Dances With Wolves
? 6 / 25
Stiles doesn’t know why, but Scott drags him into the preserve to sniff out an odd scent. Also, last time he checked, this was still private property.
“Remind me why I’m here again?” Stiles asks, trudging along after Scott, who is sniffing at the air like some kind of overly large, puppy-ish bloodhound.
“In case I miss something,” comes Scott’s quick answer and Stiles blinks in surprise.
“Out of the two of us, which has the werewolf senses?” He asks, note of sarcasm creeping into his voice.
Scott keeps sniffing. “Me, of course.”
“Then how do you think I could possibly catch something that you miss?”
“Dunno,” Scott shrugs. “You’ve managed to do it before.”
“Yeah,” Stiles reasons, “When I’m not being dragged halfway into the preserve in the middle of winter, at night, because you ‘smelled something weird’.”
“The air quotes hurt, dude,” Scott answers, placing a hand sarcastically over his heart.
“They should,” Stiles says darkly, in stark contrast to his thoughts. Because he was mature like that.
“What’s so funny?” Stiles asks, fed up with his best friend’s… everything.
“You’re just pissed that I dragged you out here when you were in the middle of your marathon texting session with Derek.”
“Am not,” Stiles complains even though they both knew it was true.
Scott had insisted he leave his cellphone in the jeep, saying that he didn’t want to alert whatever he’d been tracking through the woods to their presence. Stiles told him he’d put it on silent. Scott had shook his head.
“Even if you do, you’ll still be checking it every five seconds. I need you to pay attention. It won’t take that long, I promise.”
Stiles had narrowed his eyes at his best friend skeptically, but in the end he did as Scott asked. Stiles knew he was getting better with the whole “true alpha” thang, but for the most part, he was still trying to figure out his own suddenly strengthened abilities. So when he needed the extra hand, Stiles was always willing to give it. That’s what best friends are for, right?
Even still, that doesn’t stop Stiles from being pissed about it. For all he knows, there could be a message there from Derek now, waiting for him. He wants to hurry this up as much as possible to check.
“You know I can tell when you’re lying, right?” Scott says as he bends down to sweep the leaves away from some buried tracks. He sniffs.
“Every time you remind me,” Stiles replies, shoving his hands into the pockets of his hoodie and glowering at the back of his best friend’s head. He suppresses the desire to whack him across it with a stick or something.
As they keep walking, with Scott stopping every few minutes to sniff at the ground or a tree just off the path, Stiles starts to look around. At some point, he begins to recognize things. He can’t be sure, really, because, well, nighttime, but it looks like they’d just crossed into the outskirts of the old Hale property. When Scott leads him down a small embankment, and over the barely discernable line of the familiar icy creek at its base, Stiles has his confirmation.
“Scott, do you know where we are?”
“The preserve. Why?”
“No, I mean, I think we just crossed into Derek’s old property.”
Scott looks around.
“Yeah, I think you’re right. Smells vaguely familiar. How’d you tell?” He turns to look at Stiles quickly, who jerks a thumb over his shoulder.
“The frozen creek back there. I remember it from those county maps we used to find the currents earlier this year. And we were somewhere near here the morning after you were bitten, looking for your inhaler.”
“Oh yeah,” he intones, looking around, “I don’t know how you remember that shit, dude,” Scott shrugs and turns back around to try and pick up the trail they’d been following for the last twenty minutes.
“It’s a gift.”
“So modest,” Scott muses as he sniffs at the ground. “Damn, I think I lost it.”
“The scent. It’s gone.” He stands up and looks around, trying to see if any remnants still linger in the air. He takes a deep inhale. “Wait…” He pauses. “I think- I think I caught it again. I can’t tell. Back up for a sec, would ya?” Stiles does as he’s told, used to being ordered around by werewolves these days. Odd requests were kind of the norm.
“What is it?” he asks, about ten feet back from Scott, who is bent down and sniffing at the leaves near his feet again.
“The scent. I think I caught it again,” he says, volume of his voice a hair above usual. “I can smell it a little clearer now.”
“Was I stinking up the place or something?” Scott shrugs, but doesn’t say anything. Stiles looks for that stick. “So what? Am I just supposed to follow you from all the way back here, or …?” Stiles shrugs as he trails off. Scott doesn’t even bother answering.
“Wait here. I’ll be back in a minute.”
“Wha- Why?” Stiles complains. “I’m not letting you leave me here.” He isn’t thinking about how he’d left Scott alone last time, and his best friend had been werewolf-ified before he’d seen him again.
“Just shut up and trust me,” comes Scott’s response.
“Ugh,” Stiles sighs because obviously he is obligated to do that, being his best bro and all. “Fiiiiiine,” he whines. “But if I get mauled, remember it’s on you.”
“You’re not gonna get mauled, Stiles,” Scott reassures him, crawling over a large log that had fallen across their path a little further along.
He’s probably right. Ever since the nemeton and the whole Darach disaster, Beacon Hills had become surprisingly quiet, aside from the slight bustle it adopted as the holidays neared. But that wasn’t nearly as terrifying. Except when you accidentally run into certain lacrosse coaches at the mall carrying something in a pink Victoria’s Secret bag. Then you suddenly wish for evil druids and their associated murderous rampages. Aside from that, and he and Scott’s little nighttime hike this evening, all is essentially well for Stiles. Sort of.
“Yeah, but if I do-” Stiles calls after him, almost out of sight.
“I’ll bear the shame of your death ‘til the end of my days,” Scott replies sarcastically and, with that said, disappears.
Stiles laughs quietly to himself. Scott was finally getting better at the whole sarcasm thing. So he stands there and does what his alpha told him to.
After a few minutes of kicking idly at the half-frozen dirt with his shoe, and freaking out at yet another harmless shadow, Stiles wishes he’d 1) brought a heavier jacket because his hoodie was just not cutting it, and 2) had his phone, so he could text Derek something snarky about his current predicament. He’d have gotten a kick out of it for sure.
Stliles lets his mind drift back to when he’d caught sight of Derek looming at the edge of the clearing where Scott had dropped his inhaler a few hundred feet behind them in the woods. He’d looked younger then, but his face had been harder. More pained. Knowing what he knows now, Stiles understands why. He wishes he hadn’t been so quick to judge the brooding werewolf.
His train of thought leads him from Derek, to where he’d buried Laura, which was right next to his old house and Stiles wonders where exactly that is.
He looks around, tries to see if he can orient himself relative to where he thought the derelict structure was. He figures it’s about thirty degrees off his current heading toward the right. You know, sort of.
He’s trying to landmark it out when there’s a sharp snap of a twig behind him, and he freezes.
“This is still private property.”
Stiles’ heart stops dead in his chest because the voice behind him is familiar. He knows that voice; remembers how it first spooked the hell out of him every time he heard the raw sound of it, which later had faded as it stopped insulting him and instead told him to get to safety. These days, he reads most texts he receives with that very voice in his head.
“Derek?” He breathes out, part of him still in denial as he turns around.
In the pale moonlight, a few feet from where he’s standing, Stiles can see the werewolf’s slight smile curl into his lips. And not the cocky alpha smirk or flirty fake grin he’d seen before, but the smile he’s only seen on pictures in his phone; the small, genuinely warm smile that Stiles had given up all hope on ever seeing with his own eyes.
For the first time in Stiles’ life, he has no comeback. No greeting, no awkward wave, nothing. His heart has recovered from its earlier spasm and is now sprinting at full gait. Too many thoughts stream across his mind to address any of them at once.
Without thinking twice about it, Stiles takes three big steps and just lunges himself at Derek who utters a sudden ‘oomf’ as they make contact. Derek staggers, but Stiles’ arms firmly wrapping around him prevents him from falling. Stiles locks his arms around Derek’s neck, clutching the fabric between his fingers as if fearing he’ll disappear again if he doesn’t hold onto him hard enough. He can’t hear anything over the hammering sound of his own heartbeat, but as he inhales deeply with his face buried in the crook of Derek’s neck, he smells the piney undertone of wood, leather, subtle tempered cologne and something that’s purely him.
Derek is back, he thinks to himself, but he still can’t believe it.
The sound of Scott calling something in the distance snaps Stiles back to reality, and it hits him what he’s really doing. He’s hugging Derek, who’s stiff in his arms and is in no way returning the embrace. Stiles can’t see his face, but he can bet those eyebrows are doing something in confusion. Heat creeps onto his cheeks as he swallows before quickly detaching himself from Derek, embarrassed of his instinctive action. Just as he does, however, he can feel Derek relax against him, hands brushing his sides as if he’s just about to hug him back, but it’s too late.
Stiles stumbles back and Derek swiftly catches him by the arm just as Scott reappears.
"What are you- Derek?" He asks, though there’s no real reason to make it sound like a question.
"Yeah," Derek confirms with a huff as he rights the flustered human next to him gently. He let’s go of Stiles’ arm and Stiles can feel the ghost of his touch across his skin, even through the fabric of his hoodie.
Scott slides up wearing one of his giant smiles that more resembles a puppy than a pack leader, offering a hand which Derek shakes heartily.
"I didn’t recognize your scent," he points out, looking curious, once they let their arms drop to their sides. "It’s… different. Why is that?"
"It’s not different," Derek assures him. "But these woods have always smelled like me and my family, so it’s not very strange you couldn’t pick out my scent."
"There’s something else though," Scott insists, still looking thoughtful.
"Yeah," Derek nods. "That’s probably the smell of the other pack."
Stiles and Scott look at each other, eyes widening.
"The other pack?" Stiles repeats.
"You’re in another pack now?" Scott asks.
"No," Derek says, shaking his head, and Stiles feels strangely relieved to hear that. "Cora is. We met them in Nebraska on our way to New York, and stayed with them for a while." He pauses for a moment, and Stiles can see something flicker in his eyes, though he’s not sure what it can be identified as. "She didn’t want to come back with me, so she stayed." Then he looks at Scott with that light smile again. "I guess I still have their scent on me. Must’ve been what you picked up."
"And you had a Stiles attached to you,” Scott points out.
Stiles shoots him a venomous look, which he ignores. He catches Derek’s light shrug out of the corner of his eye.
“It’s good that you’re keeping an eye on things,” Derek comments as he absentmindedly rubs at the side of his neck, where Stiles’ face had just been buried. Stiles risks a look at the werewolf and thinks he sees the same ruddy red flush across his face that he was currently sporting himself, but he couldn’t be sure.
“Thanks,” Scott replies with a stupid grin and Stiles rolls his eyes. He knows that any compliments his best friend gets on his newfound alphadom, especially from another former alpha, probably means quite a bit.
"So," Stiles starts, almost scared to ask. "You’re back?"
Derek meets his gaze steadily, and Stiles can feel a familiar stir in his gut as their eyes lock. Again because they’ve done it countless times before, only this is different. Anyone who says their relationship hasn’t changed due to their texting during the last two months would be lying.
"I’m back," he agrees.
Scott claps him on the shoulder, stealing Derek’s attention off Stiles.
"Just in time for Christmas," he reminds. “It’s good to have you back, man."
Derek scoffs lightly, the corners of his lips once again lifting into a soft smile. His gaze returns to Stiles’ face, which is suddenly a thousand degrees. Stiles’ heart skips a violent beat, but Derek doesn’t look away.
"It’s good to be back,” he replies. “Good to see you guys again.”
Stiles feels like, on some level, those words are meant for him. Or, rather, that’s what he hopes.