Derek rolled his eyes. “Calm down, Stiles. I’m not going to eat you. Today.”
Just then he heard raucous laughter and a shuddering clunk - the sound of someone letting another person fall on one end of a seesaw - followed by spirited swearing. There was shuffling, shoving, the sounds of a tussle, and then more laughter, fading away a little. Derek gracelessly dropped Stiles down on the ground again. “Alright, go on back inside, quick. I’ll get these.” He jerked his chin at the flats of drinks.
Stiles was once again about to say something, but even he heard the sound of the see-saw. And while he was about to look and see what was going on, Derek immediately released him. Stiles weight fell away, and he slid to the ground with a thump, and a grunt. Derek’s words were hissed, and Stiles obeyed, scrambling to his feet, and pulling his hoodie over his head. He plunged back into the trees to reach the back door of the school.
He pulled the door closed, ducked into the closest classroom, and peered out the back window towards his Jeep, where he saw flashes of Derek’s dark jacket through the trees.
Derek glared at him a little, but without much heat. “Yes,” he said, and slid his hands down to lock around Stiles’ waist, iron-like, hitch him up a little - not too much, not enough to be seen - and pin him there, against the side panel of the Jeep. “Better?” he asked mockingly, canting his head at Stiles, just daring him to disagree.
Stiles clenched his teeth when Derek grabbed him around the middle, pulled him up a little, pinning him, more sturdy, against the Jeep. He swallowed because Derek scared him, and then he nodded quickly.
“Uh…” he muttered, feeling his face heat up for no good reason as his hands pressed flat against the side of the Jeep, to help hold him up, even though Derek was doing a fine enough job of it on his own. “I-I-I-I’m fine,” he said, squishing up against the side of car as if he were going to crawl up the side of it out of Derek’s grasp.
Derek gave Stiles a look. “Not like having his son reporting dead bodies buried next to old burnt-out houses was at all awkward, I’m sure,” he said drily, cocking his eyebrow a little at Stiles. He had a half an ear on the men on the playground equipment; they gave no indication yet of leaving, but Derek was willing to be patient. He thought that they might’ve been able to sneak away if the guys would even just move to the other side of the playground; the corner of the building might hide them from view.
Stiles opened his mouth, and then closed it, because the wolf had a very sharp point. He shook his head, and then squeezed his eyes closed because his back, and his thighs were beginning to burn in the half-sitting, half-standing position he was in. He sucked air into his nose, and the groaned under his breath because it ached terribly. He reached up, hooked his hands over one of Derek’s forearms to hoist himself up, just a little, trying, and failing, to make himself more comfortable.
“They still over there?” he hissed. “Because my legs are killing me.”
Stiles’ slowing heartbeat ratcheted Derek’s down with it, counter-intuitively, and as he calmed down, the long dark lashes on his closed eyelids flickering against his pale cheeks, Stiles’ scent changed, subtly. The fear hormones drained out for the most part, leaving Stiles smelling less like prey and more like…more like pack. Like one of Derek’s. It was immensely gratifying, in a way that alarmed Derek greatly; he’d never smelled that off of Stiles, before - but then, he couldn’t immediately think of any time that he had been around Stiles close enough to smell him this directly when Stiles was not scared shitless. It was an odd and somehow discomfiting realization.
The bristle of Stiles’ buzzed hair caught against the underside of Derek’s jaw and made him flinch a little. He growled softly and pressed his chin against Stiles’ head, shoving him back down again. But the kid was right. They couldn’t stay like this forever. Derek growled again, but this time his irritation was not for Stiles. “We’ll give them a few minutes, maybe they’ll wander around the building to shoot up and won’t be able to see us.” He wrinkled his nose a little in distaste. “How did you get away with doing drugs without the Sheriff finding out?”
Stiles muttered out an ‘ouch!’ when Derek pushed him back down, and he looked up at him, reaching up to rub his head. He heard the growls in Derek’s throat, and it put Stiles slightly on edge again. Just a little, because he found that, strangely, in some weird pit of his stomach, or in the back of his brain, his body told him to react in kind to Derek’s cues. If he was aggressive, Stiles knew to be frightened, if he was stressed, Stiles found himself a little stressed out too.
Swallowing, and gritting his teeth, Stiles shifted his position just a little to get slightly more comfortable, although he wasn’t sure that was possible.
Derek’s question caught Stiles slightly off-guard, and he opened his mouth and then closed it again, thinking.
“Oh,” he muttered. “Well…I mean, my dad doesn’t exactly shadow my every step. He isn’t home that much anyway, he works. A lot. So I liked to sneak out and do shit the older guys were doing, and we had a senior guy who bought us weed…” he paused to wet his lips, glad for something to talk about because it distracted him. “Anyway, I think he did know, he just chose to let me…you know, figure it out on my own so he didn’t have to arrest me…that would’ve been awkward.”
Derek cocked his head a quarter-inch to the right. There were many interesting bits of that comment to tease out - that Stiles had done drugs, that he no longer did, that he was eager to exonerate himself of any possible blame, not without reason, because bringing the pack here to a place he knew people frequented would have been uncharacteristically cruel or uncharacteristically stupid of him, one of the two.
“I know you didn’t, I’d know if you were lying,” he said, reassuring, but less out of a desire to reassure and more out of a desire to get Stiles to stop freaking out like he was going to bolt any second. “Now chill out. They’ll be gone in a minute, but you’re distracting me.”
“Distracting…?” Stiles echoed, but he decided to forget it because he didn’t know exactly how werewolf stuff worked, so he just tried to obey. He took deep breaths, and thought of something that he liked to do, something that wasn’t stressful. Drawing! He liked to draw, and it always seemed to calm him down when he was annoyed. It was one of the only quiet activities that held his attention for any length of time. So he focused on that, on the feeling of the pencil gliding across the paper, of the lines, of the satisfaction of finishing a drawing he had started ages ago.
It seemed to help, because as he focused on something else his heartbeat seemed to become less, and then less, and then it was even again, and so was his breathing, and he was looking back up at Derek, and then he was moving to poke his head back over Derek’s arm, his forehead scratching against the werewolf’s five o’clock shadow slightly as he tried to peer through the bushes.
He couldn’t see the group anymore, but he could hear laughter, and the squealing of the old see-saws being played on. They were shouting incoherently.
“If they’re playing on the equipment, and they came to get high, they’re going to be here awhile,” Stiles hissed, ducking back down beneath Derek’s jacket and arm. He peered up at him, brown eyes squinting lightly in the gray light that came down on him. “There is nothing more awesome than a see-saw when you’re getting high…” he paused. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna be stuck this way until they leave, which could be a freaking midnight.”
“Quiet,” Derek hissed again as his eyes shifted colors, speaking more quietly but more forcefully, willing Stiles to shut up and calm down with every cell in his body; he exuded animal calm, animal stillness at him, envisioning it folding around Stiles like an envelope and sealing away his panic behind a wall of perfect quiet. “If you stay still and don’t move, they might not, through the bushes. They’re…cutting across in front of the school. Toward the playground.” His nostrils twitched as he took in the distinct human scents, the acridness of old sweat and older clothes, unwashed hair, and something sickly, something chemical… “Junkies,” he said softly, finally categorizing the smell of the drugs on them, in them, stashed in their pockets and their pores.
“What, really?” Stiles hissed back, poking his head above Derek’s arm, just enough to see the moving figures through the brush. He ducked back down immediately when he saw them, using Derek’s legs to help support his weight, because he was leaned and crouched very uncomfortably.
Stiles was breathing heavily from adrenaline, and his heart pounding, and when he looked up at Derek, he noticed his eyes flashed red, for just a moment. Stiles clenched his jaw, and leaned his head back against the Jeep, taking in deep breaths to calm himself down. He wasn’t certain what exactly was causing his heart to race this way. He might have said fear, except once he figured out what the hell was going on, he had no real reason to fear a few junkies. They’d be too interested in their next hit to care about a kid in a Jeep.
It could have been Derek, then. That he was frightened Stiles was no secret, though his actions in the past, and now, hadn’t ever really been more than protective, or at the least, he’d always seemed more interested in keeping Stiles alive than ripping his throat out.
For a moment, he stressed about how much he disliked not knowing why his heart was beating so hard. He tilted his head back a little, leaning it against the Jeep, willing his heart to calm itself down.
“We used to get stoned here sometimes in freshman year,” Stiles muttered, his breath coming out in labored gasps. “But I didn’t know anyone still used the place as a drug dive, I swear.” He was saying it because he didn’t want Derek to think he had somehow manipulated them into a place where they might get found out.
Derek mostly hadn’t been listening, more interested in the sounds and smells of their environment than in Stiles’ never-ending prattle about flavors of sports drinks. He hefted the other two packages with ease, holding them with one hand and then reaching out and snagging one of the flats away from Stiles, who was struggling a little with the weight. Derek watched him spit his keys out on the package still balanced in his hands, reached out to shove the back of the Jeep closed—
And instantaneously dropped all three of the flats he was carrying to the ground with a groan of plastic bottles squealing against each other and their skin of shrink wrap. In the same movement, Derek yanked the Gatorade out of Stiles hands and threw it to the ground, too, boxing in Stiles’ body against the Jeep with his own, arms bracketing him, jacket flaring out and fully blocking the sight of him.
“Keep your head down,” he hissed. “There’re people coming. Don’t let them see you.”
Stiles had been opening his mouth to say something else when his eyes followed the drinks falling from Derek’s hands, and then the stacks were torn from his hands. He almost protested, but he was then, suddenly aware of Derek’s proximity, the fact that he was now pushed up against his Jeep, and there was roughly two hundred and twenty pounds of werewolf, thrust close to him, arms boxing Stiles completely in.
Words hissed at him were barely heard over the rush of blood in his ears, and the adrenaline, fear, that was causing his heart to hammer against his ribs. Stiles was many things, but eager to die was not one of them, so he obeyed immediately, ducking his head down beneath Derek’s jacket. He bent his knees a little, bumping Derek’s as he did so, and he inhabited his own little cave between the flaps of Derek’s jacket.
He heard the sound of people, and from where he stood, he tilted his head back to look up at the bottom of Derek’s chin.
“What’re they doing?” he whispered, his breath condensing in the cool air and rolling back at him after bouncing off of Derek’s chest. “You know,” he hissed, “they might notice you have four legs!”
Derek nodded once, again, and cocked his head to tell the betas to go help unload the car. But even as he opened his mouth, Erica was tossing herself into the pile of boy-limbs, snickering wildly, claws out to get in on the game. Jesus, they were all too old to be doing this; bittens were so strange, their instincts all a wild mix of new-wolf urges and human hormones and very little impulse control. Derek honestly had no idea what to do with them, more than half the time.
So he rolled his eyes, set down the rest of his food and got up to follow Stiles out of the building. It was chilly out, overcast now though the morning had been fair, and Derek’s eyes flicked warily around the landscape, nostrils flaring as he took in the scents of this new place, hyper-aware for danger, unwilling to be outside in broad daylight.
Stiles skirted the lump of wolves as they left, and glanced over at Derek, who was smelling the air carefully. Stiles was glad he had pulled the Jeep down next to the creek, into the woods more deeply to avoid the main road. He was certain Derek wouldn’t want to be wandering around where passing cars could see him.
Stopping by his car, Stiles stuck the key in the lock of the back, and unlocked it, pulling it open, and peering inside. There were several packages of Vitamin water, and Gatorade stacked against the side, kept there by his backpack, and his Lacrosse bag.
“Didn’t know about flavors,” he commented, mostly to himself as he pulled two of the packs out. “But I think there’s like…orange, and…snozzberry, or something disgusting…” Stiles leaned down to grab his keys out of the lock with his teeth, and he jerked his head in the direction of the other packages to indicate Derek could grab them.
Derek watched Stiles restlessly reapportion his fries, stuff his trash away, stand and dust himself off, barely stopping for breath between his words. He was so…nervous, all the time, like a prey animal. It made Derek jumpy, his instincts to pin Stiles to the ground or to forcibly calm him down warring in him, that constant thrum of Stiles’ too-quick heartbeat, spiking whenever Derek got his back up, like a white-noise chatter to set his teeth on edge. It was a natural human response to something fearsome, but it was wearying to Derek, who had to struggle not to snap constantly at Stiles to just calm the hell down.
He nodded, a single dip of his head, as he finished chewing that bite of food and watched Stiles from the floor. Not an angle he was accustomed to. It made him feel a bit cornered, and he fought the urge. “Don’t come here without letting me know,” he said quietly. “We’re…not always safe to be around, especially the betas. They don’t have control yet. And I don’t want some peabrained deputy of your father’s catching you sneaking out all the time and following you here.”
Stiles stilled slightly at Derek’s warning. Not always safe to be around. What? Did they make a habit of attacking unsuspecting visitors? Stiles didn’t know, but when he glanced back at Isaac and Boyd who were now wrestling around Erica, and rubbing their faces weirdly against one another, Stiles could hardly see them as dangerous predators.
Then again, he’d never thought of his best friend that way either, and Scott had already nearly killed him several times.
“Right. Well…” Stiles said, turning again to look at Derek, he crouched to pull the grocery bags towards him, searching through for his keys. “Like I said, have Isaac text me, and I won’t be coming unannounced, and you can…you know, not kill me, that’d be great.” Stiles snatched out his keys, and then stood again.
Licking his lips nervously, he said, “I’ve got those Vitamin waters and shit in my Jeep. You…want ‘em, or…?”
Derek grunted around his jawful of hamburger as he separated the bite from the whole. Once he’d chewed it down to a bit more manageable of a mass, he narrowed his eyes a little at Stiles, mostly just baffled by the things that continued to proceed from the bottomless pit of his mouth.
“No, we are not feral,” he said, but even as he did, he wasn’t sure it was fully true. He directed his eyes to a scratch in the linoleum floor in front of him. “They aren’t, anyway. I’m just. Hungry.”
Stiles chewed thoughtfully, because what Derek said made Stiles think for a moment. His eyes went between Derek and the other three werewolves. Boyd and Isaac were sitting across from each other in the hall, desperately tossing fries at one another, trying to catch them in their mouths. Erica was sitting on the sidelines, dipping fries into her shake, and eating daintily, and gracefully.
“Look at them,” Stiles said, a note of awe in his voice. “It’s like they’ve never seen a potato…”
He stopped here before taking a breath, and then returning his gaze back to Derek.
“Well, eat,” he said flatly, taking another bite of his burger, and then eating some fries with it because that combination of cow, and fried potato was God’s gift to mankind. He swallowed. “They’re stationing cars around the old train platform, so I guess you geeks are stuck here for awhile.” Stiles finished off his burger, and took several long gulps of soda. He glanced down at the remainder of his fries, and then leaned over, dumping what was left into the cardboard holder of Derek’s fries, indicating without words that he was giving over the food for his consumption. Stiles binned the garbage into one of the empty fast food bags, and pushed himself to his feet.
“I don’t know how much you guys get out, but, um…I think Isaac has my number from Lacrosse,” he told Derek. “If you need anything, more food or…whatever, just have him send me a text.”
Scott would hate it if he found out Stiles was helping Derek. But Stiles felt weird about them living like hobos in an old middle school while he and Scott got to sleep in comfortable beds, and eat as much food as they wanted.