evening_bat: Bat in flight, silhouetted against the moon. (Default)
[personal profile] evening_bat
Title: Walking Too Far Ahead
Author: [personal profile] evening_bat
Pairing: None (yet)
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~ 1600
Warnings: Nope!
Summary: Derek had always hated the smell of cigarettes.


Walking Too Far Ahead

When Stiles finally showed up for the meeting that night, he was even more jittery than usual and reeked of cigarette smoke. Derek couldn’t help the reflexive curl of his lip; he’d always hated the smell of cigarettes, even before smoke had become irrevocably associated with death.

“You’re late,” Derek said flatly, folding his arms across his chest as Stiles hustled into the room. “And you stink. Where’ve you been?”

“Well, I’m sorry if I’m offending your delicate sensibilities,” Stiles shot back, flinging his hands wide in exaggerated apology.

Derek’s eyes narrowed as the sweep of Stiles’ arms brought another familiar scent to his nose, the tang of blood suddenly sharply obvious under the smoke.

“Stiles!” Scott was on his feet in the same instant, bounding across the room. “What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Stiles assured him, allowing Scott’s anxious once-over with better grace than Derek had expected. “Just had a close call earlier.”

“What kind of close call?” Isaac asked, having followed Scott at a more sedate pace. “You smell like blood,” he added, almost accusingly.

“Some asshole driving like a maniac in town,” Stiles replied with a dismissive shrug. “He jumped the curb, almost ran me over.”

“He what?” Scott demanded, tugging Stiles closer for another examination.

“He was speeding around and lost control of the car or something, I don’t know,” Stiles answered, flailing uselessly against Scott’s manhandling. “Stop that! I’m fine. Some guy on the sidewalk knocked me out of the way. Smelled like an ashtray but he had great reflexes.”

“So why do you smell like raw meat?” Derek put in as he took a few steps forward and caught Stiles’ wrist in his hand. There was a suspiciously damp patch on the underside of Stiles’ sleeve.

“Dude, gross!” Stiles protested with a spectacular grimace. “Could we not ever use that comparison again?”

“So much for fine,” Scott interrupted, plucking Stiles’ wrist out of Derek’s hand and scowling at his stained sleeve. “You’re bleeding.”

“Yeah, because some guy knocked me over to keep me from getting hit by a car,” Stiles explained impatiently. “I’m scraped to hell but it beats being dead, so I’ll take it.”

“Better than being flattened,” Scott agreed. “You still keep a first aid kit in the Jeep?”

“Like my dad would let me drive around without it? Oh, come on. Really?” Stiles complained as Scott towed him out of the house.

“Yeah, really,” Scott insisted when Stiles dug his heels in at the edge of the porch. “Let me -- I -- I can fix this.”

“Okay, fine,” Stiles conceded after a brief, charged pause. “But don’t get too enthusiastic about playing doctor, okay? Save it for Allison.”

Scott snorted laughter and dragged a now-smirking Stiles down the steps.

Derek huffed an impatient sigh and turned his back on their little drama, retreating deeper into the house.

“You know, Derek’s right about one thing,” Scott commented lightly as they walked away. “You do kind of stink.”

“Blame the guy that pulled me out of the way!” Stiles protested. “Or y’know, don’t. Because of the life saving and all. But yeah, he must be the worst chain smoker in the history of ever. I could probably track him by scent.”

Derek grimaced despite himself.

“I think Stiles keeps a change of clothes in the Jeep, too?” Isaac offered from the doorway, nose wrinkling in sympathy.

“Good. Get him to change while he’s out there,” Derek ordered, relieved when Isaac trotted obediently after them.

He didn’t bother to listen in on their conversation so he didn’t know why Stiles was scowling so fiercely when they trooped back in but he didn’t really care. It was enough that Stiles returned smelling of antiseptic and gym clothes instead of blood and smoke.

* * *

A few days later, familiar voices prompted Derek to duck between the storefront of the coffee shop and the neighbouring bookstore before he could be spotted. He preferred to avoid the volleys of snark that Stiles would undoubtedly launch at him if he caught Derek doing anything as prosaic as wandering through town in broad daylight.

“You’ve got to help me!” Scott was begging shamelessly as they walked right past him. “I am going to fail that Chem midterm and Allison can’t help me study and my mom will kill me if I don’t pass this test.”

“Am I supposed to be helping you with the Chemistry or with Allison?” Stiles asked without looking up from his phone.

Stiles!” Scott whined. “With Chemistry!”

“You’re buying my coffee,” Stiles said firmly, finally stuffing his phone into a pocket.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course, whatever you want. Just make this freaking stuff make sense!”

“I’m not a miracle worker but I’ll see what I can - hey! It’s that guy!” Stiles suddenly exclaimed.

“What guy?” Scott demanded, head snapping around.

Derek saw Scott’s nose wrinkle just as the stink of cigarette smoke his hit nose.

“Hey!” Stiles called, hurrying forward. “I wanted to thank you for the other day!”

The guy that had just stepped out of the coffee shop stiffened before turning to face Stiles but he smiled easily enough.

“No worries, kid,” he said. “Wasn’t just going to stand there and let him hit you.”

Derek reflexively assessed the guy as he and Stiles exchanged small talk. Derek was no believer in coincidences, not anymore. Good Samaritans made him nervous. This one didn’t seem to be looking to trade on Stiles’ gratitude but Derek took note of his appearance and what little he could make out of his scent through the haze of smoke. The guy seemed pretty unremarkable though: tall, close-cropped dark hair, dark eyes, in his late thirties, maybe early forties. Sturdy workboots, jeans and an olive jacket that would blend into any crowd.

Scott wasn’t even trying to hide the once-over he was giving the guy, or the suspicion in his narrowed eyes. Derek couldn’t blame him for that last bit -- there was something about this man that sent prickles up his spine. He didn’t seem to be a threat but Derek knew dangerous when he saw it. Guy wasn’t a wolf but he sure as hell wasn’t harmless, either.

“I was going to offer to buy your coffee but you’re still sort of one step ahead of me,” Stiles was saying, gesturing at the cup in the smoky guy’s hand.

“Don’t worry about it,” the smoky guy chuckled. “I’ll be sticking around for a bit anyway. You might get another chance.”

It didn’t take werewolf senses to read the curiosity that brightened Stiles’ expression but he restrained himself to a mild, “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Back in town to settle some...family problems.” He scrubbed a hand over his short hair, mouth twisting into a frown.

Derek shoved down an unwelcome surge of memory. He knew that feeling from the inside out.

Scott and Stiles exchanged looks, unconsciously shuffling closer together as they turned identical sympathetic expressions on the smoky guy.

“They’re the worst kind,” Stiles commented with a wince.

“Yeah,” Scott sighed agreement, suspicion momentarily forgotten. “Good luck.”

“Thanks. I’ll need it.” His answering smile was superficially wry but there was something familiar in its underlying bleakness. But whatever personal tragedy was lurking in those “family problems”, the guy snapped himself out of it pretty quickly.

“I’ll take a raincheck on the coffee,” he added, waving an offhanded goodbye as he turned and walked away. “See you ‘round, I guess.”

“So I’ll guess owe him one?” Stiles muttered to the guy’s retreating back as he shook off Scott’s insistent tug at his arm. “Dude, what?”

“There is something weird about that guy!” Scott declared in a loud whisper.

“Says the werewolf,” Stiles retorted but there was fondness in the roll of his eyes. “Wait, he’s not a werewolf, is he?”

No, he’s not but seriously!” Scott persisted as Stiles flung an arm around his neck and dragged him into the coffee shop. “There’s something really strange about him!”

“Okay, okay. Tell me all about it while we wait. I’m definitely going to need caffeine if you’re going to throw any more weirdness at me today.”

Derek didn’t bother to track them further into the store, letting the sound of their voices blend into the buzz of conversation from inside the shop. He headed out into the street to put a safer distance between them while they were occupied with their coffee. Derek didn’t think Scott would have much luck articulating what was bothering him about the guy with the smoky smell, no matter how good Stiles usually was at guessing what his best friend meant. Whatever it was they were picking up on, it was frustratingly elusive, some subtle signal that triggered their instincts all the wrong ways.

Maybe not even all the wrong ways, Derek amended as he glanced down the street from his new vantage point. But there was something about him that put Derek on alert.

The guy hadn’t gone far. Just a few blocks down, where he’d stopped in the middle of the street and was staring up at the sheriff’s office with an unreadable expression on his face. For a second, the breath caught in Derek’s chest as he stared at him -- what was it about this guy? -- but then his shoulders lifted and dropped in a soundless laugh and the moment passed. Then he was just another guy, and Derek had bigger concerns. He’d worry about Stiles’ mystery rescuer if or when he proved himself a threat.

Given this town, it’d probably happen sooner rather than later.

Fin

Written a while ago but never posted. Found it while going through WIP folders, figured I might as well put it up. (Theoretically, there is more to this story but this one does stand alone.)
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