Beta: justlikedee (on tumblr)

A/N: Yeah, so I found myself a beta after all. If you still find mistakes I'm sure it's my fault, not hers. I couldn't help changing a few things after she had her go at it :S

- Chapter Three -

Break me out, from the prison of my own pride

Stiles woke up to the sound of muffled voices. Considering he was son of the town's Sheriff and eavesdropping was something of a hobby, this was a familiar sound to wake up to. He'd lost count of how many mornings he'd slunk downstairs at the sound of his dad speaking on the phone in the kitchen, trying to listen in on the recent crime. Before his dad caught him, that was. And Scott, the wacko, mumbled in his sleep whenever they had a sleepover.

But these voices were not as familiar as his dad's or Scott's. He shifted where he was lying in front of the fireplace, with only the animal pelt underneath to shield him from the cold floor. The musty smell inside the cabin was what made him remember just where he was: in the middle of freaking nowhere.

"We don't know. It's up to you."

He quickly registered it as Isaac's voice, followed by a skeptical scoff he knew all too well. His curiosity took over and he froze again, pretending to still be sleeping as he listened in.


"Yeah, you. We're only here because of you, remember?" Isaac said roughly. "When you learn how to put one foot in front of the other without someone pulling the strings, we'll head back home."

Since he faced the other way, Stiles was unable to see anything. The sound of the bed squeaking did, however, tell him Jackson was sitting on it. Hopefully Isaac was smart enough not to stand too close to the doorway.

"You honestly think you can survive out here?" Jackson snorted. "Because Derek said so, right? You guys follow him like blind puppies follow their mommy. He's a wolf. He lives in the ruins of a burnt down house! We're people. We need a lot more comfort than he does. Except for you, perhaps," he added, in his usual mock-voice. "This ain't very different from that shack you used to live in, is it? You must feel right at home."

"Yeah," Isaac replied, surprisingly calm. "Maybe that's why I'm the only one here not complaining like a 5-year old."

Oh snap!

There was a pause of silence where Stiles wished he could have seen Jackson's face. Hearing one of the school's biggest outcasts shut up the captain of the lacrosse team was pretty high on his list of things that would most likely never happen. Witnessing Isaac beat up two guys in the locker room went next to that, of course.

Even without the werewolf super senses, Stiles could feel the tension growing thicker as time passed. Thankfully it only took a few more seconds before Isaac burst the bubble.

"You're unbelievable, you know that?" He spat.

Stiles could have sworn Jackson did that weird raise-an-eyebrow thing.


"For constantly craving more," Isaac growled, and this time his voice wasn't all human. It was dark and languorous; kind of like Batman's. "You had everything, Jackson. Half the school wanted you, and the other half to be you. Then you gave it all up because one guy suddenly played in your league."

"You have no idea what it's like," Jackson hissed.

"And you think you do?" Isaac snapped. "You think you know what it's like to have less than that? To have nothing?" Stiles heard the sound of Jackson inhaling, as if he was about to interject, but Isaac didn't let him. "I do," he clarified lowly.

Not only the sound of Isaac's steps acknowledged him moving, but also the vibration it sent through the wooden floor where Stiles still had one ear glued to the boards. Incapable of seeing any of the two shifters behind his back, he could only guess their positions. Considering Jackson not being able to leave the small bedroom, he was probably still seated on the bed. Isaac, who clearly had the upper hand in this conversation, had most likely moved closer to the door.

"You had everything an outsider like me could ever dream about. I had nothing!"

There was another pause when only Isaac's sharp breathing could be heard, before Jackson spoke. When he did, his voice was hoarse and strained, as if he spoke through gritted teeth.

"But now you got the one thing I don't. The one thing I wanted."

Feeling sorry for Jackson Whittemore was probably somewhere close to the top of Stiles' list as well. Nevertheless, he did feel sorry for the douche bag these days. He never asked for the ability to morph into a venomous lizard or have some lunatic send him out on a killing spree in order to seek revenge. Thinking about it, Jackson wasn't anymore guilty of the murders than the gun in a soldier's hand. His actions were not his own. The previous day might have even been the first time in a long time the real Jackson regained the steering wheel.

Suddenly the door burst open and three werewolves stumbled inside. Stiles flinched, raising one arm protectively over his head as a reflex. Good thing he did, because within the next three seconds a Scott McCall fell on top of him.

"Sorry, dude," Scott apologized.

"Get off me and we're cool," Stiles groaned. He sat up; pretending the wolves' arrival was what woke him up and leaving no suspicions of eavesdropping. Venomous or not, Isaac still had claws. "Whoa," he exclaimed once he took a proper look at the homecomers. "What the hell happened to you?"

All three of them looked pretty dishevelled. Erica's tunic was torn at the bottom and leaves were scattered through her hair. Scott's jeans were ripped at several places and his shirt was in disarray. Derek's leather jacket had somehow been spared unlike the white shirt beneath. Despite the stains of blood covering them, they didn't seem to suffer from any lasting injuries.

If not counting Scott's lack of balance as one.

"We bumped into our new neighbours," Erica explained, not sounding especially troubled while running a hand through her tousled hair.

"Wait, what?" Jackson asked, looking confused and worried, which reminded Stiles of a lost puppy. He was standing in the doorway now, which was as close to the others as he could get.

Isaac, who was leaning his back on the wall right next to the open door, turned his head to the side to look at him.

"The wolf pack," he informed curtly, which made Stiles suspect he'd filled Jackson in on the details of last night's happenings.

"You fought them?" Stiles wondered.

"They attacked us," Derek answered him. "We had no choice but to fight them off."

"Yeah, and it was awful," Scott muttered. "I work at an animal clinic, for Christ sake."

"You think I'm enjoying this?" Derek growled, shooting him a glare. "What was I supposed to do? Let us be their chew toys?" He got no response. He sighed before continuing, now in a lower voice. "Their Alpha was trying to protect the pack... and I'm trying to do the same."

Once again Stiles had expected Scott to step in and speak against his leader. Once again he didn't. Silence roamed for a while before Stiles was on the brink of stabbing himself in the face and instead unleashed the only beast he had: words.

"What were you doing out in the woods anyway?"

"Hunting," Erica replied as she sat down on the far end of the couch. "You think those two deer from last night were enough?"

"Was for me," Stiles assured.

Scott chuckled, sinking down next to Erica. She smiled lightly at him, offering to help put his shirt back in order.

"What is it?"

Stiles turned to see Isaac looking curiously at Derek who remained silent. To Isaac's words, he lift his head to meet the younger werewolf's look, contemplating his answer. Maybe he felt Stiles' eyes on him; for he looked down to meet his gaze as well.

"I caught a scent," he began slowly, sending a glance towards the couch and the two Betas as well, as if to make sure the entire pack was listening. "Up in the mountains."

"Congratulations," Stiles complimented. "Your nose still works."

The Alpha stared down and Stiles was suddenly reminded he was still sitting on the floor. Once upon a time this would have been the moment when his heart started to throb wildly with fear. Things had changed though. Looking up at the face of Derek Hale now only showed him a familiar why-can't-you-ever-just-keep-your-damn-mouth-shut glare. Nothing murderous.

"It didn't make sense," Derek eventually said, taking his eyes off Stiles. "I caught... wolf's bane."

"It's a flower," reminded Scott. "It could be growing here, right?"

"Herb," Stiles corrected, although no one paid him any mind.

"Not in these mountains," Derek defended, shaking his head. "There's a reason this was our territory. No wolf's bane; no hunters."

"No wolf pack roaming the area?" Isaac added in a mumble.

And they all got his point. A lot of things had definitely changed since the Hale family were here.

"Is it just me or do we start regretting coming here?" Stiles sighed.

He figured this must be more than a little hurtful for Derek. Not only was his childhood house still in dusty ruins back in Beacon Hills, but another place belonging to his pack had been taken from him. This made Stiles wonder where him and Laura had been all those years after the fire. Unlikely here, judging by the thick layers of dust when they arrived and the fact that a wolf pack had had enough time to make themselves feel at home in the area. The scent of Derek's pack must be long gone.

"Sorry to interrupt your little meeting or whatever," Jackson said, his tone anything but regretful. "But you have to let me out."

The wolves turned their attention to him.

"You're not going anywhere."

Derek's calm voice seemed to irritate Jackson. He clenched his jaws tightly, making his odd-looking jawbone steal Stiles' attention. Jerk or not, the guy had some impressive bone structure.

"Let me out. Now," he repeated, making the last word sound like a whole sentence.

"Are you deaf and stupid?" Stiles asked, finally rising to his feet. "We already told you–"

"It's a call of nature, you idiot," Jackson spat.

"What do you think the bucket is for?"

"Stiles," Derek said firmly, just as two amused scoffs came from the couch. "Let him out."

"Are you kidding me?" Stiles exclaimed as he stepped forward. "He can't control himself."

"And my plan is to teach him," Derek replied simply, tilting his head in a relaxed manner. "Starting right now." He looked at Jackson. "Step back."

Jackson rolled his eyes, but stepped back from the doorway. Derek nodded to Stiles, who sighed dramatically before crouching down to break the line of ash. Once done, he was pushed out of the way by the Alpha's strong hand on his shoulder.

"Isaac," Derek said, eyes remaining fixed on Jackson. "Take him outside."

"Oh no," Jackson protested. "He's not coming with me!"

"Would you rather have Scott or Erica watching you?" Derek asked, raising a brow.

Jackson let out a long breath, glaring at all of them. Stiles fought the urge to crack a smug grin.

"No," he finally mumbled.

"Figured," Derek deadpanned.

Once the door was shut behind the two shifters, Stiles made his way to the other side of the cabin where Erica and Scott were still sitting on the couch. Scott was being a gentleman by clearing her hair from leaves and dirt. The fabric of their shirts were still painted red and shred by the wolves' claws. Stiles recalled seeing a werewolf movie once where clothes healed as well as wounds. Apparently that was too epic to be the real deal.

"Maybe you two don't mind walking around soaked in blood," he told them. "But for me and my nightmares' sake: could you please stop reminding me of the possible existence of freaking zombies and clean yourselves up?"

"Zombies aren't real, Stiles," Scott said, scoffing.

"How would you know?" Stiles countered. "Six months ago you didn't know werewolves were real."

To that Scott had no reply and chose to instead scratch his head. Erica looked up.

"I didn't bring any extra clothes," she admitted.

"Me neither," interjected Scott, sloughing further into the seat.

"Seriously?" Stiles burst out. "Jeez. With that wolf pack around, ripping your clothes into shreds, you'll soon be walking around butt naked." He frowned. "I don't even know which is worse."

Scott laughed and Erica joined in. Stiles heard a snort from the other side of the room, but when he looked over, Derek was staring out the window and his face just as cold as usual. His gaze was locked on the outside world, not appearing to even notice Stiles' eyes on him.

Stiles sighed, dropping his eyes from Derek's motionless figure to his sports bag on the floor.

"Suppose I'll have to share then," he said as he crouched down and pulled out two clean t-shirts from the abyss of unfolded clothing, tossing them to the Betas. "Considering you seem to have lost the need to dress yourselves along with your humanity."

"Just wasn't my top-priority," Scott explained. "Thanks though, dude. You're the best."

"And don't you forget it," Stiles warned, but knew it was only a matter of time before he did.

While they got changed – and Stiles tried to ignore the irony of Erica shrugging into one of his Batman shirts – he walked over to Derek who was still standing by the window. This time he turned his head to look at Stiles when he appeared at his side.

"Here." Derek dropped his gaze to the shirt in the boy's outstretched hand. "It's your colour."

It was the same black one he'd ended up wearing that night when they found Peter at the hospital, solving the big Alpha-mystery some months back. Since it had gotten Derek's blood on it, Stiles had had to wash it himself by hand to avoid tricky questions from his dad.

Derek's eyebrows did that only-Derek-Hale-can-do-this-because-I'm-the-Alpha thing as he glanced up at him.


"Well I did bring that orange-blue one you tried," Stiles offered. "But Danny said it was way too colourful for you, and when it comes to fashion..." He smiled distinctly. "I'd trust his opinion."

The werewolf kept a straight face for a long moment. Stiles half expected him to snarl or tell him to shut up the hell up, when he instead huffed and the corner of his mouth pulled up in a wry smirk. Huffed. The sound surprised Stiles to the point where he had no comeback.

It was the closest thing to Derek Hale laughing he'd ever heard.

"Derek," Scott suddenly said and even Stiles heard the tension filling his voice.

All three werewolves froze and Derek's expression turned back to his default grimness. Stiles saw his pupils widen, realizing the Alpha's super senses must be kicking in. Half a second later they all threw themselves at the door, leaving Stiles alone in the cabin, with the shirt still clutched in his hand for a moment, before registering what just happened.

Running outside, he found them with their heads tipped back, evidently sniffing the air. He was just about to ask if there was either a fire or insignificant squirrel demanding their attention when even he noticed what was missing: Jackson and Isaac.

When Derek lowered his head and glanced over his shoulder at him, Stiles noticed they were all wolfed out.

"Stay here," he ordered.

"No way," Stiles protested.

"There's a pack of predators out there, Stiles!" Derek reminded.

"And in case you haven't noticed, I'm quite used to be surrounded by monsters."

"Stiles," Scott said firmly, shooting him a look as well. "Don't."

Maybe it was the sight of enlarged fangs and burning eyes that prevented Stiles from coming up with a witty response, but it might as well have been his friend's tone. Once again he was baffled by Scott's loyalty to Derek and his decision to leave Stiles out of the wolf business.

Before he had the time to protest further, the pack took off sprinting toward the woods. Derek took the lead, transforming while running. Stiles watched them disappeared into the trees before walking up to his Jeep, starting the engine in a heartbeat.

The day was cloudy and the trees above formed a roof of branches and leaves, blocking out the daylight inside the forest. And as if that wasn't enough, a fog was ascending the higher Stiles drove. There were no roads here, and even if the Jeep was meant for this type of terrain, it wasn't easy making his way up the mountainside.

Unable to track the others by scent or hearing, he'd put his faith in following a path which was most likely a highway created by wild animals. He drove for half an hour without hearing or seeing anything. Sure, he saw a flock of birds flee from a bush, two deer skipping into the mist, one squirrel climbing a tree, but no wolves in leather.

When a loud howl echoed between the trees, Stiles nearly crashed into a boulder.

He knew Scott's howl and that wasn't it. Scott had gone from whining like a cat being choked to death to roaring like a lion. This had sounded too thin to come from a werewolf, and Stiles was suddenly reminded of the possibility that a pack of gray wolves could be circling him.

Before he had the time to properly freak out or decide in what direction to flee, there was a second howl, and this one he recognized.


It came from somewhere to his right, but the fog prevented him from seeing anything. Soon the sound of growling and shuffling filled the forest. Someone shrieked in pain, causing Stiles' heart to jump. It was impossible to tell who it was, but chances were any of the Betas or maybe even Jackson. Stiles let his heart race for a while before sucking in a breath and climbing out of the Jeep, walking toward the sound as the mist swallowed him whole.

After stumbling over the rough and – due to the fog – invisible ground for some time, the trees widened out in a clearing. Stiles had expected to see the sun again, but this far up the mountain the sky was still covered in gray clouds. It made his heart sink even further.

Upon hearing a dull growl approaching, he ducked into the bushes. Soon a brown shadow entered the clearing, and Stiles recognized it as the wolf pack's leader. The distance was more or less the same as last night, but as he peeked through the twigs of the bush, which he'd picked for a hiding spot, the wolf looked bigger when separated from its pack. Not as big as an Alpha werewolf, obviously, but still bigger than any dog Stiles had ever encountered. It stopped to lift its nose, no doubt sniffing the air. Sniffing him.

I'm screwed this time, Stiles thought as the wolf turned its head in his direction. But it turns out he wasn't. A defiant growl vibrated through the air making both Stiles and the wolf stare into the trees.

Derek's eyes shone bright red and the mist seemed to subside. He walked into the clearing with his head held high and Stiles caught himself staring. At least he wasn't the only one. The brown wolf eyed Derek with big interest, folding its ears back in a straight line. He snarled and the werewolf responded equally.

But it wasn't until they started circling each other Stiles understood there would be a fight.

"Go," Derek breathed through gritted teeth and Stiles realized he knew he was there. His red eyes remained fixed on the wolf, but he could no doubt smell him. "Find Isaac."

It was the last thing he said before abandoning his human form. Following was the sound of bones reshaping beneath the man's skin, soon covered in quickly grown hair. He fell to his knees, letting out a wild roar when his muscles stretched. His fists morphed into paws armed with claws long as knives and his spine crackled as the change became complete.

This transformation was unusually slow and Stiles suspected it to be an attempt to frighten the wolf before any blood was spilled. If nothing had changed, Derek still wished to leave the wolves unharmed. Unfortunately, he was more human than animal, so there was no way to communicate or negotiate about peace.

Scott's familiar howl cut loudly through the forest and both wolves in the clearing clipped with their ears. Derek yelped and somehow Stiles knew it was meant for him.


And run he did. He turned his back on the two alphas just as the sound of their bodies colliding and violent growling reached his ears. He managed to make it all the way to his Jeep sooner than he had anticipated and climbed into the driver's seat with a racing heart.

Unable to identify Scott's location by scent, he was mighty relieved when his buddy repeated his call. It appeared to be coming from somewhere in the valley. While driving down the mountain, he heard the sound of battling predators fading behind him.

To say Stiles was shocked when arriving back at the cabin, finding both Isaac and Jackson safe and sound, would be an understatement. They sat on the porch with Scott when the Jeep came to an abrupt stop. Scott was at his side before Stiles had even jumped down on the ground.

"Dude! I thought we told you to stay," Scott barked, clearly upset.

"And I ignored it," Stiles countered. "I'm not your dog."

"What?" Scott frowned.

"You heard me," Stiles said as he started approaching the house. "You know, before you joined up with the Sour Wolf Pack, you never once declined my help. In fact, you begged for it. Why do you suddenly care about my wellbeing?"

"I always cared, Stiles," Scott declared, keeping up with Stiles' steps. "I never wanted you to get hurt! But you used to be all I got. It's not like that anymore. Also, Derek made me realize just how freaking dangerous this shit is."

Stiles stopped and turned to look at his friend.

"You're keeping me out of harm's way because Derek said so?"

The look on Scott's face was unreadable as well as his hesitation to answer.

"Eager to die or something?" Jackson asked then.

Stiles spun around, glaring at him. Not for his stupid joke, but for making him worry sick for nothing. These guys didn't even deserve his concern. None of them had been particularly nice to him. Ever. Yet he'd helped Isaac escape a holding cell and shared food with Jackson when he was locked inside a transport van. Yet he'd gone out looking for them in this wilderness.

"Where the hell have you been?" He demanded, looking at both of them.

"They went for a walk," Scott explained.

"A walk?" He repeated, as if he barely believed his ears. "A walk?"

"Yeah," Jackson said in his usual you-are-so-dumb-voice. "We went for a walk. What's the big deal?"

Stiles turned his attention to Isaac.

"And you let him?"

"Actually it was my idea," he replied firmly.

"He insisted, actually," Jackson interjected.

"Why?" Stiles was seriously starting to think none of them had any brain whatsoever.

"He's been locked in that room for hours," Isaac said roughly, giving him a solid stare. "The lack of motion drives your muscles insane."

"What would you know about that?" Stiles blurted out, but realized his mistake half-way through.

Isaac's eyes narrowed slightly and, for a moment, he was reminded very much of Scott giving in to the bloodlust at his first months as a werewolf. His eyes remained blue, however, and when he spoke through clenched teeth, no fangs were visible.


The strength in his voice made all of them stay quiet for a long time. Scott looked at Stiles, probably trying to tell him something. Unfortunately they had never got the telepathy thing working very well. But even without words, Stiles could tell he was trying to apologize.

Erica came running on all fours a while later. She looked a bit flushed from running, but otherwise unharmed. She seemed only relieved to find the boys sitting on the porch. Apparently Stiles was the only one acknowledging the danger Isaac had put himself in.

"Where's Derek?" Scott asked when counting their numbers.

"Up the mountain," Stiles said and boy did that get everyone's attention? "He showed up right when the wolf pack's alpha was about to ask me stay for dinner."

"They fought again?" Erica asked.

Stiles nodded.

"He told me to leave." He looked back at Scott. "That's when we heard your call."

Scott just nodded. He looked unsettled and Stiles quickly noticed the same look of unease on the other's faces. Even if Jackson wasn't really part of the pack, he seemed to react to the absence of the Alpha as well. Stiles remembered Scott trying to describe it for him a few days back; the bond and the pull he felt from Derek and the other pack members. Now he realized he was the only one not feeling it and suddenly he wished that he did.

To let Derek know they were all gathered and unharmed, Scott, Erica and Isaac sent out a united howl that echoed through the valley. Stiles glanced over to Jackson who still sat on the porch of the house. His eyes were resting on Isaac, who had his head tipped back toward the sky. For the first time in Stiles' life, he saw nothing evil in Jackson's eyes. There was only longing. Longing to join them and be given the gift he'd been promised, but denied.

When Derek finally showed up, he looked tired. His clothes were torn worse than Scott and Erica's had been this morning and his sealed wounds were covered in blood. But as soon as he saw all of them outside the house, he sighed in relief. He walked up to pat Isaac on the shoulder and shared a nod with Jackson. No words were spoken for a long time.

Then he looked over to Stiles and suddenly time didn't matter. They maintained eye contact for a few moments before Derek dropped his gaze and walked into the cabin. The pack followed him and so did Stiles.

Stiles entered the cabin the following day to find Derek sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace, barely flinching when the door was barged in. He had expected to find the place deserted after the others had gone hunting and Jackson usually preferred having his door closed, to feel less like a snake in the zoo.

"Hey." He greeted vaguely, dragging out the word. "Didn't expect to find you here. I thought you left with the others?"

He'd been down by the river washing clothes when the pack had run off. He'd thought he'd seen Derek's dark head among them, but he must have been mistaken.

"Isaac wanted to hunt," Derek informed, still motionless. Stiles saw his jaw move as he spoke. "Someone had to stay with Jackson."

"I thought that's what you had me for?"

"He doesn't trust you," Derek said quietly. "He doesn't trust any of us. He prefers Isaac though." He shrugged. "Apparently I'm in second place."

Stiles nodded for a moment before remembering Derek couldn't see him. He dumped the clothes he'd been holding on the nearby chair and approached the Alpha. He only now noticed he was wearing the black shirt he'd been offered the previous day. He probably would have given it a smart comment had it not been for the look on Derek's face.

He just sat down on the floor next to him, slightly surprised when Derek actually let him. He saw the werewolf's fingers wound tightly in the fur they sat on and frowned.

"You okay?"

Derek remained perfectly still for a moment before looking over at him. Stiles suddenly felt dumb for asking a question his eyes could answer alone. He'd never seen him like this. So... human. What bothered him the most was that he didn't know the cause. He swallowed and nodded slowly in understanding. Soon Derek dropped his gaze back to the rug.

"It was Laura's and my first kill," he said, and Stiles blinked. "The bear. It was our first hunt with the pack."

Stiles watched Derek's hand desperately grasp the bear's fur and was suddenly reminded of the town's Sheriff clutching a bottle of alcohol. He felt the urge to reach out and make the man loosen his grip – like he did with his dad – but didn't.

Instead he let his eyes sweep over the room, trying to picture what life must have been like for the Hale pack when living here. He knew they had been many. Brothers and sisters, friends and cousins. There was a faint memory in the back of his mind of his dad coming home with all their files and the news of the burnt down house. He'd been busy writing reports all night long and Stiles' mother had been the one to tuck him in.

"How can you stand to be here?" He asked quietly. "With all the memories. It would have killed me." He hesitated before continuing. "I don't have anything left of my mom."

Derek looked up to him again. This time his eyes weren't as hollow. His gaze darted between Stiles' eyes, as if trying to find something different in either of them. For a long time they just maintained eye contact, before Derek broke it once more. Stiles took that as the end of the conversation and got back up on his feet. But just as he was about to return his attention to the damp clothes, Derek spoke again.

"I saw her once."

Stiles' heart skipped a beat when turning back around to stare down at the man.

"What?" He croaked, because his throat was suddenly dry.

Their eyes met.

"Your mother. I saw her at the hospital once, many years ago. You and your father, too." Derek rose slowly from the floor. "When I first saw you and Scott in the woods five months ago... It took me some time to remember where I'd seen you before. You were just a kid back then."

Stiles stared at him with his mouth hanging open and his heart pounding painfully in his chest. The thought of his and Derek's paths being crossed in the past seemed too unreal. A question was burning on his tongue. Something he'd wanted to ask people in the past, but never got a real answer. No one had been able to. Until now.

"Could you smell it?" He asked. It was barely a whisper, but he knew Derek heard it. Yet he frowned mildly in question. Stiles swallowed, gathering new strength. "Scott says he can tell which animals are beyond help at the clinic by their scent. He can smell the sickness. Smell the death on them. Did you know then, already? That she was dying?"

Derek's eyes remained on him in silence for a while. Then he nodded and Stiles tried desperately to swallow the lump in his throat. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the fact that Derek Hale, of all people, had known his mother was going to die before he did. No one had told him. The doctors had known. His father had known. Yeah, even she had known. But they'd chosen to keep the little boy in the dark. Maybe they thought by believing the lie long enough – everything is going to be alright – it might actually become real.

He hadn't known until his dad started crying on the phone.

Later that night, when a cloak of darkness was lying over the valley, the pack built a bonfire down the shore to have another barbecue with the elk they'd caught on the hunt. Apart from the stars and the waning gibbous moon, the fire was the only light source and they gathered around it like journalists on a crime scene – or so the Sheriff would have said.

They sat in a circle in the sand while eating. Stiles sat between Scott and Erica, wrapped up in the blanket from the back of his Jeep. The nights were really cold up in the mountains, even though the fall had nearly begun back home.

"I can hear your teeth chattering from over here, Stiles," grunted Jackson, sitting beside Isaac.

Stiles sent him a silent glare, hugging the fabric more tightly around his body.

"Dude," Scott sighed, smiling at him in the warm light of the fire. "Come here."

He held out his arm, ready to wrap it around Stiles' shoulders if he just scooted closer. Stiles gave in and moved up to his friend's side. For some reason werewolves were like freaking space heaters and didn't easily get cold. First time he'd noticed this was when spending hours in the pool with Derek. Scott's warmth made his teeth stop chattering, much to everyone's enlightenment, and he could finally relax. The sound of the crackling fire was comfortable and tiring.

"Thanks," he murmured, hoping the second meaning of it came through. Apology accepted.

Scott responded by squeezing his shoulders more tightly.

Across the bonfire sat Derek. Stiles saw his lit up face through the dancing flames and their eyes met immediately. It was the last thing he saw before falling asleep on Scott's shoulder.

If someone had told him some weeks earlier that looking into the eyes of Derek Hale would make him feel safe, he would have laughed madly into their faces.

A/N: Comments are what keeps me going :)