Fandom: Teen Wolf
Spoilers: through 2x08
Word Count: 23,448
Skip to Part II or Part III or read as a single page over at AO3.
Summary: Derek steps away from the window. “You helped me. They took that as a declaration.”
Notes: This is set in the fuzzy, nebulous realm after season 2 ends, but contains no spoilers beyond aired canon. How AU this’ll be by the actual season finale is anybody’s guess. Derek is an alpha here, Jackson’s still a kanima and Lydia is ambiguously awesome.
Beta’d by the fantastic ariadne83. The title is from Two English Poems by Jorge Luis Borges. Please see the end of this page for warnings, if you would like them.
Derek’s options are limited.
His head’s still ringing from the fall; the bones below his right knee are so far gone that they’re not so much healing as starting over; the heavy, drowning feeling in the left side of his chest isn’t going to fade until he can sit upright enough to get the sharp edges of his ribcage aligned. There’s something wrong with his lower back, not enough to keep him from moving but enough to make it agony when he does.
The only way he’s getting out of here is to heal enough to scale the wall to the first floor. It’s maybe eight feet up – an easy jump any other time, and right now it might as well be the moon. He doubts he has the time.
It’s a small miracle that the hunters aren’t on him yet. He hadn’t thought they’d gotten brave enough to set traps in town, but he should have. The Argents hadn’t been subtle about splintering apart like a pipe bomb, and those of them that are left are too busy picking up the pieces to mind the store. The outsiders rushing to fill the vacuum don’t care as much about discretion or collateral damage.
It’s why he’d been out here in the first place. The train station is an open secret these days, and can’t be the pack’s only safehouse when things go to hell; a nice, abandoned construction zone seemed like a decent fallback.
Idiot. They must have had surveillance - the elevator cable hadn’t blown until he’d stepped in to test the electrical hookups – and there’s no way they won’t have noticed.
And suddenly his time is up. There’s an engine getting closer, and then footsteps running in his direction. He claws his way to his feet and sways there. If he’s going down, he’ll take it standing.
The last thing he expects is Stiles’ resigned face staring down at him. “Oh,” Stiles sighs. “Of course.”
Then he ducks back out of view. It isn’t a surprise when his footsteps head rapidly away. It is when they come just as quickly back. Stiles leans over the edge again with his jacket dangling from one hand.
“There’s nothing else that’ll reach. We’ve got, like, thirty seconds here, so chop, chop.”
It’s stupid, but Derek’s not prepared to have another choice. The understanding that if he takes it, it will be obvious exactly how vulnerable he is right now freezes him in place.
Stiles reads his hesitation and shakes the coat at him. “I don’t see anybody else lining up for the job, okay, so drop the deep interrogation of my motives, Kojak, and grab the damn sleeve.”
He does. With help, he even manages to scrabble up onto solid ground without passing out. It’s a near thing, though, and he’s on his knees trying to blink away the dark spots when Stiles’ voice registers again.
“- and holy Jesus that’s rebar sticking out of… I am going to be scarred for life and we really, really need to go now.”
Stiles ducks under Derek’s arm and drags him along until Derek gets enough of a stagger going to contribute. By the time they make it past the construction fence, he can hear trucks closing in on the other side of the site. The Jeep is sitting in the shadow of the tree line, and Stiles shoves him into it with a muttered, “Come on, come on.”
They’re ten minutes down the road with no headlights behind them before Derek manages to ask, “How did you know I was there?”
“These guys aren’t exactly Einsteins, and they like cheap radios. We figured out their frequencies a while ago. It’s mostly like listening to the All Paint Drying, All the Time station, but they started going nuts about this address tonight. I zip over to find your cranky ass in a sling, and here we are.” He gives Derek the side-eye. “You’re bleeding on my seats, aren’t you?”
“It could be you bleeding on them.” As threats go, it’s not his best, probably because he is still losing blood.
Stiles rolls his eyes. Derek will worry about how little he impresses the kid later.
It’s a mark of how out of it he still is that he doesn’t pay attention to where they are until they’re parked. “Your house?”
Stiles comes around to the passenger side before bothering to answer. “I’m guessing the boxcar motel is out for you tonight. If you’ve got other suggestions, I’m open to them. Otherwise…” He opens the car door at Derek’s reluctant nod. “Yeah, thought so.”
They manage the same awkward three-legged shuffle over to the house, Stiles’ arm tightening around Derek’s waist when they get to the porch stairs.
“Oh my god, I am not thinking about what my hand is currently covered in.”
Now would be a great time for an irritated growl. Derek’s getting on that as soon as he stops wanting to pass out.
Inside the door, they both pause at the foot of the staircase. Stiles whines low in his throat, like he’s getting the short end of the stick here, and then sighs. “The shower’s up there, and this is going to be… yeah. I’d rather hose you down than explain bloodstains on the hardwood.”
He at least looks at Derek for confirmation. That’s something. It doesn’t make the climb up any less hellish, but it gives him the illusion of agreeing to it. They’re both panting by the time Stiles shrugs him off onto the edge of the bathtub. Derek focuses on staying upright while Stiles hauls out an impressive first aid kit from under the sink.
“Gravity and I were not best buddies in my youth,” Stiles explains, catching his look. “So, are you ever going to clarify how you wound up needing my personal Lassie skills?”
“You… fell? That’s it? That’s what you’re going with? Mr. Toothy Badass himself just tripped and, oops, took a little tumble. Where the latest contestants on Who Wants to Kill a Creature of the Night happened to be watching. Yeah.”
“I fell really far.”
Stiles blinks at him. “Wow. Fire, water, air… You’re, like, one live burial away from having issues with all the natural elements. Remind me not to be anywhere near you when mudslide season hits.”
“Not a problem.”
“Because you’re leaving town?” he asks hopefully.
“Because I’m going back to avoiding you.”
Stiles runs a pointed glance between them and around the small bathroom. “Right. How’s that working out for you again?”
Derek just grunts. It’s not worth putting effort into a reply.
“No, seriously, is it a werewolf thing? For just three easy installments of $9.95, you too can gain claws, confidence, and the inability to plan worth crap.”
A new thought hits Derek. “Your dad isn’t home?”
“No,” Stiles says, face closing right down. His jaw tightens. “He’s doing some contract work with a security company on overnights.”
The Sheriff had always been fair, at least, given all the things he couldn’t know. Derek hadn’t celebrated when he’d heard about him getting fired.
“When do I need to be out of here in the morning?”
“Just stay in my room. He won’t look.” Stiles swallows. “We aren’t exactly talking much right now.”
Sorry isn’t an option, but Derek manages a nod. Stiles fiddles with a roll of gauze for a while and then drops it on the counter to gesture at Derek. “You ready to get on with the process that’s going to haunt my nightmares? Seriously, I think I’m going to have to extract things, and that’s just not in my job description. I’m pretty sure all the first aid classes say to leave stuff in, too, but then every day is opposite day with werewolves, so…”
Derek tunes him out and braces himself for the pain.
He comes to mostly naked, soaking wet on the bottom of the tub. Stiles is standing with his back to him, shirtless and dripping as he finishes turning off the shower overhead. Taking stock, Derek’s lungs are both in working order, and his back has faded down to a persistent ache. His leg’s still out of commission for anything above a shuffle.
Stiles is pale when he hands Derek a towel and helps drag him upright. With distance, the tub looks like a horror movie set, but Stiles doesn’t say anything as they limp down the hall. He steps back once Derek’s on the edge of the bed.
The silence is unsettling, coming from him. “If you’ve got clothes I can borrow, I’ll take the couch,” Derek tries. Even at this speed, he can be gone before anyone else gets through the front door.
Stiles doesn’t play along. He hands over a shirt and sleep pants without comment, and then turns his back like Derek’s got any virtue to preserve. When Derek drags himself toward the door, though, it gets his attention. He lets out a noise of protest and blocks the exit.
Derek does not have the energy for this. “Whatever breakdown you’re having, do it after I get downstairs.”
“Just… Lay down. Sleep, alright?” His eyes flicker over Derek, over the bed. “Some of us aren’t sadistic assholes who get off on watching people suffer, and you… You’re kind of a walking advertisement to wince right now.”
“You once said you’d leave me in the street while I was dying.”
“Well, yeah, but I was frustrated and kidding. Admittedly, maybe not my best comedic timing, but who would really do that?”
“Most people,” Derek says.
Stiles stares at him with his mouth open, like it’s a genuine surprise. “Jesus,” he finally says.
After a beat of silence, he gestures half-heartedly over his shoulder. “I’m going to clean up and then sleep. Downstairs. Yell if you need something.”
He’s out the door long before Derek has any idea what to say.
By the time he wakes up, he’s mostly back in one piece. With his head clear, it’s obvious how badly wrong this has all gone. There are boundaries that need reinforcement. He only hears one other heartbeat in the house, and he’s going to make an educated guess based on the early morning light that he and Stiles are still alone. He makes it to the bathroom with only a slight limp, and by the time he’s done there are jeans and a t-shirt laid out on the bed. Judging by the fit, they’re Stiles’ dad’s. Derek’s pulling the shirt on when Stiles sighs from the doorway.
He’s holding up one of the towels Derek hadn’t had the energy to keep track of last night. “I forgot you were born in a barn.”
I was born at home, he thinks. Sixteen hours of labor, and Laura had teased him about being antisocial from the womb. His mother had always called him her shy boy.
“No,” he says instead, smiling with teeth. “But I was raised by wolves.”
Stiles opens his mouth, then closes it and glares. “Impossibly, you’re actually more terrifying when you tell jokes.”
“Wouldn’t want you getting too comfortable.”
“Oh my god!” He flails his hands. “Look, you’ve actively tried to kill and/or maim people I care about, so believe me I am not sizing us up for friendship bracelets here.”
Derek may as well ask point blank. “What is it you thought you’d get out of this, Stiles?”
He makes a frustrated noise through his teeth. “What I am getting out of this is the satisfaction of a clear conscience, okay? That’s it.”
He’s telling the truth. “Fine,” Derek says. “I need to get back to the station.”
“You’re going back to the train? Really? You don’t think that’ll be a super obvious target?”
“We’ve got it covered.” He’d chosen it in the first place for its multiple potential exits, every one echoing like an alarm system to the right ears. The pack can be long gone before anyone will ever catch them by surprise.
“You don’t think they’ll storm the castle?”
They haven’t had the balls to go after an alpha alone until now, and even then only when he was injured. “They don’t have the numbers.”
“Where have you been? You can’t walk down the street around here without tripping over a hunter lately.” He frowns. “They’re like tribbles. Scary, armed tribbles.”
“But they’re all from different factions. Think of them like mafias – they work in small groups, usually families, and most of them don’t do alliances.” It can’t hurt to share a little information. “If they’re not loyal to the same big patron family, they’ll be just as happy to fight each other as us.”
“Huh.” Stiles stares at the wall for a minute like he’s slotting this into place, and then shrugs. “Well, far be it from me to prevent your untimely demise twice in twenty four hours. Your clothes are in the bag by the back door. Enjoy your subway cave.”
It feels awkward, unfinished. Derek heads downstairs and Stiles trails behind him, like he’s seeing him out. He grabs the garbage bag on his way to the door, but there’s a brown paper sack on top of it. He’s checking inside when Stiles speaks up.
“It’s a sandwich, not a grenade.” He fidgets from against the kitchen counter. “Scott always gets the munchies after he has to regenerate his spleen or whatever.”
Derek blinks, but there’s nothing that comes to mind to do other than nod.
Stiles waves lazily. “Later, Splinter. See, that’s funny, because you’re fuzzy and live underground and herd a bunch of teenagers around –“
Derek snorts as he walks out, but he can’t help closing the door gently behind himself.
The betas aren’t at the station when he gets back. He didn’t expect them to be.They still come when he calls, still fight when he tells them to. After everything that’s happened, he’s a long way from their blind trust, but he’s still the devil they know. They’re smart and they’re alive. That was always the goal.
Scott doesn’t come when he calls. He does come when asked about half the time, though. Derek’s starting to realize that it’s possible the most they can aim for is sorting out that other half.
The tunnels are quiet, and the damp tile walls hold scent well enough that he knows no one’s been here since Isaac three days ago.
He needs to get serious about the hunters. They’ve all been following the letter of the code up to this point, but the big families are the only ones that ever enforced it fully. They’re only waiting for an excuse, now, just one toe across the line. If they can drag that toe over, all the better. He has no doubt they’d have had a cover story for the construction site, some way to conveniently explain how he deserved it. It’s just as likely there’d be no one to ask questions in the first place.
The pack can handle itself against an open attack from any particular group of hunters. The trick is in keeping it clear to everyone else that the pack aren’t the aggressors, and avoiding getting picked off one at a time in pitched fights. It’s not an easy trick.
If they can stay alive long enough, the hunters without larger families already backing them will go for easier targets. One of the big names will take an interest in the territory, and Derek might have a window to prove that his pack is stable and quiet. If he’s lucky, the Argents might even get their shit together and reassert themselves; it’s the last thing he’d ever thought he’d be rooting for, but they’re the devil he knows.
That had been his strategy, at least, until he wound up at the wrong end of a six-story fall. Now, he’s not sure they have the choice of being passive. It might be better to hit first and hard and try to keep it quiet.
He feels more like himself these days. It’s a shame. He’d enjoyed being someone else for a while there.
Stiles calls him two days later, just before sundown. “You need to get over here right now. Discreetly.”“Why would I do that, Stiles?”
“There is a truck sitting across the street with a couple of guys who scream bad news just watching like stalking stalkers and this is so incredibly your fault.”
It’s probably true.
“Wait by the back door. Your window’s too visible from the street.”
Twenty minutes later he’s watching around the edge of the curtains in the Stilinskis’ darkened living room as two hunters stake out the front door. It’s too soon after the construction site to be a coincidence.
“They showed up right after Dad left for the night, like they knew his schedule. How long do you think they’ve been watching me? Why are they watching me?” He’s switched between pacing and gnawing on a fingernail for the full time Derek’s been here. Occasionally, maybe for variety, he does both at the same time. “I mean, what the hell?”
The hunters haven’t made a move to leave the truck. From what Derek can catch of their conversation, they seem to be rock-paper-scissoring for the last Krispy Krème. Derek steps away from the window. “You helped me. They took that as a declaration.”
Stiles runs his hands roughly over his head. “How do I un-declare it?”
Derek keeps silent. Stiles already knows the answer.
His bowed head a second later confirms it. “Shit.”
That about sums it up.
“If they’re watching me, they’ll start looking at everybody around me. Scott, Jackson, Lydia… If they figure out any of them aren’t normal…” Stiles says. If he keeps rubbing the back of his neck like that he’ll draw blood. “What are we going to do?”
“’We?’” It trips out of him.
Stiles’ face shuts down. “Fine, I get it. Me. My problem. Screw you, too.”
Derek watches him pace for a while before he tries again. “Nothing.”
“What?” Stiles asks, head back in his hands.
“Don’t do anything. We stay away from each other, and they figure out you’re not worth their time. Try not to be around any of the others when they’re feeling stupid.”
Skepticism is written all over him. “I’m the original advocate of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing 'til the coast is clear, but you really think that’ll work?”
“I really think I’m getting rid of them soon.”
“Great.” The hands on his hips are just obnoxious. “Let me know how that works out for you.”
It turns out Derek doesn’t have to let him know anything. Hitting first would have gone better if this group of hunters hadn’t bought out an army surplus store’s worth of electronic alarms for the block surrounding their warehouse hideout. Simple reconnaissance gets switched to a frantic dash with one interrupted laser beam.It’s just becoming clear how utterly screwed the pack’s retreat is – the hunters have the advantages of both rooftop high ground and home turf – when Stiles brakes to a screeching halt in front of them at the mouth of an alley. The betas drag each other into the back without hesitation.
“Why does this always happen on my nights on radio watch? Danny takes turns. This could happen on his nights. Why does it never happen then?” Stiles’ eyes flicker between mirrors, watching for the hunters that he’ll never see coming.
Derek jumps in and slams the door. “Drive.”
“’Drive,’ he says.” Stiles keeps bitching, but the Jeep accelerates. “Do you have any idea how inconvenient it is having to save your asses on a school night? While ditching a tail, I might add.”
Erica looks up from poking Isaac’s bruises and smirks. “You couldn’t have sent Scott?”
Stiles sighs. “A) That hurts me, right here,” he lays a hand on his chest, “and B) it kind of defeats the purpose of keeping under the radar to send Scott towards the guys making a list and checking it twice. Seriously, you all suck at Clue, don’t you?”
“But we’re pretty awesome at Twister,” Isaac says mildly.
“Not bad at lacrosse, either,” Boyd adds from his spot under Isaac.
Stiles opens his mouth, and then gives in to a nod. “Yeah, touché.”
He doesn’t argue when Derek tells him to head for the train, and the only sounds for the rest of the drive are Erica’s huffed laughs every time the boys try to find a better way of arranging themselves.
When they get there, Stiles climbs out like he’s staying with them. Derek blocks his way. “Go home.”
“What? You’re joking.” He searches Derek’s face. “You’re not joking.”
“Go home, Stiles.”
“And, what? Twiddle my thumbs waiting for the next time you and the Pipps need a ride away from certain death?” The set of his jaw is furious.
Derek doesn’t care. He has all the vulnerable spots he needs. The less Stiles is involved, the less of a target he paints on himself, so Derek crosses his arms and waits.
“Fine.” Stiles breathes out angrily, but he gets back in the Jeep. He’s still grumbling about taxi drivers and tips as his lights disappear around a building.
Boyd clears his throat from the doorway. He doesn’t say anything else, but he doesn’t need to. Derek heads for the stairs and the frustrating decision of what to do next that waits at the bottom of them.
His phone rings at two in the morning with Stiles’ number on the display.“What now?” He’s less than pleasant this late. It’s a character flaw.
He gets a distant echo in reply. He’s about to hang up and lament how his life turned into being assdialed by teenagers in the dead of night when a voice comes through. It’s not Stiles’ voice.
“We have something of yours. If you want it back, you’ll be at your old house in an hour.”
His mind races. The best he can do is stall for time. “Who is this?”
The voice chuckles. “Awful loud, isn’t he? Real firecracker.”
“I think you’ve made a mistake. Nothing of mine seems to be missing.” He smiles to make sure it comes through in his tone.
There’s a sound then, father away from the phone. It’s the distinctive whine of electricity charged and released. Derek fucking hates that sound. A half-beat behind it is a choked scream, and that is in Stiles’ voice.
“No, still think you have the wrong number,” Derek says pleasantly, and hangs up.
He allows himself one long breath with his eyes closed, and then he dials Boyd.
That the hunters have trapped the house is a given. Also obvious: they’re armed, they’re dangerous, and they’ll be expecting Derek to bring his betas along.There’s nothing he can do about any of it. He sends the others to come in separately through the woods and drives up to the front, parking next to where they’ve stashed the Jeep. One of the hunters – balding, broad shoulders, shotgun in hand – is waiting in the open door. He escorts Derek into the living room and then backs away to the far wall.
Stiles is sitting upright in a chair in the center of the space, his arms pulled behind him. There’s duct tape over his mouth, blood from his nose trickling down over it, but his eyes are angrier than they are afraid. That’s good.
There’s another hunter, taller and leaner than the first, standing beside the chair. He has a revolver aimed at Stiles’ head and an air of satisfied control to him, and that’s less good.
The man smirks. “You’re a little early.”
“Traffic’s good this time of night,” Derek says.
The man hums in amusement. “Could have been here even sooner if you didn’t bring your pack. That was stupid, by the way.”
From the frustrated sound Stiles makes, he seems to agree. Derek ignores him and cocks his head, letting through a smirk of his own. “Why’s that?”
“Oh, we were ready for them.”
Derek doesn’t let his eyes flicker to the movement at the window across from him. He’s very careful not to react as the balding hunter standing next to it slumps and is caught, lowered to the floor silently by an arm over the sill.
“Are you sure about that?” Derek asks, and lets himself shift.
The tall hunter turns his gun on Derek, self-preservation instinct kicking in just a little too late. He fires off a shot when a dart hits him in the neck, but his aim’s off and he drops before he can manage another. Isaac slinks out of the shadows of the kitchen doorway. “I like these,” he says, twirling the blowgun through his fingers.
Derek leaves him to his admiration and works on getting Stiles loose. The second the duct tape is off, though, Stiles is talking. “Less fondling your stick, more running. This isn’t all of them.”
“We know,” Erica says as she and Boyd come in through the front door. She’s smirking, but there’s a tension about them both that gets Derek’s attention. “This crew’s down for the count, but they got off a call to somebody.”
“Shit.” He spares a glance for the hunters on the floor, but they don’t have a choice. If there are more of them out there, he can’t take the chance they won’t start an open war over anything further he does here tonight. “Let’s go.”
Stiles gets upright and staggers gamely for a few steps before Derek throws an arm around his waist and drags him the rest of the way to the cars. “Keys,” he demands, tossing the Camaro’s to Boyd. Stiles doesn’t even whine about handing them over, although he does grumble when Derek doesn’t finesse second gear to his liking.
Boyd takes the opposite turn when they get to the main road. Derek watches his mirrors all the way to the Stilinskis’, but no one follows them.
Stiles walks into the house under his own power. He doesn’t question it when Derek follows, and doesn’t seem concerned his dad will be back any time soon. Derek doesn’t push it.Upstairs, Stiles stalls out for a while, blinking at himself in the bathroom mirror. In good light, the bruising looks minimal. There’s still blood under his nose, but it’s dry; when he grabs for a washcloth, Derek notices for the first time that his knuckles are scraped. He lets him wash his face before shoving him lightly aside. Stiles just perches on the edge of the tub without protest.
The first aid kit is where he remembers it being. Stiles hisses when the alcohol hits his skin, but turns his hands over obediently when Derek goes for the fingernail cuts on his palms.
The room is so quiet that it’s almost startling when Stiles speaks.
“What was on the darts back there?”
Derek reaches for the antibiotic cream. “Jackson gave a donation.”
“Huh.” He watches Derek’s thumb swipe over his knuckles. “That’s… kind of cool, really. Totally the wrong approach, but cool.”
That's irritating as a wasp sting. Derek’s planning to relish the deeply screwed look on that last hunter’s face for a long time. “I’m all ears.”
“You couldn’t call the cops?” he asks likes it’s obvious.
Derek glares. “You never want to call the cops.”
“Putting aside how you know that… I never want to call them when they’re my dad, and when the thing they’re up against is a supernatural shitshow. Asshole kidnappers with guns? Totally their turf.”
There are about a dozen ways Derek can see that ending badly. Beacon Hills doesn’t have a swat team, there’s no subtle approach to the house by car, and no one fully human could make it on foot without being noticed, not with the hunters expecting attack. Stiles could have been dead in the middle of Derek’s living room before the cops got within sight of the front door. The thought makes him uneasy.
Stiles, meanwhile, has moved on.
“So, do you have an actual plan yet for dealing with these guys, or just a general winging-it strategy?”
“Figure out where the rest of them are hiding, take them out.” It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the alternative of waiting for an ambush.
Stiles is not gratifyingly impressed. He gapes for a minute and then snaps his mouth closed. He looks, of all things, pissed off. “Could you knock it off with the Evil Mastermind life plan? Because, honestly, not to be mean here, but you suck at it.”
“No, I don’t,” is somehow what comes out of Derek’s mouth before his brain catches up.
“You fake it awesomely, don’t get me wrong. I mean, I bought it, Scott bought it, your little toothy minions bought the hell out of it.” His movements have gone sharp and clipped, either from anger or from the rest of the night catching up with him. “Thing is, everything made a whole lot more sense once I figured out you’re scared shitless most of the time.”
Derek’s shoulders tighten automatically. He doesn’t have the luxury of fear, and less so the luxury of anyone knowing about it.
Stiles reads his body language and his jaw sets a little more firmly, even as his voice levels out. “I’m not complaining. I just think we’d cut out a lot of unnecessary tension if we could skip directly to the rational, well thought out decision part.”
It’s not actually a bad idea, as much as Derek hates to admit it. He stalls for time putting the kit away under the sink. When he’s done, though, that unwavering look is still fixed on him.
“It’s not… It’s not that simple.” Talking about this is uncomfortable, like picking at a scab. “The pack… magnifies everything.”
“Oh.” And that fast, Stiles’ mood shifts like a train switching tracks. Resolve becomes fascination at whiplash speed. “Oh, crap. It’s a feedback loop.” He bites his lip. “Whatever you’re all feeling, you just keep bouncing it off each other until something spins you out of it.”
Derek nods cautiously. “Close enough.”
“So when you turned everybody, you were freaking out, and then they were freaking out, and then everyone was freaking out,” he says. “That… makes a lot of sense, actually. I’ve been calling it the Magical Douchebag Effect, but this is better. Does it work the other way?”
“If somebody starts thinking happy thoughts, does everybody get mellow?”
“Sometimes,” Derek acknowledges. “It’s part of why I went after Scott, why I chose Boyd. They’re calmer.”
“Okay. Okay, then. I can work with this.” Stiles’ face goes very somber. Suspiciously so. “Derek, be the change you want to see in the world.” He shrugs. “Or just the pack. I’d settle for the pack.”
He’s swaying slightly in place. With the anger gone out of him, it’s suddenly obvious that there’s not much else keeping him upright. Derek rolls his eyes. “Enough. Plot later, Machiavelli.”
It’s not a surprise to Derek when Stiles’ knees buckle under him the second he stands up. It is a surprise to Stiles, though, going by the sound he makes when Derek catches him with a hand in the center of his chest.
Stiles blinks. “Hello, adrenaline crash, my old friend. Also, I think maybe tasering is painful. Who knew?”
Derek snorts and pushes him vaguely more vertical. “Bed.”
Stiles makes a noise of agreement and straightens a little further himself. Derek keeps a hand ready to prevent another faceplant attempt, but they make it all the way down the hall without incident. Stiles does sink onto the edge of his bed, though, like a puppet with its strings cut.
Derek ducks out to grab an icepack from the freezer in the kitchen – he’s somehow not shocked that there are plenty in there – and comes back to find Stiles hasn’t moved. He has a hunch he’ll fall asleep like that if allowed.
Sighing in resignation, he crouches and reaches for one of Stiles’ feet. He’s tossing one sneaker to the side when Stiles says, “Thanks. For coming to get me.”
His voice is soft, their heads bowed next to each other. This close, Derek can see his eyelashes smudging into the circles under his eyes, maybe there from the hit earlier, maybe just from weariness. There’s something under his tone, in the scent of him, something subtle and layered that Derek doesn’t recognize.
Derek eases the other shoe off and backs away.
Stiles slumps over onto the bed and curls his legs in with a light moan. “I’m serious about the anger management, though,” he mumbles into his pillow as Derek’s on his way out of the room. “How do you feel about yoga?”
Downstairs, Derek locks the door behind him and heads for the trees behind the house. He doubts they’d try anything else tonight, but it can’t be more than a few hours before Stiles’ dad comes home. It’s easy enough to stay until then.
Scott’s waiting for him in the station when he comes in late the next evening. Derek smells him the second he gets to the door.There’s no point in holding off until he gets down the stairs, not when Scott can hear him from the top. “You shouldn’t be here.”
As usual, Scott doesn’t seem to care. “You should have called me.”
“To do what? We handled it.”
And now that Derek’s at floor level, he can feel the anger coming off him in waves. It’s not until Scott raises his head and pins him with his stare, though, that the fear comes through.
“He’s my best friend, and you should have called me.”
He ought to look like the reckless boy Derek first met. He doesn’t. It makes Derek’s voice quieter than he intends when he says, “I knew we could get him out without exposing you. We need every advantage we can get right now.”
“Next time –“ he starts, but Derek doesn’t let him finish.
“There won’t be a next time.”
Scott searches his face for a long moment, and then he nods. He heads for one of the tunnels without another word, and Derek chooses to take it as agreement that he’ll keep his head down for now.
He owes Stiles, more than once over; he knows it, and he always pays his dues. With the pack safe for the moment, keeping an eye on him from the end of the street when his father’s away seems like the reasonable thing to do. Stiles doesn’t have to know anything about it.That lasts until his phone buzzes. Stiles opens with, “Were all the other good lurking spots in town taken?”
“Just passing through.”
“Uh-huh. It’s like a glacial passage, though, right? Because you’ve been doing it for about three hours now.”
There's really nothing to say to that.
Stiles laughs under his breath. “Just get in here. I can turn off some lights, make a blanket fort for you to brood in, if that’ll work.”
When Derek tries the back door a few minutes later, it’s unlocked. “That was stupid,” he calls out.
“It’s only been open for thirty seconds and I figured my new guardian wereshadow had things covered,” Stiles returns, not bothering to look up from the notebook he’s writing in at the dining room table. The whole surface is covered with a scattering of books and papers, and there’s a radio scanner spitting static low and constant from the sideboard.
Derek rolls his eyes and pulls out a chair. Twenty minutes later, he’s on the brink of gnawing his own leg off to stay awake. Outside, there would at least be the rest of the world to keep him busy; in here, there’s only Stiles’ regular breathing and the white noise of the scanner and the leak under the downstairs bathroom sink and they’re all conspiring to lull him. Inspiration hits when he remembers the bookshelves in the living room from his last time here. He heads for them like a lifeline, and grabs the first book that’s familiar.
“Oh, thank god. I was getting contact boredom just being in the same room,” Stiles says when he gets back. He tilts his head sideways to read the title. “Really? That’s what you’re going with?”
That’s hardly fair. “It’s your book.”
Stiles face softens. “Not mine,” he says quietly. His lips twitch, caught somewhere between smiling and not, and then he shakes it off and clears his throat. “I wasn’t criticizing… Just...” He waves the conversation away.
Derek settles in again at the table without explaining. The background noise of the house is perfect for this. He has to stop for a moment when he realizes that he still hears Aslan in his father’s voice. When he glances up, Stiles is watching him. He looks away quickly, though, and Derek goes back to reading.
He’s a good chunk of the way through the book when Stiles turns around to crank the radio volume up. Someone over the channel is talking about going for a late dinner on Third Street. Derek watches Stiles for a signal that they need to move, but Stiles catches him looking and shakes his head, reaching for his laptop.
He types furiously for a bit, tongue held between his teeth. When Derek leans over his shoulder to look, though, there’s a chart and a map with notations that make no sense whatsoever on the screen.
Stiles nods at his questioning grunt. “Every hunter group gets a Girl Scout cookie name. We keep track of how many of them there are, where they hang out, all that jazz.“ He grins. “If anybody asks, I’m mapping cookie sales in relation to proximity to scouting centers. Trust me, it won’t be the weirdest off-topic topic they’ve seen from me.”
“The ones on the radio are the do-si-dos?” He gets the logic, even if the actual words make him feel idiotic.
Stiles bobs his head. “Yep. They’re the easiest to keep an eye on. They’re always in pairs, they’re nuttier than a peanut butter cookie, and they seem to have a pickup fetish.” He points at another line on the chart. “The tagalongs are the paramilitary types, and the thin mints are the ones who slink around in the black jumpsuits like ninja wannabes. Credit where credit’s due, they really are kind of a bitch to track.”
Derek looks at the map again. Some of it matches up with what the pack’s managed to observe, but some of it’s new information.
Stiles looks back and forth between Derek and the screen. “You want a copy?”
They spend the rest of the night hunched over their own projects, Derek memorizing the map and Stiles working what look like Trigonometry problems. Eventually, Stiles gives up and announces he’s going to bed, and Derek waves him off without looking up.
The tiny map notes all blur together after a few hours, and he settles on the couch with the book instead. Somewhere after three in the morning he lets himself doze for a while, confident he’ll hear anyone trying to get in. When Stiles’ father’s SUV turns onto the block, he slips the book back in place on its shelf and ducks quietly away.
It’s a sad commentary on his life that he feels more rested than he has in a while.
The second night, the door is unlocked and Prince Caspian is already waiting on his side of the table.Stiles makes it a full hour without starting a conversation. Derek’s grudgingly amused by the fact that he can see it coming a good ten minutes ahead of time just by the abandoned tics Stiles makes in his direction every thirty seconds or so.
“Alright,” Stiles starts, “so we’ve got the bestiary to help us out with the creature feature side of things, but I feel like there needs to be a textbook on hunters, too. And there isn’t. Anywhere.”
He gives a suggestive little head tilt in Derek’s direction, eyebrows up and face open like he’s waiting for Derek to run with this. It feels like being called on in class always had. Derek absolutely does not squirm in his seat uncomfortably.
“You want me to tutor you in Hunters 101?”
Stiles shrugs. “I don’t see anybody else volunteering. They’re keeping Allison on the need-to-know schedule, and everything they tell her is going to be pretty heavily written-by-the-victors style. We all need to be on the same page.”
It makes sense, at least. It’s still not any easier figuring out where to start. “There are big families, old names that control it all. They mostly stick to the code and stay out of each others’ way. The newer hunters try to catch someone’s attention until they get brought in under one of the old names. It’s very… political.”
“So our little cupboard of Girl Scout cookies are all newer, trying to make their bones by capping a pack?”
Derek nods. “The old families will stay away and play nice, just in case the Argents get their act together again, but unofficially… Taking us out would be a ticket in with one of them.”
“They’re ambitious homicidal jerks. Great. What else?”
“That’s it,” Derek says.
Stiles flails incredulously. “Seriously? Favorite weapons, standard tactics, what the ever-loving hell is in this code that nobody actually follows…”
“I don’t know.” If it’s written down anywhere, he’s never seen it. “They’re not supposed to hunt anyone who hasn’t spilled human blood. There’s more to it, but what the rest is…” He shrugs.
“But how can you not know this? It’s your history, right?”
His first response is anger. He’s making an effort these days to be more productive, though. “What do you know about the War of 1812?”
Stiles looks thrown for all of three seconds. “Us, the Brits, and the National Anthem are pretty much it. Why? Is there a giant werewolf conspiracy at the heart of our country’s founding? Come to think of it, Ben Franklin did look like a fairly fuzzy dude…”
Derek waits him out until the rabbit trail leads all the way back to the right conversation. Stiles bobs his head to show he’s ready. “War of 1812. What?”
“Why don’t you know about it? It’s your history, right?” Derek parrots. It’s possible he’s still a little irritated.
“To be fair, the one day we spent on it in fourth grade was in the middle of my Spiderman phase, and we had those little desks with the pocket in the front so you could read things out of Mrs. Jenkin’s view - I made it all the way through to Unlimited before she caught me. Also, it’s not like it’s hugely relevant to daily life,” Stiles says, and then his expression clears. “Ah. Starting to see where you’re going with this.”
“Hunters, the code… None of it had anything to do with us. We were quiet, we didn’t start trouble… We thought we were safe.” The last part comes out vicious.
“They never taught you how to fight,” Stiles says, like the pieces are coming together. “You’re learning on the fly.”
“Our parents taught us how to be people.” On his worst days, he’s still bitter about that.
The third night, Stiles walks him into the living room and sits down, looking serious.“This isn’t going to work,” he says, fidgeting.
Derek raises an eyebrow. “Look, if you’d rather get killed, fine, but I’m not coming after you next time.”
It’s a depressingly bad lie.
“No, but…” Pain flickers across his face for a second before he gets back on track. “My dad, the trained investigator, he’s going to notice some guy lurking around eventually, and he’s definitely going to have issues with it being a guy he arrested a couple of times. The creepy assholes who keep following me need an excuse for us to know each other that does not involve me being a lightening rod for every supernatural being in town. We need a cover story.”
“So say we’re friends.” It’s a simple enough lie.
Stiles’ expression says otherwise. “I know you don’t exactly cohabitate with ‘normal,’ but seriously? Friends who prowl around in abandoned buildings and have slumber parties and oh goddammit that might actually work.” He’s the first person Derek’s ever seen pull off despairing enlightenment. “I hate my life.”
Derek raises the other eyebrow and waits him out.
Stiles buries his face in his hands. “Love makes you do the wacky.”
“What?” When in doubt, it’s the single syllable that serves him best around Stiles.
“Line from a TV show. Oh god, I’m explaining this to a guy who lives like an Amish man with a leather fetish. Why?”
“TV… That’s the magic box with the people inside, right?” Derek deadpans.
Stiles lifts his head, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “You just like to screw with us, don’t you?”
If Derek’s lips curve up at the corners, nobody can prove it. “Back to your master plan.”
And Stiles snaps into it like a rubber band released. “Right. Look, just… I am aware of exactly how this sounds, and believe me I would like to strangle myself pre-emptively here, but try not to get your furry panties in a bunch. Here it is: I think I need to date you.”
“Really.” Derek doesn’t make it a question.
“Well, you… look like that, and my track record for good decision making hasn’t been great in the public sphere, and nobody really knows you well enough to anticipate your brand of crazy, so… I think people might buy it? Briefly?” He winces. “At least people who know us from behind the barriers of disappointed parenthood and creepy stalker binoculars, respectively?”
There is so much wrong with this Derek doesn’t know where to start. Unfortunately, all the tailspin between his ears catches on the way down is, “And you think your dad will take this well?”
“Nope.” He laughs bitterly. “I think he’s going to chalk it up as another of my recent epic fails as a son, but I also think he’ll want to keep the closest eye humanly possible on both of us, which might also stop the hunters from making a move.”
“You’re underage,” Derek tries.
“Dude, you haven’t even bought me dinner yet.” Stiles snorts. “Pretty sure that’s a level of verisimilitude we don’t need to aim for. You can’t get arrested for something you haven’t done.”
Derek doesn’t even have to say it. Stiles’ brain visibly catches up with his mouth. “… and that’s not something I should be saying to a former fugitive of the law. Got it.” And Derek almost thinks he’s given up, until Stiles lets out a slow breath and drops all the humor from his expression. “Look, I’m open to suggestions, but this is all I’ve got.”
Derek crosses his arms. “This is a terrible plan.”
“It really, really is,” Stiles agrees.
Go on to Part II.
There’s also some violence at a couple of completely separate points (although probably less gory than on the show), and a character’s panic attack is observed from the outside.