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Show Us Our Way Home Again

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“We shall see the crumbs of bread...and they will show us our way home again.”
― The Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel

Art with Stiles and Derek on the hood of the Camaro by galacticyoyo

☽ ● ☾

Toga! Toga! Toga! Toga!

“Four? Damn it.” Stiles drops the burner phone onto the couch next to him and bangs his head against the back of the couch. “This isn’t a good time for a level four, Scotty boy. The Scooby Gang’s going to have to wait for another weekend. I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to find... or at least I hope I do.”

Excuse after excuse flits through his mind. Some of them are even real, like the fact that he’s already on thin ice with his boss and one more insubordination — aka suggesting improvements to a plan that were totally right and would have stopped Armitage from getting shot — is going to get him on a performance plan. God, but he really doesn’t want to think how much worse that could possibly be than his current neverending round of field support assignments.

The phone buzzes again. Stiles tries not to look, he really fucking does, but he can’t resist. And there it is: another text from a different phone number, giving the longitude and latitude of the latest supernatural shitshow. He stares at the phone for a few seconds but there’s nothing more, definitely not the list of who else is being invited to the party that Stiles hasn’t been able to convince Scott is super important. Stiles considers asking, begging even, but he knows Scott will refuse to answer on the grounds that it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a gig with Liam and Malia or one with Derek and Scott.

Hint to the hopelessly naive: it really, really does. Stiles would bend over 360 degrees to get Scott out of a jam, and he’d do at least that just for a chance to spend time with Derek.

Stiles’ brain screeches to a halt at that thought and the memory of the last time he’d been teamed with Derek and his impossible abs and his awesome, if too infrequent, smile. That was aimed at Stiles because he and his magically, sparky fingers had totally owned the spell and mountain ash that had corralled the rabid omega and saved the Camaro from death by trampoline jumping.

“Damn it,” Stiles mutters. “Damn it, damn it, damn it. Get yourself back on the reality train. You cannot fuck your future, not even for Derek.”

Running a hand through his hair, he starts thinking, dealing excuses like cards, discarding the ones that are too bullshit for even Scott to buy, shuffling the others until he’s sure he’s got a winning hand, and then picking one he doesn’t think he’s ever used.

He obviously took too long though, because there’s yet another another buzz. A gif this time, Bluto in a toga, dancing, drinking, looking like the fucked-up life of the fucked-up party.

“Oh, no no no no no! You asshole. That’s not fair, siccing the Bluto on me.”

Scott’s voice echoes in Stiles’ memory, his face at maximum earnestness, as he places his hand on his heart and says, I solemnly swear that I will never abuse the Bluto.

Stiles’ fingers hover over the keyboard. It should be easy to tell the truth, right? No excuses needed. Tell Scott that his boss isn’t willing to bend over backwards and give him what he wants, admit that he’s not having the amazing, super-successful career that he’s been implying in their calls.

Annnnnnddddd… he can’t. He fucking can’t admit that he’s screwing this up or that he hates the rigidity and all-too-frequent boredom that comes with his job. Just the idea of doing it makes him feel queasy.

“Fuck it,” Stiles says. “Getting fired can’t be worse than being stuck behind a video screen while everyone else gets to go out and play.”

Already thinking about what excuse is best for an impromptu vacation, and whether Agent-in-Charge Menzies will even care, Stiles unlocks the burner phone and starts typing the only acceptable reply.

Let’s party!

☽ ● ☾

“Seriously, Scott. Where the hell am I?” Derek snarls at his phone, as if somehow he can intimidate his Mahealani-special Maps app into confirming that the narrow gravel road he’s just turned onto will take him to the location he typed in. Assuming, of course, that it even has a name. That’s never a guarantee out here in the middle of nowhere. The only thing that’s even the tiniest bit reassuring is the faded mailbox with its upright red flag. If the USPS delivers here, the road has to go somewhere, right?

About twenty yards after that first turn, the gravel gives way to rutted, potholed dirt. Then, the tiny bit of signal that he’s been getting for the past too many miles blips out and the semi-reassuring robo-voice stops in the middle of reminding him that he’s got a right turn in however far it is. Derek tightens his grip on the steering wheel and hopes like hell that it doesn’t lead to a fork in the road.

A few seconds later, the trees crowd in. They’re lining the edge of the road, close enough to scratch his paint job if he can’t keep his tires in the deep ruts on either side of the raised, grassy center. He bounces and bumps along, wincing every time the undercarriage scrapes over a clump of grass or a rock.

“Damn it, Scott. I’ll castrate you for this.” Except he won’t, because he’s very fond of his own balls and he knows that Malia would return the favor, with her claws and teeth and far too much glee.

Derek’s voice fades into a deep growl as the car bounces hard enough for his head to hit the roof. He blinks and realizes that the trees are getting closer, their branches touching overhead and blocking enough of the sunlight that a human would probably be turning on the headlights right about now.

“You couldn’t just say it’s in the middle of fuck-ass nowhere, Derek, don’t bring the Camaro? I could have rented a… fuck...!”

Derek swings the wheel sharply, barely making the right turn, and then slams on his brakes, skidding to a halt in front of an old house. He’s close enough that Stiles could stretch out his legs and touch the Camaro with the toes of his black Converse shoes from where he’s sitting on the front steps. Derek swallows hard and slumps back in his seat. He takes about ten seconds to get his heartbeat under control before getting out of the car.

“Still trying to master the dramatic entrance, I see.” Stiles grins at him. His heart is beating a little faster than Derek’s used to hearing, and there’s a slight shake to the hand that’s he’s holding his phone with, but he’s more in control of his body than Derek’s ever seen him. He still hasn’t grown out of wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and hoodie though, for which Derek is ridiculously grateful. Because it means that Stiles still has a little bit of that essential something that makes Derek want to be around him far more than he should.

The rest, though, is far too controlled, as if the FBI has sapped Stiles’ energy — and awesomeness Stiles’ voice says in Derek’s head — succeeding where all the years of lies, of demonic possession, of life and death failed. And Derek hates that, despises it with a passion that he shoves down deep and hides away in the same tightly locked corner of his mind where he keeps everything related to Stiles. It’s safer that way.

Waving a hand in a gesture that takes in the small clearing and the house, Stiles says, “Welcome to bumfuck nowheresville, home of absolutely nothing. No cell coverage, no wifi. Hell, I bet they don’t even have cable. Just a shit-ton of nada.”

“Except electricity.” Derek looks pointedly at the wires strung precariously across the clearing.

“Okay, so they have major fire danger. I’m not sure that’s something to crow about.” Stiles pushes himself to his feet, shoves his phone in his back pocket, and runs a hand through his hair. He pauses for a moment, not quite posing, as he scans the tree line. “I’m assuming you can’t hear any other cars.”

It’s not really a question, but Derek instinctively stretches his hearing as far as he can. “Nope,” he says. “Just birds, bees, small animals, the usual forest noises.”

“They’re late.” Stiles frowns at his top of the line Fitbit — which is yet another new thing that Derek blames on the FBI. And he definitely needs to put a stop to these thoughts before Stiles figures him out.

Derek clears this throat and holds up his phone. “It’s not as if we’d know if Scott’s trying to reach us.”

“Maybe we should…”

“No,” Derek says, cutting Stiles off before he can even finish that thought. “I’m not taking my car back down that road,” he bares his fangs at the word, “until we’re ready to leave and never come back.”

“Whoa!” Stiles throws up his hands. “Down, Cujo. Message received. Loud and clear.”

Dog jokes! Derek hides his smile with a snap of his fangs and a blue flare of his eyes.

“Okay, so we’re not driving back to the road where we can get the shittiest signal to ever signal and maybe see if Scott’s in trouble. We’re just going to sit here, waiting for everyone else to show up, or not, with absolutely no idea what fresh hell is waiting for us inside that house.”

“Assuming it’s inside the house.”

“Don’t!” Stiles glares at him. “Don’t even go there. You know what kind of things live in woods like that.”

“Because whatever’s in that house will be nicer?”

“You’ll never know until you ask.” The voice is soft, almost regretful, and it’s coming from the house behind them.

Derek spins around, claws and fangs out, and starts running towards Stiles. He almost makes it, too. He’s only one small step away when a flash of bright light stops him in his tracks and then everything goes dark.

☽ ● ☾

Stiles is on his feet almost instantly, reaching for a gun that he’s not wearing, when he hears the sound of Derek’s body landing on the ground. He can’t stop himself from looking, from needing to know how badly Derek is hurt, and that nano-second of distraction is all the unsub needs.

Even as Stiles is forcing his attention back to the unsub, something hits him — a taser, a spell, a live wire — and sends him to his knees, fighting the urge to scream. Ropes that feel more like roots than hemp are winding around him, dragging him down, binding his arms to his torso.

“Really? I expected more from a pair of hunters.” Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles can see the unsub kicking Derek’s head with a very pointed shoe.

“We’re not—” he says and then stops himself. He bites his bottom lip hard to prevent himself from giving away anything more.

“Not what? Hunters? Is that what you tell yourselves when the darkness drowns you in memories?” The unsub aims an even more vicious kick at the side of Derek’s head. “Or have you convinced yourself that you’re not as bad as them just because you’re not human?” The unsub continues to move around Derek, kicking him over and over.

Wincing at every thud, Stiles uses those few precious seconds to examine the unsub and commit them to memory. Most likely male, or at least Stiles is about 90% sure. Thin and tall-ish, maybe an inch or two over 6 feet, somewhere between 175 and 190 pounds, depending on what those loose clothes are covering. Dark-brown eyes and dark hair that’s treated with something, highlights perhaps, that makes it glitter in the fading sunlight. Clean-shaven with the same kind of baby face that Stiles has. Indeterminate age, Stiles would guess anywhere from 25 (based on his skin) to 55 (based on the way he carries himself). Then again, if he’s supernatural, who the hell knows?

“Besides—” The guy moves to stand in front of Stiles, interrupting his flow of thoughts, but adding definitely a supe to the description. “It’s not as if I want to permanently hurt him or anything. At least not yet.” He bends down, wrapping Stiles’ chin with a very cold hand and forcing him to raise his head.

Stiles closes his eyes, but it feels like it’s too late to stop the guy from seeing whatever he was looking to find.

“Oh, you’re a treat. An absolutely, unexpectedly, delicious treat.”

“Nope. No way.” Stiles shakes his head, trying and failing to free himself from the guy’s grip. “I’m thin, and scrawny, and completely tasteless.”

“Oh, honey, you have absolutely no idea, do you? That spark you’ve buried deep? It’s as sweet as spun sugar. I could eat you up with a spoon.”

“You’re insane,” Stiles says, gritting his teeth and trying to control his body, because… what?, the guy was going to eat him? “Besides our friends will be here soon enough, and you don’t want to be here when they do.”

The guy’s laugh is deep and malicious. “So sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no one within fifty miles who has the ability to find my home. The very fact that both of you were able to do that? Makes you a very tasty kind of special.”

Stiles tries to pull away, to scramble back and free himself, but the guy tightens his grip. His fingernails dig painfully into Stiles’ cheek and jaw. “You’re not going anywhere, except inside.”

The only thing that’s unexpected is that the blow that slams into the side of his head feels more like magic than a fist. Stiles blinks, fights to stay conscious, and then loses the battle when the guy hits him again.

☽ ● ☾

Far too much experience at being knocked out and dragged off somewhere has left Derek with a talent for controlling his body’s responses to waking up. As consciousness returns, he forces his muscles to stay relaxed, his eyes to remain closed, and his breathing and heartbeat to maintain their current slow rates. His ears are a little plugged up from air pressure, and his nose and mouth are filled with the all-too-familiar bitter-smoky taste and scent of mountain ash. Kidnappers really are far too predictable, and he doesn’t even want to think about what it says about his fucked up life that he knows it.

He breathes in again, trying to get past the mountain ash, and focuses on matching scents to sounds, on locating Stiles. He’s somewhere close, no more than than 10 feet away. He’s fidgety, but not making any big movements, which means he’s tied up. Derek pauses, listens to the rhythm of Stiles’s fingers tapping on linoleum, but it’s just random, not a cry for help or sharing of information in the pack’s version of morse code. Still, there’s got to be something more going on, because Stiles seems to be on the verge of a panic attack. His pulse is too fast, his breathing so choppy and harsh that it’s almost drowning out the odd muffled noises he’s making.

Derek forces himself to move past the almost overpowering scent of Stiles’ fear. Fainter, but still recognizable, are the sweetness of candy, the tartness of spices, and the rankness of an active woodfire. The kitchen, Derek thinks, momentarily grateful that at least he and Stiles are in the same room.

He stretches out, pushes himself to listen, and hears something. The sound is faint, almost beyond the reach of Derek’s hearing. He tries his best to zero in on it, but still isn’t sure what it is. Some kind of humming, maybe? Hopefully, it means that the guy who attacked them is nowhere near them.

As sure as he can be that it’s only the two of them, Derek blinks open his eyes. The room is dull, lit only by the light over what looks like a ancient, oversized Aga-style stove that explains why it’s so warm.

He pushes himself to his elbows, then up into a crouch. An odd squawking sound comes from his left, and finally Derek can see why Stiles is so freaked out. He’s sitting on the floor in a cage, bound by green-ish ropes that look more like roots than hemp, with dirty white cloth wound around his head, covering his mouth and eyes, but leaving his nose free.

“Mmmph. Mmmph, MMMPH!” Stiles says, struggling hard enough to rock the cage, making a loud noise when one side barely comes up off the floor an inch and crashes back down again.

Derek understands his frustration, but there isn’t a damn thing either of them can do. He puts a finger to his mouth and shushes Stiles.

Stiles responds with a quieter “Mmmph” that Derek hopes is agreement.Then Stiles flexes his hands, shifts his arms meaningfully, and shakes his head hard and fast.

Of course, Stiles expects Derek to free him, as if getting himself out of this mountain ash circle is child’s play. Derek hisses out a breath and holds his hands up in a placating gesture, which is stupid, he knows, when Stiles can’t see him.

Steeling himself, Derek reaches out and prods the barrier. The familiar sizzle-sting zaps through him, punches a whine out of him. He curls his fingers and cradles his fist into his chest, feeling every second of the burn as it heals. God, but that shit hurts.

A sad, inquiring noise from Stiles reminds Derek that he has to communicate.

“Mountain ash,” he grits out. “It’s healing, but I’m trapped.”

Stiles’ entire body slumps, and he releases a long, resigned sigh.

“I’m not apologizing,” Derek says, which probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to Stiles, but damn it, he’s not Scott and mountain ash is never going to be his bitch. It just leaves him feeling trapped, helpless, and trying desperately hard not to imagine how horrendous it must have been for his family, caught in a deathtrap made of fire and that cursed burnt wood.

A change in the humming brings Derek back to the present. It’s now a different song, equally off-key and unrecognizable, and coming closer. He mutters, “Incoming.”

Stiles nods and shifts positions in the cage. His posture barely changes. Someone who doesn’t know Stiles would probably be fooled into thinking that he’s fallen into despair. Derek, however, can see the tension in Stiles’s hands and the way his feet are curled beneath him, putting him in the perfect position to launch himself at an attacker. Blindfolded, caged, and bound, but still willing to fight. Derek takes heart from that and stands up, readying himself to take advantage of the smallest mistake.

☽ ● ☾

The humming sucks and that’s putting it politely, as far as Stiles is concerned. The guy wouldn’t know a tune if it came up and smacked him. Derek must have been hearing it the whole time, and Stiles hasn’t a clue how he’s managed not to completely lose it. Maybe if… no, fuck that, when he gets back to work, he’ll talk to some people, and see if he can’t get a law on the books, making it illegal for criminals to torture their victims by standing off-stage and humming, whistling, or singing off-key.

Then again, it’s giving him something to focus on that isn’t his current predicament. That’s something in the plus column for that torturous noise.

The soft footsteps and the whistling — thank fuck — come to a halt a few feet in front of Stiles. Too close for Derek’s comfort, if the low growling is any indication.

“Thanks, but I’m not hungry,” Derek mutters, and Stiles ducks his head to hide a grin.

Not that the unsub would be able to see his expression beneath these fucking bandages. And that begs a super important question: how the hell did the guy know that that would completely demoralize and derail him? Between Danny, Lydia, Chris, Scott’s dad, and his dad, they’d buried every piece of information about what the demon had done so deep that even the FBI hadn’t found it. How had this isolated bastard from bumfuck, nowheresville figured it out?

The unsub makes a little clapping noise that drags Stiles’ attention back to the immediate problem. “Why on earth would I bother feeding you? This isn’t a fairy tale. I don’t need to get you nice and fat before I eat your heart. That wouldn’t make one bit of difference to me or the amount of power I get from you.” He pauses for a moment, and then muses, “Although a nice bit of red wine sauce or a tangy mushroom sauce might make a nice variation from the usual blood and raw meat.”

“What the fuck,” Stiles says, or at least he tries to. Even to his own ears, it sounds more like a mumble-squawk than anything else.

“You’re insane,” Derek snarls. “You can’t do that. I’d have heard about it if you could.”

You mean creepy uncle Peter doesn’t know… Stiles’ thoughts are interrupted by the freaking giggle coming from the unsub.

“Oh, you are precious. Of course, I can. I’ve been doing it for… ummm… well, it’s been at least a thousand years since that silly priest attempted to eat my heart.” The unsub pauses, and something heavy and metallic rattles to Stiles’ right. Then, that damned humming starts up again.

Derek snarls, “Seriously?”

And, of course, Stiles has zero idea of what’s going on. He can’t see, can’t talk, doesn’t even have stupid werewolfy superpowers that would help him smell his way to a world outside himself. If only Derek were free and able to fight, instead of trapped in…

Shit, Stiles has a sudden urge to bash his head against the bars of the cage. He may not have superpowers, but he’s got a spark and a talent for mountain ash. All he has to do is figure out how to manipulate it without being able to see it or move his hands too much.

First, he needs to figure out exactly where Derek is.

He closes his eyes, which seems a bit dumb when he can’t see, but it helps him concentrate on what’s around him instead of what’s terrifying him. That fucking humming starts up again. This time, it almost matches the beat of the weird rattling and thumping from his right that reminds him of the noises his babcia made when she cooked on her old cast iron stove. And, oh fuck, he needs to be wrong about what he’s thinking.

In fact, he needs not to be thinking about that at all. It’s got to be all about Derek now. The grumpy, growly, snarly, seriously gorgeous, awesomely muscled werewolf of his doom. Derek, who was currently however many feet away, completely unable to help because of a little problem that Stiles could solve.

Liquid splashes into metal, and the air is filled with the scent of cheap-shit red wine. Because that crazy unsub is actually making red wine sauce to go with their hearts.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, the guy was serious about eating them. Stiles is not going to cry. He’s totally, absolutely, most definitely not. He’s going to save their asses. All he has to do is figure out how to get Derek’s attention.

He squeezes his eyes even more tightly closed and clenches his hands. His nails scrape against the grain of his jeans, and suddenly Stiles remembers the pack code. Not SOS, that’s not a thing, but…

Be ready and Plan 42 and Talk.

The pause after that is a heartbeat too long, and then Stiles hears the not quite random rapping of knuckles against tile, coming from his left...

Be fast and Talking and Ready.

Stiles inhales sharply, flexes his hands as much as the ropes will allow him, which isn’t anywhere near enough, and he waits.

☽ ● ☾

Derek hasn’t any idea of what Stiles is planning, or how he can be planning anything at all. He’s never heard of a plan number 42. Last he talked to Scott, their plans had stupid code names that Derek didn’t want to say out loud not numbers. Although, seeing as it’s coming from Stiles, that could be a code name, Something obnoxiously cute, like 42 is the Meaning of Life, dude, and this is all about life and death.

The movement of a pan from one burner to another reminds Derek that he’s supposed to be talking. Because he’s the chatty one of this crew, but whatever. All he can do is hope that this guy isn’t on Facebook or Twitter and hasn’t been subjected to 45,000 variations on the evil overlord meme.

“Why only the hearts?”

The guy turns around and stares at him, raising one eyebrow.

“I mean,” Derek continues, trying to find the right words to string together. “You’d think it would be the brain, right? I mean that’s where all of the stuff comes from.”

“Stuff?”

The guy sounds confused, and if that muffled snort was Stiles laughing at him, Derek will kill him too, after they get out of here.

“Power,” Derek says, feeling a little desperate. “You mentioned getting power from the hearts, but isn’t that all in the brain? My uncle always says that’s the seat of power in the body.”

“Brains are mushy and bland,” the guy finally says, talking slowly, as if Derek is stupid. “There isn’t enough power boost in the world to make me want to eat them again. And, really, this is how you want to spend your last hours on earth? Talking about food?”

“You think we should indulge in small talk? Maybe discuss the weather? Or exchange names?”

“Hardly. My mother taught me never to play with my food, and I certainly don’t need to be on a first name basis with it.”

“We’re not food.” Stiles isn’t food, is what Derek means, because he’s not always sure about himself, but he’s not going to say that.

“I suppose it doesn’t hurt for you to believe that?” The guy turns to stir his pan, tasting the awful red wine sauce that’s been filling the kitchen with its sour smell. “Needs more salt,” he muses and reaches for the shaker on the counter.

Anger rises in Derek. He can feel his eyes flare blue, his claws spike through his fingertips, and his fangs dig into his lips. Derek uses the small pains of transformation to regain control. “You still didn’t answer my question. Why eat our hearts?”

“I’m sure the priest had his reasons, but for me? After all these years, it’s simple. Each heart brings its own power, its own strength, and its own personality. I like becoming what the heart contains. Your lycanthropy, his spark, your good looks, his intelligence. Your sweet, sweet hearts are going to give me the world.”

“No, we’re not.” Derek grinds the words out between his teeth.

“Of course, you are. The only question is how I should serve you. I wouldn’t want to lose his powers when I consume your heart, or vice-versa.” The guy picks up a long, narrow silver knife and wanders over to Stiles’ cage as he talks. “His spark, though, should be strong enough to hold its own against whatever you have to offer. And he’s younger, more tender.” He taps the blade against the bars, but Stiles doesn’t even seem to notice.

Panic rises in Derek, because he can’t do this. He can’t be stuck here and watch Stiles be opened up, his still-beating heart— “No!”

“Excuse me?” The guy turns to look at Derek, an eyebrow raised, looking as if no one has ever told him he can’t do something.

“Eat mine first,” Derek says, praying his desperation doesn’t come through as clearly as he thinks it does. “I mean, you always save the best for last, right?”

“True.” The word is almost hummed, pleasure audible in the single syllable. The guy moves towards Derek, spinning the knife in one hand.

He’s one step away when Derek feels a faint breeze near his left foot and the pressure in his ears finally pops. At the same time, Stiles releases a muffled scream, getting the guy to turn around, and Derek leaps for him.

As Derek lands on the guy’s back, the guy yells something. A series of syllables in a language that Derek doesn’t recognize. He doesn’t stop to worry about it. Good or bad, he’ll find out about it soon enough. Instead, he uses a move that Chris taught him, sweeping the guy’s feet out from under him and taking him down.

They hit the floor hard. Derek bounces once, using his whole weight, and hears something crack. The guy is still chanting, when Derek grabs for his hair with a clawed hand and pulls his head back, almost far enough to break his neck. As he digs his claws into one side of the guy’s throat, Stiles’ cage falls apart with a clatter.

Derek doesn’t look, doesn’t flinch, doesn’t pause. He’s learned that lesson the hard way. He twists the guy’s head one way and yanks his claws the other way, tearing through cartilage, flesh, and bone.

“The knife?” Stiles appears in front of him. Strips of torn bandage hang down from his head, but his eyes are alive with determination. “That random shit he was spewing? It was all about the knife.”

“Underneath him?” Without waiting for Stiles to respond, Derek moves off the guy and kneels beside him. He digs his free hand into the guy’s hip and, keeping his grip on the head, he flips the guy onto his back.

The knife is stuck sideways in the guy’s ribs, too low down to have hit anything vital. Derek starts to reach for it.

“Don’t,” Stiles says. “We have no idea what he did to it.” He tears the remains of the bandages off his head and wraps them around each of his hands. Careful not to let any of his skin touch the metal, he grasps the knife in both hands and yanks it out of the corpse. “Hold him.”

The guy’s ribs move, as if he’s taking a breath, and then Stiles slams the knife back down. It slips between the fourth and fifth ribs, driving into his heart. Then, as Chris taught them, Stiles moves the blade from side to side, making sure the heart is damaged beyond repair. Blood wells up, streams past the knife to the floor. The guy shudders, his whole body jerks, and then he seems to deflate, to empty out.

“Fuck,” Derek says. “That was too damn close.” The head comes off as he twists his claws free from the body. He gives it a look of disgust and drops it on the floor.

“Seriously.” Stiles peels the bandages off his hands and tosses them on top of the knife.

“Are we sure he’s dead?” Derek trusts Stiles, he does, but he’s also had too many experiences with murderers dragging themselves out of their graves and coming back to life.

“As sure as we can be?” Stiles shrugs and glances over at the stove. “How hot is that fire, do you think? Can you get it stoked up enough to burn this piece of shit to ashes?”

Not even questioning the possibility, Derek heads over to the stove and opens the door to the fire oven. There’s a stack of wood nearby and enough firestarter that he wonders if the guy was as powerful as he seemed.

☽ ● ☾

Stiles uses a spell to raise the temperature of the fire high enough to burn flesh and melt silver, but not enough to affect the cast iron of the stove. Once the heart is burning, he goes to wash the blood off his hands in the sink, leaving Derek to tear apart the rest of the body. When the sizzle and snap of the flames dies down, he checks the oven. The knife is a bubbling silver puddle at the bottom of the oven and the heart is nothing but ash.

“I’m going to…” Derek aims an abrupt and awkward nod at the the door from the kitchen to the rest of the house.

Not bothering to respond, or even watch Derek leave the room, Stiles stays crouched in front of the oven. As each part burns, he feeds another to the flames. The repetitive movements are meditative, giving him too much time to think.

Mostly, he remembers. Over and over, he hears Derek offering himself instead of Stiles. For Stiles. It doesn’t make any sense. Derek’s done it before, like sacrificing his alpha powers to save Cora. But that was his sister, his last living sibling. Really, his last living relative because Peter’s more properly undead than alive.

And, yet, Derek was ready to give his life for Stiles. There’s no denying it at all. Which has to mean that he cares about Stiles. On a par with Cora? With family?

Hope rises in Stiles, along with an image of what would have happened if he hadn’t been able to break the mountain ash. He wouldn’t have seen what happened to Derek, but he would have heard it. And, had to listen to the guy who’d killed him, eaten him, taken his heart, his power, and his strength. That stupid, stupid asshole.

“Stiles? You ready?” Derek’s face and hands are clean and his hair is wet, even his clothes have large damp spots where he’s tried unsuccessfully to get the blood out. He looks shaken, like he’s sick to his stomach, and he’s breathing through his mouth.

After a moment of staring at him, Stiles finally figures out that Derek’s more than a little bit freaked out by the stink of burning flesh. He nods. “Yeah, let’s get out of here. This place gives me the creeps.”

As they walk outside, Stiles is still thinking, trying to decide what to do, whether to do anything at all. He wants to. Oh god, how he wants to. But he doesn’t know if he can handle rejection. What if he’s reading this wrong? What if Derek really doesn’t want him?

It’s dark out there. The only light in the small clearing comes from the moon and the lights on either side of the front door.

While Stiles’ eyes are adjusting, Derek goes straight to the Camaro. He leans against the hood and looks up at the house. “Can you burn the place without taking anything else out?”

“Maybe? I’m not sure.” Stiles wishes he could say yes, but he can’t afford to be wrong. It’s way too damn dry; the whole forest would go up if he lost control. “I could probably contain it, but I don’t know for how long.”

“All right.” One side of Derek’s mouth lifts in a half smile. “We’ll let everyone else take care of it then. If they ever get here.”

Stiles moves towards him, watching him, analyzing all of his reactions in a way that he’s never done. He notes the slight flaring of Derek’s nostrils, the flex of his hands as Stiles gets within reaching distance, the dilating of his pupils, the way his muscles relax, and his body seems to curve towards Stiles.

“You’re such an asshole.” Stiles slaps Derek’s arm. “Seriously. How long were you planning to leave me hanging like this? Were you ever going to say anything at all?”

“What?” Derek’s head jerks up, and he attempts to glare at Stiles. It’s an abject failure though, because Stiles knows how it feels to be at the wrong end of one of Derek’s real glares. And that’s not even close.

Stepping closer and closer, Stiles doesn’t stop until he’s crowding Derek against the Camaro, trapping him, forcing him up onto the car, half-lying down. He gets himself between Derek’s legs, with an arm on either side of him, bracing himself against the hood.

“So,” Stiles says, leaning over Derek and staring into those stupidly gorgeous eyes. The instant change in Derek’s posture, the way he relaxes instead of tenses, gives Stiles the courage to continue. “Exactly how long have you been in love with me? Because that’s some seriously need-to-know information that I didn’t know.”

“I…” Derek struggles to sit up a little, to bring himself even closer to Stiles. “Not sure?”

“Is that really a question?” Stiles bends closer to Derek, lowers his voice into a whisper. “Because I have absolutely no doubt about my feelings and neither should you. None at all. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Seriously, dude, you got this.”

Derek makes a noise like this is the last thing he expects, and then he wraps his arms around Stiles, hikes him up into his lap, and kisses him.

It’s a claiming, hard and deep, and somehow more than any other kiss Stiles has ever had. The scrape of blunt teeth, the tug on his lower lip, the pinprick and scratch of Derek’s scruff send a cascade of electric shocks through Stiles. He bites back, licks inside Derek’s mouth, tastes him, feels him, owns him. And when the kiss ends, Stiles knows that everything between them is just starting.

Stiles wants, needs so much more than the touch of Derek’s lip and hands. He squirms until he’s half-lying on top of Derek, pressing him down against the hood of the Camaro. He slips a little, but Derek’s hands slide down from Stiles’ back to grasp his ass and pull him up and even closer.

The line of Derek’s dick is hard and hot, nestled into the crease of Stiles’ thigh. It’s so damn much better than good that Stiles can’t find the words. He uses his body instead, telling Derek how he feels with every roll of his hips, every drag and rub of their clothed dicks against each other. Each movement drags sounds out of Derek: little growls, sharp intakes of breath, sweet groaning sighs.

Stiles knows that Derek could take control at any time, but instead Derek’s head falls back, exposing the length of his neck, and his hips buck up. The press of Derek’s dick is almost too much for Stiles. He wants nothing more than to taste him. He pushes off Derek, sliding down his legs, popping the button on Derek’s jeans and unzipping them.

Derek’s dick is hard, thick, and uncut. Before Stiles can think, he’s bending down into an awkward half-crouch and dipping his tongue into the slit, swirling it around the foreskin. Salt and sour burst onto his tongue, and he laps at it. Again and again, until Derek’s hips are moving constantly.

It’s enough, and not enough. Stiles gets one hand on his own dick, smearing precome down it as he grips and releases, sending shockwaves of want curling around his spine.

He holds onto himself as he starts to suck and lick at Derek’s dick. He flattens his tongue, presses it on the thick vein, sliding his mouth down until Derek’s dick hits the back of his throat. He does it again and again, until Derek’s fingers are scrabbling against the hood, until he’s twisting and bucking under Stiles, begging in Incoherent strings of syllables. Until he’s coming down Stiles’ throat and Stiles is coming in his own hand.

“Fuck... “ Stiles stretches out the vowel as he collapses with his head on Derek’s thigh. “That was… god, yeah, that… you know... “

Derek’s laugh is harsh and brittle, but he says, “Yeah, it was.” Then he slides off the Camaro to the ground, being careful with Stiles, pulling him into his lap.

They’re a bit wet and sticky, but Stiles doesn’t care. He leans into Derek, lets him take his weight. They stay like that for long minutes. Stiles breathes with Derek, feeling safer and more satisfied than he has in far too many years.

Eventually, though, Derek makes a discontented noise and says, “We need to clean up.”

Stiles glances at the house but, honestly, that’s pretty damn close to the last place he wants to go.

“We don’t…” Derek pauses, and Stiles waits for him to continue after a second or two with, “I’ve got bottles of water in the car and a couple of towels in the trunk.”

“You are so awesome,” Stiles says. “Have I ever told you that?”

It takes them a few more minutes and a couple of lazy kisses to untangle themselves and get up off the ground. A little while after that, when they’re both damper, cleaner, and tucked back into their jeans, Stiles glances around them, runs back through what happened. He gets to the end, to the moment that gave him the jolt of energy he needed to own that mountain ash, and he turns on Derek. Anger draws his spark up close beneath his skin.

“One thing,” he says, jabbing a finger into Derek’s sternum. “One absolute, no take backs, no changes, no negotiations, no any kind of thing that has to happen if we’re doing this.”

“Should I be scared?”

“Only if you fucking do it again.”

“Do what?”

“If you ever tell someone you'll let them eat your heart for me, I will fucking kill you myself. It belongs to me, you asshole. You don't get to give it away to anyone else."

Guilt and something else, something Stiles can’t identify, wash over Derek’s face. Then he’s stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Stiles, nosing at the sensitive skin behind Stiles’ ear, and whispering, “Only if you don’t let anyone take yours away from me.”

Eyes prickling, Stiles blinks and hugs Derek even tighter. “Okay,” he manages.

They stay like that for a few minutes before releasing each other. It feels too weird though to Stiles. He reaches for Derek’s hand and holds on as they take their bottles of water over to the steps of the house.

“You think they’ll find us?” Stiles asks. “Now that the heart-eating, power-stealing creep and his house-hiding magic are gone?”

Derek shrugs and gives Stiles a small smile. “Does it matter?”

“Nah, I suppose not. We can always drive out in the morning, catch the crappy signal and give them shit for abandoning us to the monster of the week.”

Silence falls over them again. Stiles leans into Derek, wanting his warmth and to be touching him, feeling him. He’s still got his shit job to deal with, still got to figure out what he really wants to be when he grows up. No one can do that for him, but it doesn’t feel quite so hopeless right now, here in the dark, with Derek beside him .