No Net Ensnares Me

Title borrowed with love from Jane Eyre. Wrote this just for myself, because the first line grabbed me, and I kinda feel like that’s the best reason, these days.

Most people wonder is there anything more? But Stiles knows the answer: there is. And he can’t pretend he’s ok with normal life anymore.

The jeep breaks down at two o’clock in the morning, and so far? That’s the highpoint of your day.

It’s Thursday and you’re tired. The end of summer is staring you in the face, and as much as you’ve complained about all the free time, all the time your brain’s chased its own freaking tail, you really, really don’t want to go back.

Last week, the smell of fresh pencils gave you hives. Yesterday, it was the Back to School aisles at Target, the ones filled with lined paper and pocket folders and the smelly markers that you don’t need to buy anymore, apparently, because you’re almost an adult and the use of color, of making a mark in anything other than blue and black, is generally frowned upon in polite high school society.

Not that your high school is polite. Like, at all.

It sucked even before the place started swimming in the supernatural. Before getting picked off by something with a claws-and-rage combo was just as likely as getting jumped by a geometry quiz, equal opportunity terrible, and yeah, it’s been awhile since that happened, but the absence of mortal danger is almost worse.

No. It is worse.

It’s been a year, damn it. A year of living not-at-all dangerously and seriously? What in the actual fuck.

It’s the inertia that gets you itchy, the utter lack of the weird in your life. If the world is full of werewolves and monsters–like you know it is, damn it!–then where the fuck are they?

The evil, innards-hungry ones, anyway. Your best friend is a Build-a-Bear werewolf if you ever met one. If you’d never seen him tap into his wolfy core, watched his hair go bad Elvis and his teeth shoot over his lip, you’d find it hard to take him seriously as a monster. As a killer. Which you know from firsthand that he is. When he has to be.

But that’s just it, see: he hasn’t. Not for twelve months, count ‘em, twelve. And he’s happy about it, freaking thrilled, because now he craves it: routine. A Normal Life, except for one day a month, and that just makes him sympathetic to women, he claims. Which, no.

You, though? You’re a different story.

What used to be normal just isn’t anymore, and you’ve discovered–much to your surprise–that you prefer terror to boredom. Routine makes you nervous, now, and staring down the barrel of another nine months of institutional order and state-sanctified learning is just stoking the flames.

And so today, you decided: you’ve had enough.

Enough enough, already.

Hence: your awesome plan to blow this popsicle stand in the middle of the freaking night with just your wallet and a big bag of Skittles and if only you could get the damn engine to turn over, the jeep’s freaked out ignition to catch, who knows how far could you get in three days? Texas, maybe? Sure. Someplace that’s flat and brown. One of those states in the middle that all bleed together on the map, and if you’re in a place where flyover-ville sounds like a vacay, you know you’ve got it bad, that itch that’s under your skin.

You wiggle the key in the ignition. Give her a moment to breathe.

You wonder how long would it take your dad to figure out that you’re missing. Like really, legitimately gone.

You’ve disappeared often enough lately that he probably wouldn’t blink if you were AWOL for 12 hours. Even 18. Be cheesed off about it, sure. There’d be some grumbling. But there’d be no APB.

But after 24, yeah, he’d be blowing up your phone and pulling his best Erik Estrada, shooting down the interstate and swinging your name as a curse and generally acting out of his mind, the way he always does when he’s pissed.

Like he did tonight at dinner after you flipped out over the green beans and shouted and when you wouldn’t stop, he banged his fist so hard the silverware jumped straight off the table.

He doesn’t do that, your dad. Yell at you, as a general rule. And it’s been a super long time since you acted like such a dick.

Who has a breakdown over an innocent and no doubt well-meaning suggestion that you sign up for SAT prep?

Besides you.

“After everything that happened,” he said, with this little tilt of his head. “After those kids died your sophomore year, kiddo, I just–wanted you to have a chance to get back to normal. For us to.” He looks at you hopeful, so freaking full of I want what’s best for you, Sitles that it turns your stomach over. Makes you sick.

“And here,” he said, oblivious, waving his water around, “it has. It’s been good, son. You’re on the right track, that thing with the PSATs aside. So I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to do all you could to do the best that you can this fall. For your future.”

You stared at your meatloaf. Not at him. “Damn it, Dad, I don’t want to! I don’t think that I–”

And that’s when he went for the bang.

At least he let you go. Let you storm away in a snit and peel out of the driveway without so much as a peek from inside the front door.

Damn. He was angry. You wonder if he still is. Because you? Have lost a little bit of your steam, after hours and hours at full boil.

And after all this time driving, looping around the back roads and tooling all over the county and back, you had this perfect moment of clarity.

Why not just run?

It feels so good to think about, escape, even now when you’re broken down on the shoulder of a slick two-lane: just driving away without thinking too much and leaving all this bullshit behind.

Along with 12th grade. The end of your High School Career. Because seriously, you just can’t bring yourself to care.

But your jeep, your beloved mechanical self, is totally cock-blocking your plan.

You give the key one more turn, and nope. She’s still got no pulse.

It smells like something’s burning. Awesome.

You flip on the hazards and hurl yourself out of the front seat.

Aaaaand it’s raining again. Fantastic.

You stomp around the hood and fling it open like you have any real clue what to do–which, no–and give all that shit your best glower.

Ok, you totally Derek at it, but the innards of the thing are completely unimpressed.

Like you are. Unimpressed. Totally, by the shade the guy throws your way. The flat-out out scorn, with an extra side of snarl, if you’re lucky.

Used to throw at you, anyway. But it’s been a really long time since you’ve seen him, much less earned that level of sneer.

Ugh.

No. No reason to ramble down that mental road.

Might give you a twitch, a whisper of a reason to stay. To find out if there’s something more there than–

Ugh.

There’s no smoke, under the hood. No fire, just the smell of burnt rubber or something. Whatever’s gone wrong is way down inside, someplace that you can’t easily see. A belt or a hose, maybe? Something incredibly simple, you’re sure, something so fundamental and easy to fix that the guys at the garage will laugh their asses off when you leave; not in your face, if you’re lucky.

You look up where the moon should be, where it is, even if you can’t see it.

Hey. Maybe you should just call Scott.

Drag his ass out of bed to pick you up. What else are friends for, than to rescue you when you’re stranded?

Yeah. Sure. He’ll come get you.

You fumble with the door handle and slide in. Grab the phone from under the bench seat and dial.

And dial.

And dial.

By the tenth time, you’ve mentally catalogued all of Scott’s verbal twitches in his voicemail message–who says “um” five times in under 25 seconds?! and why is virtual Scott breathing so hard? Did he not realize he could re-record the damn thing?–and moved from calm to clammy to shouting and swearing, but none of it does any good.

Your best friend still doesn’t pick up.

Granted, it’s almost three in the morning. And it’s wet, still. Has been all day. And his mom would probably kill him if he snuck out again. And ok, you haven’t really been talking because he’s still pissed at you for what happened last week. The, uh, screaming match you got into over the college brochures that are lining his walls, the calls he keeps getting from Division I recruiters every damn day. Over his mega-excitement about college, the way he freaking yearns for it, talks about it like it’ll be some kind of panacea, the culmination of everything good.

This from the guy who almost got held back, for christ’s sake. Because, oh, you know: he turned into a goddamn werewolf. Frankly, it’s a miracle that he’ll graduate on time, much less leap into college like some stick-wielding Labrador, eager to learn how to be normal.

He doesn’t know why you were angry, just that you were, that it wouldn’t stop, and he’s given you a wide berth ever since.

Yeah. No wonder he won’t answer.

Damn it.

But hey. You’re only, oh, 10 miles or so from town. And, no, there aren’t any streetlights, or even a sidewalk, but at least the road’s completely deserted.

Oh shit. The road’s completely deserted.

Maybe you should be scared, or something. Or at least mildly concerned for your own personal safety. But it’s been years since anybody got jacked by anything more dangerous than a meth head, so yeah, you’d get home just fine.

You start to shake. And it’s not really that cold.

Fuck.

You take a deep, deep breath–air all the way in and out, ok, and again–because you are not panicking. You will not. You can’t.

You aren’t trapped. Not really. You’re not.

You turn in tight circles on the shoulder, water seeping into your jeans, and you breathe, damn it. Breathe.

Close your eyes and hold it. Blow it out through your mouth. Picture the anxiety going with it, this red sludge of what ifs and how comes andwhy have I never kicked out of your body and into the night.

It’s not great. But it’s better.

At least until you open your eyes and there are two big yellow ones blinking back.

“Holy–!” you flail, in a style more McCall than Stilinski, and you fall on your ass, boom, in what has to be the biggest puddle in a one-mile radius. Now you’re sporting wet shorts and not in a good way and that seems just totally wrong on so many levels of–

“Stiles,” the eyes say, amused. “Graceful, as always.”

Ah. Terrific.

“Yeah, well,” you shoot back. “Not all of us have your sparkling personality to rely on, wolfman.”

Derek ignores you. Paws at your elbow and yanks. “Uh huh,” he says, which just proves your point. No Noel Coward-level wit on this guy. Hell, even Zucker brothers feels like a stretch.

“Do I even want to know why you’re here?” you say. “This what you do now, just roam the woods in the dark like the Phantom of the Opera-slash-Forest or something? You get off on terrifying the wildlife?”

Ha ha ha. Shut the fuck up, brain.

He just shakes his head and starts pulling you away from the jeep.

“Hey, hey!” you say, sliding over the wet pavement. “Dude! What’re you–”

He stops. Sighs in a way that makes it sound like he’s–laughing? Which, ok, you must be delirious.

“You need a ride,” he says. “I have a car. Therefore, I’ll drive you home.”

“Aristotelian logic!” you trill. “I like it. But no. I don’t need you to–”

He rolls his eyes and pushes you at the passenger’s side. Doesn’t completely let you loose, because hey. He’s not stupid. He can probably smell your instinct to run.

“Get in the car,” he says, whoa, all up in your face. Where did that come from, exactly?

“Get in the car,” he says again, sort of smiling. “Or I’ll put you in there myself.”

There’s no fucking doubt, the way he says it. He’s not your alpha, but there’s no way to miss the command.

So you go, get the seatbelt buckled even before he’s behind the wheel. And that makes him laugh–ok, no question this time–although you’ve got no idea why.

“Call the shop in the morning,” he says as you ease past the jeep. “She’ll be safe out here until then.”

“She?” you say. “How’d you know she’s a she? I mean, no truck nuts on her, obviously, but–”

He pats the dashboard in a way that looks almost unconscious. “Cars,” he says, “they’re always a she.”

“Her name’s Celia,” you say, because he so did not ask. But it’s important to you. So you say it.

He hums. “This is Jane.”

You nod at the glove compartment, as if she can see. “Sure. Ok. Hi, Jane.”

“Like Jane Eyre,” he says to the road.

Which is exactly the last thing you could’ve imagined him saying under any circumstances, much less in the context of “hello, meet my car,” so–

“Does that make you Mr. Rochester?” Your face twists before you can stop it. “Oh god. Is there some creepy Bronte sex joke I’m not getting?”

He looks over at you, the windshield wipers shading his face. “It’s a good book, Stiles. She’s tough, Jane. Resilient.”

“Yeah, but Rochester’s kind of a dick,” you say with a frown. “I mean, who keeps a not-so-ex-wife in his attic? And he treats Jane like she’s an idiot for a really long time. Which she definitely isn’t.”

He’s smiling again, and now it’s a little less weird. “No. No, she’s not. But she is a survivor. I like that. It’d have been a lot easier for her to just give up and die, in the orphanage. After she’d lost all the family she knew.” He turns his head, and he’s staring right at you. “But she didn’t. Sometimes living is the best revenge, you know? Going on instead of just giving in.”

“Oh,” you say. “Right. Sure.”

Your face goes hot and you turn away. Point your eyes at the shoulder and don’t bring up anymore Brontes.

This is the thing, with Derek. This is why you’ve gone out of your way not to talk to him more than you have to. Not to be alone with him, ever, which, sadly, hasn’t been hard.

He’s been laying low for a long time, ever since the shit with Kate went down, since Chris Argent apologized for his freaking batshit of a sister and cut a rug out of town. Hell, there hasn’t been any damn reason to call him or even see him since he and Scott cleared the forest of stray omegas at the beginning of your junior year. Yeah. Things have been quiet. Which is exactly your fucking problem, of course, but everyone else seems to take it as great that the supernatural conga line has stayed away now for so long.

Everyone else seems sure this is the way it’ll always be: normal, again. Routine.

But, see, how are you supposed to keep trucking along with standardized tests and career planning when you’ve seen the other side?

Most people wonder is there anything more? But you know the answer: there is.

And then there’s this idiot, this non-verbal guy with a violent hatred of shirts and an occasional outbreak of were-face who can’t stand you, not really, and you’re painfully aware that your crush thing has deepened into something you just don’t understand.

But he hasn’t talked to you in ages and you haven’t seen him in freaking forever, so
how are you supposed to be ready for moments like this? When it’s quiet and dark and he’s being nice to you for reasons you can’t fathom and all the fury, the unhappy, the itchy that you haven’t been able to shake for weeks, all fucking day, it falls away, just being with him like this. In a car. With him driving you home, away from all the places that aren’t here that you still want to go, damn it. Totally foiling your plans for escape.

You want to be angry with him, too, but you’re not.

You want to put your hand over his on the wheel. You want to say something, anything, that might even resemble the cupcake he’s made your heart into, because you have this terrible sense that you might not get another chance, after tonight, and so. Wow. You really should.

But you don’t.

You make town before you know it. Streetlights and houses and cars, parked cars, low and silent in driveways, on curbs.

“By the way,” he says, as you pass Mason’s Auto. “Your fan belt’s broken.”

You sigh. “Oh,” you say, “I guess you could smell that, huh? The tinge of plastic or rubber or whatever has a particular eau about it, is that it?”

“No,” he says, as if you’re a moron. “Of course not. I broke it.”

“WHAT?” you bellow. Your body jumps around, follows the freakout in your brain. “Dude! That is so fucking creepy! Oh my god! There was no call for you to go Fatal Attraction on me, man! Admittedly, I don’t have an innocent house pet you can slaughter, unless you count Scott, and I think that’s selling him a teensy bit short, ok?”

He doesn’t say anything for a minute. Bites his lip and if you didn’t know better, you’d say that he’s blushing. But maybe that’s just the red light.

“I know,” he says. “I know. It was weird.”

“Damn right it was weird! If not a full-on felony!”

“I just,” he says, like he didn’t even hear you. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

Your hands go Tippi Hedren as the light turns green and you just can’t even talk for a moment, you are so completely confused.

Did he just try to kill you? And then swoop in for the rescue?

What in the actual fuck.

He pulls over in front of the McDonald’s two blocks from your house and cuts the engine. Stares straight ahead.

“Look,” he says. “I suck at talking. I know it. But most of the time, I don’t want to, anyway. Talk. There’s not much that I need to say.”

Ok, no, the sensitive werewolf shit is so not gonna fly with you tonight.

“Hey, why not start with, I’m sorry to have vandalized your property, Stiles!” you shout. “Or how about: Wow, I should totally not have done that. I, Derek Hale, am kind of an asshole, and maybe you should start dialing 911 right now because I’m going to–”

“Stiles,” he says. “Please. Let me–”

“Let you what? I think you’ve lost all of the let-me privileges in re: Stiles that you’ve ever earned with this sabotage-level bullshit! I mean, we’re talking two steps from To Catch a Predator territory here!”

He make a little frustrated sound. “Yes,” he says, more to the wheel than to you. “I know. You’re right.”

There’s this long, long silence.

You should probably be fleeing in terror. Opening up the car door, at least. Turning tail and shooting off into the night.

That’s what you’ve wanted to do all day, right? Just run.

But you don’t.

“I just,” he says again. “This is important. And I couldn’t figure out how to put it in words. So I thought I’d–” His breath comes out all in a rush. “That I’d do something to show you, rather than mangle it like I’m doing now. Obviously.”

You scowl. “No. I’m not following.”

He sighs and turns his head and wow. You had no clue his face could do that. Look almost gentle–and so fucking sad.

“I don’t want you to leave, Stiles.”

Your mouth moves, you think, but there aren’t any words.

He reaches for you, tentative, like he’s not sure what he’s doing. “Please,” he says. “I just–stay.”

His fingers find your cheek for a second.

“Um,” you say, feeling his hand bob with your breath. “What?”

He gets bolder, goes for a full-on press against your jaw. Still uneasy, but the sure’s there, lurking. “See, this is why I chose the fan belt,” he says. Little slip of a smile. “Because I really don’t know what to say.”

“I’m still unclear on how property damage and potential me-maiming is in any way a better alternative,” you say, because parrying is easier than thinking and he can’t be saying what you’re hearing, can he? “I still have no clue what you’re talking about, dude, and I’m–”

“Trust me,” he says. “Running away? It won’t help. With whatever’s bothering you. You’ll still have to face it, someday.”

And that’s weirdly reassuring but also a vivid reminder of creepy, because–

“Damn it, Derek. How did you know I was–?”

His other hand Houdinis to the back of your neck and there’s no question, now, that he’s holding your life in his hands.

“And if you tell me I smell like Steve McQueen,” you say, watching him watch you, “you’re getting an elbow in the fucking eye.”

He huffs, so close now your eyes are crossing, trying to keep his face in your sights. “No, nothing like that. But frankly, you’ve reeked of unhappy. Unsettled. For a long time. And I–I kind of get it. That instinct to run.” He winces. “And you yell really, really loudly. Especially when you talk to yourself.”

He’s kissing you before you can object, but in your head, you reserve the right to revise and extend your remarks, just as soon as his tongue isn’t doing the samba with yours.

Yup. Right after that.

You get your hands in his coat.

God, he’s warm.

Kissing him’s like hot chocolate, if cocoa could moan. Moan and hold your whole head in its hands. Make you feel gorgeous and dirty and happy confused all at once.

“I just want to be clear,” you pant after a while. “Attacking my jeep? 100% out of line. Bordering on deal breaker here.”

He frowns, his lips turning over your ear. “Yeah. I know. I’m sorry.” Then his mouth is shaking, and it sounds like he’s trying not to laugh. “But she shouldn’t even have started up, Stiles. Not with the damn belt cut. Shouldn’t have even turned over.”

You make an unhappy sound and he pets you, humming, still talking. “Not to downplay my fuckup, ok. Clearly. But I didn’t think you’d get out of your driveway. Much less be peeling through nowhere at three o’clock in the damn morning. Your jeep, she must be a zombie.”

“Still not funny,” you say, just so he’s clear.

“Yes,” he nods. “Agreed.”

You turn your head just enough. Shut him up.

“You gonna tell me why you want to leave?” he asks later, one hand up under your shirt. It’s eight or nine kinds of unfair.

“Too quiet,” you say, strangled.

He leans back. Doesn’t take his hand away. “What?”

He’s looking at you so carefully, like he really wants to know, wants to hear what you’re feeling, that it’s–

You bite your lip. “I know I’m supposed to be happy that there’s no more–I don’t know, supernatural pissing contests going on around here. But it’s just–”

There’s a low noise in his throat that he times with his touch on your skin. It’s weirdly reassuring.

“I can’t do this anymore,” you say, the words falling out in a rush. “This pretending high school is awesome, that I should focus on college, that I should be happy that I’m not being threatened with some splatty death every ten seconds.” You close your eyes and pitch forward until your forehead is pressed into his. “That you don’t really exist, your kind. Scott’s. That you’re all just from some story that non-magical plebes like me should be grateful are fake, because damn, we’d be the first ripped to shreds.”

He cups your shoulders and holds you as close as he can.

It’s cramped and your right knee is completely asleep, but you let him.

“So,” he says after a minute, fingers moving again. “You thought you’d just leave? Go out and chase trouble? Is that it?”

“Well,” you manage, words wrecked by his nails on your spine. “Pretty much. Yeah.”

He holds your lip between his teeth, gentle and pointed.

“Stiles,” he breathes in your face. “If it comes, it comes, that kind of trouble. If it doesn’t, it won’t. You can’t rewrite the universe. Or control it.”

“Pffft. How do you know?”

“I’ve tried.” He grins against your mouth. “And failed. Many times.”

In the end, nothing’s settled. Not that night, anyway.

In the end, he drives you home with one hand in yours, his thumb running over your wrist as he walks you to the front door.

“Next time you want to run,” he says, soft hand in your hair. “Call me. Ok?”

“Next time you want me to stay,” you say, face at his throat. “You say something. Ok? Or write me a note. Don’t you dare touch my car. Ever again.”

He laughs and gets you tight, like a vise. You stand there for a minute, swaying under the porch light as the sky in the east gets grey. “Most people,” he says, finally, “most people would be happy for quiet. You know that, right? They wouldn’t go looking for a fight.”

You don’t answer, because you’re not sure you can explain it now, not when you’re curled into his body and he’s mouthing lazy slack kisses into your forehead. Your cheeks.

“Most people,” you say, “would send flowers. Or a card, if they liked someone. If they, say, had a message to send. Most people don’t go the vandalism route, so 10 points to Hufflepuff for sheer creativity there.”

“What I like,” he says, your lips still tangled in a kiss. “Is that we’re not. Most people.”

And that’s your mantra for the rest of the weekend. As you make nice with your dad. Apologize to Scott. Buy a new pocket folder and a pack of those great smelly markers.

You’re not. Most people. And right now, for the moment, that’s ok. That’s enough.

Enough enough, already.

Especially when you fall asleep with Derek’s hand on your back, his voice thready warm in your ear:

“Stay,” he says. “Stiles. Please stay.”

And right now, for the moment, you do.

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