There were things that he should have known by now, living in Beacon Hills. Especially living in a Beacon Hills where there were, you know, werewolves. Werewolves that could maim and kill and bite.

He was even dating a werewolf, for crying out loud. Which gave him a certain cachet, he thought, putting him right up there with Allison for the title of "hairiest boyfriend." But besides all that, it was kind of fun dating a werewolf. It was like having a big, hairy bodyguard with him at all times.

Or almost all times, he thought to himself, as he walked down the sidewalk. Because it was probably never a really, truly safe thing to do in Beacon Hills, to walk alone somewhere at night. Derek-less. Down that road lay maiming and desiccated corpses, and he really did like his body being fully intact and, you know, alive.

Because if he wasn't alive, then he couldn't hang out with his friends, or Derek, or breathe, or any of the number of other things that he really did enjoy doing on a day to day basis.

He pulled his jean jacket tighter against him and muttered something indecipherable under his breath. He would be glad when he could be at home, resting and relaxing and sleeping, instead of out as some sort of perverse werewolf bait. Maybe he should have taken Scott up on his offer of coming over and crashing at his place. Or maybe if he could have gotten ahold of Derek – and who know what he was even up to -

He heard the crunching of a twig from somewhere behind him, interrupting him from his train of thought. There's no need to worry, he told himself. Which was totally Stiles-speak for yeah, right, run like the wind, little one. He quickened his pace just a bit, feeling a bit of a spring in his step as he did so. It could be completely innocent. A deer. Right. Like deer just nonchalantly walk down the sidewalks of suburbia.

He didn't dare turn around. If these were his last moments on Earth, he would rather live in blissful ignorance of that fact. He would rather pretend like he had a whole lifetime stretched out before him, instead of dying bloodied and alone on a sidewalk. His breath caught in his throat, and he sped along just that much faster. He heard more twigs crunching behind him, and no one calling out his name – or even a simple, "hey, you there, in the jacket. I'm not going to kill you, okay?"

To which he would answer a grateful, "okay," and all would be said and done and he could go back to breathing at a more normal rate.

But it never came.

Instead, he heard them speeding up, and he was prepared to break out into a full-fledged pell-mell run for his life – which felt vaguely like running away from a wasp when you should be standing still, but either way, the wasp can still get you and sting you and kill you – until a large shadow launched in front of him.

He'd have preferred the wasp. At least he could try to swat at it.

Instead, though, he was faced with a large, lumbering werewolf. He backed up down the sidewalk, taking the steps two at a time. "Hey, whoa there, big guy, I wasn't going to hurt you, I was just going home, not going to bother any werewolves tonight, or any night, no, sirree. I'm A+, werewolf-friendly-certified."

The werewolf walked toward him, eyes glowing in the light of the streetlamp. It was almost menacing in appearance, he thought. If this was how he was going to die – he felt the sudden coolness of blades of grass crunch under his feet. Crap. So he had somehow managed to walk himself off the sidewalk, in the midst of all this. Coordination: not one of the things he considered a true asset in his life. He couldn't even walk a straight line backwards.

And that might just be the last thing he ever did, and oh, how embarrassing it would be for every one of his friends to realize that Stiles would fail a standard sobriety test even completely sober. He then felt the roughness of tree bark scratching against his jacket. As if this night couldn't have gotten any worse. He was cornered against a tree, by a maniacal werewolf with piercing sky-blue eyes, and he felt every inch of life force draining from his body.

He closed his eyes. Because if there was one thing that he didn't want to do, it was to watch himself have to be mutilated and killed. He would prefer his last memories of himself to be of fully intact limbs and blood coursing through his veins, not spilling out onto these nice people's lawn.

"Derek!" he called out, almost as if acting entirely on pure instinct, as he felt claws dig into the flesh of his cheek. He felt himself fall down against the trunk, and then everything went black.

Derek heard his name being called, and he picked up his brisk pace – it wasn't quite a run, but it wasn't a merry walk through the park either. Normally, he wouldn't admit to the fact that he was following Stiles – at a very distant pace, but you never knew what kind of trouble one could get into a town overrun by werewolves, and he didn't want anything to ever happen to Stiles, like, ever – but when he heard his name being called out from ahead of where he was, he was spurred into action. Damn the consequences. How many Dereks would Stiles be calling out for? Hopefully only him, he thought, as he bounded over the sidewalks and crossed roads, recklessly aiming directly for where he knew the voice to be coming from.

He saw the werewolf from behind, all looming and foreboding, and his eyes glowed furiously. No one was to ever lay a finger on Stiles. Not ever. He could see a slouched form at the base of the tree, and knew in his heart that it must be Stiles. He ran across the street and lunged on top of the other werewolf, growling and spitting as he did so.

The other werewolf was taken aback by this sudden incursion, he could tell, and straightened up to try to throw him off his back. Derek dug his claws in and rode it down, scratching up his back well. He stood up and connected his fist to the side of his jaw, and knocked him down to the ground with one firm punch. Standing over him, he took the sight before him into account. And then, as if for additional impact, he slammed his foot on top of his stomach, grinding it into him.

"Stay. Away," he said, punctuating each word with invisible verbal venom. The werewolf grunted his acknowledgment, and laid there clenching his stomach. Derek turned to Stiles. "Stiles?"

"Y-yeah?" His voice was groggy and out of sorts. "What happened?"

Derek extended his hand to Stiles. "This asshole Omega attacked you."

"An Omega? How did you – oh, right, because werewolf logic skills dictate that you would know these things." Stiles could see Derek nodding in the illumination of the street lamp. "I thought he was just a really angry Beta. At least, from what you and Scott have told me."

"He's an Omega that will learn to keep his powers at bay if he wants to survive his time in Beacon Hills without more threats of violence," Derek said, directing his barbs toward the werewolf. "Do I make myself clear?" A series of labored grunts was his only reply. "Okay, good."

Stiles had to suppress a laugh. It was almost like he was one of Derek's pack, and maybe in a convoluted way, he was. Just in the way that a human can join a pack of werewolves, which is by proxy and not by actually going out and doing werewolf-y things. He would never know the thrill of the hunt – thank God for that, he didn't think he had the stomach to do it – and so he would have to find other ways to be involved in Derek's life.

"Was I being funny?" Derek asked, turning to face Stiles and looking at him with caution in his eyes. "Your cheek – it hurts."

"Yeah. And, uh, yeah." He placed his hand against his cheek, and felt the gashes that had been ripped through his skin. It barely felt like the cheek that he had known every day of his life, instead, it felt like a stranger on his own face. "It does, but I'll be okay." He turned to face Derek, and offered him a tentative smile. "How did you know where I was when I needed someone? I called out your name – I never expected you to actually come."

"This town isn't that big, and I can hear really well," Derek said, pointing to his ears, as if to say "werewolf, duh." "And I might have been trying to make sure you were safe. You never know what will come out at night in this town, after all."

"Your concern is touching," Stiles said. "No, really. It is." Unfamiliar, but touching.

"Do you want to go home now?" Derek asked. "I – I don't think that this werewolf will hurt you again, not as long as I'm here, but I still want to make sure you'll get home safe and sound. You know, there's other werewolves out there besides him and me."

Stiles stroked his cheek absent-mindedly, feeling the gashes across his face. He kind of wanted to get home and bandage himself up before his father got a chance to see him – he had a feeling that he couldn't claim that his next-door neighbor's tiny little poodle was the culprit on this one. "Yeah. That sounds good."

"C'm'ere, I'll walk you home," Derek said, extending his hand out to Stiles. Stiles slid his hand gratefully into Derek's, and the two of them walked down the sidewalk together, hand-in-hand, swinging their hands back and forth in a swaying motion. They were silent except for their breathing; Stiles breathed slow and steady, to alleviate the panic that he felt deep inside, while Derek's breathing was more labored. It was almost as if something had been taken out of him.

They got up to Stiles's front porch, and Stiles saw that the lights were still out – his father wasn't home, or else he would be in the living room, watching something on television or maybe catching up on the headlines from the Beacon Hills Gazette. Although being Sheriff, he knew most of the worst of the stories before they even hit the newsprint, he was still prone to reading it every now and then to see what other mundane stories were considered newsworthy. Stiles figured it also helped him to keep up to date with what the high school was trying to pass off as edible food this week.

"My dad's not home," Stiles said, as if to reaffirm his thoughts. "If you want to come in, you can – we just can't go fool around upstairs, because then he'd come home and catch us, and he would find ways to be upset with me that I can't even imagine."

"No, it's okay," Derek said. "I was – you're home safe. That's what matter to me right now." He leaned forward and cupped Stiles's scarred cheek in his hand. "You're safe. No one can hurt you."

"Yes, I'm safe," Stiles said, echoing Derek's words back to him. "You don't have to worry about me. Next time I want to walk alone at night, when scary wolves roam the streets – I, uh, won't." And he meant it. He would wrap himself up in a ball of bubble wrap and roll around the streets of Beacon Hills if it meant that he wouldn't be able to be hurt.

"You can always ask me to walk with you," Derek said, and Stiles knew in his heart that he meant it. He meant that Stiles could always be with him, and that meant a lot, considering how he knew Derek to be. He was protective of very few people, and even fewer outside of his pack and, well, he knew Derek had to have some familial ties somewhere along the line.

Stiles smiled at his words. "I know. I'll remember that for next time." He leaned forward and inhaled the inherently wolfy smell that was so prominent with Derek. "I – thank you. For walking me home. For saving me from that creep."

"Anytime." And, again, Stiles knew that he meant it. Because Derek rarely said things that he didn't mean wholeheartedly, because that wasn't his style in the least. It was more his style to be direct and blunt and honest. Derek brushed the pads of his fingers along the curve and swell of Stiles's jawline, on the unaffected cheek, and leaned in, and kissed him ever-so-softly. It was soft and tender and not exactly what he had come to associate with kisses from Derek – he was used to things being faster, a little more rough around the edges. Not like he was being kissed by a hero from a romance novel.

It still felt good. Fantastic, even. Because, come on, it was a kiss from Derek. That was like being kissed by a god. A god with really soft lips.

He threw his arm around Derek's neck, pulling him closer with a smile on his face. They traded kisses back and forth for a while, Derek's tongue teasing playfully at the corner of Stiles's mouth, Stiles breathing in short breaths, until they saw a pair of headlights come up the drive. "Guess your father's home now," Derek said, breaking the moment with a hint of reluctance. "I should -"

"Yeah." Stiles was almost glum at the prospect of seeing his father after all this,. It meant having to come up with an explanation for why his cheek looked like something left over at the end of a slasher movie, instead of making out with his boyfriend. "If you don't want to go -"

"No, I'll see you tomorrow," Derek said, kissing him one last time and walking down the path, passing by Stiles's father on the way down. "Evening, Mr. Stilinski."

"Was that Derek Hale?" his father asked, as he unlocked the front door and turned on the foyer light. As they stepped inside, his father peered at his face, taking in its appearance. "And what happened to your face?"

"Yes, it was. And, uh," he hoped to God that he could pass this off well, and not come across as a total fraud lying for the hell of it, "Binkie did it?"

"You mean Mrs. Ferguson's poodle? I'll have to have a talk with her tomorrow about it. That doesn't really sound like something he would do..." his father trailed off as he thumbed through the day's collection of bills and assorted junk mail.

"I'm fine, Dad, really. Binkie didn't hurt me that badly. I just want to go clean myself up a bit. Derek was giving me advice on how to take care of a dog scratch, that's all. He's good with that sort of thing."

"Okay." He wasn't sure how convinced his father was with his guise, but he had to go with it. Besides, it wasn't entirely a series of lies. Derek was good with scratches – both giving and receiving, although that was thankfully not something he knew from first-hand experience.

As he splashed water on his face and pulled out a roll of gauze from the first aid kit beneath the sink, he gauged how bad it looked. On a scale of 1-10, it looked to be about a 7 – deep enough that there would be some scarring, but he wouldn't need emergency medical attention or anything like that. He had to agree with his father – he wasn't sure that a poodle could inflict that much damage, but, then again, poodles could be nasty little things. Anyone who got between Binkie and Mrs. Ferguson on one of their walks could see that, as clear as day. So maybe it wasn't out of the realm of possibility.

Even still, he made sure not to lay his cheek against the pillow that night, just to be safe, and so that it would no longer hurt as badly. He didn't want to do anything to irritate the sensitive, healing skin any more than it was already irritated. It was probably for the best, anyway.

The next morning, he woke up to a voicemail from Derek. "Just wanting to make sure that you're okay," the terse voice on the other end said, although he could still pick up on a hint of something close to care coming through.

He smiled despite himself – it felt good, in a way, to have and called Derek back. "Everything's good," he said, when Derek picked up the phone. "It stings a bit, but – you know, that's kind of expected, I guess."

"Hang on," Derek said. "I'll be right over."

Somehow, Stiles wasn't quite expecting that response. A "you hang in there, okay?" or "you'll be okay, I promise" - maybe not in those exact words, but they were more in the line of what he was expecting. This Derek was not a Derek he was used to seeing. Or hearing, more accurately.

He lounged back on his bed and patted at his cheek self-consciously, before swinging his legs off the side of the bed and getting up. He couldn't exactly let Derek in if he was still laying in bed, after all.

And maybe then he could get an explanation for why he was getting the Florence Nightingale act all of a sudden. Because he didn't think that werewolves tended to...tend to things, very often. Let alone injured cheeks.

-to be continued-