too. He wonders if he’d be able to see his mother or his father in his own face, since it was so unlikely he’d ever see them again.

He takes a wineskin, long repurposed for freshwater, and a battered bucket from their places leaned up against the hut and heads toward the lagoon.

*

Derek throws his spear and misses again, but he can see fat silver bodies scatter in the wake of the impact. He retrieves the spear, using what feels like all of his restraint to keep from stomping gruffly and scaring the fish even further away.

This is just practice, he tells himself again. Time spent now will save time later. It’s the kind of aphorism his father would use to encourage him and his siblings, highlighting rigour and patience. It’s the kind of thing Peter hates.

He wishes he could learn more about the habits of the fish. But that’s not something Peter knows much about and while Stiles did actually go fishing with his father when he was younger, that was in Maine, in a rowboat. He was too little then to remember much of the particulars beyond the joy of sitting beside his father in calm waters, under overcast skies.

They had found a few books among the trunks. A Bible and a medical text that has too many Latin-seeming words for any of them to spend much time with. A few books of poetry and what looks like the journal of one of the crew. They’ve been too busy staying alive to spend any time reading, but what Derek wouldn’t give for a book on the plant life of the Caribbean, the mammals, the sea life. Anything.

As it stands, the fish and the fruit are both plentiful, even if they don’t always have proper names. There are mollusks in the lagoon that are close to oysters but sweeter and more like meat, and small beans growing inland that can be stewed. There is game to hunt -- even recognizable birds in the winter months that probably migrate here from North America -- but it hasn’t been necessary with the plentiful food that is more easily found.

There is also wolfsbane. Both on the islet and their main location. Derek couldn’t believe his eyes when he first found it, early on. Peter confirmed it, from afar, and warned Stiles away from it, saying it was poisonous to the touch for all of them. Stiles had nodded solemnly while staring at the plant on the ground. Memorizing it, Derek thought.

He can hear Stiles thundering through the trees before a human could, although Stiles would probably be loud to anyone’s ears. He has begun to sprout up recently and from time to time seems like he’s lost control of his limbs, smacking them into trees and into Derek when they lay in bed at night. It’s funny right up until Stiles’ elbow catches him in the eye.

Derek throws the spear again just before Stiles bursts onto the ride above his spot at the lagoon, trying to get a fish before Stiles frightens them all right out of the water.

The spear lands true.

“Derek!”

Derek’s eyes widen and he sprints toward the stuck spear while he calls back to Stiles over his shoulder, “I think I got one!”

He wades further into the water, navigating the slick stones he knows are toward the right of the spear. The fish is big, maybe the biggest he’s caught without Peter’s help. It throws a spray of water in the wake of its thrashing tail.

“That’s amazing,” Stiles says as he hits the water line, his bony legs sloshing through the water. Derek looks back at him and smiles. Stiles winces and turns away and Derek realizes why, reaching for the knife he keeps at his hip.

When the fish is dispatched, he pats Stiles on the shoulder, then drops it in the bucket Stiles has brought.

“Thank you,” he says, “I forgot again.”

“I actually came to gather some mollusks but it doesn’t look like we’ll need them today,” Stiles replies, inclining his head toward the bucket. He kneels down in the water and begins to swish one of the wineskins about to fill it. “But you’re welcome. Nice catch.”

They wade through the lagoon, pausing to kick water at one another. The sun filters through the trees and Derek notices more moles at Stiles’ neck, more freckles across his face. He is only ten and so often a silly, carefree child, but he’s become more solemn sometimes, especially around Peter.

“Do you know what today is?” Stiles mutters. He darts ahead of Derek and begins to scale the natural rock steps that lead up to what amounts to a natural bath near a waterfall.

“Not your birthday,” Derek calls ahead. “Nor mine. Nor Peter’s.” There’s nothing else he could think of to celebrate. He keeps the birthdays of his family to himself. He assumes Stiles does the same if he even notices their passing.

Stiles halts at the top of the steps and swings back around to face Derek, looking down at him. “One year. We’ve been here a year, Derek.”

It is so hard to look Stiles in the face sometimes. It’s been getting harder to meet Peter’s eyes as well. Is that the enormity of their situation or part of growing older, or both? Derek isn’t sure and there’s nothing that can be said. There is no likely rescue ship coming for them, no signs of other human life beyond Peter’s tales of the abandoned sites on the iselet and Derek can’t even be sure they’re not embellished stories designed to keep him and Stiles away from the only safe place Peter can transform. He aches to tell Stiles what they are but Peter said no, absolutely not. When they’re older. When Derek has the wolf change, maybe, after the human change he’s grappling with right now.

Derek does his best to hold Stiles’ gaze, to not abandon him, and shakes his head.

*

After Peter pulls the rowboat ashore on the islet, he pauses for a moment and then gets back into it and sits back down on the splintering wooden plank that passes for a seat. He has managed to keep his problems away from the children, actually go to another piece of land to break down in peace. But it's getting harder. This is not how his life was supposed to have gone.

He loved Cora and Derek, of course. He'd even grown to care for Claudia and John's son while he had come to live in Cheshire but this had never been the plan. He'd only escorted the three of them on the ship back to America in the first place out of respect for his sister, his alpha, who had just lost her home and most of the family's possessions in the house fire. Rumors in the town were that perhaps they'd been found out by frightened humans or immoral hunters. If it was other werewolves, no one had stepped up to make a claim but Peter still didn't rule the possibility out entirely. Talia did, with her strange faith and trust that was always limned along the edges of her unshakeable power. 

So the family had made plans to move to America, and be near Thomas' sister as she continued to recover. Peter was to escort the younger ones first, reunite Stiles and his parents, and install Derek and Cora with them in Maine while he worked on finding a home. Talia and Thomas stayed behind with Laura and James to settle the estate and the finances, the insurance -- the less complementary reason Talia had sent him ahead, Peter was sure, to put some distance between him and the money.

Peter had thought to spend some time in New York and then visit Boston, get in touch with some old business contacts and meet the East Coast packs with Talia. It was a moment of glorious possibility, quite literally dashed up against the rocks.

One year. They were never getting out of here and Peter's ability to play nursemaid was wearing thin. The rum they'd discovered couldn't do anything for him, of course. They mainly kept it in case of the infrequent tropical rains so they could still coax a fire from dampened wood. But somewhere around the six month mark he'd brought one of the casks across with him, along with some jars. Cut fruit fermented within was extending the rum, and the wolfsbane he'd been carefully distilling in small quantities was approaching the right amount.

He could leave, for a few hours, for a day, leave his senses and be free of this horrible tragedy, too many subplots and threads for even him, so given to the dramatic, to keep up with. 

He just meant to leave again that day, for awhile. To keep Derek and Stiles safe while he let his monsters free and blotted them out.

He'd always intended to come back.

Chapter Text

 Stiles wakes to see Derek standing at the wall, staring at his new mark, just as Peter had just three days ago. He sits up and thumbs the sleep crust from his eyes as he speaks.

 “Are we going to look for him?”

 Stiles can hear the wind and the surf down the shore, and the circling gulls arguing over their breakfast, then suddenly Derek turns. His face is reddened around the cheeks, his lips pressed tightly together.

 “No,” he grits out, making for the door. Stiles jumps up from bed, ignoring for the moment that he’s only in his drawers, and he chases after Derek as he continues to storm down the pathway,

 “Why?” he shouts. “We’re just to leave him there?” Derek is paces ahead of him but turns back to scowl at Stiles and that gives him time to race forward and around to block Derek’s progress out of the trees to here the sand becomes open and sun-warmed.

 “Derek!” Stiles shouts. His voice comes out as a squeak and any other time he might be embarrassed. Derek feints in one direction, then darts in the other and Stiles has had it. He launches himself at Derek, knocking him down purely with his own forward momentum.

 Derek coughs and turns his head to spit into the sand, but otherwise does not struggle against Stiles, who sits astride his chest.

 “We have to find him, Derek.”

 “Please get off me, Stiles,” Derek says wearily.

 “Why won’t you talk to me? Peter is-- he’s missing, he’s--”

 “Let me up,” Derek says, looking away. Stiles complies, swinging his leg across Derek and then sitting cross-legged in the sand. Despite his protestations, Derek just lies there. Stiles rubs his hands across his knees, spills a handful of sand from palm to palm while he waits. At last, Derek sits up and leans his head back to scrub sand from his hair and neck.

 “He’s probably dead,” Derek says simply. Their eyes meet.

 “He could just be hurt,” Stiles says. He wiggles his fingers and brings his hands to his face, then sets them back on his knees. He sees Derek track the movement and furrow his brow. Derek knee-walks closer to him.

 “He could,” he admits. “But I don’t think so. I think something happened. And I promised him we wouldn’t go there. I won’t take you there, Stiles, and I won’t leave you here by yourself. I couldn’t. . .I couldn’t, okay?”

 “But.” Stiles draws his knees up to his chest and grips them as hard as he can. The feeling of his fingertips boring into his skin staves the tears off for a moment but still, they’re welling up and there’s nothing he can do. The sand goes blurry as do Derek’s hands, reaching for him.

 “He wants us safe. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I want to, I swear to you. But we have no boat. We’re not ready. We’re not--”

 Big enough , Stiles’ mind supplies. He tumbles forward into Derek’s chest, knocking them both back to the sand as he begins to cry in earnest. They’re not big enough, and now Uncle Peter is lost to them too.

***

It comes suddenly, the rain.

It’s happened before. It knocked down their first lean-to, their second shack. It forced them inland and uphill and Derek clutches Stiles in his arms as he realizes this one is possibly done for as well. 

The wind whips through the shack, rattles the walls. Sometime in the night they make it over to the trunks and Derek manages to push them together like a short wall. They duck behind them, still soaked but with some respite now form the howling wind. Derek covers Stiles with his body as much as he can, tries to stay awake and aware of the feeling in his hands and fingers, to not lose his body to the storm.

In the quiet of the morning they find the roof is mostly gone.

The sun moves in like a cruel joke and the island is idyllic in its beauty again. It’s a matter of hours, once daylight returns, for their clothes and blankets to dry. So Derek, shoving his own despair deep down into himself where all his terrors are banked, sits Stiles on the beach. He’s naked, wrapped in two blankets, but at least he’s stopped shaking. Stiles stares vacantly out at the ocean, placid and unmoving.

Sometimes it seems like all roads lead back to the day Stiles came to live with them. He was like this, so like this.

Derek had only the faintest memories of Aunt Claudia to begin with, a visit with her American-accented husband and the baby with the unpronounceable name. That was when Derek was three. All he could recall was she was kind and so obviously his father’s sister. That part was fascinating, seeing his father lean into her and play argue with her in the familiar way of his own siblings. It was six years before he met Stiles again: a sullen, frightened boy with moles across his face who didn’t look or seem anything like the family he’d been sent to live with.

It happened to rain in the few days after he arrived, single suitcase at his feet and a pillow under his arm that was at first his constant companion. Stiles did nothing then but stare at the window. Derek asked his father if Stiles had never seen rain before but his father laughed gently and explained that, no, Maine had rain, too. Stiles, he said, had been through so much. His mother was ill, his father now had to attend to getting her the best treatment possible, and now he was living amongst virtual strangers.

“You can help him, Derek. Include him. Show him he has a home with us.”

Stiles had been just like this. Slowly, Derek and his siblings had drawn him out. A year gone he was practically their brother, just as loved and just as welcome.

Stiles stares out at the ocean. Derek checks on him regularly, places a canteen at his lips and is slightly gratified when Stiles takes a small sip. He has no reaction to food, or soothing words. So Derek forces himself to continue on, sorting out what they can save from what is rotted or destroyed. Every so often he goes back to Stiles’ side, checks to make sure he’s awake and not shaking. He leans against him. Wills him to come back from where has mind has taken him, understandably, out of sheer terror.

They sleep on the sand that night on top of all their blankets. Derek holds Stiles and for the first time since they washed ashore, he prays.

***

A faraway bird has been circling the sky for sometime in the dawning light. Stiles isn’t sure what it is. It’s terrible to be without the names for things or the means to find them. There are very few books here and he hasn’t really wanted to read them except for the occasional bible stories, and then only the ones he favored when he was small. Arks, animals. Miracles.

Peter is gone. They’re too small to go find him. Their house was washed away by yet another storm. They’ve been living from tragedy to tragedy for a long time.

Stiles turns these facts over and over in his mind as he watches the bird do falling loops, then ascend again.  

“I think I know what to do,” he says.

“What?” Derek mutters from behind him.

“Back at home, in Maine, Scott and I used to build treehouses.” Derek must still be awake because he huffs a small breath at the mention of Scott’s name. Admittedly, Stiles tells a lot of stories about Scott and the fun they used to have -- and the trouble they used to get into. “They weren’t much, at first, but we got better at it. My, um, my father helped.”

The bird plummets down and then swoops back up again, perhaps aloft on some unseen current. Derek shifts around and places a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. The tears hold back and Stiles continues.

“We could do that. A treehouse. Up in the hills a bit but near the lagoon. It would have to be so, so strong. And lashed, somehow, to the branches. But we can figure it out.”

“Stiles. It sounds a little. . . “ 

That tone of voice is so annoying, especially coming from Derek. The tone of grownups, telling you it can’t be done. “Our houses keep blowing over, Derek. Like the three little pigs. The trees could shield us from the wind, and if we’re up high we don’t have to worry about getting flooded.”

Derek pulls back abruptly and sits up. Stiles does the same and turns to face him. Derek looks older, and angrier. He has every day since Peter disappeared.

“How could we begin to do that? A treehouse? Peter wouldn’t--”

“Peter is dead!” Stiles yells, jumping to his feet in the sand. He glares at Derek just as Derek stands to glare back, his hands clawing at the air as if to ball into fists. “He left us! And he’s dead! And if we keep making those stupid little shacks we’ll die! I don’t care if it sounds crazy, or impossible, we can do it! And we could have gone to the islet, too! Peter isn’t here anymore to tell us what we can’t do, Derek!”

For a moment Stiles is sure Derek is going to hit him. Derek, his favorite cousin, his protector. And although his fists are now balled and his face has gone red with anger, instead he drops to his knees.

Stiles watches helplessly as Derek grits his teeth and screw his eyes shut and lets out what can only be described as a howl.

***

They find several groves of catalpa trees. Only when they find the oldest, tallest and closest together grouping does Derek nod his head in acquiescence. Stiles is pleased at the choice because the have the twistiest, swirliest trunks. He says that. But Stiles liked any of the groupings, had good things to say about all of them.

After that, his instincts are better. Once he has permission, Stiles’ natural predilection for pinpoint focus comes to the fore. He spends days scouting fallen wood, which isn’t that difficult because of the storms. He also scavenges most of the wall Peter kept the marks on and he adds a couple for the storms he can remember the approximate dates of.

“We’ll see if there’s a pattern,” he tells Derek sagely, as Derek puts his back into tying hitch knots into thick, splintering rope. The splinters are immediately rejected. Stiles still doesn’t notice.

 When will his claws come in, Derek wonders. When will that change begin? When will Stiles notice?

“Because if there’s a pattern,” Stiles says, “storm season or something, you know, we can fortify before it comes.”

“If we don’t blow off the branches,” Derek says. He tosses the rope to fall across a low thick branch, then throws himself to the sand when it misses and comes falling back down.

Stiles laughs, high and clear.

They get into a rhythm of climbing trees, hoisting wood. They get a bottom frame tentatively assembled, start to put down a floor. Derek’s neck is often sore for hours before his healing is complete. Stiles has wood pulp under all his fingernails from scraping the sides of various branches to see if they’re too rotted for good support.

He tells stories throughout the process. A lot of them involve Scott or Stiles nearly concussing themselves on a branch; in one John Stilinski actually catches Stiles in his arms as he falls headfirst out of a maple. Derek’s favorite, one he actually makes Stiles tell again and again, is how Scott came face to face with a sparrow’s nest. He nearly smacked it to the ground, but then whispered Stiles to his side and they watched as the two sparrows came and went with twigs and leaves. Stiles would have liked to build their own treehouse right there as planned so they could see the eggs laid and hatched, but Scott insisted on leaving them be.

Derek thinks he might have liked Scott.

It takes a month, but a new home starts to take shape. Stiles comes alive in a way he never was when Peter was there. It’s very odd. Stiles never disliked Peter, was amused by him sometimes and found him stern and strange others. But it’s like all of sudden he is a grownup, or a child playing very convincingly at being one.

They have a frame, and then they have walls. The house is larger than Derek thought they could manage. The roof will take a while to complete. It’s the kind of detailed work Stiles loves and Derek hates, but Derek knows Stiles will eventually goad him into it.

“Can we have two beds?” Derek blurts out. It’s midday and they’ve gorged themselves on jackfruit. Derek feels uncomfortably full, still. Stiles is walking up and down alongside the piles of leaves and branches and string they’ve gathered for possible roofing. He’s frowning slightly, tugging at his hair now and then as he examines the materials. It’s not right yet. Derek is more than sure Stiles will let him know when it is.

Stiles looks up at him sharply.  “If you want.” He’s trying to look unaffected but Derek sees the gloss of hurt in his eyes. “Why?”

Why? Where to start. Derek’s body is changing, even if not in the wolf sense. His voice makes odd noises out of his control. He knows he's gotten stronger, better at lifting and throwing the spear when he fishes. More hair on his legs and face. And around his. . . manhood, God, even thinking it makes him wince. And other things are happening at night. Dreams. They’re vague, but in them he’s being touched about the face and shoulders by beautiful women, beautiful men. Sometimes he embraces them and they hold him sweetly in return. Recently, in one, a boy Derek didn’t recognize kissed him and kissed him on the deck of the lost ship under the moonlight. And he woke up to wet, sticky pants and Stiles snoring obliviously beside him.

Why?

“We have the room, now,” Derek says. “I thought it would be nice. And you’re alway saying I snore like a bear, like you’re one to talk.”

Stiles ducks down to hide a smirk and kicks at the leaves, then kneels down to spread them out again. “Alright,” he says. “You have a point. I’ve tired of your incessant rumbling. Just. . when there’s a storm. . . “


“Of course,” Derek says, and exhales.

Chapter Text

Stiles isn’t careful at all. He runs from the treehouse into the jungle, Derek’s bitter yell chasing him until he can’t hear it anymore. He doesn’t bring a knife or a canteen, he’s barely clothed. A small, practical part of him knows he should bring a bucket for mollusks or something to bundle fruit in but he doesn’t care.

He doesn’t goddamn care.

At the lip of the lagoon, panting from having run so far at such a pace, he forgoes the stone steps that naturally descend down. In his head, Derek is chastising him, as always, not to run so fast so close to the lagoon. He could slip. He could fall. You idiot. Be careful.

He approaches the waterfall, the rushing crash blocking out any other sounds around him. It’s like entering the current of his own rage.

Goddamn Derek.

He dives.

The water hits hard against his shoulders and chest as he goes in. He’s not graceful like Derek, who can slice through air and water like a seabird going for fish. But Stiles isn’t the flailing mess of limbs Derek makes him out to be either.

The length of his arms and legs, of his torso, it scares him sometimes. His body started stretching in earnest a few months ago and it doesn’t seem like it intends to stop. He doesn’t see himself in it, doesn’t see his parents either. Not the Hales and certainly not Derek. They’re nothing alike. Nothing.

Underwater, Stiles pushes right past schools of angelfish, which glimmer silver in the softened light. Three long strokes and he surfaces for air just on the other side of the waterfall, just as he intended.

In the cavern behind the waterfall, there is a small expanse of flat rock where he and Derek have sat before in good company, enjoying the beauty of the falls and the strange feeling of such a special, secret place. Now, Stiles strips off his undershorts, the only item he bothers with lately in the heat of the day, and tosses them to the side, with a squelch.

The flat rock is slippery cool beneath his back and he glances down at himself as his breathing slows down. His chest rises and falls and the skin seems almost like webbing over the outline of his sternum, the flash of ribs he can see on the inhale. He still doesn’t have any hair on his chest, like Derek does now, or much on his face, like Derek. Derek tired of shaving sometime last year and now he keeps his beard neat for the most part but it’s a beard, like a man. Derek looks like a man.

Derek, Derek, Derek. Stupid goddamn Derek.

Stiles runs both his hands over his face and screeches into them as loud as he can. Then he sits up, dropping his hands. The rock is wet and smooth enough that he can just push off and slide to the edge farthest from the waterfall, dangling his feet into the lagoon.  His back is still shaded by the cavern but sunlight plays lightly along his legs. He stares off into the water and listens to the rushing falls behind him.

It’s hard to even remember what exactly they were fighting about because they fight all the time now. Derek didn’t like his idea for another platform on the treehouse because Derek never likes his ideas even though they all work . Mostly. There was that sleeping porch that nearly killed them. And the accidental war with the monkeys. So two ideas didn’t work but they have a beautiful home and they’re safe. They’ve weathered typhoons without losing a wall and they’ve made it two more years and all Derek does is yell at him. For being clumsy, and reckless and too talkative. For tripping and knocking things over and being useless.

Derek maybe doesn’t love him anymore.

Stiles’ eyes catch on the one place on his body that does have hair, a strange spot that starts below his navel and travels into his, his place down there. His prick, the word is prick. At least that’s the schoolboy word he and Scott giggled over years ago and later James said it once or twice but Derek never did. The word made Derek’s ears red.

There’s a more medical word, Stiles is sure, in that big medical volume that they found in one of the trunks. The problem is finding it again. It got packed up when they moved the trunk into the treehouse, had only been out in the first place to make sure it was dry and free of mold. It seemed boring and impenetrable when they were younger but Stiles was desperate to find it and try to make sense of it. How to do that and not be found out by Derek was the problem. Especially lately. Derek seemed to do nothing but eye him suspiciously if he wasn’t calling him an idiot.

There’s some hair around his prick, on his sack, a thing that doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than hurting like hell when you accidentally get hit there. And then there’s his prick. Swollen again, at least partly, and Stiles doesn’t know why. It happens sometimes, when he’s eating or waking up or digging up greens or searching for seashells to decorate their home. It happens sometimes too, when he’s looking at Derek. Or angry at Derek. Or both.

He gingerly runs one finger up his length and feels that feeling again. It almost hurts, it feels so good, and his prick swells further.

Derek’s not here, he thinks. The hell with Derek.

He wraps his hand around himself fully and cries out from the sensation. His sounds are gathered up in the waterfall and the birds above.

Derek.

***

They have a home now. Not just a shack against the elements or a temporary measure. It’s really and truly a home.

The house is so strong. Derek walks around the cluster of tree trunks that support the foundation. He and Stiles have been reinforcing it and adding on to it for two years now and they’re just at the point where they could keep doing it, as a safety measure, but maybe they don’t have to. Maybe they’re safe.

That’s almost frightening in a way.

They might not be alive if it weren’t for Stiles, and that’s frightening, too. Stiles was stubborn and adamant about the treehouse and some of his ideas were frankly insane, the fanciful imaginings of a precociously intelligent child. A greenhouse, a slide from the top floor to the ground. Derek vetoed those and Stiles didn’t take that well to say the least. But for the most part, Stiles was able to recall all the lessons he learned about building, either from trial and error with Scott or his father’s advice. Then he took those lessons and added on to them, adapted them.

Derek climbs their main ladder, ropes and slats, and pulls himself up to stand in the doorway. It took awhile to see the beauty in this place but now that’s all he sees. The first floor has tall open windows with shutters that lock to the walls on the inside. It lets them control the crossbreeze, and they can shut them all against storms. There are even additional outside shutters they can close ahead of a storm coming for extra protection, with ropes that can be thrown out of each one in a pinch. Derek had to cut the slats because Stiles was not at all precise with that sort of thing nor someone you could trust not to somehow cut himself on the back of the neck while cutting wood. But the idea, the design, the sketches in dirt, the painstaking work of attaching each slat so it lined up correctly, that was Stiles.

Stiles is everywhere in here.

Derek itches for something to do. Strangely, life has been more difficult in some respects since they added on the second floor loft and completed the latest furniture projects. They focused their efforts on survival, and then, as things became more stable, on reaping better and better results with their wits and hard work and the materials they had on hand. Now, without that focus, things have grown tense between them, if not contentious.

Stiles is changing. His body is changing and it’s discomfiting. Derek went through his changes on his own and it was lonely sometimes, and alarming, but this is worse. He knows what is happening to Stiles but Stiles doesn’t mention it and Derek can’t mention it but he’s so curious. Is Stiles having the dreams? Will his voice deepen? What will happen to them when Stiles is truly no longer a child?

His single cot is kept in a small alcove off the main area that is shrouded with lengths of strung-together shells. Stiles has a similar one on the other side of the domain, and up in the loft is a large, wide bed meant for them to share on cold nights. Heat rises, they’ve learned. It’s always warmer up there.

Beneath Derek’s cot is a small pouch refashioned from old boots by Peter, years ago, and in the pouch are some pieces of wood and a small penknife. They are innocuous enough that Stiles wouldn’t have reason for suspicion should he stumble across them -- or hunt under Derek’s bed for secrets, which Derek wouldn’t really put past him.  

He walks to the dining table. It’s really an everything table but there’s no word for that, so it’s the dining table. Stiles reads his Bible there, often out loud to Derek, and they both do small handcrafts. Sometimes they prepare food there for drying or eating and they have some rudimentary games they’ve made that, Derek supposes, they might have more occasions to use now.

Derek takes a canteen from its peg and shakes it. It’s about half full of water so he takes a long sip, then sits on one of the stools and puzzles over his wood, arranging and rearranging it in slightly different shapes. It’s been a long time since he’s seen a rowboat, so the ideas he has are guesswork but he needs to work this out soon. He’s fifteen and several months now, four, he thinks. His human changes are complete. But his wolf change is late.

Peter never really explained to him what happens, only that he would explain it when Derek was old enough and then Peter was lost to them. When he was younger, well, it was never discussed. Never. He understood that grownups did that, became the wolves they were all meant to be. His mother told him that his wolf was in his heart and it would be ready to come out when he grew up. He thought maybe his father had started telling James the secrets. James had been fourteen when the fire happened, so maybe he was already showing signs.

But he didn’t know how it happened or what happened. Adults were supposed to help you through it, when it was time, and here Derek was now with no adults and no information and no pack. Peter had made it clear that an adult wolf with no pack could be dangerous. To children.

To Stiles.

He has to get back to the islet, for Stiles’ own protection, when the signs start to show.

His penknife scores the insides of his boat’s sides easily and Derek thinks he can see how to attach a bench to sit on. It might be time to fit the pieces together and then he can try to float it in some water. Maybe in the lagoon, if he can find a way to go without Stiles at his heels.

Stiles. Derek has been ghastly to him recently. He knows that. But he’s everywhere and underfoot and never stops talking. And he’s taller. And he smells like. . .

He smells like he’s growing up. He smells like. . .

Derek puts the knife down on the table and glances over at the strings of shells that sequester Stiles’ cot. Before he knows it, he’s on his feet, walking shakily toward it. He parts the strands of the curtain he and Stiles strung and knotted together and glares down at the mattress. It’s the same as his. It’s not like there’s anything to find here. But he kneels down upon the frayed wool blanket and runs his hand over the double-wrapped muslin beneath. He lays himself down in the cot and begins to tremble -- this feels like a trespass. They’ve slept together upstairs before, clinging to each other against the cold, and when they were younger, of course. But this is different, this is wrong, it’s --

Derek inhales deeply against the mattress and he smells it. Beneath all the familiar and everyday is something else, deep like the sea. Stiles has touched himself here, has spent here, in this bed. Recently. He can smell it.

He clutches at the sheets as pain rips through his jaw. It feels like he’s been struck in the face with a hatchet.

He muffles his scream into the mattress, and his fangs descend.

Chapter Text

The moon is not completely full but it’s nearly so, swollen and edged in mist. Derek feels it in a different way, like a pull in the pit of his stomach. He’d embrace the moon if he could, now.

The blood on his gums is washed away. His fangs retracted on their own. Sitting here now on the deck of the treehouse, he concentrates. On the moon and on the bones in his face. He runs his hands over and over all the places he knows will change -- his ears, his forehead. They will shift into different shapes soon. Bones beneath his face will shift and lock, muscles will swell and cartilage will elongate. He concentrates on his teeth, his gums, and the moon.

The tips of the fangs poke back through so suddenly at first Derek thinks he’s imagined it. The pain is less than the first time, but still enough to make him throw his hands back into the tree trunk and grip it tightly, breathing harshly through his mouth so as not to make more noise. The fangs keep pushing out and out slowly, and stop at about halfway. He doesn’t taste the tang of blood this time so perhaps there’s passages for those teeth now that they’ve broken through? Somewhere in the shaving kit is a small compact mirror. Maybe he can manage a way to examine his mouth in the morning.

Derek runs his tongue slowly over the tips, carefully, so not to slice it open. One thing he has heard is that these are the teeth of a predator, like a lion or a bear. They’re weapons. And they’re in his mouth. He laughs quietly to himself. It seems so ludicrous, but here it is. He’s becoming a wolf.

And Stiles is in danger, because of him.

Stiles is fast asleep upstairs in the house while Derek sits at the foot of one of the trees beneath and considers the possibilities. Stiles, of course, has diligently kept track of the moon’s phases on their calendar and has made something of a case for the belief that it affects the tides, but the correlation isn’t perfect. Still, he’s been tracking them, because he tracks everything. Derek hasn’t been paying that much attention, because, Derek muses now, he is an imbecile. The full moon is a couple of days away, Derek estimates, and his other changes may start soon. Claws, then facial hair and then his full body.

He can’t hide this for long. The fact that he hid the blood in his mouth from Stiles is a minor miracle. While it’s tempting to think he could just make Stiles mad enough to drive him away for a few hours every time his body threatens to spill its secrets, Stiles would notice that quickly. He looks for patterns and anomalies.

Within a few more minutes, breathing deeply and watching the glow of the moon, Derek feels the fangs slide back into his gums, curling up beneath like they were never there. He stands up and leans his neck to one side, then the other, hearing the crack inside his own head.  He feels like everything is becoming more sensitized within his own body. His senses have always been strong because of his lineage but now strong is no longer the word for it. He can hear Stiles breathing up above him, can hear the blood coursing in his veins. Derek feels the shake of his body’s inner workings like typhoons have been set spinning underneath his own surface.

This is just going to get worse. So much worse.

The dirt path is cool beneath his feet as he walks. Around halfway to the juncture he seeks, Derek realizes he’s broken into a full run. He’s not sure when that started.

Even in the darkness, the moon lights a clear path for him to the islet. All he knows is he has to get away from here before he harms Stiles, or worse. So he wades into the water, tripping past the first line of shells, then pushes through knee-deep. Within moments he is swimming, reaching for another shore, hopefully leaving behind all the pain he could cause.

***

Something is very wrong.

That’s all Stiles knows when he bolts upright in his bed. Even before he fully comes to, he knows Derek is gone. When he scrambles to the window, he just catches the back of Derek jogging out of sight, heading toward the east side of the island.

Toward the islet?

Stiles flies out of bed and pounces to the rope in nearly one leap, slips down with rope fibers splintering into his palms despite all the oil and elbow grease they’ve put into it. Ignoring it, he runs.

The next time he sees Derek, it’s just his bobbing head, the suggestion of the motion of his arms and legs as he gets further and further away.

Despite the fact that he is nearly convulsed with fear, Stiles jumps in.

He counts the strokes and immediately wishes he knew how many it will take to get the to the islet so he could count backward. The sea is cold beyond anything he can remember, in England or Maine, or even the night they wrecked. It is hard to keep track of his own body. The freezing depth of the sea seems to dissolve him, consume him, until his own limbs are indiscernable from the endless cold.

He can’t see Derek anymore. He thinks his name over and over, like earlier today under circumstances so absurdly different that Stiles might laugh if he weren’t in the middle of realizing this might be the night he dies.

His father is. . . at his mother’s bedside and she is pale as always. She and the overcast sky have almost no contrast. The look his parents give one another is painful for Stiles to witness. Love and hopelessness. The bedclothes seem stiff and puffed out around her. Stiles. . .

. . . has his hand at the chin of a black mare, balanced on the wooden fence while Derek feeds her an apple. James stands at the foot of the fence and Stiles had insisted he’s not a baby, he doesn’t need James to hold him up, and James smiled indulgently. The truth is it feels better knowing James is there, just in case. The mare’s coat is smooth beneath Stiles’ hand and she is shockingly calm and gentle. . .

. . .it’s the softest breeze imaginable inside the treehouse. Stiles darts excitedly from one thing to the next, explaining everything to Scott as they go. How he and Derek made the shutters, and how the pegs the cooking pots hang from are anchored into the walls. Scott stops and passes his hand over the small, carved stone wolf that Peter gave to Derek years ago. It stands guard just inside the doorway. “It’s a beautiful home, Stiles,” he says. . .

. . . Stiles. . .

“Stiles.”

Breath heaves into his lungs of it’s own accord and here he is, knees down in the sand, again. They’ve shipwrecked again, they’ve landed again, it’s another memory, only--

“Stiles, thank God, Stiles.”

Derek is across his back, arms wrapped around Stiles’ chest and as his awareness of the surroundings reawakens, Stiles feels that his body is nearly convulsing. From cold, from shock. He was in there, down deep in the waters. Derek is here. Derek must have seen him and pulled him out. Derek.

“You’re alright. You’ll be alright.”

“You left me,” Stiles whispers. It’s wrong. He should say thank you or ask Derek what's wrong with him but it’s as if the last of his propriety sank to the sea floor while he was drowning and all that’s left is how he really feels.

“I’m sorry,” Derek says and his body is searing with heat. It hurts. Stiles tries to twist away from him but Derek just holds on tighter and they fall together against the damp shoreline.

“No,” Stiles says, but it’s weak, and he doesn’t entirely mean it. He knows Derek is still trying to save him.

“Shh,” Derek says and they curl together like that as Stiles gasps in more air and eventually shivers himself to sleep.

***

The darkness has the suggestion of dawn within it when Derek wakes, still attached to Stiles like a barnacle. He peels away as carefully as he can and moves back a few paces, to gather his thoughts.

They are both exhausted and hungry so Derek should probably go scout for food and how, Derek thinks, how could Stiles be so stupid as to follow him?

“How could I be so stupid? Me ?”

Derek snaps his gaze up to find Stiles, very awake and pulling himself up to stand, managing of course to trip over his own feet and nearly fall on top of Derek. He catches and rights himself, brushing sand from his hair and chest, and Derek is certain he didn’t say anything out loud just now.

“I didn’t--”

“You came out here in the middle of the night, to a place you have always told me we’re forbidden to go! Have you been coming here all along?”

“No! And stop yelling at me, you idiot--”

“I’m not the idiot!”

“You almost died!” Derek yells at the top of his lungs and Stiles staggers back. Derek feels a sick, preening satisfaction that at last he has shut Stiles up, if only for this moment. At last Stiles is listening to him.

“I would have been fine, Stiles. I would have been here and back when I was ready, unlike you--”

Go to hell!” Stiles says. He’s regained himself and then some, looking Derek right in the eye. They’re the same height, almost, Derek realizes, and for some reason that’s just awful.

And then Stiles turns and starts to stomp off.

“Where are you going?”

“Home!” Stiles screams, throwing his arms up over his head. He looks completely deranged, even from the back.

“You can’t swim across any better now than you could last night!” Derek calls to him. He won’t go after him and indulge this petulance, he won’t. “Don’t be stupid!”

“And again, I say, go to hell! I’ll find the goddamn rowboat! You obviously don’t need me, or care if you die here and never come back, so I guess I don’t need you either!”

The sun is breaking on the horizon and Derek looks back at the island, their island. It seems such a short distance away and last night, to be honest, he wasn’t sure he’d make it across. It took all the strength he had and the conviction that he was doing the right thing. Then, just as his feet could touch sand beneath the waves again, he'd heard Stiles cry out his name and turned just in time to see him go under.

Stiles, who is now frozen in his tracks at the shoreline. Derek takes off without thinking and when he reaches him, before he can ask, he sees it, too. It's lying beneath a small copse of trees, far enough from shore that it is probably untouched by the tides.

“Come on,” Derek hears his own voice say. Slowly, with Stiles trailing right behind him, he walks forward until he reaches it. After a taking a long breath, Derek squats down beside what is certainly a human skeleton.

“Derek,” Stiles says and Derek can only close his eyes. Stiles, who was screaming bloody murder at him a minute ago, and maybe rightly so, sounds uncertain and frightened as a child.

“It’s alright,” Derek says. It’s reflexive now. He says it so often and almost never believes it. He hopes Stiles doesn’t know.

“Is it Peter?”

The skeleton is propped against the tree at a strange angle. It doesn’t look like it was sitting up exactly, nor like someone placed it here. The head is nearly ninety degrees from the neck. The bones look like sea-worn stone, or bleached, weathered wood. The bones in the hand have little separations along the fingers and at base where the fingers meet the palm. Derek raises his own hand alongside it and flexes it, looking carefully at the bones.

This must be Peter. And this is how they’re made.

“I think so,” Derek says and his own voice sounds very small. There’s a hand on his shoulder, briefly, and then Stiles moves away. He comes to sit in front of Derek, to the side of Peter’s remains.

“What happened to him?” Stiles asks. He ducks his head down, peering at the skull, eyes searching. Derek’s not sure how he manages to stay so composed. His own attention is caught by the sloping curve of ribcage. He fits his hands around his own ribs, and feels them expand and contract with the mechanism of his breath.

“I don’t know. The neck isn’t right. Maybe he broke it.”

“Or someone snapped it,” Stiles says. He traces a line in the air just above a segment of skull. “There’s a thin crack here, so maybe he hit his head?”

“There’s no flesh,” Derek says. His hands are frozen in midair, as if to touch the skeleton or push it away, he’s not sure.

“I know,” Stiles says gently.

“There’s no eyes,” Derek says and his own guts seize up then and there. What happened? Did his corpse rot or, or, was it picked over by birds, or? Derek chokes on air, on bile, the hands of ghosts seeming to constrict around his throat.

When he’s calmed somewhat, on his hands and knees in the sand, Stiles speaks again.

“I need you to look at this,” he says.

Derek heaves a sigh, spits into the sand once, then again, clearing his mouth of his own putrid fear. When he looks up, Stiles is facing the skeleton, reaching a hand behind himself to signal for Derek to draw near.

Together, they look inside the mouth of the skeleton of their dead uncle, dead by what means they do not know. Very deliberately, Stiles raises a finger and moves it back past the first row of teeth. He runs his fingertip over the second partial row behind it. A row of fangs.  

Chapter Text

Stiles cocks his head to one side and then the other, examining the jawbone. There are two elongated teeth on one side of the bottom row, behind the normal teeth. A space is next to it, like one might have fallen out. When he draws his finger back, he knocks out a human tooth on the upper left just by brushing past it. He stares at the space for a moment as an involuntary shudder runs up his body, belly to throat.

“There aren’t any gums anymore,” he says, mostly to himself. “So. . . there’s nothing left to hold the teeth there.” Derek says nothing behind him and Stiles ducks down so his chest touches his thighs. Looking up, behind the scattered remains of the human teeth, there are at least two more fangs.

He straightens up and carefully stretches one hand out to touch the bone of the forearm. It’s dry and smooth. It almost has a little give to it, like timber, but not exactly.

“Maybe this isn’t Peter,” Stiles says.

From behind him, Derek clears his throat.

“It’s Peter,” he says.

Stiles turns on his knees and sits in the sand. Derek is right there, so close and pale in a way that seems almost feverish. He grinds his jaw for a moment, opens and closes his eyes. Stiles just waits.

“Please. Please Stiles, just, stay calm,” Derek says gravely and then clenches his eyes shut. His brow furrows and he grabs at his knees, his whole body going tight and still. Stiles is about to go to him when Derek opens his eyes and opens his mouth, deliberately. It seems nonsensical, and then Stiles sees them.

Fangs. Like the ones on the corpse. Reaching toward him from within Derek’s mouth.

“What is this?” he asks. His voice sounds like it’s underwater and his breathing is spotty but he wills himself to stay focused. The teeth are continuing to extend, slowly, and then they stop as if they can’t go any further. He looks up to Derek’s eyes and sees deep creases in his forehead, as if this action has taken all his concentration and strength.

“What. . . “ Stiles tries. He swallows against the sudden dryness in his throat. “Derek, what are you?”

Within a moment, Derek’s mouth is just Derek’s mouth again, and Derek himself grasps Stiles’ hands before he can think to pull away.

“My family,” he begins. “We’re different, most of us. Not my father, nor your mother,  but everyone else. Peter. My mother.” A blush begins to push across his features. “And now, me. It just started.”

“Different. . . how?” Stiles asks.

Derek sighs. “We’re called shapeshifters. We, well, we change.”

“Your teeth change,” Stiles says carefully.

“Not just that,” Derek admits.

Stiles pulls his hands from Derek’s grasp and places them on his own knees, facing Derek head on. “Alright,” he says. “What, then?”

“Our features change. Our bodies and, and our minds. We become, well, we become -- this is going to sound mad,” he says and gets up as if to walk away but Stiles throws himself forward and grabs at his wrist.

“No,” he says. “No, you ran from me once already, and now you’re going to explain this properly.”

Derek stares at him incredulously, like he can’t believe Stiles’ nerve, but he continues. “We’re wolves. We become wolves. Like them, anyway.”

Stiles lets go of Derek’s wrist and to his own shock does not reel back or vomit or any of the other reactions that it seems, within his mind’s eye, that might be rational to have right now.

“Fine,” he says.

“Fi-- Stiles, ” Derek says. He turns round himself in a circle as if he can’t decide which way to go and then comes to stand at the feet of Peter’s skeleton. Suddenly he turns and grabs Stiles by the shoulders, yanking him forward to stand next to him, holding him in place as much as he can as Stiles tries to wriggle from his grasp.

“Hey!”

“We’re creatures, Stiles! Or monsters, even. Peter came here, every month, every full moon, to change so he wouldn’t hurt us. So he wouldn’t hurt you! You can’t just say, you can’t. . . “

Stiles still beneath Derek’s grip but his body is taut. He looks and looks at the skeleton, at Peter, and then closes his eyes. Stiles brings his hands to lay atop Derek’s where they still clutch at his shoulders. Derek’s hands seem searing hot.

“I can say and think whatever I want, Derek,” he says. “I agree this seems mad. It is mad. But you are my family, and so was Peter. And I say it’s fine.”

***

They leave Peter behind. The idea leaves Derek uneasy, but given that they don’t know if anyone else has been here and would notice if the skeleton had been moved, it is the best idea. Stiles’ idea.

A small group of birds run past along the shore on spindly legs, darting to and fro. Stiles chuckles under his breath and then glances sheepishly at Derek, as if to see if his laughter is unwelcome under the circumstances. Derek pinches at his nose, kicks slightly at the sand, but keeps walking.

“So, he came every full moon?”

“Yes, Stiles,” Derek says again.

“And, what did he do? Just run around and howl? Kill prey?

“I--I don’t really know, actually. Wolf change for us is like other matters of discretion. It’s just not talked about until it’s time. It’s considered impolite.”

Stiles seems to mull this over for a bit as they continue East. While Peter told Derek of various features of the islet, he never drew a map or explained it in any detail.

Derek thinks about the other things he could tell Stiles, long-ago things. That his mother and eventually Laura changed on full moons but it was festive, like a Christmas with extended relatives. Sometimes Derek and his siblings would go along and have a fine dinner and games with one or another family’s relatives or house staff, while the adults did. . . whatever it was they did. After Stiles came to stay with them, it was just simpler for the younger children to stay home with Thomas at the Hale house. Derek tries to remember now what the excuse was to Stiles. Some kind of monthly ladies’ society event, exactly the sort of ruse that would bore Stiles immediately.

“He was coming other times, at the end, not just the full moon,” Stiles muses, drawing Derek back out of his thoughts.

“More frequently, yes,” Derek admits. “I don’t know why. I honestly don’t.”

“I believe you,” Stiles murmurs but his attention is captured by an opening between the trees that seems too large to just be a natural parting. Stiles turns on his heel and grabs the edge of Derek’s shorts to reorient him to the new direction.

“Stiles, we were looking for the rowboat,” Derek protests.

“Yes, and now we’re seeing where this goes,” he replies, and to be honest, it’s a terrible idea, Derek just knows it, but he has nothing left within him with which to fight Stiles right now. So even when Stiles ceases tugging him along, he follows.

Together they pick their way through this new jungle, and the path remains obvious for a good five minute walk. Derek looks curiously at the plants and trees on either side of the path, how the slender, makeshift road they walk is dotted here and there with bits of foliage or a fallen branch but for the most part it’s clear and the earth seems packed. Now and then a plant seems bent back as if recoiling, but nothing appears hacked away or cleared. Not recently, anyway.

Overhead, parrots converse with each other just as they do on Derek and Stiles’ home island. It’s strange how similar things are here and yet this place seems to change them by the minute. They don’t speak as they go. Derek tries to focus straight ahead and not on the slope of Stiles’ neck or the determination of his stride. Not on the things still unsaid between them and the things Derek knows he will soon have to explain, whether or not he can force the words to his tongue.

The light filters in so gradually that Derek almost doesn’t notice it at first. As the sun begins to glint in his eyes he realizes they’ve either reached the other side of the islet or there’s some kind of a clearing ahead. Stiles turns back to him.

“There’s something here,” he says.

***

It’s a very curious place.

There are flat stones in a circle that have been worked hard into the dirt and fitted together so closely that they seem like a patch of cobblestone street. Upon this sort of plaza there are three chairs. Bigger than chairs. They’re almost like thrones, Stiles thinks. Also carved of stone. One is low enough for Stiles to sit down in, one a little higher. The third, the one in the middle, is high enough that he would have to hoist himself into it.

“Stiles,” Derek says, in a voice that is somehow a very loud whisper. Stiles spins back and knocks into the side of one of the thrones, then nearly crashes into the one on the left as he tries to escape.

“Stiles,” Derek hisses. Stiles tries to still himself but he skin is still pricking with the shocks of having slammed himself about. He places a hand on the arm of the middle throne and then pulls back immediately from what feels like a spark beneath his palm.

Derek doesn’t seem to notice if his general look of consternation is anything to go by. He remains on the outskirt of the circle, glancing warily into the trees that surround them.

“Be careful,” he says and while that is usually the source of Stiles’ every moment of rage, he is not affected as usual. Instead he nods back, deep and slow, and continues to pace around the three thrones, examining them. There’s not much to them, and yet they seem regal, almost. At the base of one of them there appears to be slight traces of paint, or maybe a dye, that stains a dark, muddied kind of blue.

Stiles steps back a few paces and takes in the sight of them all together, and then he approaches Derek, who hasn’t moved.

“What do you think it is?” Derek asks, low in his ear. Stiles’ skin prickles at that, even though there is no sign of cold in the air.

“I don’t know,” he says. “But it feels like. . . I don’t know, Derek, like a holy place.”

Derek purses his lips and cocks his head slightly at the thrones, but doesn’t add anything.

“Did Peter tell you anything about this?”

Derek shakes his head. “No, but he did say there was evidence there had been a civilization here once. I was never really sure if it was true, or just something he said to keep me wary of the place. He made it seem like maybe people could still be here.”

“Nobody lives here, I don’t think,” Stiles says. He crouches down on the ground and looks along that new sightline, in case he could find something new. “There’s no signs of anyone having been here recently. Oh.”

“What?” Derek says, and crouches down beside him.

“There’s a bowl, there,” Stiles says, pointing to the general area of the thrones. “Stone, like everything else, it looks like.”

“The little wolf,” Derek says. He puts his hands on his knees as if to fix his balance. “Peter brought that from here. Maybe he found it near here.”

“Maybe,” Stiles says. His stomach begins to claw at him from within, and Derek must hear it because he obviously tries to suppress a smile. Stiles glares to cover his shame, and Derek rises.

“Come,” he says, and extends his hand down to Stiles. “We should find some food and then make our way home.”

Stiles gets to his feet and brushes his knees off. He eyes Derek critically. “You’re not going to run off again?”

Derek looks as if he’s about to say something, but then he only shakes his head. He seems almost sad. It’s not until they discover the rowboat back near where the sand becomes finer that Derek speaks again. The boat is weathered and cracked, but it seems basically intact and there’s even still an oar inside.

“We need to talk, when we get home,” Derek says. “We need a plan.”

They haven’t really talked in some time, Stiles thinks. He looks at Derek, infuriating and beautiful and protective and, maybe for the first time since they came here, vulnerable. A man who can shift into a predator, a man not in control of his own body, and that, surprisingly, does make Derek so vulnerable now.

“We’ll make one,” Stiles says. He knows what this is, the first time he’s assured Derek about anything. A first promise.

“We will,” Derek says and he looks out onto the lapping waves, searching for their entry point.

 

Chapter Text

Talia’s wolf face was just her wolf face. Derek can’t recall having ever not known it, or a moment when the transformation came as a shock. He mainly remembers her shifting while caring for Cora when she was small, so Cora could get used to it. It is likely that Talia did the same with all her children.

He can remember Cora’s small hands, smooth and plump, patting at their mother’s face as she read to them both, fairy tales mostly. She did the voices better as a wolf. There were times she shifted when she was stern, to make a point. Otherwise, Derek wasn’t exposed to his mother running in the moonlight, or meeting with other packs in Cheshire. At least one time she journeyed to London with Peter for a larger affair with wolves from all over England. All he remembers is the delight of the gifts they brought back with them: fairy floss and barley candies.

He tells Stiles these stories until he runs out of memories, which happens quicker than he would like. Probably quicker than Stiles would like, too. Derek can’t remember much about Laura’s transition. He was younger and it was probably kept from him and Cora due to their age and vulnerability. Maybe if the fire hadn’t happened and they hadn’t been parted, he would have learned more from his parents while James was being guided through his first shifts.

Instead, he has vague images that are mixed up with how much he misses his mother. He has the recollection of Peter explaining to him where wolfsbane grows on the island and enough remembrance of their early days here to undo the lie Peter told Stiles about it being poisonous to all of them. And he has the three trunks, which Stiles now scavenges for rope.

“I wish we had chains,” Derek mutters.

“I don’t,” Stiles says flatly. “So it’s a good thing we have the wolfsbane.”

His voice is muffled because he’s half in the trunk, just his legs sticking out. He arches his toes to shove in further. He looks ridiculous and Derek knows he should laugh and make a joke but instead the sight of nothing but those long legs leading up to Stiles’ ass makes the humor fade quickly. He knows he should avert his gaze but he doesn’t.

Stiles’ body has been changing. As of late, Derek has thought of him as coltish, like the horses they used to visit on his neighbors’ farm at home. He has seen newborns twice at least, invited for such occasions by the Kents. They were beautiful and silly at once, glossy with birth. They had long limbs but were unable to work those limbs correctly. Trippingly graceful, like Stiles. But Stiles continues to grow and he’s not quite that anymore. He’s something else.

Derek looks away and clears his throat. He feels at his cheekbones and ears with his fingers, moving quietly so as not to wrest Stiles’ attention from the trunk. Those will go next, they will elongate and move around. He doesn’t really understand how but from seeing how Peter’s skull looked back on the islet, it doesn’t appear that his bones will actually stretch and later retract. It can’t be like that. For some reason, that calms him. It seems less monstrous.

Stiles emerges from the trunk, throws some things to the floor, and then dives back in. From his seat on one of the benches they keep along the windows, Derek can see there’s rope, several lengths of it, a wad of canvas he doesn’t recall having seen before, and a couple of books or ledgers. The smell of the trunk is always strange, but even more so now as his sensitivities are heightened with the coming moon and his coming change. The wolfsbane is safely in a lidded jar.

“We should unpack everything. Things could start to rot in there. I could build some storage.”

Stiles pops back up with some sort of clamp. He is red faced and breathless.

“That’s a good idea. After we both don’t die tomorrow night, that can be next on our agenda.”

“Listen to me, Stiles,” Derek begins but Stiles cuts him off.

"I will until you say the word ‘idiot’. After that I’m done.”

Derek presses his teeth together against parted lips and breathes in harshly to keep from yelling. It astounds him that his fangs don’t just drop then and there. “Fine,” he says. “I just wanted to say that once you’ve coated the knots in wolfsbane, it should keep me from cutting through them. But if I do break the ropes and become unmanageable, or. . . or violent, Stiles.” Stiles continues to keep his gaze levelled cooly at Derek, but he visibly swallows. He places the clamp in his hands on the dining table and pulls out a chair across from Derek to sit down.

“Yes?” he says. His voice sounds rough, like he’s catching cold. Maybe it’s changing.

“If that happens. You’re a good distance runner but I’m faster, and I could be faster still when I change. So you won’t be able to outrun me.”

“Derek--”

Derek presses on. “I want to fashion something, like a spade, with what we have so if you need to you can knock me unconscious. Then you’ll have time to either tie me back up or run into the jungle.”

“That’s not necessary.”

“It could be necessary. Peter made it sound like I’ll take leave of my senses altogether. I could become wild.”

“We’ll have the rope. I can tie a good knot,” Stiles insists.

“If I hurt you, I won’t be able to live with myself. If I. . .” he tries to make himself say it, even just whisper it. If I kill you. But Stiles must hear it, because in the next moment he has risen from his chair and is kneeling at Derek’s feet, his overgrown hands firmly on Derek’s knees. Derek is so startled he falls silent.

“I won’t get hurt, Derek. I promise. Can you, can you just, decide you’ll believe me and let me take care of you, this once?”

The pulse thrumming in Derek’s ears, he realizes, is not his own, but Stiles’, acute and consistent in its rhythm. That means truth. His parents slyly chastised them all about Talia being able to hear a lie enough times for Derek to know that. It’s a heartbeat, Stiles’ heartbeat. And Derek can, it seems, now take it inside himself when he needs to. His senses are continuing to sharpen as the full moon grows near.

He still doesn’t believe, but hearing the truth of it for Stiles is enough for him to nod in acquiescence.

***

Derek is being ridiculous. Stiles is certain of this. Almost certain.

It is very odd, to say the least, to reconsider his time in England and the last few years in light of this new knowledge that he’s been living all the while among werewolves. Real werewolves. And he has a million questions, all of which he plans to ask in due time, multiple times, until Derek answers them.

Now, however, is another matter.

Now, he must focus his attention on the fact that he lived all that time among real werewolves and no harm came to him. They loved him, they teased him, they took care of him. He never knew, never even had an inkling, and Stiles knows himself well enough to admit he is the suspicious only child of a constable. If there had been a sign that he had been in danger, he would have seen it. Derek will never agree with that, so Stiles simply won’t tell him.

He is himself the evidence: werewolves can live with humans, even small children, without revealing themselves or harming them. Admittedly, he and Derek have no clue about how that is possible, but it is possible. So they will find the way through, because there is no other option available. Not one that Stiles will allow himself to think about.

The other thing Stiles can’t say to Derek:

Goddamn it, Peter.

The day of the full moon, Derek grows more restless by the hour. He becomes of no good use by mid-morning. As Stiles is considering what food to have available -- will Derek’s dietary needs be different as a wolf?-- Derek makes a wounded sound from his bed.

“What is it?” Stiles asks and darts to the bed.

The curtain is already tied back. Derek is lying on his side, facing away from Stiles. After a moment, without otherwise moving, he lifts his hand to the side of his head. He pushes his hair back from where it covers his ear. For a moment, Stiles expects he’s been hurt, that there will be blood. Instead, there is a sight that is hard to reconcile with reality, perhaps even more difficult than the fangs.

Derek’s ear is growing, the top of the shell of it stretching up and up as the shape resolves into a point. It’s a little disgusting to be honest, but Stiles steels himself and reaches out to tentatively place his hand on Derek’s shoulder. He flinches but doesn’t pull away or yell. His breathing is labored.

“Does it hurt?”

“It doesn’t feel good,” Derek replies, “but no, it isn’t painful. Does it--does it look terrible?”

“Um,” Stiles says. “It looks like your ears are pointy, Derek.” Stiles pulls his hand away and braces himself for an onslaught but instead Derek murmurs a reply.

“I remember my mother, like that,” he says and, after a breath, he turns over in his bed.

Stiles screams and starts back, waving his arms behind himself and stuttering to a stop when he doesn’t find a wall or anything behind him to halt his motion. Derek’s face, among all the other things happening to it, grows sour with anger.

“I’m sorry!” Stiles yells. “I’m sorry. It’s just surprising.”

The bones in Derek’s face seem to be moving, or something in his face is making his bones move. It would be fascinating if it weren’t concurring with Stiles’ breakfast rising to his throat.

He steals a look over at his own bed. Propped against it is a length of wood, maybe half his height, that he carved and smoothed down a bit. He can work on it more later, polish it and make it easier to hold. He can’t bring himself to attach anything metal to it like Derek requested, but he has it if he has to knock Derek out. If that’s enough.

He kneels by the bed and watches silently as Derek’s normal face returns, for now. Derek has a fine shiver running over his body, like an imitation of the fevers he never gets.

“How do you feel,” Stiles asks.

“Upset,” Derek spits out. “And like I really want to run.”

Stiles tugs lightly at his own hair and considers this. The running might actually be a good idea, but not if Derek doesn’t return in time, or can’t make himself return.

“We could tie you up now,” Stiles whispers.

Derek closes his eyes. “You should,” he whispers back.

The process takes hours. Stiles sits Derek beneath a tree close to the house and then moves everything outside; they’d determined it was too dangerous to try to stay in the house, lest Derek destroy it, or try to jump out the window, or any number of other things. Stiles loosely ties him with plain rope for now, just to keep him tethered in case the urge to run becomes some sort of compulsion. He’d meant to take Derek to catch fish, or at least gather some mollusks but time ran out too quickly. Peter had made it sound like wolves like to hunt when they’re shifted, but Stiles learned a long time ago those “rabbits” they ate on day one were some kind of rodent, and anyway neither of them have any recent experience with hunting. There are pheasants here, or something like them, and even ducks and geese at certain times of year. Perhaps they’ll learn to catch them and cook them, if Derek needs it, so even if he can’t hunt them he can eat something more like meat.

Derek actually falls asleep against the tree for a bit. Stiles takes the opportunity to tighten the ropes and then bind them over again and again until they are layered thick. He ties small pouches of wolfsbane all along them, until his fingers ache, and then he winds rotted, frayed canvas over that to lessen the possibiilty of Derek slicing them open. By the time he’s done, the sun is setting.

Stiles looks up to check on Derek and finds Derek looking back at him, shaking.

“How long have you been awake,” Stiles says.

“Don’t know,” Derek says and his mouth sounds like it has more teeth, like it’s full. There are no fangs yet but maybe something else is happening. “It’s getting harder to stay still.”

“Hopefully, you won’t have much choice,” Stiles tries to joke, but it isn’t funny. None of this is funny. Derek begins to loll his head back and forth like he can't help it, and Stiles runs back up to the house to get food and water and blankets.

Stiles keeps busy arranging these things at a distance, setting up a makeshift bedroll for himself although it is unlikely he will sleep tonight. At full dark, Derek has begun to murmur to himself.

“You can do this,” Stiles whispers. Derek stares into the trees but nods his head and that’s the last time he seems to hear Stiles. Soon after, he is humming, a mournful kind of song that has a tune and then none. Stiles devours some dried mango and several handfuls of nuts, doing everything he can to block out the sound as it moves from hum to whine.

Then the moon is high, and Derek pulls hard against the rope.

“It’s alright,” Stiles says, moving toward him. The air is moist, as if the sea is filtering a fine mist to them from the shoreline, and Derek growls and his face goes wild, completely wild. Everything Stiles has seen before and now the hair of an animal. Fur, really, everywhere. His forehead and cheek bones continue to stretch and Stiles cries out “It’s alright, Derek!” although surely, it is not.

He says it again and again, getting right up to where Derek sits bound and growling. He looks up at the moon, frantic, panting, and Stiles bends to touch him. Derek roars then and strains forward at him in reply, bearing down on the ropes as hard as he can. He must press hard against one of the wolfsbane pouches, because he practically screams and then pushes back against the tree trunk, keening and anguished. His skin sizzles for a moment and then seems to heal itself, as they hoped it would.

Stiles doesn’t approach him again. Instead, he sits on his bedroll, telling Derek it’s alright, long after he stops believing himself. He does this until the first moments of dawn. He holds the homemade bat in one hand, and the little stone wolf in the other.

Chapter Text

It’s hard, the morning after his first change, not to just run and run. Across the island, into the water. Away forever, where he never has to feel himself given over to the monster again. Where Stiles won’t have to see it.

Stiles is still asleep not far from where Derek watches, human again against the newly risen sun but still bound to the tree. Stiles himself looks like a cut rope, his body sprawled in sleep. One arm is thrown overhead and one leg is at what looks like a painful angle. He’s on his front. Now and then his ridiculous snore can be heard over the sounds of the island awakening. Derek can’t help but smile tiredly at it, even as smiling sends a new pang of distress through his heart.

Something rests beneath Stiles’ cheek, pushing it forward toward his closed eye. Upon closer inspection, Derek can see it’s the little stone wolf.

Derek relaxes back against the tree. The skin of his back feels fragile against the bark. It’s as if he can feel every pore and every hair on his body, too sensitive and unprotected in this human skin. He feels the difference between human and wolf acutely now, and yet he can’t clearly remember much of what happened last night. It’s a strange meld of foggy pain and sharp observations, his body going on without him. And Stiles: so, so afraid.

When Derek opens his eyes again, Stiles is sitting very close, studying the ropes with their canvas. He holds Derek’s own knife in his hand. The little wolf is nowhere to be seen.

“Good morning,” Stiles murmurs, not meeting Derek’s eyes. “Are you ready?”

Stiles cuts away the ropes, giving each knot all the benefit of his focus, the tip of his tongue peeking out from one side of his mouth. Derek watches him, embarrassed anew. But then the ropes go slack, fall like ribbons around his body. He could rise, and run. But he doesn’t.

They stare at eachother for a moment and then Stiles rises. He backs up a couple of steps. He doesn’t offer Derek his hand, but he waits without moving further away. When Derek gets to his feet, Stiles nods at him once, as if to say well done , and then busies himself with gathering up the refuse.

Derek looks down at himself, mostly in an effort to avoid Stiles’ eyes, and notices that his clothes might be beyond repair. He’d only worn an open oversized shirt and loose shorts, since they hadn’t been able to estimate how much room his body would need for the change. They aren’t completely in tatters, but there are marks and rips scattered all along both items. He’s not sure how that could have happened when he wasn’t able to claw at himself, but perhaps his twisting and turning was enough. The ropes could have chafed against him, and his muscles, they might have expanded? He could ask Stiles, but it seems cruel to trouble Stiles for his observations right now.

“I’m going to try to wash this,” Stiles says, tilting his head toward the pile of canvas. He’s looping rope from one hand to his elbow until it forms a thick circle. He throws that down and picks up another one, repeating the process. “We’ll just have to treat it with the wolfsbane again, but in the meantime you won’t get hurt by accident.” He pauses and pushes out a fast breath, as if winded, then starts looping the rope again.

“Um,” Derek says. He feels like he ought to help but can’t bring himself to ask. Instead, he says, “I think I should bathe?”

“Alright,” Stiles says. He throws the new loop of rope down atop the first and remains motionless.

“I--” Derek says. Maybe he should just go. But. “Did I hurt you last night?”

“No,” Stiles says. His eyes flick up to Derek and then away again. “No, you didn’t. I’m sorry, I should have--”

“I’m sorry,” Derek interrupts and closes the distance between them. When Stiles doesn’t flinch back, Derek carefully lays his hand on Stiles’ clothed shoulder. “I’m just so sorry.”

Stiles shrugs, bringing the knuckles of his hand to his lips for a moment. Then he drops his hand to his side as his fingers move rapidly, like birds scattering in flight.

“Don’t be,” Stiles says. “We made it. You didn’t kill me. You didn’t die.” He lays his hand across Derek’s, still resting upon Stiles’ shoulder, and although it is meant in brotherhood Derek feels a sting of what can only be lust go through him, a swoop in his stomach that is like terror and joy all at once. Stiles snatches his hand back so quickly, for a moment Derek fears that maybe Stiles sensed what he felt.

“We’ll do better next time,” Stiles says. “We’ll figure it out. I promise you.”

“Thank you,” Derek says. He’d been about to ask Stiles to come to the lagoon with him, to try to close the distance that last night’s trials had seemingly created. Now he wants to get away again and examine what just happened when Stiles touched him. But he knows with Stiles, he must be measured in his responses. Stiles is attuned to every hitch in breath, every evasion. If Derek runs, he’ll either be devastated, or he’ll doggedly follow.

“Did you sleep?” Derek asks gently. Stiles shakes his head.

“Maybe? If I did it was for moments at a time. It was confusing. You slept, here and there. It was -- it looked like you passed out from the pain. And then you’d wake up again, sort of, screaming.”

“I’m--” Derek begins but then presses his lips together when Stiles glares at him sternly. “You should sleep now. We can clean this up later.”

“You feel alright?” Stiles asks.

“I feel like myself again. Not poorly. A dip in the lagoon would help.”

“Alright,” Stiles says. “Wake me when you get back.” He yawns then, stretching his arms high over his head. It’s as if he was waiting for permission to be tired and now it’s about to batter him right down to sleep.

“Of course,” says Derek, and he doesn’t wake him until much later, when the sky is streaked with pink and softening into dusk.

***

Measured in full moons and checkmarks, they’re able to improve the quality of Derek’s changes. It’s dreadfully slow going, both in the days leading up to change and during the event itself. Stiles has always kept diligent track of the moon's phases, but now Derek pays attention, too. He marks the calendar as often as Stiles does, and can even be dragged out to the shore throughout the day as Stiles tries to master the timing of the tides and find out if there’s really a connection.

The first change was horrible. The second is not much better. Derek is in pain, and bound, and seems like he would claw his way out of his skin if he were able. But small things are different. The day leading up to it, for one thing, is not so frightening. Stiles thinks at first that’s only because they both have some idea of what to expect, but in the hour before dusk he realizes that much of the difference is Derek. He breathes, deep and measured, against the tremors of his body and spirit, throughout the day. He pushes through the feverishness that seems to possess him and helps to carry things down the ropes, acquiescing without much argument when it becomes clear he needs to stop exerting himself.

On the third change, Derek seems grim throughout the days leading up to it.

“It’s not like you remember much,” Stiles says. He hands Derek a fish out of the bucket to gut.

“And you think that’s not terrifying?” Derek mutters quietly, pressing the knife in.  

Stiles watches Derek uncertainly as he dispenses with the insides of the fish, tosses them into the trees.

“Is it?” he says.

Derek doesn’t answer. He’s less angry with Stiles lately, he doesn’t yell at him nearly as much or call him names. But there’s some feeling of mourning between them that is hard to shake. Derek seems chastened by what is happening to him, reserved and still, holding himself ever at a distance. When he’s done with the fish, he just nods and rises, signaling Stiles with an incline of his head to follow him home.

That time Stiles gives Derek the little stone wolf. Derek can’t really hold it since his hands are bound, but Stiles tucks it into the pocket of Derek’s unbuttoned linen shirt, soon before the moon is at its apex above them. Derek seems to try to smile at him when he does it, but they don't speak of it again.

On the fourth change, Derek holds the stone wolf all day, sitting by the ocean and watching the water. He turns it over and over in his hand. When the change comes he asks Stiles to leave it nearby in the sand where he can look at it.

He still howls most of the night, and Stiles still clutches his bat.

Now and then, when Derek is elsewhere, Stiles tries to make sense of the medical book. He’d found it in the trunk while looking for binding for Derek, and he secreted it away beneath his cot. Some mornings he hefts it over to the table, adjusting it this way and that to catch the light that pushes into the house from the eastern facing window and here and there from seams in their home's walls. He looks at one page a day, as the writing is tiny and hard to understand, filled with medical terminology he can only guess at.

If only he could share these discoveries with Derek. It is fascinating how the human body works, all its systems and inner workings. At least the times Stiles can understand what he’s reading. But then he’d have to explain why he was searching in the first place, something he finds answers for around the third month of reading.

Sexual reproduction.

It’s difficult to understand what he reads in the context of the things his body does. Stiles has no wife; he has no desire for a wife. If he thinks about it, he hasn’t really longed for or missed the idea of a woman for companionship beyond missing his own family, and that is really, really different. He loved Laura but he never wanted to court her. Or kiss her. The idea is revolting. And then, the more he thinks about it, the idea of those things with any woman is not much more palatable.

Oh. But DerekOh no. Stiles pushes the book away and pulls it back almost immediately. There is too much to cope with right now to even examine that thought any further. Later, he thinks. When we're safe. And so he reads on.

About a week after Derek’s fourth change, Stiles comes across the vellum pages. He turns the thin, crumpled sheets with as steady a hand as he can, given that said hand is trembling. There is man, uncovered, not unlike himself and yet his own body does not make him jolt forward like this, does not make his heart make to escape through his own throat. The skin, he has learned, is an organ. The prick, he has learned, is called a penis or sometimes a member. Those are things he has already learned from the book and yet seeing it all put together on the surface of this drawing of a man is somehow very arresting.

He turns the page and lets out an undignified squawk that could rival the morning parrots. The same figure lies beneath but without the epidermis (that means skin, he remembers); a startling tangle of muscles. It’s hard to look at, but Stiles forces himself to run his fingers along the deltoid and trapezius, the erector spinae and all the rest.

“We all have this,” he says to encourage himself. “It’s just your body.”

He then turns the page and is faced with Peter’s corpse. Not Peter’s corpse, but the human skeleton. The skull and the ribs and the joints, and there is still another page.

Stiles has already recognized that he must show this to Derek, because this can help him make sense of what they saw months ago in the sand, but then he sees it, alongside the organs and the bulging eyes.

Handwriting in the margins.

***

The night before the fifth change, Derek lays on his cot before dinner, watching his own chest rise and fall with his breath. He’s found that he can calm himself somewhat with this. Perhaps he can do it again tomorrow.

His attention is drawn by Stiles’ shadow against the frame of his curtain of shells. Stiles lingers there, maybe watching, and then raps softly at the wall. It’s unlike him. Normally he would just throw the curtain aside, toss himself on the bed and start chattering away. But things have changed these last few months. Derek’s changes have changed them.

“Yes?” Derek says.

There’s a pause. Derek can see Stiles lift his hand to his mouth, then drop it to his hip. “I need to show you something,” he says, and then he walks away.

At their table, by lamplight, Derek struggles to read Peter’s notes in the margins of the medical book. The pictures are incredible, he needs to go back and look at them another time, and between that and the realization that reading is no longer second nature to him, Derek feels as if everything is happening beneath a film of mist.

Stiles pulls the lamp closer. They seldom use these, their supply of oil is precious.

“This is what happens to your muscles,” Stiles says. He speaks in a low voice, like he’s telling Derek a secret. And he is, Derek supposes. The secrets of his body and of his lineage, secrets Peter did indeed prepare to tell him, in some way.

“The tendons actually stretch. There’s a whole explanation for it. I don’t quite understand it yet.” He casts a glance at Derek, and shocked anew by how breathtaking Stiles can be when he speaks with determination, when he focuses his passion upon Derek.  

“But I will,” Stiles says. 

“I know,” Derek finds himself saying but Stiles doesn’t hear him. He’s moved on to the next note.  

“Look at this,” Stiles says. “Who knew he could draw?”

Indeed, there are several small faces, nicely rendered. Derek wonders where on earth Peter found the inkwell and pen that surely must exist somewhere on the premises. The first face is human, the second is in transition, and the third is the wolf face, complete with tiny fangs and brow. Derek feels a smile come to his lips for the first time in weeks. Then Stiles says:

“Find your anchor.”

Derek licks his lips, or tries to. His mouth has suddenly gone dry. “What?”

“Here,” Stiles says and he taps at a corner of the page. “It even says your name. Derek. Find your anchor.” He looks at Derek, expression open, perhaps even hopeful, and Derek feels something impossible, and wrong, and very right surge up inside him.

“Do you know what that--” Stiles begins but he is cut off because Derek leans in, grasps Stiles' face in his still-human hands, and presses their lips together.

Chapter Text

Derek’s mouth is pressed hard against his. Stiles can’t seem to find any air. They separate with a smacking sound and Stiles still can’t seem to find any air. He feels like he’s lost control of his face. He can’t even imagine his expression; it has likely crossed over from “astonished” and “speechless” into something that makes him look insane. That’s a good word for it. He feels insane.

Derek does not look insane. He looks gentle and beautiful, his eyes remaining closed for a moment as he pulls away. It’s how he looks in sleep sometimes, how Stiles has imagined him looking as they speak softly to one another across the house when they’ve bedded down in their separate beds for the night.

Derek’s eyes slowly open and he is still very close. His body is bent toward Stiles, leaning far enough from his chair to bridge the gap between them. Stiles can feel the heat of him against his own cheek, like the precursor of a touch. He’s wearing a thin undershirt and ragged sleep pants that were probably once very fine, belonging to some fellow traveler, long gone.

Stiles still can’t get any air. He opens his mouth to do something, to speak or to breathe but nothing comes into his lungs. His body feels like it’s going stiff, like a cadaver, like the bodies in the book they were just reading together. Stiles feels his vision narrowing, feels himself being lifted and moved. He can hear noises, thumps and scraping, and Derek’s voice, sharp and frenzied.

This used to happen, this has happened before. His mind goes terrifyingly blank.

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

Warmth against his back.

. . .

. . .

. . .

His feet are flat on the floor and his knees are bent. The smell of a blown-out wick, wisps of smoke.

. . .

The sound of his own breath being pulled into his body. It sounds like the shipwreck. No. Don’t think that. Another breath, less labored.

Stiles’ sight never actually left him but now he slowly becomes aware of it again, like the dawn is rising, peeling back darkness. He is seated on the floor. The table is above him. The near-full moon tinges the treehouse with only a faint skimming of light. He is leaned back against Derek’s chest. Derek himself might be leaned up against the wall. He feels solid and steady where Stiles is pressed against him, back to chest.

Derek’s hands rest on his own knees. He’s not holding Stiles at all, not confining him or constraining him. He just lets Stiles curl back into him as they breathe.

Stiles realizes he’s breathing again.

Something like this has happened before.

***

One. Two. Three. Derek actually likes it better for himself when he breathes to a count of five and then releases very slowly. But he senses that might be too hard for Stiles to mirror right now. So he breathes in for three, out for three. Every few breaths, Stiles seems incrementally more relaxed.

He is very careful not to press down on Stiles in any way. Not to hold his arms, nor hook his own chin over Stiles shoulder. Derek remembers, when Stiles was little, how this would happen. It was frightening the first time, and the second, watching his young, sullen cousin suddenly gasping for air like a fish taken from the water. But his mother knew just what to do.

It makes sense, now that Derek is here, on the floor helping Stiles find his air again, that Talia knew so well how to help him. He didn’t understand before, but now he does. Talia had wolf children. Talia went through this herself, saw Peter go through it, and perhaps others. She saw and experienced what it is to have no control over the changes of your body and how that cuts you off from life itself.

It’s not that different from a panic attack.

Derek breathes in, and pushes aside the tremendous wave of grief that comes with that breath. They need their families. He needs his mother. Stiles had these as a child in the first place because of his own mother. He missed her so much and he was alone, all alone. Somehow kissing Stiles put him right back in that place. It’s Derek’s fault.

He can’t let himself think about that right now, about his own bruised ego. Not when Stiles is in real distress. Instead, he says:

“This is an anchor, I think.”

Stiles rises and falls against his body. Derek thinks they are still in perfect sync.

After another few breaths, Stiles leans his head back a bit, so it’s resting lightly against Derek’s shoulder. He sighs.

“What is?” he says.

Derek is careful to keep his voice measured and low. Breathing together, and the relief of the danger seeming to have passed, has put him back into his own mind and body in a way he hasn’t entirely felt since the changes started. Certainly the most he’s felt like this so close to a full moon. He clears his throat.

“My mother recited a poem to us, sometimes. It was by, um, Ferguson, perhaps?”

Stiles tilts his head slightly. Derek feels the tickle of his hair against his neck. He sounds exhausted when he speaks. “I thought your father was the one who liked poetry.”

“He did, very much, but she did, too. She didn’t read it nearly as often as he did.”

“Nor pontificate upon it to anyone who would listen.”

Derek smiles. That’s a very accurate assessment of his father. “No,” he says, “but she had a few she would recite to us. And one of them was about an anchor."

They breathe together for a few more moments, then Stiles says, “Can you tell it to me?”

In the dark, Derek searches his mind and can grasp at a section that might illustrate what he’s trying to explain.

“Leap out, leap out, my masters; leap out and lay on load!

Let ’s forge a goodly anchor, a bower, thick and broad;

For a heart of oak is hanging on every blow, I bode,

And I see the good ship riding, all in a perilous road,—

The low reef roaring on her lee, the roll of ocean poured

From stem to stern, sea after sea; the mainmast by the board;

The bulwarks down, the rudder gone, the boats stove at the chains

But courage still, brave mariners, the bower still remains,

And not an inch to flinch he deigns save when ye pitch sky-high,

Then moves his head, as though he said, “Fear nothing,—here am I!”

There is silence long enough in the wake of his poetic outburst that Derek thinks maybe Stiles has fallen asleep. But then he says, “What does it mean?”

Derek can’t help it, he strokes his hand down the length of Stiles’ arm, then pulls it away and resettles it on his own knee. “You sound more like yourself.”

“I am more like myself, thank you,” Stiles says. He tips his head back again, further this time, so he’s looking Derek in the eye, upside-down. “What does the poem mean?”

Derek tips his own head back. It’s dark enough that it’s like looking into the night itself, even if he’s only staring at the roof of his home.

“It’s literally an anchor, like a ship’s anchor, telling its story,” he says. “But what you read to me in the book, what Peter wrote--”

“Find your anchor,” Stiles repeats.

“Yes. She would say that, at the end of the poem. Find your anchor. I think she meant to tell us, maybe before we could really understand, that the change would feel like the ship in the poem, like being torn apart by the sea.”

“Does it feel like that?” Stiles asks. And Stiles would, he supposes, understand what that feels like as well.

“A lot like that. And an anchor will moor you, keep you from getting lost in the sea. Keep you connected and safe through the change, like the ship staying connected to the ocean floor.”

“How do you find it?” Stiles asks. He sounds like a child again, almost, asking these questions, asking Derek to guide him. Stiles hasn't needed Derek to guide him for a long time. And maybe it's time for Derek to admit to himself that Stiles isn't a child anymore, either. Derek's eyes know that, and his body has known that for awhile. But it's been hard for his mind to accept it, to accept that Stiles could possibly be ready for what Derek wants. And if he isn't, it's not because he's a child, but because he can't be Derek's. 

“Oh,” says Derek. He takes one more breath, to savor the feeling of Stiles leaned against him, in case he is about to lose it.

“I think I found it.”

 

Chapter Text

The fifth change is different.

Stiles wakes that morning and repeats much of the routine they have maintained since Derek first came into maturity as a wolf.

How do two werewolves have sexual relations? Is it any different? Are their members different? Is it, is it scary? Is it nice?

What’s it like for anyone, anyway?

Having enough water to drink is a problem that the lagoon handily solves for them, but it seems like they are forever going back and forth to collect it. Rain collection has been difficult to master, since rain here is both infrequent and often accompanied by massive winds. Stiles has considered the idea of somehow pushing water to them, or closer to them, via some mechanical means, but it would be a large undertaking for little gain.

Derek’s change seems to require more of everything: more food and more water. Stiles layers as many vessels as he can carry on their various straps across his back, and makes a run to the lagoon.

If Derek runs free tonight, will he be safe? Will I be safe? His senses are heightened even more when he changes. Will he be able to sense danger, see in the dark? Will he find his way home?

Can he sense how I feel?

When he arrives back, Derek is outside the house, hacking coconuts open with a machete across a board, laid out in the sand. Stiles watches him for a few moments: concentration heavy on his face, the swing of his arms, legs firmly planted in the sand, wearing nothing but pants cut into shorts. Stiles stands there and wants to lie down in the sand at Derek’s feet. He wants to strip off his own meager clothes, or be back in bed with his hand on his prick. Instead he waits, trying to appear normal, until Derek glances up and sees him.

Why did you kiss me?

“Good morning,” Derek says. He throws the machete down so it sticks, handle up, and tosses Stiles one of the coconut halves. Stiles catches it handily despite the canisters strapped all over his back, and gets them off as well as he can, holding the meat of the coconut between his teeth. He thinks Derek smiles a bit, then he turns to retrieve the machete and put it away.

As they agreed, Derek spends the morning helping Stiles with chores so the afternoon is free to. . . it’s been hard to say what they’re doing, exactly. Being Derek’s anchor seems like a huge honor and a confusing mess all at the same time. Stiles isn’t sure what he’s meant to do and

Why did you kiss me?

is playing along the edges of his every thought, but he musn’t pursue that right now. Derek needs him right now.

He messed it up anyway.

Where there has been an aura of dread among the preparations, this time feels very different. It’s not happy, precisely, but Stiles can feel a kind of hopeful anticipation that has been in short supply. Peter’s instructions were concise, but they at least existed, and they must be a shorthand of generations of Hale family transitions. And Stiles was to be Derek’s anchor, to keep him connected to himself, so as not to be lost.

Stiles looks to the sun, still not at its apex in the sky. They have lots of time, and yet they don’t. Night always comes. He exhales, pushing his breath through the spaces in his teeth, and goes upstairs to fetch what they’ll need. Except for the wolfsbane and the rope and the tarps. Not yet.

He gets a rucksack, one they use for gathering tree nuts, and starts out with some of those and a couple of flat rocks good for easily getting to the meats. He adds some dried fruit, inspecting it first for mold, and lays clean cloth down over the food. Then the stone wolf and a handful of shells that he keeps by his own bed for no other reason than he particularly likes them. He stops at the dining table and muses over the medical book. It’s incredibly heavy, even as the pages themselves are fragile. There’s not much in there to help them now beyond the one page of their reading.

On impulse, Stiles adds a different book to the collection of items in the rucksack and scrambles back down the ladder.

***

This isn’t going to work. Derek went to bed last night with his first glimmer of hope in five cycles of the moon and now this isn’t going to work. The afternoon breeze is upon them. That’s often his favorite time of day, when the high morning unfolds around them and softens into cooler air, dissipating the heat of harsh sun and toiling at chores. Now it just reminds him that it will be evening soon and this isn’t going to work.

“I’m sorry,” he says. Stiles is sitting across from him beneath a low-hanging palm close to the house.

“For what?” Stiles asks. They’ve been sitting there for what feels like forever but is probably closer to an hour, trying to will some kind of mystical bond into fruition that Derek only understands from a single sentence left behind in the margins of that medical book.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” Derek says. Stiles cocks an eyebrow, and Derek thinks maybe that in itself is Stiles poking fun at him.

“I’m serious, Stiles, it’s mid-afternoon and we’re just sitting here. Maybe you should get the ropes.”

“Alright, Grumpy,” Stiles says. He stands up and brushes himself off, front and back, seemingly in agreement with Derek.

“Really? That’s it?” Derek says. Stiles squats back down, his face very, very close, and nods his head.

“No,” he says, and ducks back before Derek manages to smack him on the shoulder. He lands on his ass in the sand but doesn’t seem upset. He smiles. It’s very beautiful.

“Tell me what your mother did when I was little,” he says. He makes a second attempt at standing and getting the dirt off himself, then pulls his rucksack over to where they’re seated. Something seems to occur to him, then. He spins one way, then the other, then points to the trunk of the tree.

“Here,” he says and sits, legs spread wide. He reaches for the rucksack with one long, elegant arm, and Derek wonders when that happened. It’s been some time that Stiles has held his fascination in a different way, but he’s not sure when Stiles became gorgeous, not just subjectively. Anyone with eyes would be able to see this, how exquisite he is now.

The exquisite creature is now patting at the ground just in front of him, beckoning Derek to sit down between his open legs.

“What?” Derek says dumbly.

“Like last night,” Stiles replies. He throws back the flap of the rucksack which sits to one side of him and feels around inside it one-handed. “When I had my fit.”

“I’m not having a fit,” Derek says.

“Not yet,” Stiles says and then hurries to interrupt Derek’s impending retort. Derek’s not even sure what it would have been, but he did take a pretty big breath.

“I’m not saying the wolf change is a fit, Derek. But you said it yourself, your mother knew what to do when I was troubled because she had wolf children, wolf knowledge.” He pats the ground in front of him again with his free hand. “We have to do what she would do, exactly. As much as you can remember.”

He’s right. Of course he’s right. It’s annoying. So Derek sits between Stiles’ legs, faced away from him. They sit there silently for a moment and then Stiles flings his arms around Derek’s front and drags him so they’re flush tight against one another.

“Stiles!” Derek shouts. He shimmies forward just a bit so he is not pressed so tightly between Stiles’ legs, against his, where his--

“Derek, relax,” Stiles says and his voice is so stern Derek actually stops still. He could swear he hears Stiles let out a soft breath of laughter, but he manages to keep his composure. At least one of them is.

“Lean back,” he says, and Derek does, gingerly. Part of him is screaming to run. Another part is grateful. When his back is against Stiles’ chest, Stiles places his right hand on his own knee, just like Derek did last night when their roles were reversed. In Stiles’ left hand is a thin volume Derek doesn’t think he’s seen before.

“What’s that?” he asks but Stiles places the book beside him.

“That’s for later,” he says. Instead of placing his left hand on his own knee, Stiles brings it across Derek’s chest. Derek pauses, unsure, but then places his own hand atop Stiles’ and lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding.

“She did this, I think, once I was calmer,” Stiles says softly. He sounds nervous, maybe as nervous as Derek. “I’m going to breathe like you did, in for three and out for three. You match me. And then see if you can remember anything else, alright?”

“Alright,” Derek says. He lets his head loll back against Stiles’ collarbone, like a question. Stiles doesn’t say anything so it must be fine. “I prefer five,” he adds.

“Count of five?” Stiles says. Derek nods in reply. “That’s fine,” Stiles says. He shifts back against the tree trunk, settling into place. “In for five.”

***

Stiles doesn’t remember most of his panic attacks as a small child. He can’t even remember much about the one he had last night. Sitting with Derek like this, as Derek relates what he can recall of Talia’s kind authority, of how she cared for him, Stiles almost wishes he could remember. He felt safe with her, he remembers that, and he can see aspects of her reflected in Derek, even now.

So that’s one thing he wishes. The other is that he could somehow make his completely inappropriate erection (that’s what the book called it) go away before Derek notices.

Stiles also wishes he could bring himself to ask why Derek kissed him. If it was just excitement at having discovered the anchor. If it was something else. Like, perhaps, wanting to kiss him. Or if he has thoughts, too, of things that, like Stiles, he can’t quite envision but knows he wants all the same. To press up close. To feel their bodies moving together in some way the medical text fails to properly explain, no many how many times he reads it, hoping words would appear that somehow speak the thrum of the pulse in his veins.

He wishes he could ask that. But the sun is dropping low, and Derek needs him. Derek needs his anchor.

They breathe in time, peppered with Derek’s memories and thoughts on what they might mean, until the sun breaks the horizon into the glorious colors of dusk. The ropes are still upstairs and Derek is lax now against Stiles’ body.

“I think we have it,” Derek murmurs. He turns his head against Stiles’ chest, not looking up at him but over to the side. Stiles feels it acutely, like fingertips dragging over his skin. He stifles a yelp and moves his pelvis back the tiniest fraction, again.

“Have what?” he murmurs. His hand is still clamped to Derek’s chest, rising and falling with their breath.

“I think I’m anchored,” Derek says. He sounds surprised, like he’s afraid to say it out loud. “Stiles, feel my face.”

Stiles carefully walks his fingers up Derek’s neck and then makes his palm flat, concerned he might poke Derek in the eye by mistake. He’s done that even when he could see what he was doing. He lays his hand on Derek’s cheek and something tightens in his own chest. Tears are forming in the corners of his eyes. It takes him a second but then he realizes what Derek is trying to show him.

“Your muscles,” he says. Derek’s face remains human, even with the quickening dark. It has, all this time.

“I think I can control my shift,” Derek whispers. “It’s because of you. I can feel you,” he says, and thumps at his chest. Stiles snatches his hand back, catching the first roll of tears against his sleeve before Derek can notice.

“I don’t think you need the ropes anymore,” Stiles says. He removes his hand from Derek’s cheek and chances a brief touch against Derek’s ear. It remains unchanged.

“I’m free,” Derek says. “I think. I mean maybe--”

“You just need to stay anchored, right? Then don’t doubt it. Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t doubt me, Derek,” Stiles says and it’s all he can do to keep from sobbing into the thin shirt at Derek’s back.

“I don’t,” Derek says. He squeezes at Stiles’ hand, still clutched to his heart. “I don’t.”

“What should we do?” Stiles ventures. He wishes they could stay like this, pressed together with Derek looking ahead and happy. With Derek unable to see the longing that must be writ clear all over Stiles’ features.

“I don’t know. Were you going to read that?” He nods toward the small book of poetry by Stiles’ side. He’d thought maybe reading them aloud to Derek would be soothing, another reminder of home, but he doesn’t seem to need that now.

“Another time.”

“Can I,” Derek starts. He hitches forward slightly and Stiles’ hand drops away. “I think I need to--”

“What?” Stiles says. He presses back against the tree, feels the cool bark at his back.

Derek turns to face him, standing on his knees. He closes his eyes, and just like that he is the wolf, like a magician’s trick. His breathing remains steady and his demeanor is calm. He rises, majestic, a master of himself. Then, because he’s clearly trying to kill Stiles, he throws off his shirt and even with thicker hair and changed muscles, he is magnificent. And nearly naked.

“I want to run,” Derek says. His voice is lower, unhinged sounding as the wolf and yet Stiles is not afraid. He can feel Derek's control, his ease with himself. It's not the same. “As the moon rises. Stiles, I need to run. Is that alright, will you be alright if I--” he glances off into the jungle, clearly drawn away.

“Yes,” Stiles says. “Yes, this is wonderful, Derek, I’ll be fine.” Derek rises to his feet and Stiles can only watch, wide-eyed.

Derek places his hand over his heart again and smiles, his mouth gleaming with newly grown fangs.

“You’re right here, Stiles,” he says, his voice full of wonder. And then he runs.

Chapter Text

It’s not often that Derek gets to really look at Stiles. He’s always in motion, for one thing. For another, he’s a difficult person to steal a glance at. Stiles seems to know when he’s being watched. Since childhood, even when they were in England, he had a sense of when someone was regarding him, and would turn his own scrutiny on them immediately. So, recently, when Derek has found himself wanting to look at Stiles, more carefully and more frequently, he’s done everything he can to avert his gaze and keep Stiles from finding him out.

Derek walked home as the dawn broke, fully human and freshly washed in the lagoon. Everything seemed crisp to his senses, perhaps a residual effect of the change, but he didn’t mind it. He was naked, and well fed on fish caught in the ravines of the lagoon under moonlight. He’d slept awhile, sated and cooled by the stone beneath the waterfall, a place he and Stiles had spent many days together seeking shade or rest or idle talk.  He woke having faded back to human form, the waterfall rushing past him.

After a brief search for Stiles on the grounds, then in the house, he crept up the stepladder to the top floor. They rarely use this bed now, but they kept it for cold, windy nights when it made sense to stay together for warmth.  So it’s a puzzle that Stiles is in it now, fast asleep. But Derek isn’t going to question that just now, when he has the rare opportunity to study him.

It’s cool since the sun is still breaking, and Stiles is beneath a thin coverlet. His head rests unpillowed upon the mattress and Derek smiles when he notices the stone wolf is laid on its side in what would be Derek’s space, its carved snout poking out toward Stiles from beneath the coverlet. Unsurprisingly, Stiles is sprawled out, one arm thrown out across the mattress and the other bent weirdly overhead so that his forearm runs up the wall. He’s not snoring, for a change. Derek draws closer to the bed, as softly as he can. The floorboards shift but Stiles pays no mind.

Some things about Stiles are just the same as always: his honeyed eyes and the moles that kiss the spaces between his cheek and his jaw. Derek finds that familiarity comforting. It grounds him amidst the rest of the changes he and Stiles have in some cases been gifted and, in others, suffered. Stiles’ hands and feet were always big, and Laura used to joke he might grow into them like a puppy. That’s just what happened, though his hands still seem broad, with long fingers that appear tensed even as he sleeps. His hands are sun-worn and roughened, Derek notes, like much of the rest of him.  Strong forearms, dusted with darker hair than Derek had recalled, lead up to defined muscles and broad shoulders. That’s one thing he’s been able to steal looks at, quick ones. Stiles’ back, sinewy and speckled with yet more moles, the muscle moving beneath his smooth skin.

He’s beautiful in sleep, his features relaxed and his cupid’s bow mouth set just so. He’s beautiful all the time.

Derek is aware that his curiosity is slowly rising into lust, complete with all the complicated stirrings of his stomach and of his prick. He’s still naked, and this not what Stiles should wake up to.

He takes a last, lingering look at Stiles’ face, his anchor’s face. His love’s face. He can at least recognize what he feels within the privacy of his thoughts. Then he steals downstairs as quietly as possible.

He’d like to remain naked. The day is growing warm and something about having worn his wolf clothes, as it were, with such freedom last night makes the nudity seem more natural, more normal. Perhaps it’s silly that he and Stiles continue to dress, however sparsely, around one another. When they were younger they wouldn’t have had the thought to do otherwise. Now it seems even more improper, although it’s not like that last step of going without covering themselves in their most intimate areas would really make that much of a difference. Except, perhaps, in instances like what just happened upstairs.

Derek wonders what Stiles would look like, naked and hard. Maybe hard just from looking upon him, like what happens when he looks upon Stiles?

Derek sighs. He pulls on a pair of shorts that are laying on the bed and considers breakfast. He still feels full-bellied and content from all the fish. He may have eaten them still squirming. He smiles at the thought of telling Stiles that, the kind of delightfully disgusting thing Stiles lives for.

As he’s thinking of this, Derek notices the little book resting upon the table. It looks like the book Stiles brought with him last night. He picks it up; the cover is rough like burlap and it weighs almost nothing, it’s so thin, not like the sturdy tomes he remembers from school and his parents’ library.

The words are familiar as he reads them: Selected Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson .

***

When Stiles descends from the sleeping loft, Derek is standing there, leafing through the book of poetry. Stiles clears his throat, which feels ridiculous as soon as he does it, but it has the intended effect of Derek looking up at him. They stare at one another for a moment.

“Good morning,” Derek says. He seems careful, wary.

“How was it?” Stiles asks.

“It was good,” Derek says, his full-bloom smile taking Stiles aback. “It was so good, Stiles. But I’m sorry I ran off.”

“It was fine,” Stiles says. It was. He was glad to see Derek so unencumbered, able to follow his instincts without drowning in them. It felt lonely to fall asleep without him, though, so he went up to the loft. It was a strange desire, against reason to sleep in a bigger bed to stave off loneliness, but it helped. There was a space beside him where Derek should be, and that helped.

“Were you worried?” Derek asks.

Stiles thinks about this for a moment. “No, not really. It’s strange, I know you were alright. I just knew. When I went to bed, I knew I could, and I fell asleep almost immediately.” His right leg twitches against his will and he scratches at his ear. “Could that be the. . . anchoring? I don’t know how to say it.”

“Maybe,” Derek says. “Peter didn't say anything about that, but then he didn't say much. Maybe.” He turns the book over in his hands. “You were going to read this last night?”

“Oh,” Stiles says. “I was. I thought, since you remembered your parents reciting poetry to you, it might help. If I read it to you. It was a silly idea, you obviously didn’t need it.”

“That’s not silly,” Derek murmurs, extending the book to Stiles, who takes it. For some reason, his cheeks feel warm. “It’s nice.”

“Oh, well, you’re welcome, then,” Stiles says. He shifts the book from hand to hand and fumbles it just as he finishes speaking. It flies from his grasp but Derek snatches it from the air as if it were just sitting on a shelf.

“Wow,” Stiles says. Now it looks like Derek’s cheeks might feel warm.

“Anyway, I tried to read some of the poems, but I fear my grasp of reading is even worse than I’d realized.” He extends the book back for Stiles to take. His eyes are downcast. “You could read them to me now.”

“Oh,” Stiles says dumbly. Derek takes a step back.

“Unless you don’t want to. You just woke up. And yesterday must have been tiring for you--”

“For me?” Stiles sputters. “I can’t believe you’re even walking around right now.”

“I’m fine,” Derek says. He moves back toward Stiles and places a hand on his shoulder and Stiles feels it, like lightening striking the water. A single point of contact and he can trace the movement of the feeling through him and then it’s gone as Derek withdraws his hand again. “Honestly, Stiles. I’m so grateful you found Peter’s notes. You saved me.”

Stiles hears the words, hears how much they mean. Yet all he can think about is how he wants Derek’s hand back on him. How he wants to feel that current snake through him, spark all along and within his body.

“I can read it to you now,” he says, instead.

***

They sit outside. After Stiles has brought them both some water, they settle at the base of the tree Stiles has been tying Derek to in recent months. Derek can practically feel his back mold to fit it without him meaning to do it.

Stiles squints up into the rising sun, then opens the book with his careful, long fingers.

“This would be good for you to practice with,” he says, scanning through the contents page. “Poems are complicated but they’re short. I could help you, you know, if you didn’t know the words.”

“Sure,” Derek says. “I’d like that.” They are together so often now and yet something about this makes Derek feel like he is alone with Stiles, really alone with him. That’s ridiculous, given that they are literally the only two beings on this island. Still, it feels different. Private and close.

“Here, this one is rather charming” Stiles says. He reads:

Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Singing alone,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?

He continues to speak of the mermaid, the speaker it seems is the mermaid. After the first part it’s a bit hard to follow. She’s down in the sea, and there is a snake, and then mermen. She is pursued by them but only gives herself to the king, he thinks. What Derek does follow is the mermaid is desired. She is wanted by everyone who casts eyes upon her. There’s nothing unseemly about the description, nothing explicit, at least as far as Derek can tell. But she is wanted and delights in that wanting. It is her reason for living.

And if I should carol aloud, from aloft
All things that are forked, and horned, and soft
Would lean out from the hollow sphere of the sea,
All looking down for the love of me
.

Stiles looks up at him, alive with his interest. “You know, I bet if I read these to you and then you read them to me that will be easier. Not memorization, exactly, but if you hear them a few times maybe that will help.”

“Yes,” Derek says. He is watching Stiles’ lips as they form the words. Stiles’ mind is always working, sometimes on three things at once. He is always trying to help, finding ways to improve.

“Did you like it?” he asks, the brightness leaving his voice.

“Yes, I did,” Derek replies. He is aware, suddenly, of how close they are, facing one another with their knees nearly touching. Derek feels trapped against the trunk of the tree, but not in the same way he has in the last few months. Not in a bad way.

“Should I read you another?” Stiles says. He is nearly whispering, it’s nearly shy. Derek can’t help himself when he reaches out to touch Stiles’ cheek. Stiles’ eyes clamp shut but he moves slightly into Derek’s hand. Derek runs his thumb across Stiles’ skin, as lovely where the moles aren’t as where they are, and watches his lips part, watches his shoulders twitch.

“If you wish,” Derek says. Stiles opens his eyes, looking dizzy and unfocused. Derek realizes he’s nearly cross-eyed because he’s focused on Derek’s mouth.

“I scared you the other day,” Derek whispers. The wind flowing around them nearly drowns out his words but Stiles seems to hear him. Or he doesn’t hear him but he understands anyway. That’s how Stiles is.

“You didn’t,” Stiles says. "Startled, maybe." He folds the book shut with one hand and places it on the ground, giving it a gentle push so it slides a bit away from them. He puts one hand over Derek’s, on his own face, and with the other he gently drags his fingertips up Derek’s bare arm. The sensation is so acute he feels he might cry out but he grits his teeth against it. Stiles, of course, notices, and looks down to observe what his touch has done to Derek. He looks back up and surely finds the same answers on Derek’s face. He drops his hand from Derek’s, and then takes hold of both of Derek’s shoulders in his broad palms.

He grins, easy and wild, and Derek feels his own smile take shape in response. Stiles moves closer, close enough that their noses touch. Close enough that Derek has to close his eyes, as much as he wants to see every moment of this. Stiles rubs the tip of his nose against Derek’s, and, just as Derek starts to laugh, takes Derek’s mouth with his own.

Chapter Text

Kissing Derek is as simple and sweet as biting into ripe fruit. Stiles draw his lips together slowly over Derek’s mouth. It feels very daring, to be suckling at Derek’s mouth like this, to feel the shape of Derek’s lips beneath his own. This leads to the end of a kiss, a slippery, thrilling little thing. He stays close, their mouths barely parted from one another, their foreheads almost touching.

He can hear his own breath. The closeness of their faces to one another makes a small, tight space between them so the sound of his breath seems louder, harsher. He can hear his own panting, a kind of animal sound. The shame of that makes him start for a moment but then he realizes they are both panting, catching their breath, the air from Derek’s mouth fanning over his cheeks and chin.

It warms him, the sound of them breathing together, so close. His shame falls away.

Derek moves first this time, sealing them to one another again. Derek’s mouth stays softly open and Stiles tries keeping his mouth the same; relaxed and soft. He’s about to draw this kiss to a close when he feels Derek’ mouth pushing harder against him. His tongue moves forward, like he’s darting a lick into Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles pauses slightly, unsure. He fights the urge to pull back, to drop his hands from where they rest on Derek’s shoulders. Derek’s tongue pushes into his mouth and the sensation is foreign and strange but a flash of excitement pushes across his stomach, as if he’s unexpectedly heard a thunderclap. That -- that he does not want to pull away from.

Derek pushes in closer with his mouth and a spark of sensation flutters about Stiles’ chest when Derek’s hands settle, one at Stiles’ left hip and the other against his right cheek. He can’t help but press his cheek firmly against Derek’s palm. The touch is so intimate; it seems impossible that any of this is happening. But it is. It is.

Stiles’ mouth gently opens wider, as easy as the press of his cheek to Derek’s palm. He feels like he could melt completely into Derek, and as his mouth opens more he feels bold enough to push his own tongue into Derek’s mouth. The joining of their mouths this way makes the weight in his stomach sink slowly deeper down his body, into his groin. It’s a slow-rolling kind of shiver that reminds Stiles of the ocean’s waves when they roll back into the water again and again, far from the shore where he might watch.

He’s aware of his body in bright flashes, like lightening in a thunderstorm far out at sea. Stiles feels his tongue and then the stirrings of his prick; the swell of his heart and the trembling of his thighs. The feel of Derek’s thick hair tangling in his fingers as he dares to let his fingers play there. The feel of the rough, sturdy tree trunk against his back. Then just air behind him and a sort of shocky delight, as Derek’s hands move behind him, as Derek takes Stiles in his arms and pushes them both down to lie on the ground together.

***

Derek lays Stiles down as carefully as he can, but that’s not all that carefully, given that they are pressed together everywhere and joined still at the lips. Stiles does manage to crane his neck up a bit so his head doesn’t hit the ground, and Derek opens his eyes and pulls back from their kiss.

Stiles is looking up at him from beneath drowsy lids. His honey-golden eyes spark with life as they always do, but he is also watching Derek with a new intensity that pulls Derek  forward into another embrace. He cradles Stiles’ head in one hand and gently leads him to rest completely on the ground. Derek can feel Stiles’ tension disappearing beneath his fingers and he sits up somewhat to get a proper look at him again.

Stiles smiles up at him, beautiful and sly. That mouth, that has captivated Derek for years, if he’s being honest, was just against his own mouth. Stiles was just against his mouth. Derek can’t help but grin back in response. The familiarity, the sameness of it as enumerable other looks they’ve shared fills him with a bubbling excitement. Perhaps it is the new context of that smile, that it’s being given to him with Stiles spread out beneath him, happy and desirous of Derek. Perhaps it’s also relief, and wonder, that kissing Stiles, pressing against him, even here in the dirt with his hair getting mussed, is what Stiles wants. They both want this.

“You’re not going to stop, are you?” Stiles murmurs.

“I’m not a complete fool,” Derek responds. Stiles’ smile only brightens.

“I only ever thought you were a partial one,” he says.                                                       

Derek’s laugh catches in his throat. He thumbs at a smudge of dirt on Stiles’ cheek and then, still smiling, lowers himself back down to prove that he isn’t a fool, at all.

After months -- longer, if he considers it in certain ways -- of fearing his own body, Derek feels like one long, languorous sigh is resonating all throughout him. He’s alert, responsive to Stiles’ beautiful face and the promise of further exploration, but it’s not the terrified vigilance of the last few months. It’s delicious, and Derek wants to keep feeling it. With his mouth, he thinks. And so he kisses the tip of Stiles’ turned-up nose, the plump line of his upper lip and then across his sweet face, over moles and freckles and the weathered mix of sun-worn tan and grime they both bear.

Derek reaches Stiles’ ear and kisses it, then props himself up on one hand so he can trace its outline with the other. Stiles’ eyes fall shut and he gives a little huff of breath that Derek can’t quite decipher. He lets his fingers trail from Stiles’ ear to the juncture of his skull and the top of his neck. He sweeps his hand over Stiles’ neck and feels his body jump, like the very center of him felt the touch upon his neck, somewhere deep within.

As if drawn there by an irresistible force, Derek lays himself down next to Stiles and lets his lips follow the path of his hand.

***

Derek does a host of things with his mouth that Stiles struggles to categorize as they’re happening.

First there’s a dry brush of lips fluttering against his neck, not much more discernable than a strong breeze. Then Derek kisses Stiles closer to the point where his neck and shoulder meet, and that is like a kiss upon the mouth, with a jump of a pulse low in his body as the sensation spreads. Then Derek -- good Lord  -- there’s no mistaking the flat of Derek’s tongue lapping against the side of his neck.

It’s a good thing Stiles is already on his back in the sand because the sensation makes his heart and his knees -- and also sort of the back of his scalp -- seize up. Surely if he were standing he would fall. Instead he lets out an odd sort of squawk, and jerks upward, catching himself on his elbows. Derek startles back, his dazed expression giving way to mild alarm.

“Oh, goddamn it,” Stiles blurts out, and Derek looks like he’s not sure whether to laugh or apologize.

“No, no, I--”

“Are you alright?” Derek says gently.  His eyes seem to sparkle but then that’s their odd beauty, several colors at once like a halo of the sun around an eclipse. They’ve seen an eclipse since they’ve been here and it’s all Stiles could do not to stupidly compare it to Derek’s eyes at that time, but it’s true. They’re lovely, powerful, like that.

“I’m fine,” Stiles says and it comes out a little cross and yes, now Derek is suppressing a smile. “I liked that, I just felt it everywhere.”

Derek swallows. It’s a little hard to believe that he can turn into a feral creature because right now he looks as vulnerable as a bunny rabbit.

“Everywhere?”

Stiles can feel that he is blushing, and the flush is spreading down to his chest. He starts to turn away but Derek gently takes his chin between his fingers and nudges it back to face him. His look is changing, from nervous to ravenous, and oh, yes, Stiles does indeed feel that everywhere.

He reaches for Derek and draws him back for another kiss, leading them both to lay down. This time Derek’s leg is thrown across his, and he can feel Derek’s chest pressing at his ribcage through the frayed cotton of his shirt. He can feel both their hearts pounding furiously, as if they’ve been running toward one another. And, in a way, that is what they’ve been doing, all this time, and now they are finally meeting as Stiles has always wished they would. As, it seems, Derek has wished as well.

Derek moves up just enough to pull Stiles’ shirt off, looking into his eyes as he does. Stiles nods fiercely and his words follow the motion. “Yes, yes,” he says and reaches to pull down his own shorts, managing to get them part the swell of his own ass and about halfway down his thighs before giving up and throwing his arms around Derek’s torso. Derek loosens his own shorts with one hand, Stiles can feel it brushing against his stomach and the little motions of adjustment as Derek tries to undress without halting what they’re doing. As if he could stop.

Derek kneels up in the dirt, hair pressed damp with sweat against his head, shirt still on but wildly askew, and shucks his shorts off. Stiles gets a fast glimpse of him naked, astounding; the strong muscles of his stomach and thighs, his prick thicker than Stiles’ own, only slightly darker than the rest of him. Stiles’ meditation on the glory of Derek with no clothes on is disrupted when Derek hastily gets Stiles’ own pants the rest of the way down and shoves them aside behind him.

He places his palms by the sides of Stiles’ head and sinks back down atop him in a single, fluid motion that makes Stiles moan wantonly. Derek’s own breath seems to leave him all at once, punched out against Stiles’ cheek. They press together everywhere: chests and legs and cocks. Stiles wraps his arms back around Derek, letting his palms smooth along the swell of derek’s shoulders and back down again. Without considering just what he’s doing, he wraps his legs around Derek’s middle, and they both move, grunting and pushing against eachother. Derek smells like sun and soil, like sweat and danger and love. He makes the sweetest noises into Stiles’ ear, like he’s lost and found at the same time. Their pricks rub against one another and in the grooves between their groins and thighs, sometimes catching uncomfortably but mostly pushing Stiles further and further along a path of unbelievable pleasure.

Stiles clutches at  Derek, his fingers pressing further and further in like he’s the one with claws, like Derek is his anchor . Derek’s breath grows rougher and he’s panting like he’s nearing the end of a long run, like he’s almost there and Stiles has a moment of feeling near-to-bursting, like he’s about to cry or scream, or go insane, and then everything happens at once.

He does scream, tilting his head back to let the sound unleash past Derek’s ears, but that seems minor in comparison to the pulsing of his prick, a hot explosion that has him arching his back and clinging to Derek, who looks up at him in amazement and then shuts his eyes tight and curls up over Stiles, pressing his head hard onto his shoulder and releasing his own pleasure against Stiles’ hip.

They lay there together, shuddering and gathering their breath. The world comes back: the feel of the dirt and the scent of the ocean carrying along on the breeze. The sound of parrots not far from them, scolding them for their frank display, it seems.

Derek presses the briefest kiss to Stiles’ dirty shoulder, then slides off of him, rolling onto his own back.

“Agh,” he says with a wince, and before Stiles can ask, he reaches beneath his back and pulls out the book of poetry. He sets it down on Stiles’ chest, probably sticky with semen, and dares a glance at Stiles. Derek looks stunned, blown wide open, by the force of what they’ve done.

Stiles smiles. He’s filled with joy and contentment, and amazement. The grin on his face grows so wide, it starts to reflect back to him in Derek’s own smile.

Chapter Text

The slate beneath Derek’s back provides an unusual sensation. It cools him through his skin, right into the muscle and bone. As hard and unforgiving as it is there’s something gentle about the surface of it, almost soft. The feeling is comforting as he lies naked and damp in the cave by the lagoon, the waterfall smashing past as Stiles touches his lips to every part of Derek’s body.

They’ve been pressed together for the last week straight. The notations Stiles keeps -- now just indentations on the inside cover of the medical book -- are somehow much more interesting since they’ve started touching one another. Every mark is a day spent learning Stiles’ body, and Stiles learning his. Derek should be keeping track of the moon’s cycle but that’s proving difficult when looking at their makeshift calendar makes his cheeks burn with what those days were filled with. He stares at the marks, though, frequently.

Stiles is marking him right now, come to think of it. His mouth has paused in its travels along Derek’s chest, from where he was just coaxing Derek’s left nipple into a hard peak to the very middle of his sternum. Stiles sucks almost as hard, all wet suction, and the tip of his nose nuzzles against the dark hair that grows there like he’s is trying to smell Derek as deeply as he’s tasting him.

Derek gasps and lets his palms cradle Stiles’ head, trying not to clutch too tightly or swing his legs up in response. There’s a smacking noise and then Stiles releases the grip of his kiss on Derek’s chest. He rubs his cheek there and Derek can feel the warmth of him, feel the movement of every hair and the slight ache of the bruise that must be forming in the wake of Stiles’ beautiful mouth.

Water trickles along the slate floor of the cave, gently caressing Derek’s legs as Stiles moves lower. Nearby, the waterfall splashes unendingly into the lagoon below, a constant current. Derek feels held: by the cave, by the water and then, lush and hot, by Stiles’ lips, as his tongue swirls along the head of Derek’s prick and then laps beneath as Stiles’ mouth closes around Derek’s member.

Derek groans. He was self-conscious, the first couple of times, about the sounds that fell from his mouth, animal and impossible to tether. It’s still strange to hear his own voice like that, unbound and needy. But he realized how much he likes Stiles’ sounds, and that sometimes, when he responds, Stiles grows more excited upon hearing him. So now he just lets it spill forth: shuddering inhales and shaky near-howls. Stiles tightens his lips and shoves his face forward, making Derek yelp from the intensity building in his groin.

It seems safest to remove his hands from Stiles’ hair, so Derek lets them fall to his sides. He glances down, then moves one arm beneath his own head so he can get a better view. Stiles is kneeling between his spread legs, crouched over too far for Derek to see much more than the bobbing of his head, the repeated flash of the base of his own cock disappearing again and again into Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles’ firm hands, which rested outside his legs, move to the tops of his thighs with a strong grip. Just as Derek registers that, they move again to his hips, then fly away. Stiles can’t seem to decide where to put them, how to get the leverage he wants. It’s distracting for a few moments, but then Stiles settles, with one flat palm spread across Derek’s lower belly and the other coming to grip Derek’s cock in a tight fist.

“God,” Derek says. He squirms, trying so hard not to push his hips forward and startle Stiles, or worse, hurt him. But Stiles’ hands are immobilizing him, making him hotter, and the building of his pleasure seems to take forever. “Please,” Derek says and lifts up, his shoulders pushing cold and hard against the rock as he offers himself up to Stiles’ mouth, to the promise of an orgasm that Stiles reaffirms with his every move. And then, something happens. Stiles loosens his left-handed grip enough that his fist moves wetly along Derek’s length along with his mouth, and he wails from how good it feels, nearly bends in half as he’s sliced through by the explosive feeling of his dick, emptying and pulsing against Stiles’ touch.

*

Stiles nearly swoons from the feeling of Derek’s semen in his mouth, excess finding its way to smear against the skin of his fingers and knuckles where he cradles Derek’s member in his fist. He pulls off, and Derek gasps above him. Stiles screws his eyes shut and swallows, a sensation that is hard to handle and yet he want to do it, wants Derek’s spend, thick and too pungent, sliding down his throat.

“Did that hurt?” he asks, hearing the rough edge of his own voice over the waterfall. He runs the back of his arm across his lips to get the last of it, and tries to swish it into the shallow water at the floor of the cave.

Derek says something in reply that Stiles can’t hear but he doesn’t look hurt at all. He looks at peace, his body splayed out, arms and legs extended at diagonals like rays of the sun. His chest heaves with the effort of taking in big breaths.

After glancing at his arm to see most of the mess is gone, Stiles rises up to his hands and knees so he is crouched over Derek’s legs and groin and belly. The stone of the cave and the thin layer of rushing water seems to cool his overheated body and he looks down in admiration at Derek’s softening, satisfied cock.

“What was that?” Stiles asks. His gaze skates up along Derek’s hips and stomach to the slowing breaths and dampened hair at his chest, then up to Derek’s face. His eyes are closed, his lips are parted and his cheeks are rosy even in the dim light.

“Didn’t hurt. Maybe slower next time,” Derek says. His eyes open slowly and his eyes meet Stiles’. With a widening, wicked grin, he lifts his hands from his sides and beckons Stiles forward. “Come here, Stiles.”

The command and the term of affection both remind Stiles that his own member is still hard, his own body is still taut with desire, waiting for the eager ministrations that will bring his own release. He crawls up the length of Derek’s body, and, just as he begins to lean down to take a kiss and feel himself press against Derek, broad hands wrap around the cheeks of his ass.

“Come here, I said,” Derek says, and Stiles could swear he hears him chuckle just before he pulls hard on Stiles’ body. He slides forward, upwards, his knees catching in Derek’s armpits and Stiles realizes how close his hard cock is to Derek’s face.

“What,” Stiles splutters, trying to back away but Derek’s hands hold him firmly. He puts his hands on either side of Derek’s face and can’t deny how pleased Derek looks right now, like this is just what he wants.

“Yes?” Derek asks, eyes sparkling.

“Yes,” Stiles replies. Derek slides his hands up to Stiles’ waist and guides him to awkwardly walk on his knees until he is straddling Derek’s face. Then Derek guides Stiles’ penis into his waiting, eager mouth.

It is an endless feeling and yet concentrated in one spot, so much pleasure Stiles thinks he could pass out. Warm and wet inside Derek’s mouth, and his hands slide back to grip Stiles’ hips, making a rhythm for him by pushing and pulling his pelvis back and forth. Stiles isn’t sure where to put his hands, isn’t sure he can stay upright. But Derek keeps moving him into mounting heat, and Stiles relaxes into letting Derek hold him up, letting Derek make him chase his orgasm.

He wraps his arms around himself and it is like Derek is holding him in two places at once. Like this, he whimpers as he feels his balls thicken, feels his cock thicken, and then he lets go into the very best feeling there is.

***

Chapter Text

The water flows across the dampened sand leaving tiny birds scurrying in its wake. Stiles watches them, waiting for the moment the tide rolls gently out and the birds dip their heads to investigate what morsels they might find now beneath the sand. He breathes in.

“Now,” he says.

Derek sits cross-legged in front of him with his eyes closed. His back is to the water and he is in shadow beneath the overhang of the palm tree they sit beneath. His lips are gently parted, and, upon Stiles’ command, his fangs extend smoothly, like a great cat unsheathing his claws.

“Alright,” Stiles whispers, mostly to himself. Derek remains as he is, nearly serene, waiting for the next request from Stiles. The little birds at the shoreline are picking at the sand, digging up the last of the crabs they can find. Beyond them, the ocean starts to swell again.

“Now,” Stiles says. He hugs himself around the knees as he says it, and watches intently as Derek’s fangs vanish again from whence they came.

Derek remains still, with his eyes closed, for moments afterwards. Then a slow smile spreads across his face.

“Alright, alright,” Stiles says. He scoops a handful of sand and tosses it at Derek’s lap, at which Derek open his eyes and laughs.

“I’m allowed a little pride,” he says.

“Yes, you mastered your teeth, we should have a parade,” Stiles says but he’s desperately trying not to laugh and he knows Derek can see that. It’s a lost cause.

“Enjoy yourself,” he says imperiously as Stiles tries to get hold of his emotions. “You know this is a big success.”

It’s true. Handling his changes so well beneath the moon is important. But being able to command changes whenever they are needed, full moon or no, is an even greater stride. Derek is no longer a liability they can manage. With this advance, he becomes an asset and ability to thrive.

“I know it is,” Stiles admits. His guffaws have softened into a smile and he reaches for Derek’s lips to run a finger gently across them. “You’re doing beautifully,” he adds. My love, he thinks. But he doesn’t say it. They haven’t said it. He isn’t sure when is the right time, or if there is a right time.

Derek adores him, and likes the things they do together now, he knows this. And Derek has always loved him, Stiles knows this too. But something remains unsaid between them, and Stiles is confused by it. He can’t quite put words to it, so it has made sense just not to say anything yet. But he longs to hear them said. He longs to say them. My love.

Right now, his love is sharpening his gaze in a way Stiles is coming to know instrinctively. He snatches back his finger before Derek kisses it, or bites it, or pins him to the ground.

“No, no,” he says and shoves playfully at Derek’s shoulders.

“But I thought we were done,” Derek says, and the bastard comes up on to his knees and then drops forwards into a crouch, a hairsbreadth away from stalking forward on all fours like the wolf he is.

Stiles draws up to his own knees and puts his hand out. “You’re done. And you need a break now. You know you get tired out when we practice and I’d rather you rest now than get insufferable later.”

Derek rolls his eyes but does not protest, which is as close as he’ll get to admitting Stiles is right. “You could come rest with me?” he suggests, one eyebrow cocked.

“Ha,” Stiles says, and struggles to his feet. “That’s not rest and we both know it.” The temptation is great. In the fortnight or so since they have begun touching each other, they haven’t slept apart. The upstairs bed became their shared and preferred place for sleeping, by unspoken agreement, since the first night, when Stiles looked at his own, lonely cot, then backed up toward the ladder to the loft, making sure to hold Derek’s hungry, interested gaze. Derek had quickly followed, nearly stalking him up the ladder, and they fell easily into the large bed. Subsequently, they only slept there, and that only happened after long, wonderful nights of continued exploration.

To make the short trip back with Derek, to lie in his arms in the late morning, is a thought Stiles would love to indulge. But he needs to meditate further, and for that he needs to be alone.

Derek rises also, brushing the sand from his legs and ass. He looks at Stiles with some curiosity. “You really need to practice by yourself?”

“I think so,” Stiles says. “When we do this together I’m concentrating completely on you. It’s working, but I just think I should develop my own abilities. I can’t really focus on myself at all when we do that.”

This line of reasoning is mostly true and so if there is any flutter of Stiles’ heartbeat, he assumes Derek doesn’t notice, or accepts it as him not understanding his own reasoning completely.

“I’ll come check on you in a little while,” he says, and presses his lips to Stiles’, gentle and breathtaking. And then he wanders back up towards the treehouse, turning back only once, to wave.

-----

Derek wakes slowly in the upstairs bed and stretches wide, his arms thrown overhead. It is a bit too warm to be up here midday -- it would have been wiser to retreat to his cot on the lower floor -- but he was drawn to the more sumptuous covers they use and the smell of Stiles threaded into them. A look at the clear sky tells him he slept a little longer than he meant to; it could be as late as two p.m. It’s so like Stiles to leave him sleeping rather than wake him at an appointed hour. It’s a sweet gesture, and Derek can’t find it in himself to be annoyed by it.

He climbs easily down the ladder to the lower floor and is surprised to find that Stiles isn’t there. While Stiles would certainly leave Derek to sleep if needed, this is still Stiles. He’s driven by four things: curiosity, concern, hunger, and, most recently, most exciting desires. Surely, at least one of those things would have led him back to the treehouse by now; unless something else captured his interest.

Derek scales down the rope ladder to the ground, jumping down a meter or so from one of the last rungs. No sign of Stiles. He supposes it’s possible Stiles was more tired himself than he let on, or fell asleep in the middle of meditating. The entire pursuit is full of unknowns, and Derek doesn’t assume to say he understands entirely how it works or what could happen as they try new things. That’s probably it, he thinks. They were both more tired out than they realized. He smiles to himself happily, considering the reasons for their recent exertion and the tiredness that has followed, and strolls back down to the beach.

When Derek hits the edge of ground that drops off into beach, he sees Stiles about halfway between him and the edge of the rolling ocean. More or less where he was when Derek left. It’s a bit surprising, but Derek can’t see any reason to be alarmed. At this distance he appears stock still and unmoving. While it is greatly tempting to sneak up behind him and surprise him, Derek dismisses that line of thought immediately. The flailing would be hilarious; the possible playfight in the sand is also very appealing. But meditation does put you into a certain state of mind, and to just shock Stiles out of that could be very distressing, perhaps even dangerous. He’s put Stiles into enough danger; he won’t put him into any more, not if he can help it.

So, Derek walks slowly in enough of an arc, relative to where Stiles is seated -- cross-legged, he can see now, with his palms laid across his knees and facing toward the sun -- that he can come up around his side. He takes a moment as he approaches to admire his profile, the fine bones in his nose and cheeks, the strength of his jawline. He is achingly beautiful. Derek wonders if that will ever stop affecting him, and begins to draw closer.

It is at his next step that Derek can see Stiles’ eyes are not closed at all. They are slightly open, which is curious. No, Derek sees at his next step, they are wide open, and yet Stiles has not noticed movement in his peripheral vision. Derek is impressed for a moment at how strong Stiles’ powers of concentration are becoming, but then he takes another step, and he nearly screams.

Stiles eyes are indeed wide open. Wide open, and without any of the characteristics of his eyes, or of any human eyes. There is no honey brown, no pupil, no white. They are a solid, glowing gold.

Derek wants to lunge for him, to shake him back to his own eyes and to his own consciousness. But, he realizes, he doesn’t know what he’s dealing with here. Maybe it would hurt Stiles; maybe Stiles would come to and be incredibly pissed off for Derek at ruining his success.

“Stiles?” he says. He walks carefully to stand right in front of Stiles, almost close enough to touch. The midday sun is bright and harsh at his back and the sand beneath his feet is just warm enough to be uncomfortable. Stiles doesn’t notice at all. His breathing is slow and deep, but not labored, Derek notes. He looks him over carefully and while it’s hard to tell in the glare of sunshine and the intensity of the situation, Derek thinks Stiles’ body might be giving off a slight, fine vibration.

“Darling,” Derek whispers, torn and fascinated and scared. He falls to the the sand and reaches for Stiles’ tanned cheek. When his fingers brush there, Stiles doesn’t react at all. If anything, he seems to vibrate slightly harder, his whole body caught in an all-encompassing hum.

“Darling,” Derek says again, voice breaking. He puts his hands on Stiles’ shoulders and begins to cry, while Stiles sits there, unmoving and unseeing, his gold gaze trained somewhere on the horizon.

----

The island is beautiful.

Stiles knew this already. He could see the beauty in pieces, like the photographs they had found in one of the steamer trunks. A tree could be beautiful, a shell, a vine. A fat freshwater fish, a tiny bird, a leaping monkey. A handmade basket, the little stone wolf, a weathered blanket. The lagoon, the treehouse, Derek. The changing ocean, the changing weather, the changing sky.

Now, however. Now he sees it from above, like he is a bird in flight. A large bird, he muses lightly, something muscular and strong and able to withstand this height. The thought swirls into the air and is gone. He feels it go, just as he can feel the air coming into his lungs is somehow denser, like is able to breathe in more than normal. He is soaring. He looks down again.

The island is beautiful as a whole thing, like it is a living creature. Dense and green, heavy with humidity. Life pulses within, like the rush of blood in veins. There are other islands beyond it, and they are also full of life. Fragments of truth come to him even though he doesn’t see them from this far above: boats, people. Families and friends going about daily life, but a daily life somewhere between the life Stiles knew before and the one he and Derek have now in shared solitude. Different types of trees, with thicker trunks and lower leaves. Land beyond those islands, with people who travel back and forth between.

Then there is a forceful rush, like a monsoon or an undertow and Stiles is pulled into it like he’s just a leaf or a seashell, nothing of any weight or consequence. He has a brief, revolting spike of fear, but it passes. When it’s done, he is still being towed helplessly along some current but he can feel the entirety of himself. He can feel that he is not coming apart and suspects he will survive this. He doesn’t panic, and he doesn’t try to escape. He simply continues.

She is far away and his view of her is through a kind of gauzy mist, like when your eyes first adjust in the darkness at bedtime and you can make out a slight impression of what is there. She is turned away from him and seated somewhere, maybe in a windowseat, curtains draped around her. Her hair is dark, nearly black, and her hand is pressed against the window, elegant.

She gasps, and whirls around to face him.

“. . . there?”

He is seated on the sand where he started. The sky is streaked with pink, the sun just beginning its journey from view. The tide is receding.

“What?” Stiles says. He turns to his side and Derek is there, looking like he’s gentling his expression as much as he can to keep from appearing terrified.

“Oh God, darling. Stiles. You’re here. You’re here. I’m here.” Derek’s hands hover around Stiles’ face and then he draws back, unsure. He takes Stiles’ limp hand between his own and squeezes them hard. “Are you alright?”

“I. . .” Stiles begins. The sunset is beautiful. Derek is beautiful. Stiles reaches over with his free hand and lets his fingers drift down the side of Derek’s face, gathering himself.

“I’m alright,” he says. “I’m alright, Derek. And Cora is alive.”

Chapter Text

“No,” Derek says. “How could you -- no.”

Stiles’ face is flushed and his eyes are alight. Normal now, no hint of the gold affect he’d had just moments ago. He speaks in his usual, falling-water rush.

“She was right there, Derek, not like she was then, but now, it must have been now. She was older, she would be, what?” Stiles bites the very corner of his lip in thought for all of a heartbeat and then soldiers on. “Eleven? Twelve years of age? And she was well, Derek, she was well, it was like we were sitting next to one another like you and I are now. And she saw me, or felt me, I don’t know exactly, but she was reading and looked up and oh! She was in a house, a big library or drawing room, a home so she must have been reunited with our families but I couldn’t tell if she was--”

Stiles heaves in a big gasp of air. Derek is reminded of the fish he catches right before he spears them. Unseeing and choking on nothing.

“I couldn’t tell where she was. If it was England or America, and I didn’t see anyone else, I’m sorry, I couldn’t see anyone else but, I think, she’s, I think--” Stiles heaves in another breath and Derek can see tears forming and this is insane. This makes no sense. But then, neither do werewolves, and neither does his beloved’s eyes turning into sheets of gold before him.

“Love,” Derek says and then he pulls on Stiles’ shoulders. Stiles, thank God, follows willingly, as Derek pushes him and arranges him until he’s sitting, hands on his own knees, facing away from the water. Facing towards home. He allows Derek to sit behind him, to brace him with his own thighs. They sit that way for many minutes, breathing together as much as Stiles is able, as the sun slowly melts away into darkness.

The first thing Derek says, against Stiles’ ear all that time later, is:

“Do you think you can walk?”

And he knows how much it costs Stiles to admit:

“No.”

The walk to the treehouse isn’t easy but it isn’t impossible, Stiles’ arms looped loosely around Derek’s neck as Derek cradles him. Getting up the ladder is nearly impossible but they manage, with Derek climbing the rope ladder and Stiles clinging to his back.

As he sets Stiles down inside, right on their everything table, Stiles says, “If I weren’t already swooning right now that would have done it.”

Derek doesn’t acknowledge the flirting, although he’s kind of glad Stiles can even manage it Instead he uncaps a wineskin hanging on the wall and brings it right to Stiles’ lips. Stiles takes it -- mainly to prove that he is able, Derek thinks -- and drains the entire thing, dropping it behind him on the table and drawing his forearm across his wet lips and chin.

“What did I look like?” he asks. He leans back on his hands, his legs hanging down, and the very question makes Derek feel something beneath his skin. Not quite the wolf, but something primal and confused.

“You looked afraid,” Stiles adds.

“I was,” Derek says. He pulls a chair from against the table and sits down, taking the kind of breath he usually reserves for his meditation.

“You looked gone. You weren’t there. Your eyes, they were -- this will sound strange.”

“I don’t have the strongest sense of what qualifies as strange, anymore,” Stiles says and turns the fingers of one hand in circles, encouraging Derek to continue.

“They were gold. Bright, glowing gold, and nothing else. And your body seemed as if were caught in a current. Not shaking, but like a vibration.” Derek pauses, searching Stiles’ face for his reaction.

Stiles shrugs his shoulders slowly, and lowers them down. “It felt like I was flying,” he says.

“Why do you sound sad?” Derek asks. He reaches out and places his hand atop Stiles’ knee, then rubs gently at his calf.

“I don’t know,” he says. “It wasn’t real, I guess.”

Derek shrugs in return. “Maybe it was. You weren’t asleep. That wasn’t a dream.” He thinks for a moment. “Stiles, I don’t know anything of what you were doing. But werewolves exist, right?”

A smile ghosts across Stiles’ lips. “Undeniably so, yes.”

“Then why can’t other things be possible? You’re my anchor. That means there’s a bond. That bond is spiritual. Maybe you can do more than just connect with me.”

Stiles’ eyes have drifted shut. Derek wonders if he might have fallen asleep when he murmurs, “My mother.”

“Claudia?”

“She. . . I’m not sure, honestly, it’s jumbled together in my thoughts. She seemed to know something before I said it, or would answer a question my father hadn’t asked. When I was little, I thought it was just how mothers were.” He opens his eyes and looks at Derek, smiling gently. “Don’t all children think their parents are magic?”

Derek feels, for the second time this evening, like his heart has somehow slipped out of his body. “Stiles,” he says. “You’ve done those things with me.”

***

Stiles can hear the shells downstairs clink against each other, stirring in the wind. He’s settled in the big bed in the loft, well-propped up by pillows and well-wrapped in the softest blankets and coverings they have. He can hear Derek, downstairs, too, scraping plates and tidying up their living space.

His legs still feel weak but the air goes easily in and out of his lungs. He’s tired, exhausted even, but not really afraid. If their experiences learning about Derek’s wolf changes have taught him anything, it’s that life can be less frightening when you know just what you’re facing.

He gazes out the window, the shadows of bending trees flitting across his vision, the faint sound of surf. It’s difficult to review his experiences of the past few years in light of what Derek told him as they ate dinner, and in light of what happened today. He knew, as a child, that Cora had made it to the lifeboat but couldn’t explain why. He saw the island from their own lifeboat at a distance that Derek says did not seem possible. Since the island was indeed there, he and Peter had assumed they’d been too tired to notice, or perhaps Stiles’ eyesight was just that keen. Two dozen small instances over their time on the island that seem to imply that Stiles has some kind of prescience. It doesn’t feel that way, though. It just feels like his senses, like how he supposed everyone’s senses felt.

Except, he sat on the beach today and meditated by himself for a reason. A reason he didn’t entirely understand, but enough of one to phrase a reply to Derek so as to go just beneath the tell-tale heartbeat of a lie. He did feel something, a connection, to the world. He always had. And the strengthening of his connection to Derek had, he supposed, made him wonder if he might be able to strengthen his connection to the world as well.

He hadn’t quite imagined this.

The floorboards creak and Stiles turns to watch Derek emerge up the ladder. Even though it’s dark he can make out the shape of him, can follow the motion as Derek strips off his shirt. His hands move to his waist and then his shorts drop to the floor. Naked, he walks to the edge of the bed and lays down next to Stiles without throwing back the covers. He positions himself on his side, one hand resting against his hip while he use the other to prop up his head, elbow resting against the covers. Stiles realizes that Derek even gave Stiles his own pillow to situate him in what Derek deemed a comfortable enough position for rest.

“How are you feeling?” Derek says.

“Less terrible,” Stiles says as brightly as he can muster. “Thank you. It took a lot out of me.”

“Flying will do that,” Derek says, a light amusement in his voice. His fingers touch the side of Stiles’ head, first pushing into his hair, then tracing the rim of his ear and the bridge of his nose, feeling his way along Stiles’ face in the dark.

“Along with the rest of it,” Stiles says. He turns on his side, tipped up higher than Derek from the pillows, and Derek lets his hand move along with motion, skating down Stiles’ neck and moving across his chest above the bed sheets. Stiles is in a nightshirt, too -- Derek insisted on bundling him up, as if trances made you cold. But, Stiles supposes, Derek saw him vulnerable and strange. He thinks of all the times he saw Derek in the same kind of situation and doesn’t have it in him to argue about it.

Stiles takes Derek’s hand and moves it up to his mouth. He kisses his fingertips softly, one at a time, and can hear Derek’s slight, murmured laugh in response. He’s very aware of the heat of Derek’s body in the bed and his naked skin, so close. He presses a kiss to the back of Derek’s hand and, after a moment, turns it carefully in his own hands and presses a kiss to the center of Derek’s palm.

“I want out,” he says, and begins to kick at the sheets until Derek helps him, pulling back the various covers and then smoothing them back beneath Stiles as he awkwardly lifts up, then settling back on the bed. Derek’s foot find his, and they twine together at the feet, holding hands, not touching anywhere else.

“Derek,” Stiles says. He bows his head slightly, too nervous to look at Derek even though their eyes might not even meet in the dark of the room.

“Hmm?”

“You called me love.” Derek doesn’t reply, but his thumb strokes against one of Stiles’ hands. “On the beach,” Stiles clarifies.

“I also called you darling, but you were still unconscious,” Derek says.

Stiles thinks maybe he’s supposed to laugh then but he doesn’t feel it, at all. “It’s fine,” he says. “If you just said that. If that’s just something you said. It must have been so scary, to see me like that.”

“It was,” Derek says. A breeze glides through the room, stirring Stiles’ nightshirt against his knees, leaving goosebumps. “But Stiles, you -- I do love you. That’s what you are.” He moves closer to Stiles in the bed and pushes his forehead against Stiles’ to make room for himself on the mound of pillows. It reminds Stiles of a dog pushing her puppy out of harm’s way. After Stiles has adjusted, Derek stays right there, with their foreheads pressed together.

“You’re my love,” Derek says. It's hard to say exactly where the sentence ends and the kiss begins.