Actions

Work Header

this world is cracked & crazy

Work Text:

The kid on John’s doorstep is drenched. He’s never seen him before in his life, but he’d know those eyes anywhere. He’s seen those eyes before in the face of someone that John used to know, set in a wide, tan face, crinkled at the corners and, god, how she’d laugh and smile. It’s a face that’s haunted him for years.

It’s the one that got away, the one he never got over, the one he never found again – and you can damn well believe that he searched.

This kid in front of him, shivering and soaked to the bone, is skinny, pale and bruised. There’s a backpack by his feet and he’s clutching a piece of paper in his fist. He’s shaking so hard John can almost feel it, and he’s asking, “Are you John Stilinski?” and John didn’t think this shit actually happened for real.

“Did I fall asleep and wake up in a soap opera?”

“Not unless I’m in one too and this is really Sunset Beach, not Beacon Hills, which would seriously explain so much because my life is kind of fucked up and there’s no way—”

“Son,” John interrupts, because that is a tangent if he’s ever seen one. “Who are you?”

“No, no,” the kid says. “You’re supposed to say ‘Stiles, I am your father,’ and I’m supposed to— Oh. Uh.”

John’s eyebrows are sky-high. “I’m your father.”

“Yes!”

“Uh-huh. And you are?”

“Stiles.”

“Stiles.”

“Yep.”

“Just Stiles?” Stiles nods. “And you’re sure you’re—?” John gestures between them.

“Yep. Well, Mom had this birth record with your name on it and, seriously, my actual name is an abomination and totally your fault and if you force me to say it out loud I will do something unspeakable to you.”

“You do realize I’m the sheriff, right?”

“I was kind of counting on that,” Stiles says, and then he passes out.

John catches him on reflex alone. It’s only then, holding this boy who professes to be his son from a relationship he had almost two decades ago, that he wonders how Stiles ended up so wet when there isn’t a cloud in the sky and hasn’t been all day.

--

Stiles shouts himself awake. It’s business as usual, except for how he’s on a couch in a strange room, wearing clothes that aren’t his and there’s a man—

“No, no, no, no—!”

“Easy, easy,” the man says – and he’s dressed as a cop, has a sheriff badge – and Stiles remembers where he is. “You okay, son?”

Stiles breathes in through his nose, and it’s shaky and takes forever, but he manages a nod, then shakes his head. “I’m kind of on the run.”

“Yeah, I got that. Stiles, was it?”

“My name is an abomination.”

John Stilinski – his dad – winces. “Yeah, I saw the birth certificate. Sorry about that.”

“Oh my god, I have a dad—”

“Now, we don’t know that for sure,” John says. “Do you know how many kids I have showing up on my doorstep?”

“Not a lot?” Stiles chances. “I mean, you’re a cop. Kids tend to, you know, not see them voluntarily?”

John nods. He’s not looking at Stiles when he says, “You have her eyes, you know.”

Stiles has to bite his lip before he can answer. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. She said the nose had to come from your side of the family, but—”

“My grandmother, I think.” John sighs. “You know I’m gonna have to insist on a DNA test, don’t you?”

“My birth certificate—”

“That’s just my name on a piece of paper, Stiles. In theory you could type any name you wanted there. The fact that it’s mine just shows I’m the one she wanted to be your father—”

“And isn’t that more important than some test?” Stiles exclaims. “Isn’t that more important than blood or stupid biology?”

“Stiles…”

“No!” Stiles is actually shaking. His head feels stuffed with cotton and he’s not sure if breathing was always this difficult or if it’s a recent thing he’s come down with. It’s a pain, is what it is. “You have no idea what I had to do to get here, to get away, Dad! You have no idea and if they find me, if they try to take me back, I can’t— Oh my god, I can’t breathe—”

John catches him before he can topple off the couch, and then he just tries to breathe, tries to drown in the scent of the man who’s his father, tries to listen to his voice and his heartbeat as John talks him down and back until he can breathe normally again, until he’s not shaking apart anymore.

“I, I got rid of my phone and sold my computer and bought fake plane tickets and got fake IDs and destroyed my credit card and sold my car to the shadiest thug I could find and I cut my hair and I—”

“Hey, calm down. Just relax, okay, Stiles? We can talk later—”

“No, no, we can’t. I need you to believe me and protect me and hide me away, because if they find me? I’ll be so dead, okay? They’ll lock me up in some room and won’t let me out and it’ll be just like what they did to Mom all over again, except I won’t be knocked up so I won’t have an actual portable prison like she did, so they’ll have no reason to let me out because they knew she wouldn’t escape since it’d meant leaving me behind—” Stiles only shuts up when John holds a hand over his mouth. His dad looks a little exasperated, but mostly he looks serious. Serious and concerned, and a lot worried and determined.

“Were you kidnapped, Stiles? Is that why you ran?”

Stiles shrugs. “In a manner of speaking. It’s kind of like a closed community. They don’t let anyone leave and if we do, they drag us back, screaming and kicking, and they lock us up until we just can’t anymore. I saw what it did to Mom. I sure as hell won’t let it happen to me.”

“Son, I looked everywhere for Claudia for years—”

“You couldn’t find her because they wiped her off the surface of the earth, Dad. They made her invisible. I think she was planning on running again once I got older, but…” Stiles sniffles, bottom lip trembling. “I didn’t get older fast enough.”

John stills. “She’s…”

“It was a car accident. Or so they said. I never believed them. There wasn’t even a police report. And then… She was protecting me just as much as I was protecting her. Without her—”

Stiles tries to tell John, he really does, but he can still feel it, phantom touches he has no recollection of receiving, and it makes him sick. Sick enough that he has to throw up, like, right now. Where the wastebasket comes from, he has no idea, he’s just grateful he isn’t emptying his stomach all over John Stilinski’s living room floor.

--

Stiles knows he should tell John everything, that he should just get it over with as soon as possible. He knows that, knows that Mom would’ve insisted on a ‘we keep no secrets from family’ policy. Right now, though, Stiles regrets never asking Mom if she’d told his dad that, well, they weren’t quite human. Of course, there were aspects of Mom that John would’ve had to get intimately acquainted with considering they had Stiles together, but Stiles doesn’t ever want to think about that – parents having sex? No thanks. Even knowing that, it still takes a couple of days before Stiles tells John, days where they tip-toe around each other, where they try to find common ground and get to know each other. Stiles has stories of his mom, of what she’d told him about his dad.

It’s not enough to completely convince John that Stiles is really his son, but it goes a long way. It probably helps that John desperately wants it to be true as well. To be honest that undoubtedly helps the most, because trying to convince someone of something they don’t want, something that they don’t believe in, well.

It’s just easier if everybody involved wants the same thing, is all.

Stiles wants a dad, wants to have a family again almost above everything else. To him, John Stilinski is the answer to that question.

Stiles thinks John doesn’t want to be alone anymore. That he wants a family, too. He still misses Stiles’ mom even though they only had a handful of years together. Stiles has never asked how long Mom was with Dad before her past caught up with her and dragged her away from everything she wanted. To Dad, Stiles represents the future he never got to have, so it’s not that strange that John holds on to Stiles so tight, that he so desperately wants to believe Stiles is right.

--

The room Stiles is given in his dad’s tiny house is small, disused and smells heavily of dust and cardboard. The walls are faded yellow, the carpet is dirty and John winces at the sight of it. “Yeah,” he says, “I have no excuses. Let’s just move the boxes up to the attic, okay?”

“Okay,” Stiles agrees, and they spend the day clearing the room out, then cleaning it. His dad has an old desk out in the garage that they move in, finding a spare chair for it is easier and then all Stiles really needs is a bed, but for now he can sleep on the couch in the living room.

--

Stiles tells John about werewolves six days after he gets settled in. John takes it surprisingly well, doesn’t demand that Stiles prove it or call him a liar. He has a glint in his eyes, though, like he’s just been handed the key to something.

“Why do you believe me?” Stiles asks later. “Most would call me crazy or, or want me to prove it, not just—” He makes a series of complicated hand gestures. “You can’t just believe me!”

His dad just looks at him, smiling a little. “You’re here, aren’t you?”

Stiles supposes he can’t argue with that.

--

Days later, Stiles tries to explain, tries to tell his dad why he ran. The words stick in his throat and more than anything he wishes he didn’t have to—

John should know, Stiles thinks. John should know exactly what Stiles ran from so he can help Stiles be as safe as he needs to be. John’s a cop – the Sheriff. Stiles thinks he has resources to make sure the old Stiles disappears completely in the face of this new one, the one that got away.

“I woke up…” Stiles clears his throat, tries again. He says, “I woke up in a bed that wasn’t mine, I’d never even been in the house before. I woke up, and I couldn’t remember— I know I went to school the day before and that I stayed for soccer practice, but I don’t remember leaving and I sure as hell don’t remember—”

“Stiles,” John says, and Stiles interrupts, “I was naked, Dad. I could feel—”

“Oh, Jesus.”

“And, like, my body could remember all this stuff, all these weird phantom touches and I could feel stuff where there shouldn’t be anything and—” Stiles is crying even though he can’t remember when he started, but there are tears running down his cheeks and then John is hugging him, holding him close. “I felt so used,” he whispers.

“Did you go to the hospital? The police?”

“They didn’t believe me. The police, I mean, they didn’t— Said it was my fault, that there wasn’t anything they could do and I tried to go to the hospital but I heal too fast, you know? There was no— I looked fine, to them. I looked whole.”

“It’s not your fault,” John says.

“I know, I know that. The community I grew up in… they’re really fucked up, Dad. Like, sick in the head fucked up. Like, you have to spend the rest of your life with the first person you have sex with and you’re not allowed to say no and you’re always begging for it—”

“Shh,” John says. “Easy, son.”

Stiles realizes he’s sobbing, that he can’t breathe, and he just relaxes into his dad’s hold and lets someone else worry for the first time in months.

--

The next day they paint the walls of Stiles’ room blue. They eat dinner outside despite the season because the house stinks of paint fumes and Stiles doesn’t feel afraid.

--

The day after that, Dad takes him to see a doctor. Except, well. The guy isn’t exactly a doctor.

“Dude,” Stiles hisses. “I’m not an actual animal.”

John glares at him. “Don’t call me ‘dude,’ son. If this guy is just a vet I’m eating my badge.”

--

“Sheriff Stilinski,” the vet says. “What can I do for you today?”

John purses his lips. “You seem like the kind of man who knows how to keep a secret,” he says.

“I have to maintain a certain confidentiality with my clients.”

“Uh-huh. Remember when I came to you for advice when that mountain lion was killing my citizens?”

“Of course.”

“Yeah, because I could’ve sworn you knew what that was. I didn’t make it to sheriff without being able to tell when people are lying to my face, Dr Deaton.”

“I really don’t see—”

“Hey, is this place lined in Mountain Ash? ‘Cause I really can’t move right now,” Stiles says, frowning at the floor where his feet are kind of stuck. He tries walking, but mostly ends up flailing to save himself from a painful nosedive into the floor.

“Does that mean you know what my son is or not?” John asks. Dr Deaton smiles. It’s creepy.

“I wasn’t aware you had a son,” Deaton says.

“Yeah, it’s a fairly recent acquirement. I think it’s one that’s gonna stick around for a while, though. So?”

“Why don’t we step into the back?”

--

Deaton’s check-up is mostly unnecessary: Stiles is a werewolf and has accelerated healing. He’s indecisive for just as long as it takes him to come to the conclusion that someone slipped him the werewolf-equivalent of a roofie, then quite possibly raped him.

There are consequences that Stiles might not actually be up to dealing with yet, possibly not ever, and he doesn’t want to add more to it which is why he asks, “Is there a way you can see if there’s anything inside me?”

Deaton just looks at him. Stiles thinks he seems confused at first, but then his eyebrows shoot up. “Oh,” he says. “I wasn’t aware you were of that lineage.”

“Yeah, it’s a family-curse,” Stiles tells the floor, mostly so he won’t have to look at Deaton or his dad.  “Could you just check? And…”

“Stiles?”

“And, like, fix it?” Stiles rushes to say. His hands are shaking and he feels like he’s on the verge of a panic-attack. “Because I can’t— I just can’t, okay? I can’t.”

“I can check,” Deaton says. “But I need more than your word to do anything more.”

John doesn’t say anything, but the look on his face speaks volumes on its own. Stiles never asked, never explicitly told his dad or explained about this. He thinks he doesn’t have to, because John had known Mom well enough – had loved her enough – to have Stiles with her. Stiles thinks his dad knows, that he must know.

Mom always told him it was physically impossible for anyone to force sex with him. Stiles had to choose to want to or nothing would happen because his body just didn’t work that way. Like, Stiles has to physically coax his body open, to reshape a little to make his downstairs area accept anything into him. It takes work and patience to get a finger inside, but a vibrator or something, something larger? That takes fucking skill and the patience of a saint, not to mention the actual, physical cooperation of his body.

The thing is, Stiles thinks John is perfectly aware of what he’s talking about.

Fact of the matter is that Stiles doesn’t remember what happened, has no memory at all of that night, but he woke up hurting before he’d fully healed and he has no idea what was done to him. He knows they tried, from the bruises and the tearing alone, he knows someone tried. He just doesn’t know how far they got.

--

Before they leave, Dad asks if Deaton can do a paternity test.

“You still need one?” Stiles asks, voice soft. He’s curled up in one of the chairs, wearing a blanket that smells of dog but that is warm and soft.

“No,” Dad says. “I don’t need one, but the guy setting up your identity does. If someone comes along asking questions about my legal claim to you, I need to be able to prove my right.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. “Don’t show me? I don’t think I can find another dad.”

John looks at him, but then he nods. “Okay, son.”

--

Stiles ran away from the place where he’d grown up two weeks before Christmas. It was a Monday, a full moon, and he chose that day because he knew no one would expect him to run away the day of the full moon. He’d filled his backpack with nothing but the stuff he absolutely couldn’t bear to leave behind, had bided his time and let the pack he’d been withdrawing from since Mom died corral him around as they wanted, and waited.

The guy who’d— He was a beta. Stiles had run into him on occasion. Beyond his name, Stiles only knew that he was older. A lot older. The kind of older where Stiles can distinctly remember him creeping around as Stiles grew up. As a kid, the only protection he had was his mom but with her gone, he was fair game.

Stiles hates that, hates that his pack was chauvinistic and old-fashioned, full of asshole betas and alphas.

He tells his dad the bare essentials, just enough that John knows Stiles isn’t lying to him, enough that Stiles isn’t pushing himself into a panic attack saying it.

When he sees Deaton, it’s been two months since he woke up in a stranger’s bed with no memory of how he ended up there. Stiles tries not thinking about it.

--

Stiles goes back to school as a junior, a year above where he should be. John fixed him a new identity, gave him a new name and a new place to belong. He feels out of sorts, because he’s truly an omega now, pack-less and on his own. Before he left, he’d still been packless because the only person he’d ever accepted as his alpha had been his mom, and he knows that had pissed off the rest of the pack something fierce. He’d been in familiar territory, though, in his and Mom’s old place. It’d helped him feel less like the omega he knew he was.

Having a dad helps with that, helps him feel less like a drifter. Having a dad means being part of a family again. Given time, it might mean more, might slide into pack, but they’re not there yet and it’s still all too new for him to dare settle into it fully.

John hadn’t wanted to invite suspicion by transferring any of Stiles’ old grades or his credits because school systems are notoriously easy to hack, so they’d sat down and pieced Stiles’ education together – pieced his life back together from scratch. There are some classes he’s retaking, but not a lot, and most of it is either new or at the very least familiar. The AP classes are challenging, the teachers new and the students… Stiles loves that no one knows him.

He’s a nobody, just another no-name kid in a sea of kids and he loves it.

Stiles never asks how Dad pulls it all off on a legal basis, he’s just grateful that he does and repays Dad by being the best son he could possibly hope for.

Well, almost. He’s still Stiles, after all.

--

“Fucking hell!” Stiles shouts. He thinks it’s a pretty sane reaction, all things considered. So, okay, John had told him about the murders and Stiles had maybe figured out they were probably werewolf attacks almost immediately and informed him of it, but still. Knowing and knowing aren’t the same. Yes, he’s aware there are a couple of werewolf kids at school but hiding from a bunch of freshly turned betas is easy, child’s play.

Hiding from an alpha is tricky, at the best of times.

Stiles isn’t at his best, especially not when he comes home to find a stranger on his doorstep.

“No, no— You stay away from me!”

The guy – the werewolf – frowns. “If you want to be technical about it, this is my territory.”

“My dad lives here. This is our house,” Stiles counters, gesticulating wildly at the house. “He’s the sheriff—”

“Stilinski knows about werewolves?”

“That is so not the issue here!”

The werewolf in front of him has a mostly blank face, and even though he looks stern and stubbly, there’s something gentle in there, too, something almost soft hiding in his eyes. “You’re right. I’m Derek.”

Stiles narrows his eyes before he nods and says, “Stiles.”

Derek’s eyebrows twitch. “Your name is Stiles Stilinski?”

“Yes,” Stiles says, and it’s just a little lie now. He’s comfortable with the names, in his identity, but he misses the name Mom gave him, the one he shares with his dad even though it’s just shy on physical torture, possibly edging on the skirts of child abuse. Derek notices, because he’s a werewolf and he’s got the ears to show for it.

Derek doesn’t comment on it. Instead he says, “You’re not from around here.”

“Wow, that’s an understatement.”

“Who’s your pack?”

Stilinski,” Stiles says, stressing the name, eyebrow raised. He doesn’t want to be pushed about, doesn’t want to be asked, but if Derek can’t take a hint…

“You’re alone.”

“I’m with my dad, so, no, not actually that alone.”

“I mean you didn’t come here with a pack.”

“No, no, I didn’t.”

Derek nods. “Where are you from, Stiles?”

Stiles considers lying, he does, he considers evading and not answering the question, but the fact of the matter is that he’s an omega, trespassing on a claimed territory, sitting on the steps of his porch talking to the alpha of the local pack. He’s not leaving, not if he can help it. At the same time, everything he knows about Derek Hale he gleaned from police reports, news articles and what rumors Dad had collected. The old Hale pack he knows a little more about, mostly from stories his mom told him, so he says, “Mom said your grandmother once held the entire west coast under siege until the packs on that side agreed to let the major towns be open territories.”

Derek scoffs and rolls his eyes. “If you’d believed Nonna it was the entire continent.”

“Mom said your pack was trustworthy.”

“We were. I am.”

“That you never turned anyone away so long as they came clean to you straight away.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t.”

Stiles shrugs. “I came just after Christmas.”

“Oh,” Derek says.

Stiles hesitates, then says, “I’m from Maine. Millinocket. It’s by—”

“Mount Katahdin,” Derek finishes. There’s something off in his tone, in his heartbeat and his scent. “You’re from the Baxter pack?”

“Not anymore. I’m Stilinski now, omega extraordinaire.”

Derek sits silent, then he says, “Mom used to tell us stories about the Baxter pack.”

“I trust they were all suitably horrifying.”

“Something like that,” Derek agrees. After a while, he says, “I thought they didn’t let anyone leave.”

“They don’t.”

“So…”

“So. I ran away. They have this thing where they take shit way too seriously. Like, the mating for life trope. But, you know, it doesn’t apply to everyone? Just the, the females. So the guys can sort of go around just being massive dicks. Mom told me stories sometimes that had me scared to go to sleep. But, anyway, she made a run for it and ended up with me. She told me what to do. When, if, well… She told me how to get away and stay away.” Stiles doesn’t feel anywhere near as calm as he hopes he sounds. He’s got his hands clenched in fists around the material of his shirts and he’s very careful about not looking Derek in the eye.

Derek, who’s just sitting there, staring at him. “Oh,” he says again. “You’re a—”

“Yep.”

“And they—”

“Do we have to? Seriously?” Stiles looks away. His hands are shaking and it’s almost, almost hard to breathe properly. “Do I really need to tell a virtual stranger why I ran out of there like my ass was on fire?”

Derek shakes his head, wets his lip. “Is that why you came here? Because of me?”

“Because of a treaty a couple centuries old? No, no, I came for my dad,” Stiles says. “Then I looked closer, recognized your name. Mom used to say when our people was still our people, we had deals with a few packs all over the country, but yours is the only one still around.”

“Nonna thought you might all be dead.”

Stiles snorts. “No, just subjugated.”

They fall quiet, after that, and they watch as the neighbor across the street mows her lawn. It’s a bit early, not even properly spring yet even if the seasons change differently in this part of California, but some people are very particular about their grass and the length it should be.

“I have a pack,” Derek says instead a while later. “I need to make sure it’s as safe as possible for them.”

“I won’t get in the way,” Stiles says. “Sheriff Stilinski is my dad. We’ll be pack-ish soon enough, we just need to get comfortable as a family first. I won’t bother you, man.”

“You know there are hunters in the area, right?”

“The Argents.”

Derek nods. “They killed an omega in the woods two days ago. Stay out of their way, Stiles. Don’t let them find out about you. Anything about you.”

“I won’t. I’m not some reckless, bitten wannabe-wolf, you know. I was born this way. I totally rock the werewolf thing.”

Something that could maybe be a smile flitters in and out of existence on Derek’s face. “Can you do the full shift?”

Duh. I’m a teenager with serious hyperactivity issues. Yeah, I can do the full shift. Mom would have killed me ages ago if I couldn’t.”

Derek huffs. Stiles thinks it sounds like laughter. “If you want to, we could go running sometime.”

“Oh. Okay, I guess?”

Derek nods, like they’ve settled something. Stiles supposes they have, in a way.

“So, hey, I was gonna bake something. You want?”

Derek tilts his head to look at Stiles. Even though he looks as disinterested as is possible, Stiles throws his head back and laughs. Because Derek? Is positively oozing eagerness and hunger.

--

When John gets home, Derek is long since gone along with a Tupperware of banana bread cupcakes. His dad uses some kind of sheriff detective power, because he looks around once, then asks, “Who was here?”

“Oh my god, Dad!” Stiles exclaims. “How can you possibly know that?”

John raises an eyebrow. “Two used plates in the sink,” he says. “You don’t drink coffee and yet,” he trails off and gives a pointed look at the almost empty mug on the table.

“Huh. Um. Derek.”

Hale?”

“There are more?”

“Stiles…”

“He was here when I came home,” Stiles says. “I guess he figured out who the strange werewolf in town was and decided to drop in to see if I was a slavering beast or not.” He makes complimentary growling noises and curls his fingers into pseudo claws. It’s all very human, of course, and his dad rolls his eyes.

“You’re something, all right,” John mutters, rolling his eyes. “Everything okay?”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, I— Yeah, it’s cool.”

--

Stiles manages to mostly stay outside the mess that is the kanima and the hunters and the ensuing insanity attracted by it. That is, he never gets directly involved and Derek never asks him to. There are days, though, that find Derek on his doorstep and Stiles will let him in every time.

Stiles isn’t sure if it’s because he takes comfort in having a werewolf around again or if it’s because he just enjoys Derek’s presence – even though Derek’s an alpha, he’s an alpha the same way his mom was, an alpha he never really clashed with, who never told him what or who he should be other than himself, one-hundred percent. It most likely doesn’t really help that Derek tends to, well, defer to him or something. That said, Stiles never clashed with Mom because she wasn’t an enemy to their pack. Derek isn’t an enemy either because Stiles doesn’t have a pack right now. He’s still a werewolf, though, and every time Derek doesn’t act like an alpha, Stiles preens and takes over. Every time Derek lets Stiles make the decisions, every time Stiles is left to pull the strings and act the alpha between the two of them – every time that happens, Stiles’ wolf itches to make Derek his, to show Derek that they can make a great pack if he’ll just let Stiles be in charge all of the time.

Stiles tends to push aside that instinct, though. It’s not helpful right now because Derek needs a friend and someplace safe to crash more than he needs Stiles to chomp down over his neck in a stupid display of dominance. Beyond that, though, Stiles is not ready to be anything even close to resembling pack with anyone. Not yet. He wants to, yeah, but he still misses Mom too much, still feels flayed open and raw from the loss of her and the pack they had. It’s a gaping hole in his chest that he isn’t about to start working his way around anytime soon.

John is cautious where Derek is concerned, which Stiles doesn’t linger on.

Anyway, Derek comes to hang out and sometimes they do it in the kitchen, whipping together enough food to feed smaller armies, sometimes they do it in front of the TV, systematically destroying one TV-show after another, and sometimes they do it in Stiles’ room, researching every bit of lore they can get their hands on.

--

After a while, Stiles almost forgets that he’s supposed to be running for his life, because he has a new one here. He has a family again with the dad he never knew but always wanted to, he’s back to loving the hell out of school by being an obnoxious little brat, he’s starting to have cautious friendships with a couple of the kids there, and, well. He has Derek, too. They might not be friends – not yet, anyway – but there’s something there, regardless.

--

The first time they shift together is on a nondescript Wednesday during Stiles’ spring break. They’re somewhere in the Cleveland National Forest in southern California where Dad had a meeting with a couple of local sheriffs on something that Stiles didn’t bother listening in to. He’d gone with, though, and so had Derek.

Stiles isn’t actually sure why Derek had chosen to come with but he’s happy that he did. It means that they can do this, that Stiles can watch as Derek changes and shifts into a beautiful wolf. It means that Derek can sit back on his haunches and watch as Stiles does the same.

It’s confusing, though, because for all that Stiles and his mom used to shift and chase each other around the house he grew up in, he’s never— They never looked like wolves and Derek does.

So maybe Derek cocks his head to the side and whines a little when Stiles stands on four legs and shakes his head to make the haze that settled over his mind during the shift go away. Stiles huffs and rolls his eyes, but he noses around Derek, sniffs at his neck and gnaws on his ears, on his tail. Derek lets him and it’s fine until Derek stands up and shakes his own fur out, until he stretches and arches his back.

Then it’s not fine. For the first time in months – since Stiles was a little runt still getting the hang of shifting and what being a werewolf actually meant in the first place – his instincts get the better of him and he growls.

Derek stills and tenses. He looks at Stiles, his eyes friendly and warm, so Stiles growls again, jumps over at him and puts his teeth to the back of Derek’s neck and shakes a little.

Derek kind of goes limp and flops down on his stomach at that, then he rolls over and shows off the perfect, startling white of his belly. Stiles puts his teeth on Derek’s throat this time, then snuffles a little at Derek’s stomach. Derek lets him, his paws a little floppy and relaxed where they’re almost resting on his chest.

When Stiles stands up again, Derek makes as if to get up and move, so Stiles bares his teeth and puts them back on Derek’s neck.

Derek goes limp again and he makes a questioning whine.

Stiles considers not letting him move, in forcing him to stay on his back with his belly exposed but… There’s no pride, no joy in proving your claim, your superiority and skills on a packmate that surrenders and folds like grass in the wind. So the next time Derek makes as if to move, Stiles lets him.

When Stiles lunges for Derek, Derek runs.

Stiles chases, heart pounding with the thrill of the chase, with the joy of having such a clever packmate.

--

Stiles still doesn’t feel settled until he’s chased and caught Derek, until they’ve run for miles through the forest around them. He feels at ease and in control when he catches up and takes Derek down in a fight, when he can bite down on Derek’s neck for real until the taste of blood bursts into his mouth. He feels relaxed then, and he grooms Derek’s fur until it’s shiny and clean, then lets Derek do the same for him.

Derek lead a good chase, proved to be every bit the fighter and resourceful werewolf Stiles knew him to be.

--

They run more times that night than Stiles cares to count. It’s good, though, and Stiles feels relaxed and satisfied, feels happy and settled, his body tired and sore in the best way. They don’t exactly talk about it the next day, but if Derek’s looser body language is anything to go by, he’s sharing everything Stiles is feeling and more.

--

“My mom was an alpha,” Stiles says when they’re back home. They’re sacked out on the couch in Dad’s living room, sitting side by side with their feet resting haphazardly in over each other on the coffee table. “That’s how I knew they were lying to me. They said she’d been killed in a car accident.”

“Oh,” Derek says.

“One of my teachers became an alpha right around the same time. He had the balls to look me in the eye and tell me how sorry he was for my loss. I knew it was him, but all he saw was a weak—”

“Don’t.” Derek holds a hand over Stiles’ mouth. “That’s not true. You’re stronger than both of us.”

“You can’t steal someone’s potential,” Stiles says when Derek removes his hand.

“No,” Derek agrees. “No, you can’t.”

“If I had a pack again, I think I’d be an alpha. I should have been. I was supposed to be, after her. I was supposed to take over our pack of two after her.”

“I thought you were Baxter—”

“It’s a conglomeration more than anything,” Stiles says. “There were so many different alphas, Derek. My mom… She was the only female one. They didn’t want me to be an alpha, too, so they— I don’t think you can steal something that’s written in your blood, though.”

Derek turns his head to look at Stiles. “Peter killed my sister for the power, then I took it from him. But she— Laura inherited the power. It was always hers. Even before Mom— Laura was always more alpha than beta.”

--

When the promise of long days spent doing nothing, where he can sleep for as long as he wants to, are so close that Stiles can practically taste them, Dad casually slides a folder across the table at him. It’s a Sunday, there’s a week left of school and his dad is looking too innocent to be anything but the opposite.

“There’s an opening for a part-time job at the used book store a couple of blocks from the station. I was thinking you might want to apply.”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “Are you deliberately crushing my dreams, Dad?”

John rolls his eyes. “I’m offering you an opportunity to get out of the house for a bit and earn some money you can do whatever the hell you want with.” He taps the folder in question with his fingers. “Provided you apply and get it.”

“Is this a not-so-subtle attempt to get me out of your hair?”

“No, Stiles, it’s a very direct approach to make you open your eyes to the fact that next year is your last as a high school student. Getting some useful experience in while you still can is a good idea, don’t you think?”

You’re the one who made me one year older!” Stiles protests.

“Because you refused to repeat a year.” Dad raises an eyebrow. “I’m not going to force you and this isn’t an ultimatum. It’s a suggestion. Who knows, you might end up liking it.”

“I don’t even know if I want to go to college,” Stiles says after a while. “I mean, I know that it’s expected and that you should just magically know what the fuck you want to spend your life doing, but…”

Dad reaches across the table and takes Stiles’ fidgeting hands in his own. “Stiles?”

The feeling of his dad’s warm hands, skin too dry and worn calloused from guns and life, gives him courage. “I’m terrified of leaving,” Stiles whispers. “I’m afraid if I go away, they’ll find me. It makes no sense, I know—”

“It makes perfect sense,” John interrupts. “And even if it didn’t it’s still legitimate if that’s how you feel. What they did to you—”

“Don’t,” Stiles snaps.

Dad looks at him for a moment longer, then he nods. “Is Derek coming over today?”

Stiles shrugs. “Maybe?”

“Ask him about college, see what he has to say, do some research. There are more ways than one to get an education, son.”

--

After Dad leaves for work – really, he’s just checking in with the station for an hour or two before heading for the grocery store with Stiles’ very exact list of items that need to be bought and then coming back home – Stiles sits down and puts together his job application. He has zero actual work experience, but he’s been reading books since he was a baby and has a love for all things comic, memorized the Library of Congress Classification and the Dewey Decimal Classification systems when he was thirteen in a fit of boredom, has got a habit of researching anything that strikes his fancy to within an inch of, well, everything and he can use his dad, the Sheriff, as a reference (which, yeah, is totally badass).

Stiles never does anything halfway, so his application turns out pretty good considering he’s never written one before in his life outside of class.

Derek turns up moments before Dad, which has Derek twitchy and Dad amused, but Stiles ignores that in order to as thoroughly as possible question Derek about college.

“Why do you want to know?” Derek asks, absently peeling a kiwi fruit in a surprisingly casual, delicate display of the practicality of claws. Stiles is actually so fascinated he can’t look away.

“Dad pointed out that next year is my last. I’d kind of forgotten about that bit.”

Derek looks amused. “How do you forget that, Stiles? Seriously, I was counting down since I started high school.”

“I didn’t forget until I was pushed up a grade.” Stiles breezes over the fact that his mouth is sometimes too fast for its own good. “But, anyway: college. Go.”

“I didn’t,” Derek admits with a shrug. “Go, that is. I never even graduated high school. I have a GED and an A.A. from a community college but I never did the whole college thing, not like Laura. She always wanted to be a teacher. I just… After the fire, I had a hard time caring about anything. I didn’t see how a piece of paper could be more important that surviving or how scoring an A on a maths test even mattered at all, but Laura never agreed. She never pushed me or forced me, she just had a different way of working things out, I guess.”

“I could see myself doing a thousand things, but the thought of settling for just one?” Stiles gives a theatrical shudder.

Derek chuckles. “Who says you have to?”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “I like your thinking, Hale.”

--

It turns out Stiles likes Derek’s thinking enough that by the time school rolls around again that autumn, he’s talked his dad and the school counsellor into letting him enroll in the local community college in addition to his high school classes. He’ll have less free time, yes, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means he’ll get a taste of the future, learn more about the next step in education.

Maybe this way when he graduates in the spring he’ll have a better clue of what he wants to do with his life (and if he keeps replaying the opening of a certain eighties music video then, really, it’s because he just wants to rock, fuck you very much for judging, Derek).

--

Stiles meets Peter Hale by accident. He’s at work, he’s shelving books and he’s maybe carrying a slightly larger stack than his physique should allow, but he’s alone so he doesn’t bother with human facades. It’s risky, not least because he’s probably the least coordinated person on the planet, but also because if he’s caught? Actually, it’d probably be fine because he can talk himself out of most of everything without a hitch so that isn’t really a problem. It’s still something he shouldn’t be doing, though, because accidents? Happen only too easily around Stiles.

There’s a bell on the door and it rings every time someone opens the door. The sound of it is usually enough to startle Stiles, but this time it’s accompanied by the scent of werewolf.

So yes, Stiles drops his stack of books, then flails another pile to the ground as well while trying to stabilize yet another pile and maybe he’s trying to pick everything up at the same time as well, but that’s only because he knows the manager hates when Stiles makes a mess out of everything.

“That looks entirely too complicated,” a man drawls and Stiles is abruptly aware of the fact that he’s very exposed to a werewolf who isn’t a recently bitten teenager.

A werewolf who is old enough to potentially be able to accurately pick out werewolves in a crowd. Werewolves like Stiles, who hasn’t been covering up and dividing his scent the way he’s supposed to, hasn’t for a while now because he’s gotten complacent. It’s dangerous and stupid, he knows that and yet…

“Actually, you couldn’t be more wrong,” Stiles says. “I actually have, like, eight arms and suction pads on my palms like an octopus.”

The man smirks. “You must be Stiles,” he says.

“Uh,” Stiles responds. “Peter…Hale?” he chances.

“I see my reputation precedes me.”

“Well, no, but Derek told me to watch out for you so, uh, I guess I have,” Stiles says. He’s fumbling for the books he’s got scattered all over the floor. Trying to maintain composure is impossible – mostly because composure and Stiles never got along in the first place. “So, do you need a book or something?”

“Or something,” Peter agrees. Stiles feels like it’s okay to be scared shitless.

--

When the alpha pack rolls into town, Stiles has already researched the hell out of them. He knows all there is to know, every last detail and shred of evidence they’ve left across the globe. He knows everything, but he still doesn’t know what they want, what they always want with the packs they seek out and decimate.

He knows they never bothered with his old pack, though, but he doesn’t know why.

--

“Do you know how to hide from alphas?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Duh,” he says. “How do you think I managed to get away?”

“You didn’t hide from me,” Derek says. “I found you—”

“I’d been here for weeks, Derek. I was tired.” Stiles’ hands are shaking and he lets them. “I wound up on Dad’s doorstep two days after Christmas. He gave me a new life, a new identity. I was tired of hiding, so I stopped.”

“Can you do it again?”

“Can I hide from a pack of alphas, you mean? Please.” Stiles rolls his eyes. “It’s as if you have no idea who you’re talking to.”

“I probably don’t, do I?”

Stiles stills at that. “That’s not true, Derek, you know me—”

“Yeah, but I don’t know who you are, do I?”

Stiles frowns. “This is who I am,” he says, gesturing at himself. “This is what you get! I’m a spastic kid with ADHD and too much sarcasm. Does it really matter what my ID used to say or what day my birthday actually was? Is that even important? Yeah, I got a new identity but I didn’t stop being me.”

Derek is frowning as well. “I don’t know. I mean, we put stock in so many different little things to tell us who we are, but… Bottom-line? We’re werewolves as well as humans and that means we’re never normal. Can’t have normal.”

“Yeah, so does it matter that I’m in my own, personal kind of witness protection that Dad helped me set up?”

Derek snorts. “Guess not. Would you tell me your name, though?”

Stiles looks down at his hands. “Maybe. When I’m not terrified anymore. Maybe when I stop waking myself by screaming myself hoarse. Maybe then.”

“Okay. Maybe.” Derek reaches over, curling his hands over Stiles’ to keep them still. “I’ll hold you to that.”

--

The problem isn’t that Stiles can’t hide from alphas, no, the problem is that the alphas attack one of Derek’s betas at school and, well. He can’t just stand back and watch or even just walk away, can he?

The solution?

Stiles chucks a bucket of chlorine in the alpha’s face, grabs Lahey by the back of his shirt, then hauls ass out of there. Lahey is bleeding, almost unconscious, and Stiles doesn’t know where to go. If he goes home the alphas will track him, if he goes to Derek the alphas will track him. Stiles curses; it doesn’t matter what he does or doesn’t do; the alphas will fucking know. Somehow, they always fucking know.

“Aren’t you in my English class?” Lahey slurs as Stiles turns the car on.

“Oh my god, yes,” Stiles snaps. The doors to the school slam open and Stiles tears out of the parking lot. He’s got his phone in his hand, already dialing a number that’s too familiar given how short amount of time they’ve actually known each other. “Derek, dude—”

“Don’t call me dude,” Derek is saying.

Dude, I’ll fucking call you dude if I goddamn want to, you, you sourwolf dude—!”

“Stiles—”

“Your beta with the adorable curls is, like, bleeding out on my passenger seat as we speak so if I call you dude then—”

“Stiles!” Derek shouts. There’s enough ‘I’m the alpha mumbo-jumbo bullshit’ in his tone that Stiles actually shuts up. Just briefly, though, and when he’s back on track he’s incensed. He’s pissed. And, no, Derek Hale is so not getting away with trying to order his ass around. They have a pecking order, him and Derek, and it’s not this way.

“Take him to Deaton’s.”

Stiles huffs. “You and I are gonna have a long, long talk about how it isn’t nowhere near okay for you to order me about as if I’m one of your unruly betas—”

“Yes, Stiles,” Derek says. He sounds amused.

“I will punch you in the nose, dude. I will make it painful. I will—”

“Just get him to Deaton, Stiles,” Derek says and then he hangs up.

Stiles squawks. “I can’t believe he hung up on me! That bastard, I swear—”

--

“—I can’t believe you hung up on me!” Stiles bursts as he slams out of the jeep. Derek is on the other side of the car with Deaton, getting Lahey out and holding him up as they go inside.

“Really, Stiles? Now isn’t the time—”

“Oh, please god make him shut up,” Lahey mumbles. “He’s been going non-stop—”

“I haven’t even started,” Stiles snaps. “I can go for hours, don’t think I can’t—”

“I would appreciate if you could take your argument outside, gentlemen,” Deaton says. “I need silence to concentrate, if you don’t mind.”

“Fine,” Stiles bites out, then he drags Derek outside.

Derek follows. He’s tense, smells worried and upset, but Stiles can’t care about that right now.

“You don’t get to order me around, Derek.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care,” Stiles says. “I’m my own person, I’m not a toy or a pet—”

“I know,” Derek says. “I wasn’t meant to be alpha. You know that. I still have all the instincts of a beta, but I’m an alpha—”

“That’s not an excuse, man!”

“I know! I’m saying I never had the training, okay? I’m pretty much making this up as I go and I keep fucking up. I turned three teenagers, for god’s sake! My uncle is a psychotic undead werewolf, half the hunters in the area want me dead on principle alone and the law enforcement—”

“Actually, Dad likes you,” Stiles butts in.

“Not the point!”

“I know. I just, dude, it shouldn’t have worked. I mean, if every alpha out there could just command and snap at any beta out there, then, well, it’d be a fucking mess. So if I’m actually shutting up when you tell me to even if it makes me want to claw your face off, just because you get fed up and put your alpha into it?” Stiles raises his eyebrows and waves his hands at Derek.

Stiles can see the exact moment Derek gets it, because he goes slack-jawed and wide-eyed. “Oh,” he says.

“Yeah, dude. This is why you don’t just hang out around random alphas, because ideas get planted and then you find yourself half-way to creating a new pack without even knowing it!”

“You think I’m your alpha?” Derek asks, looking confused. Stiles gets it, he does, because when they act out all their werewolf impulses, Stiles ends up as the fucking master of the game every fucking time.

Stiles snorts. “Hell no, Hale. I think you’re one of my best-friends around here and the fact that you happen to be an alpha is purely circumstantial. We both know if push comes to shove, your ass is mine every day of the week. See, if I’d actually had a pack? Nothing would’ve happened and you know it, but as it is I’m an omega and you’re current the head of the local pack. Signals have been mixed up—”

“Do you want to? Be pack, I mean.” Derek looks earnest, and he’s— Honest. Sincere, and heart-breaking, and Stiles, he… he doesn’t know what he wants. “You don’t have to— I mean, it’s okay if you don’t—”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I want.”

“Is it that bad?” Derek asks, but they both know what he’s really asking, what he’s really saying: Am I that bad?

“It was,” Stiles says and he looks straight at Derek even though all he wants to do is run away and hide. Possibly under his bed. “It was pretty bad back there, Derek.”

--

Stiles meets Derek’s ragtag pack on a Wednesday. He knows all of them by sight and scent from school, has carefully catalogued each and every one of them since the day he arrived in Beacon Hills. They all look like they’ve never seen him before in their life. Of course, that’s the way Stiles wanted it, because hiding from a bunch of more or less newly turned betas is a piece of cake, seriously.

“Hey, are you saying there’s been an omega living here since December?” And that’s Jackson, looking every inch the douche he plays at school, except he’s nowhere near being the top contestant here and he probably knows it.

“Bingo,” Stiles says. He snaps his fingers and makes fake guns with them, but Jackson isn’t even looking at him. Scott is glaring at Derek, Isaac is looking at the floor, uncomfortable or just not giving a damn, Stiles can’t tell.

“Why didn’t you tell us, Derek?”  Scott snaps at Derek. “You don’t get to decide when it’s okay to keep us in the dark! You know what happened last time—”

And maybe that’s where Stiles snaps a little, because he’s had it with people talking over him, speaking as if he’s not important, as if he doesn’t have a right to be heard. “Because, seeing as I’m right here and capable of speech which means I can talk for myself – I asked him not to. If I wanted people to know, I wouldn’t care who found out. But I’m hiding from some pretty bad people so I didn’t want anyone to know, okay? And that’s my choice to make. Not his, not yours. Mine.”

“You could’ve put us all in danger—”

“I’m not a newbie, McCall! I’ve been a werewolf all my life and just because I’m suddenly packless and omega doesn’t mean I don’t have control. I live with my dad, for god’s sake!”

“Derek says if we don’t have a pack, we’ll go insane and the hunters will kill us.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I guess that’s true when you’re bitten at sixteen.”

“You’re born?” Lydia asks, eyebrow raised.

“Aren’t we all?”

“Stiles,” Derek grounds out. “Yes, he’s a born werewolf just like me, and that means we have a little more control than average. The fact that he has family here and is living with his dad helps him have more control—”

“And having an available alpha around that’s always chasing after him helps, too, I suppose,” Peter drawls. “Why don’t you just bite him and get it over with?”

Derek glares at Peter. “Because that’s his choice to make, not yours, not mine – his.”

Scott frowns. “Why would you bite him if he’s already a werewolf?”

Stiles rolls his eyes, but Peter’s words itch at him, poke and prod at his subconscious because if anyone’s doing any biting around here, it’s him, not Derek. “It’s a pack thing,” he says. “Anyway, this alpha pack… Did I just expose myself to them, like, paint a flashing arrow over my head and put my dad in serious danger?”

“Your scent’s still hidden,” Derek says. “At most, they’ll think you’re human. Did they get a good look at you?”

Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know. I chucked bleach in his face and ran off, puppy boy in tow.”

“I’m not—” Isaac starts, but Derek just looks at him. “I’m shutting up, never mind me, I was just admiring the tapestry.”

Stiles’ narrows his eyes. “That’s an abuse of power.”

“I don’t abuse—”

“You told me to shut up!” Stiles snaps. Next to Derek, Isaac rolls his eyes. It sounds like he’s mumbling ‘oh god, not this again’ but Stiles isn’t really listening. “You’re a crap alpha, Derek!”

“I told you,” Derek starts, angry and annoyed.

“And I told you that’s not gonna fly! This isn’t the Soviet Union, Derek, you don’t get to just steamroll over everyone who expresses an opinion because you’re still all stuck on ‘I’m the alpha’ bullshit! Pack is family, it’s equality and consent, it’s not oppression and force and violence, man; you know that.”

Derek looks constipated and annoyed, but he also gets exactly what Stiles is on about because Derek was once part of a functioning pack.

“You getting me here?”

Derek nods and that’s that. There’s a look in Peter’s eyes that rubs Stiles wrong, but he ignores it. “Good, so. I’m going back to staying out of this mess—”

At that, there’s some cries of disbelief, of anger, and it sets Stiles’ teeth on edge because all he ever wants these days is lay low and escape notice.

“You can’t just turn your back,” Scott is saying, and there are other voices joining the fray, loud and angry and upset.

“I’m not turning my back,” Stiles snaps. “I just don’t want anything to do with werewolves, okay?”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a werewolf!” Cora shouts, her eyes blazing yellow.

“I know that, you idiot! I am one!” Stiles makes an expansive gesture, meant to encompass all of them. “I just don’t want anything to do with the rest of it.”

“If it came down to it, I’d protect you,” Derek interjects, and his voice is quiet and firm. “You know I would.”

“And you know I wouldn’t let you. Derek, you have three untrained wannabe werewolves, a long lost sister and a psychotic undead uncle, plus the three humans who are constantly around. They have dozens, alphas and betas alike, born wolves all of them, and they wouldn’t hesitate. Compared to them, the alpha pack are a bunch of rose-smelling puppies. They’d slaughter you before you even knew what was happening.”

“Just out of curiosity,” Peter says. “Where are you actually from?”

“None of your business, FU.”

“Oh, clever. Your boy has sarcasm, Derek.”

“I’m not his boy,” Stiles snaps. “And if you don’t shut up—”

“You will, what? Yapp at me?”

“No, I will break your teeth in half and rub wolfsbane into your eyes. See how well you come back from that.”

“You are a very different breed, aren’t you?” Peter says, and Stiles, well. He isn’t weak, he bows to no one and it isn’t that he snaps but he has Peter against the wall, baring his throat to him in under a minute.

His mom wasn’t a slacker and she taught him everything he needed to know. Peter glares at him, but there’s an underlying hint of amusement that bothers Stiles more than he lets on.

“I am exactly who I need to be to take you down,” Stiles says. “Back the fuck off, creep.”

--

“So, just out of curiosity,” Lydia says one day. They’re at school, it’s lunch and she just interrupted his private reading time with X-Factor; Madrox is totally his kind of guy. He wants to be annoyed, but he can’t because he kind of likes her. She has sass, brains and beauty. She’ll be lethal one day, Stiles just knows it. “This big family you come from—”

“No,” Stiles says and he can’t quite look her in the eye, but she does have a really cute nose. “I don’t— I can’t talk about that.” He reaches up, not to actually scratch his chin, but to show what her question is doing to his hands. “Though, if you want to be technical about it, my family was just me and my mom, but the, the extended bits… It wasn’t good. Think pre-abolition, except just to the, the women.”

The women and Stiles. He thinks he’ll always hate them for that.

Lydia narrows her eyes. “Here, or at all?”

“Sometimes both.” He wets his lips, though, drums his fingers on the table. “My mom, she was in charge, you know?” Lydia’s eyebrows shoot up. “Yeah, I know, so why aren’t I, you’re wondering, and yeah, no, I can’t talk about this today.” He’s breathing too fast, way too fast and things are getting blurry and he really doesn’t want to have a full-blown panic attack in the school’s cafeteria because that would just suck on so many levels.

Lydia pinches his nose closed and Stiles is actually surprised enough by it that he stops breathing for a short, glorious second. Then he starts up again, and while not back to normal quite yet, he’s certainly on the right track.

“So, you will come over to my place tonight, won’t you?”

There is only one right answer to this question, and Stiles knows it, it’s just… “Uh, I can’t? I mean, not that I don’t want to except I’m not sure I do, it’s just, Dad’s on shift tonight and we’ve kind of got this routine going on where I cook dinner so he won’t snack on crap all through the night, so, yeah. I’m making lasagna?”

“Mmm, no, not good enough.”

“It’s root fruit lasagna with a spinach and herb sauce?”

Lydia smiles. “Better. I’ll be over at five.”

“We eat kind of late so I’ll still be busy prepping by then, I think.”

“Stiles. I will be over at five.”

“Okay? I’m just saying, don’t come over hungry.”

“I won’t. I’m glad we got this settled. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have actual business I need to attend to that doesn’t involve Peter David’s latest foray into the psyche of Layla Miller.”

Stiles stares after her as she leaves and he’s not quite sure what to make of her. Or of anything, really. Because no way is she that hot, the talk of the school and into comics, and—

“Yeah, she does that,” a guy says. He’s holding a tray and looking at Stiles, smiling a little.

“She reads comics,” Stiles says, awed. “Comics.”

The guy’s grin widens. “I know. I’m Danny. Mind if I join you?”

“Uh, no?” he manages, shaking his head. “Stiles. I’m Stiles.”

“Yeah, Jackson told me.” Danny sits down. He doesn’t appear as scary as Lydia had. Stiles attributes that to the dimples. “He also said you probably already knew who I was.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, I figured out who was who pretty early on.”

“So you could avoid us.”

“Something like that.”

Danny looks him over again, then says, “You’re in the GSA, aren’t you?”

“Yep, that’s me. Freedom fighter, rebel extraordinaire.”

“So, did you join because you wanted to or because you figured that was the easiest way to check us out?”

Stiles glares. “Hey, I joined that club because Dad said I could do anything I wanted. Until I moved here I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted. So I joined because I wanted to. That you, Lydia and Argent happen to be in the club is purely circumstantial.”

“Uh-huh.”

“It is!”

Danny smirks. “So, anyway, Jackson wants you to join the lacrosse team.”

“Nope,” Stiles says, popping the p to be as obnoxious as possible. “Not happening.”

Danny shrugs. “Fair enough. Personally, I think having the three of them on the team in the first place is just begging for someone to notice, but try telling them that.”

--

On the way home, Stiles calls Derek up and rants to him for as long as Derek will allow it.

That day, it’s for thirty minutes.

--

Lydia shows up around five, a heavy book bag and laptop case in tow. Stiles says, “Uh,” and she smiles.

“I figured I might as well use you to get some facts straight.”

“Okay?”

“Good. Kitchen?”

“This way,” Stiles says and leads the way. He’s already started in on most of the vegetables, has them peeled and ready to be grated. That’s the main reason why this dish is so time consuming, really, but it’s also fucking delicious so he doesn’t mind taking the time to make it every now and then.

“So, cross on the ‘werewolves are carnivores,’ then?”

“You should never, ever let Derek close to cherry tomatoes. I swear, I turned my back for five seconds and they were gone.”

Lydia narrows her eyes at him, then she smiles. “You’re the one he bakes with.”

“Guilty.”

“Hangs out with? Goes to the movies with? Researches with? Escapes away with for days at a time?”

Stiles grin is cheeky and guilty at the same time. “Better alert the media, our cover’s been blown.”

Lydia huffs. “Since December, was it?”

Stiles shrugs. “Well, that’s when I got here. I think it was February before we actually met. It was a Tuesday, the sun was shining and he was lurking on my porch.”

Lydia tilts her head as she looks at him. “You can hide from alphas.”

“Yeah.”

“So why hasn’t Derek been teaching his betas how to do that?”

“Because it’s not something everyone can learn,” Stiles snaps. “Okay? Derek grew up in the perfect pack; he didn’t have a need to know how to do it, but Mom and I? There was all the need in the world for us to know how to separate and divide scents. I could practice on her, make sure I was as good as I was gonna get at it and it took years. Derek’s pack? They’re babies in comparison and they’re so conflicted with themselves and their new wolf-halves that they can’t even manage a full shift, let alone learn how to control themselves enough to mask their wolf scent and just their wolf scent because it just looks suspicious when you don’t have a scent at all, you know?”

Lydia stares at him, eyes narrowed. “Stiles,” she says. “What’s a full shift?”

Stiles blinks. “It’s what it sounds like. A full shift. Not everyone can do it, but, yeah.”

--

“Did you know that Peter Hale tore out my side?” Lydia says, and Stiles freezes.

“I know he attacked you and that he, you know, horcruxed you. Derek was kind of very explicitly clear on staying away from him at, like, all costs.”

Lydia’s smile is thin, but mostly it’s grim. “So, since you and Derek are so close, explain to him that no one wants Peter around.”

“Lydia,” Stiles starts, and she stiffens and glares at him. Stiles sighs, because he knows exactly where she’s coming from. “If our roles were reversed, I’d be so far away from here you’d never find me again. The fact that you stayed, that you can even stand to be in the same town as him,” he trails off. “You’re strong. You’re kickass. You’re probably the smartest kid our generation.”

“But?”

“But Peter Hale is, well, I don’t know what the fuck he is and neither does Derek. Keeping him close, it’s the only guarantee we have that he’s not going off being a homicidal maniac again. That said—”

“What?”

Stiles grins. “You have every reason to hold a grudge, and revenge should be doled out, you know, a touch at the time. Like, start with small stuff. Wolfsbane in his coffee, werewolf enhanced Nair in his shampoo, a dog whistle in his ear. Keep him on his toes and irritated, then when he’s really annoyed, swoop in with the final strike and chop his dick off.”

Lydia raises an eyebrow. “It wasn’t his dick that assaulted me.”

“Then do it for me,” Stiles says before he can think.

Lydia sits up straight and narrows her eyes at him. “Stiles, did he—”

“No!” Stiles exclaims. “No, no, he didn’t. I just, I’ve met guys like him before. I don’t like them.”

--

Derek tends to spend the full moons with his pack, but the new moons are all Stiles’. He isn’t sure how the tradition started up, but he does know that they’ve been doing this for months. Sometimes they’ll drive miles away, far outside the Argents’ territory to woods that belong to no one but them, and they’ll run and romp through the forest, giving chase to each other and woodland creatures. They always transform into their other shape, leave their clothes in Stiles’ jeep because no one ever looks for his car (except his dad), and they’ll stay out all night.

Stiles would’ve loved to be in that forest right now, but it would be stupid, not to mention irresponsible, to drive off and go incognito for several hours when the alpha pack has already attacked Derek’s betas.  Instead, they convene at Derek’s loft. It’s not the same, being a wolf inside a closed space, but they can still mock-fight, play catch and do smaller versions of hide-and-seek.

As wolves, Derek’s form is smaller than Stiles’, but that’s to be expected; Derek was born a beta, was never meant to be the highest ranking wolf in his pack. Stiles was. His wolf is somewhat larger, leaner, and, well. He wouldn’t be out of place among spotted hyenas, and maybe that’s his lineage, maybe that’s the secret line he’s the last (known) descendant off, interbred with wolves and humans until nothing except the one or two quirks remained, and he could pass as something at least resembling a wolf. Almost. If it was dark and the one looking had less than perfect eyesight and didn’t know what a wolf was supposed to look like, that is.

The first time they transformed together was the first time Stiles ever fully shifted with someone who wasn’t his mother. That may sound odd, but she’d been fiercely protective of him. Now he knows why. Derek had sniffed and whined at him in confusion, Stiles had sniffed and whined back, and certain matters were settled.

The unspoken agreement was to never talk about what happened at wolf nights.

So they’re play-fighting and Stiles is winning because he’s larger, has more alpha in him than Derek was ever meant to have, when the heavy doors slide open. Stiles doesn’t move, is more interested in making sure Derek knows who won this round than he is letting go.

There is a moment of silence where Derek tips his head back with a whine, where Stiles licks and nips at his bared throat. Then someone Stiles doesn’t know or recognize says, “Scott, I take it you didn’t call ahead.”

So yes, Stiles leaps off Derek to stand guard over him, teeth bared in silent warning. Derek chuffs, but doesn’t move.

“Uh, Dad?” Allison says. “What’s going on?”

“I’m guessing Derek and the so called omega you told me about know each other a lot better than you thought.”

“That’s Derek and Stiles?” Scott asks. “But Stiles isn’t an alpha!”

Stiles tries on a growl, but Derek grumps at him to shut up so Stiles snaps his teeth at him. Whoever the guy is – Allison’s dad, which makes him an Argent, a hunter, a threat – seems to understand the situation better than the other two, because he grabs them by the back of their necks and pulls them back outside. When the door finally slides closed again, Stiles allows Derek to groom him, then he lets him up.

--

“Maybe we should talk about the fact that when we transform, you act like you’re my alpha.”

Stiles huffs. He keeps his back to Derek as he dresses. “That’s because I would totally have been if my situation had been anything close to resembling normal and you know it.” He takes a careful breath, then another, deeper one. “Mom should have been the leader of our pack, you know? I mean, if we’d actually been a real, proper pack. One on one she was stronger than any of their alphas, but when they teamed up?”

“The Hales were typically led by women as well,” Derek says. “Mostly.”

Stiles nods, then he asks, “You think Allison’s dad knows what I am?”

“Maybe,” Derek says. Stiles can almost feel him hesitate before he adds, “He could have information. That we don’t have.”

Stiles stills. “About me?” When Derek doesn’t answer, he says, “Derek… I know everything I need to know.”

“The first time we transformed you were just as surprised as I was.”

“Because you look like an actual wolf,” Stiles says. “Before you, the only one I’d ever seen do the full transformation was my mom and we don’t look that much like wolves, you know.”

Stiles is in no way surprised when Derek walks around to stand in front of him. He’s still shirtless, has barely bothered to button up his jeans. Stiles feels a little exposed, even though he’s just as dressed as Derek is. “Stiles…”

“What happened to not talking about what happens at wolf night?”

“Alpha pack, Argent.” Derek hesitates. “Your smell?”

“My smell.”

Derek nods, but he looks undecided and like the very last thing he wants to do is answer that question. “You smell… available?”

Stiles hits him. It’s a perfectly reasonable response because last time someone had told him that, had laughed in his face about it, he’d woken up naked in a bed he still has no memory of how he ended up in. Derek clutches his bruised jaw. “Stiles, I’m just telling you because if I can smell it, then so can they!”

“Can you smell it right now, because I swear—”

Derek’s ears look pink. “No, but when we were playing—”

“Can we not? I don’t want to hit you again, but I will.”

Derek nods. He looks relieved. “I wouldn’t,” he says. “I mean, humanity aside, the instinct in my wolf—”

“Derek—”

“I’m just saying,” Derek hurries on and now his ears are actually red. “The instinct is to submit, not to—”

“Oh,” Stiles says, and he just knows his face is blotchy and red. “That’s, uh, that’s good to know?”

“I just thought…”

“Yes,” Stiles agrees.

“So, we’re good?”

“The best.”

Derek nods. “I’ll go put my shirt on,” he says, decisive and embarrassed.

--

When Stiles comes home that day, he still feels flushed, and fluttery is the wrong word, but it’s still the one that fits the best. Dad looks at him, has this amused and resigned look about his face, but he doesn’t say anything and Stiles is so grateful he actually hugs the man for two minutes straight. He used to cuddle with his mom and he misses it fiercely sometimes. Dad is still a little new, a little strange, but he makes for a pretty good substitute.

--

The next day Derek shows up to pick him up from school in his Camaro. Stiles snorts, but goes with him.

“What?”

“Your car is so subtle, dude.”

Derek grimaces. “Don’t call me dude, Stiles.”

“I’ll call you whatever I want to. Dude.” Stiles laughs. “So, anyway, where are we going?”

Derek shrugs. “I thought we might go see what Argent wanted yesterday.”

“You’re going over to see hunters on your own free will? You? Dude, I had to tie you to a chair and bribe you with an unlimited supply of cookies for six months before you agreed to talk to him to set up a treaty! Excuse me, but mark me down as not convinced.”

Derek’s ears go red and he scowls at the road. “No, dumbass. I’m going over because Scott seems to think it’s a good idea. I just don’t buy it.”

“What do you mean?”

I mean ever since he found out you were the one who dug up all that info we have on the alphas, he’s decided to compare it against what Argent has.”

“In his bestiary?”

“I guess.”

“You think I could get a copy of that?”

Derek snorts. “Not unless you give him your soul in return.”

Stiles grimaces. “Yeah, not sold on that, to tell the truth. But, hey.”

“What?”

“Why didn’t you tell Scott that I did all the research back in the days of the kanima, too?”

“I did,” Derek says. “Scott is just very selective in his hearing. I think it depends on what he thinks will impress Allison more, but I could be wrong.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “A guy controlled by the hand on his dick, how original.”

“Shut up,” Derek mutters. “Do you even have room to talk?”

Stiles smirks. “Oh, trust me, Derek, I have plenty of room to talk.” By then they’re parked in front of the building where Argent lives and Derek turns the car off. “Oh, by the way, I like you, too,” Stiles says, busying himself with unbuckling his belt.

Derek stares. “What?”

Stiles grins. “Yesterday, when you said you’d submit to me.” He leans closer and whispers, “I like you, too, Derek.”

Derek’s ears go red, and even as he’s denying what Stiles is saying, Stiles can hear the lie in the uptick of his heartbeat. “I wasn’t—”

“Lies,” Stiles says, then he steps out of the car (actually, he gets his foot stuck in the footwell and falls out, but that’s not important or relevant). Allison is by the doors to the apartment building, standing next to Lydia and they’re both grinning at him. “There was a tripwire!” Stiles protests.

“Now that’s a lie,” Derek whispers in Stiles ear and, okay, it’s not his fault that he shivers all over when someone whispers that close to his ear, okay, no matter what Derek and his stupid smirk seem to think.

--

Argent’s bestiary isn’t as complex as Mom’s, but it has some stuff hers doesn’t, things he couldn’t find on the internet on the formation of alpha packs – and that’s just sick, okay, what they do to become part of it, but it also explains why Stiles never heard of them before because the pack he comes from doesn’t fit the bill.

Derek is with Scott and the girls in Allison’s bedroom, so it’s just Argent and Stiles in the man’s office. It’d seemed easier, less complicated. Stiles is fully aware of why Derek has troubles playing nice with the local hunters and that his reasons for it are perfectly reasonable, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of it, that he can’t make Derek fall in line when he needs to.

Red eyes simply mean that you have more spark; it doesn’t indicate whether or not you have outstanding leadership qualities and Derek, well. He seems pretty content to do what Stiles says when it comes to the hunters in town.

“Well?”

Stiles shrugs, scrolling through an entry on Eurasian shapeshifter legends. “I knew most of this already.”

Argent nods, then says, “Scott doesn’t trust you.” It’s very much apropos nothing.

“Scott doesn’t know me.” Stiles looks up from the computer screen to meet Argent’s eyes. “I hid from him and the other betas for, like, ten months or something and, yeah, Derek knew I was here and kept silent about it for most of that time, but only because I asked him to. I think what Scott doesn’t like is that Derek kept secrets, again. I also think he doesn’t really care that Derek only did that because of a promise to someone Scott doesn’t know.”

Argent nods, then he says, “I don’t recognize your markings from any of the packs I’ve encountered. You don’t look much like a wolf.”

“Shapeshifter,” Stiles says.

“An omega on the run typically indicates that someone was killed.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “My mom was killed,” he says.

“Hunters?”

Stiles hesitates, but then he shakes his head. “The pack I ran from… It wasn’t stable like the Hale pack was, it wasn’t a functioning family unit that way. It was basically a collection of families with several different alphas. They didn’t rule together, per se, but unless you had a dick and red eyes, you didn’t get a say, and they were careful to make sure no women ended up alpha.”

Argent winces. “I’ve heard of packs like that. They don’t play nice, do they?”

“No, they don’t.” Stiles taps his fingers on the desk. “My history teacher killed my mom. I had to run away and ditch my identity. You don’t want to get into a fight with these guys; they’d tear you limb from limb.”

Argent just gives him a considering look. “How do you know who killed your mom?”

Stiles clenches his jaw. “She was an alpha,” he says and doesn’t look at Argent. “When she died, one of the betas mysteriously got upgraded. He shouldn’t have.” He clears his throat. “So, uh, you wouldn’t happen to have a special section for herbs and stuff, would you?”

“Your mom was an alpha?”

“Argent—”

“Stiles—”

“Hey, do you really want Derek come rushing in here in a pathetic attempt at protecting my honor?”

Argent raises an eyebrow and there’s a contemplative look in his eyes that Stiles just plain doesn’t like. “Your father is the sheriff?” he asks instead. Stiles nods. “He’s known for a year?”

“Give or take,” Stiles admits. “I told him everything and he still took me in.” He grins, then adds, “Though, he isn’t stupid. He knew there was more to Deaton than he was saying and he had you guys pinned for hunters before I could verify it.”

Argent hums. “That would explain the glares.”

“He’s very protective of me,” Stiles says, and part of him revels in that knowledge, just like part of him itches under the oppressiveness of it. “He believes in the law, rules and justice. He doesn’t like vigilantes – which is what guys like you are – but that doesn’t mean he can’t see why hunters are needed. He’s just smart enough to know that not everyone plays by the book.”

“Like my sister and father,” Argent says, quiet. “Have you ever played along to someone else’s rules because you were too scared to disagree?”

Stiles doesn’t even look at Argent, because that wound will probably always be too fresh. “Dude, they killed my mom. Hell, yeah.”

“What I hate most about packs like that is that they play by the rules.”

“They don’t think humans are worth their time. It’s a gated community with a ‘religious’ agenda. I mean, we could come and go within a certain radius – like high school and the local college and stuff – but that’s as far as they let us and they never let anyone not pack into the compound where we lived.”

--

“Do I need be concerned with the fact that Derek seems to think you outrank him?”

Stiles stills, but then he shakes his head. “That’s none of your business, Argent.”

“Derek and I have a truce, if you break it—”

“No one’s breaking anything,” Stiles says, glaring. “Who do you think helped him come up with it in the first place? You seriously think it was his idea? That he sat down and talked with you because he wanted to?”

Argent just looks at him. “How long have you been involved in Derek’s business?”

“Long enough to make sure Beacon Hills is as safe and protected against outside threats as it can be.”

“Why are you so invested?” Argent asks.

Stiles just looks at him. “Dude,” he drawls. “This is my home, too.”

--

Stiles finds Dad waiting for him one day. It’s a Saturday, it’s just after noon, and Stiles is a little lethargic, a little full from gorging himself on pancakes for lunch. Dad pulls him aside, seats them on the couch in the living room, and Stiles can tell this is going to be one of those serious, heartfelt discussions when his dad pins him with this intense, awkward look.

“Dad?”

Dad smiles a little, looks like a little boy for a short second before he admits, “You still get my heart racing with that one, kid.”

Stiles just grins. “I know. Dad.”

Dad swats him over the head. He’s laughing, though, so it’s okay. Then he sits back and says, “Your mom told me she wouldn’t look like I was expecting.”

Stiles blinks, but then he gets with the program and goes beet red before he can, well, collect himself and act like he’s an approximation of grown-up and talk of sex and genitals don’t embarrass him.

“You didn’t ask?”

“I wasn’t ready,” Dad says. “Claudia knew it, too. That didn’t mean I didn’t love her, because I did, and we both knew that the second I could take it, she’d have told me everything.” He sighs, then he looks at Stiles. “This is really a conversation that requires the opposite of sobriety.”

“Yes, yes, definitely,” Stiles starts, but Dad snorts.

“Forget it, kid.”

“Technically, I can’t actually get drunk because of the whole healing thing—”

“—which you can control. I’m not stupid.”

“I didn’t say you were.” Stiles sniffs. “I was just—”

“Trying to weasel yourself into getting some liquor from your dad the Sheriff?”

“You make it sound so awful.”

Dad rolls his eyes. Stiles can tell the exact second he grows serious again, because his heartbeat hardens and the look in his eyes… “Son, she told me she had to want sex for it to happen, that she had to allow the intrusion into her body in order to get pregnant, that it couldn’t be forced or taken.”

“I know. I— I don’t remember anything from that night, Dad,” Stiles says. “I told you that. Whatever they gave me, it slowed down my healing—” Stiles cuts himself off. They sit there, him and Dad, shoulder to shoulder on the couch and they just breathe until Stiles is ready to keep talking. “I hurt all over and parts of me were aching that shouldn’t ever hurt that way. I can’t know how far they got, what they did. I can’t ever know that, Dad.” His hands are shaking and they don’t stop even when Dad puts a hand over them, an arm around him until he’s sheltered in Dad, and it feels better. Safer. Everything feels safer with Dad around. “That’s why I asked Deaton to check.”

“I know,” Dad says. “I know.”

They sit silent after that, huddled together against the world. The warmth and closeness make him feel drowsy, and he’s almost asleep when Dad starts talking again. “When you get those stupid questionnaires,” he’s saying. “There’s usually two boxes where they want you to tick one of them, where they want you to choose male or female. I never questioned that, you know? Until I met your mom my world was pretty much black and white when it came to men and women.”

“No in-between?”

“Definitely no in-between,” Dad says, snorting a little. “Hell, I didn’t even buy it when people tried to claim they were transgender, thought it was bullshit.”

“It’s not,” Stiles starts, incensed, but Dad just shushes him and laughs.

“I know, I know. But I was a cocky kid when I met your mom. I thought I knew everything, thought I was on top of the world. Claudia certainly showed me different.” He laughs again, this time brighter and less bitter. “She certainly showed me differently.”

Stiles makes a humming noise. “I’m a guy because that’s how I choose to identify. Mom chose to identify as a woman. Or at least, that’s how society kind of defaults us because of how we tend to act and dress.”

“But you don’t have actual genders?”

“It’s complicated,” Stiles says. “Yes and no. I never met anyone other than Mom, you know. I think we’re more fluid than a lot of people usually are, but, yeah, there used to be males, too. I mean, like, for all that my parts down there are all dude doesn’t mean I can, you know, produce semen. I can’t actually do that.”

“But when you were born,” Dad starts.

Stiles cuts him off. “Until I hit puberty, Mom couldn’t really tell if I was biologically a girl or a boy according to human standards. She raised me as a person and she loved me. She let me go back and forth with pronouns, let me try dresses and skirts, laughed with me when I was really little and I wanted my nails done just like hers but I couldn’t really use the nail polish brush so I walked around with red hands for a week. She let me be, you know, let me settle into my own person. This person.”

Dad hums. “It’s a damned fine person,” he says. “And Derek?”

Stiles flushes again, feels the heat of it settled over him like a cloak. Of course Dad wanted to talk to Stiles about this for a reason, of course he wouldn’t just bring it up out of the blue. “It’s— He’s a good person, Dad.”

“He is,” Dad agrees.

“I don’t— I don’t know, not yet, but I think… Maybe? I think maybe we could be good. Together.”

--

Derek shows up on a Thursday with a bag of groceries tucked into his elbow. He looks awkward, but determined and he’s smiling. Sort of. If you’re squinting. Stiles lets him in, because of course he does.

“I thought I could cook for you,” Derek says. “I was going to bring something, but then I remembered you don’t like takeout.”

“I like it just fine at the restaurant,” Stiles huffs.

“I know. So. We’re cooking.”

We? Thought you said you were gonna do the work, buddy.”

Derek smirks. “And you’re just going to sit back and watch? Really, Stiles?”

Stiles narrows his eyes. “I don’t like your attitude.”

“Of course not.”

So they cook, and Stiles keeps glancing at Derek because his behavior is slightly off, is just that shade of weird that it catches Stiles off guard because he can’t figure out what’s up with Derek and it makes him unsettled in turn.

Well, he can’t until Derek brings out the “special effects bag.” He puts tea lights in mason jars, candles in bottles, all of it lit even as he’s turning off the lights and transforms Stiles’ kitchen into this softly lit warm cavern of trust and flickering flames or something, and then Derek turns to him and asks, “Is this all right?”

“Derek…”

“I mean, I want to, I really want to.”

“Because you like me.”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” Stiles clears his throat. “You like me. I can…”

“What?”

“I can work with that.”

“Stiles…”

“I need time, okay? Like, serious amounts of time.”

Derek takes a deep breath, looks away. When he turns back, he looks straight into Stiles’ eyes. “I’m not asking for sex,” he says. “I’m telling you I like you and that I’d like for us to spend time together. More time together,” he amends. “I’m asking you to keep doing everything we already do together, but more frequently. I want there to be movies at the theatre, stupid trips to museums, runs in the woods—”

“Pack stuff?”

“If you want to. To be honest, I just want to be with you.”

Stiles kind of nods, but not really. Mostly, his heart his pounding like crazy and he feels dizzy; with Derek and his stupid heartfelt confessions; with his own emotions and wants and dreams, thrumming and dancing under his heart. “I’d buck under your authority,” he says. “You know that, don’t you? I’d constantly be poking and fighting you for dominance because we both know you’re not my alpha; I’m yours. When I took you down that first time, you submitted to me and whether that was a conscious choice or not, you proved that between the two of us, I rank higher. Do I want to be pack with you? Yes. Yes, I want that. Can I bow to your supposed superiority? No, I can’t do that.”

Derek nods. “I know. I don’t want you to.”

“Your pack wouldn’t be okay with that.”

“They might be, in time. If they got to know you.”

“We don’t have time right now, Derek. We’ve got an alpha pack literally on our doorstep—”

“I know,” Derek says again, this time louder. “Stiles, why do you think I’m doing this? Until the time is right I’m more than fine with just this, just you and me, maybe even with you getting to know some of my pack, but mostly I just want us to keep on as we have.”

“But more.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know how much more I can give.”

Derek nods, then he gestures at the food, and Stiles sits down and serves them both before he can think too deeply on it. “What would you be all right with?”

“Most things.” Stiles shrugs, but his hands are shaky. “We can pretend we’re both thirteen.”

“Trade notes via your dad?”

“Is that what you did when you were thirteen, Hale?”

Derek’s ears go pink and he’s scowling. “No. Shut up.”

Stiles laughs. “So, like, holding hands, cuddling, awkward movie dates at home and some light cheek kissing.”

The dinner is delicious, salmon with a pasta salad Stiles is prepared to kill Derek to get the recipe for. They talk a lot that night, more than they usually do, about things Stiles rarely lets anyone dwell on anymore, and he feels happy, light, hopeful. At the end of the night, Derek declines the invitation to make use of the guest bedroom, and instead Stiles walks him to his car. It’s not that he means to kiss him, but the moon is out and the way it reflects light in Derek’s eyes is—

“Oh.”

“Too much?”

“Don’t make me hurt you,” Stiles says, then hauls Derek in for another kiss, and another, and maybe one more.

It’s not his fault, anyway. Derek should know better than to have stupidly soft lips, should know better than to have this small, secret smile that’s like Stiles just found this hidden stash of his favorite cookies and shared them with him. He should know better than to be so stupidly gorgeous and earnest and shy.

Really, Stiles thinks, Derek should know better than to set Stiles’ heart ablaze.

--

When Dad comes home, he just looks at Stiles for the longest time. Stiles fidgets, huffs and glares (well, he tries, anyway; the effect is somewhat ruined by the stupid smile he can’t get rid of that’s all Derek’s fault). Dad just rolls his eyes. “Aw, crap,” he says.

“What?”

“Do we need to have another talk?”

Stiles sniffs. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Of course not,” Dad agrees. “How’s Derek?”

Stiles feels his face heat up, his grin turn wide and sunny despite his best attempts to act casual. “I hate you,” he tells his dad.

“No, you don’t.”

“Fine, okay, I don’t. You’re still being mean.”

“I’m a father; it’s my job to make fun of you.”

“I think someone, somewhere lied to you horribly about what it means to be a dad,” Stiles huffs, but Dad just laughs and puts an arm around Stiles’ shoulders.

--

Stiles never gets fully involved with the alpha pack. He stays on the periphery, he offers advice and research by the bucket load and he helps Derek by starting the “So You Are A Werewolf – What Now: 101” school. Mostly, it involves people inviting themselves over to dinner and sitting around his kitchen table asking questions. It starts with Lydia, expands to Danny in short order. After that, it isn’t long before Jackson starts showing up as well, ostensibly to keep an eye on his girlfriend – ex-girlfriend? Stiles doesn’t pretend to understand the dynamics between those two – and best friend. Then, well. Then Allison – daughter of hunters; Stiles’ skin itches at the thought of it – starts coming because she’s Lydia’s best friend and then Scott is there as well – if it’s for the same reason as Jackson, he has no idea – and Isaac comes with him.

Stiles learns to ask Lydia for help preparing various vegetables in whatever ways he needs them, because she makes Jackson do it for her. Isaac helps without prompting so long as no one comments on it and he won’t take compliments. Allison is instrumental in keeping Scott in check and out of all of them, Danny is the only one who’s easy.

Dad gets used to the influx of people in Stiles’ life. He doesn’t really comment on it, but Stiles gets the feeling he likes that Stiles isn’t as alone anymore, that he has friends his own age.

Cora shows up when Stiles is alone, when he’s sweaty and gross, wearing yellow rubber gloves in the middle of a frantic cleaning spree.

“Uh,” Stiles says.

Cora rolls her eyes. “Can I come in?”

“Yeah, sure, why not.”

The living room is a work in progress, but the floor is sparkling clean. Most of the furniture was moved to bare it, though, so the room is out of commission. Instead, Stiles leads Cora to the kitchen.

“So, either you’re Derek’s boyfriend for real or you’re trying to steal his pack from him,” Cora says, dark eyes intense and fixed on his.

“Uh,” Stiles says. “I was going to ask if you’re hungry, but, yeah, no. I mean, yes, we’re kind of testing the waters a little, but, no, I’m not trying to take over his pack. Derek wanted me to get to know you guys, so I’m trying.”

“It’s going well from where I’m standing.”

Stiles shrugs. “Yeah, for the most part,” he agrees. “People clash; Jackson is an ass; Peter’s a creep; you know how it is.”

Cora’s lips twitch. “Yeah, yeah, I do. I just don’t understand. If you’re my brother’s ‘boyfriend,’ why don’t you want to be part of the pack? Or aren’t you serious?”

“We’re deadly serious,” Stiles says. “And FYI, this isn’t really any of your business—”

“I’m his sister,” Cora snaps. “I have to make sure he isn’t making mistakes or setting himself up to be hurt!”

Stiles stares, and she looks back, and it doesn’t seem like either of them is going to be the first one to break away until she clears her throat and crosses her arms. Stiles is the one who speaks first, though. “Have you ever done the full shift with him? I’m assuming you can do it because you’ve been rocking this lifestyle since you were in diapers, but—”

Cora narrows her eyes. “So what?” she interrupts.

“Who won?”

“He did,” she says, frowning. “He’s an alpha and, like, five years older than me. Stiles? What’s that got to do with anything?”

Stiles bites his lip, considers what to say then just goes with the easiest route. “When he and I shifted, I won. I always win. I can’t be Derek’s beta when treats me like an alpha.”

Cora just stares at him. Eventually, she says, “So you are trying to steal his pack.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Don’t be stupid. Of course I want a pack again, but it’s not just my choice. Even if I ‘took over’ or whatever I don’t think he’d stop being an alpha, he’d just be the secondary alpha or something and that’s not even taking into account how seriously unstable that pack is, either, or the fact that all of you’d have to be on-board with the, uh, leadership changes. We can wait, Derek and I can keep on doing what we’ve been doing all along, and we can just wait. Or something.”

--

Cora doesn’t leave after that. Stiles cooks and she stays and she unthaws a little. Just enough to carry on a casual conversation. She relaxes enough that she starts turning up with the rest of the guys and Stiles just hopes Peter never decides to start hanging around, because that would just be creepy.

--

By the time the alpha pack is gone and everything has calmed down again, there’s two weeks left until Christmas and Stiles, well. He might have gotten a little bit excited. Just a little. Dad has Christmas decorations, of course he does, but he doesn’t have a lot of them. So Stiles makes do. Christmas is about more than tacky Santa decorations; it’s about atmosphere and feeling. Stiles can do that; he can totally do that. He makes a wreath to hang on the front door, he sticks cloves in oranges and bruises his fingertips in the process, then strings them up in the windows using rough-hewn twine. He makes other decorations, too, uses spices and dried herbs to make the house smell like Christmas, buys scented candles and bullies his dad into agreeing to buy a tree. They compromise on a small one, a cute little thing they can have in the corner of the living room.

“You know, if I’d known you were a little kid—”

Stiles squawks. “Dad! Christmas is sacred!”

Dad just laughs. “Of course it is. Did you write a list for Santa?”

“I did,” Stiles sniffs. “But now I’m not letting you see.”

Stiles ropes Derek into helping him with a gingerbread house. It turns out lopsided and not very Christmas-like at all – so, basically it’s a hut with icing triskelions painted on the walls, candy glued on the roof, popcorn used to decorate the corners, and, yeah. It’s unique, it’s definitely one of a kind and Stiles loves it.

“Mom would’ve killed me if she saw this,” Derek says at one point, when he’s sticking a gingerbread wizard to the chimney.

Stiles snickers.

“She and Nonna were perfectionists. They never let us help.”

“I’m assuming that’s because your ‘help’ wasn’t actually helpful,” Dad puts in. “I hate to break it to you, but dinosaurs didn’t live in shacks.”

“It’s a prehistoric hut!” Stiles protests.

“With a paved popcorn road leading to the door,” Dad says, deadpan. “Yeah, I can see why you weren’t allowed to help, Derek.”

Derek smiles, just a little, and the sight of it warms Stiles down to his toes.

“Anyway, Dad, I know I’m underage and all, but can we make, like, genuine spiced hot cider? Mom had this great recipe for mulled wine, too, if you like that stuff.”

“She let you drink?”

Stiles shakes his head. “I can’t actually get drunk, you know. But, no, she let me try a sip, that’s it. Said it was an acquired taste I was too young to appreciate.”

“Every year after Laura turned fifteen, she made arguments why she was now old enough to drink. Our parents never bought it. We didn’t know it until a lot later, but Nonna always baked this German fruit cake for Christmas and apparently there was a lot of rum in it because she always added more than the recipe called for.”

Dad laughs. “We had a few recipes like that when I was a kid, too. Drove my parents nuts.”

Stiles nods, then says, “All right, so how much stuff are we baking?” Dad and Derek just looks at him, and Stiles frowns. “What? You guys obviously have a ton of recipes and stuff, so let’s just bake all of them. Mom and I stuck to gingerbread cookies with store-bought dough.”

--

They bake a lot that Christmas. Stiles spends almost every spare minute he has in the kitchen, Derek helping and Dad watching. Word gets around – it’s either that, or someone smells it on either him or Derek – because it doesn’t take that long before Derek’s pack start showing up, not-so-subtly sniffing out cookies and pies.

--

The Argents show up on December twenty-fourth. It’s Dad who answers the door and lets them in, just like it was Dad who extended the invitation in the first place. Stiles is in the kitchen – surprise – and Derek is there with him. There is a Christmas ham in the oven, the glazing and spice mix done to perfection by merging the traditional Hale family recipe with Dad’s, together with a sweet potato and pumpkin casserole with coconut milk, cinnamon, cloves and topped with goat cheese and honey. Stiles is hoping for a miracle, because it smells heavenly. Derek’s German fruitcake – a stollen, and that name is magic, seriously – turned out to be more bread than cake, at least as far as they were concerned, so Stiles doesn’t feel bad serving it with dinner instead of saving it for after. Dad insisted on mashed potatoes, so Derek is busy fixing that while Stiles fries up the last of the delicious homemade meatballs. They don’t have a lot of dishes quantity wise, but what food they have prepared they made a lot of.

“Wow, Scott really wasn’t lying, was he?” Allison says.

“Hi, Allison! Long time, no see, Mr. Argent,” Stiles says. “Derek, say hi.”

“Hello, Allison, Mr. Argent.”

“Wow, with people skills like yours—”

“Stiles, be nice; it’s Christmas,” Dad says. “They brought pie.”

“I can see now that might not have been necessary,” Argent says. To Dad, he says, “I never thought of it that way, but werewolves have good noses for this sort of thing, don’t they?”

Dad shrugs. “I also haven’t had real bacon in almost a year, so.”

“That’s because bacon is evil, Dad! It’s bad for you.”

“His heart is fine,” Derek interjects and Stiles silences him with a glare.

“Your input isn’t needed,” Stiles says. “Don’t think I don’t know you help him cheat, you, you enabler.”

“I don’t—”

“So you’re not trying to get on his good side, that’s what you’re saying?” Derek glares. Stiles grins. “Get the casserole, would you?”

“Not yet,” Derek says.

“Uh, yes, Derek, right now.”

“No.”

“Derek. Now.”

“It’s not done yet.”

“Of course,” Dad says, to Argent, “They don’t always agree on when something’s ready, so whether werewolves make better cooks is really up for debate. Son, where’d you put the beer?”

“Back porch, under the table,” Derek says, grinning, and Stiles huffs.

Enabler.”

--

Ms. McCall is the next one to ring the bell – Stiles so did not know about his dad’s “history” with her – and she has a somewhat sulky looking Scott in tow, Isaac lurking behind them like an overgrown waif. Stiles only gets a glimpse of them as he tears though the hallway to get to the kitchen because Derek still hasn’t taken the casserole out and Stiles is just about done with him.

“No, Stiles—”

“I can smell that it’s done, man!”

“Mom always left it in too long and it was— Just wait.”

“I don’t doubt that, but—”

“No buts,” Derek says. “Please.”

Stiles sighs, but nods. “You could have just said.”

Derek clenches his jaw and shrugs.

“No, hey, Derek, you know how I am about food, but family traditions… They’re something else, okay.”

“I forget that I can talk to you sometimes,” Derek says, and Stiles can get that. Their relationship is many things, but it’s not imbalanced.

Ms. McCall has grilled turkey legs and clubs with her. They smell delicious even before Stiles can get her to hand them over so he can squeeze them inside the oven to reheat them. He isn’t sure if their last guests are bringing something – Stiles didn’t say anything when he invited them – but it doesn’t matter. They’ll have more than enough food either way.

Cora stumbles downstairs when Lydia, Jackson and Danny arrive. Stiles would think it was coincidental, except for the way she gravitates towards Lydia. He is a bit surprised that they get along because they seem so different at first glance, but the fact is that they do get along quite well and the knowledge of it leaves him slightly terrified.

Dad had been a bit – not nervous, wary isn’t the right word but hesitant doesn’t fit either – when Derek showed up with her yesterday. He’d still invited her in, still let her stay as long – or longer – than Derek was staying. He hadn’t even blinked when, instead of banishing Derek to the couch in the living room – Stiles’ bed was just a big no-no in Dad’s book – Cora and Derek had shifted into wolves and curled up on the bed together, tight and snug and safe and pack.

Stiles isn’t even going to pretend that he isn’t jealous of that, because he’d wanted in on it, too, wants that closeness almost desperately, but he’s never shifted with Cora before and there’s no telling how that might turn out. So he’s waiting – they both are – until the time is right. Until he’s sure he’s ready, one hundred percent to be in a pack again.

Today, Cora kicked everyone downstairs and spent several hours in the bathroom – because unlike Derek’s, this bathroom has a bath. Stiles can sympathize, because there is very little that beats just soaking in a bath, primping and scrubbing yourself to perfection.

“Stiles, is it time to eat yet?” Cora asks and Stiles grins. He hasn’t met a lot of people who put away more food than Cora and she isn’t shy about making her love for food known. He guesses that if he spent as much time working out as she does, he might have the same appreciation and appetite.

“Soon,” is all he says, then he disappears back into the kitchen to help Derek get everything ready and severed, buffet style. So they load up the kitchen table with more food than it was probably designed to hold, and then the wolves descend. Well, Cora and three teenaged boys do and then the rest of them serve themselves before going into the dining room to eat.

--

That Christmas is the first in a long while that Stiles has spent with someone who isn’t his mom. They never invited anyone over, were never asked to go anywhere. Stiles hadn’t minded, hadn’t ever wished for something else, but this year, this Christmas, surrounded by friends and family and allies…

Stiles can see himself doing it again.

--

For a long time Stiles and Derek’s exploits into the world that is romantic relationships consists only of the shared knowledge that they like each other like that. Because they are preteens having their first crush at heart, truly, and, yes, there has been kisses – a lot of kisses – but they haven’t been on a single date unless you count the home-cooked dinners, TV nights and new moons.

There’s the matter that the time isn’t right initially, of course, because there’s danger lurking in every corner and that it isn’t safe for Derek to run out on his pack for hours at a time. But even after, when everything has calmed down and the alphas are gone and Stiles actually gets along with Derek’s pack well enough, even then, it takes a while.

--

When spring rolls around again, Stiles has been in Beacon Hills for over a year. His mom has been dead for a year and a half. He has a dad. It’s not a replacement, because Dad is nothing like Mom had been, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad; that Dad isn’t just as good. It’s just different. Stiles is in his last term of high school, he’s been enrolled in the local community college since last term and he signed up for some more online classes at a local university. He feels settled, at home. He has a part-time job.

He has a boyfriend.

Okay, that can stand to be repeated: Stiles has a boyfriend.

A boyfriend who is kind and quiet and broody and shy and awkward, and somehow he is Stiles’ favorite person in the world – well, after Dad, anyway, but it’s not like they’re even competing in the same category, so that’s all right.

--

“So,” Lydia says. “When are you asking Derek out?”

Stiles kind of stops eating, fork halfway to his mouth. “Uh,” he says.

She just rolls her eyes. “Please, I know you like him, Stiles. Every time he’s in the room, your eyes are on him. He’s eye candy, I get that, but he’s not that hot. So when are you going to do anything about it?”

“It’s complicated,” Stiles says, which is a stupid cliché but it’s also the truth.

Lydia narrows her eyes. “Stiles—”

“No, I— I mean it. Derek and I, we settled things before the alphas— We talked.”

“And?”

“And we’re dating, kind of, but…”

“But?”

“There wasn’t time and I have issues,” Stiles says, because Lydia is starting to look impatient and she’s scary when she’s impatient.

Lydia nods, lips pursed, as she makes a humming sound. “So… what does ‘kind of’ mean?”

“He cooked for me. Well, we cooked because I don’t do impassive. We kissed. A lot. There’s been wolf-cuddles. I just…” Stoles looks at his hands, at how they’re shaking and he wonders when that’s going to stop, if it’s ever going to be over. When he won’t freak out at the thought of more with Derek anymore.

“Maybe,” Lydia says, “maybe you should tell me what happened when you ran away.”

Stiles just swallows at looks down at his mostly empty plate. He supposes it’s a good thing that they’re home, that Dad’s at work and that none of the werewolves in town chose today to go visit Stiles and harass him for food. So he says, “I was roofied,” and Lydia sits up properly, tense, back ramrod straight and eyes narrowed in a glare. “I don’t remember— I have no idea— I don’t know what they did. To me. And that’s, that’s worse. Not knowing. That’s worse, because if I knew then I’d know what I was trying to get over, but I don’t so I just fumble around hoping nothing’ll happen that’ll freak me out.

“Like, I get these phantom-touches sometimes, like my body remembers being touched a certain way but I can’t remember! I don’t know if it’s real or if it’s something I made up or anything. I don’t know!”

“You ran away, became Jason Bourne, except a more terrified version of him, because you were roofied. Stiles—”

“I know how it sounds, okay, I do,” Stiles says. “But it’s true. Where I come from, females have no rights. We’re basically broodmares, okay? The guys are a bunch of sick freaks who buy into the ‘mating for life’ shtick and who will happily live their lives raping in the name of procreation. The only reason I don’t have, like, a thousand siblings is because Mom ran away and fell in love with Dad. To them, the only thing worse than a ‘sullied bitch’ is one who’s been knocked up by a human; they hate humans, Lydia, think they’re weak and pathetic, worse than women. I was a half-breed but they couldn’t kick me out because there was still a chance I’d turn out like my mom which made me valuable.

“When I was there, I wasn’t a person. I was breeding stock and all they had to do was wait for me to grow up and when I did, they killed my mom. She was an alpha and they couldn’t have that, couldn’t risk me following in her footsteps. They thought if they could keep me as a beta, I wouldn’t be strong enough to fight them off, wouldn’t have the will to get away.” Stiles breathes out, and it’s shaky and unsteady. “They were wrong.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says, and her voice is strong but she looks conflicted – smells conflicted. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Stiles clears his throat. “Hypothetically, how much do you know about spotted hyenas?” he asks and he can’t look at her, because she’s smart, she’s strong; she’d have made the best alpha.

“Oh,” she says, and she doesn’t sound clueless at all. “Biologically: male or female?”

“Female,” he says, shrugging. “It wasn’t ever that complicated to me or Mom. I mean, I get to choose, you know? I can be whatever I want and nothing will change. If I want to be a guy for the rest of my life, I can, but if I want to be a woman for a while, that’s okay, too.”

“It changes depending on your testosterone intake?”

“More like how much of it I surround myself with. The more there is, the more, uh, fertile I get. Stronger. More likely to attract a good partner. Stuff like that. Mom used to tell me stories of how she wooed and caught Dad, but I was too little to really understand what she was saying.”

Lydia nods. “You realize you just gave yourself up to my clutches,” she says. “So, if you surround yourself with estrogen?”

“The opposite, I guess. It’s harder having kids, I know that much. Something to do with fighting instincts and being able to protect and provide. I always thought it should’ve been the other way around but it isn’t.”

“How about breasts?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Not really. If I got pregnant, I guess. Like, for the milk and stuff, but not really breasts as such?”

“Hmm,” she says. There’s a glint in her eyes when she asks, “Favorite color?”

Stiles grins. “I’ll have you know, I rock a black dress like nobody’s business. I could tell you about the look on my dad’s face when he sorted our underwear and pulled out my lace panties, but I won’t.”

It’s as direct as a change of subject ever is, but Stiles takes it. Lydia’s grin is shark-like and she latches on to the panties and doesn’t let go until she’s aired every last secret portion of Stiles’ clothing choices out. It’s never easy telling someone why he ran for his life and Lydia’s reaction might not be the best one he’s ever had, but he’ll take it over fake-sympathy, forced hugs and stilted I-don’t-care-but-I’ll-pretend-I-do-until-you-go-away bullshit.

On the other hand, she’s the first person outside of his family that he’s told about his ambiguous genitalia, his sometimes fluid gender. Derek knows that he isn’t like a typical guy, yeah, but he doesn’t know how. Lydia didn’t grow up with stories about supernatural creatures the way Stiles and Derek did, she never heard about supposedly hermaphroditic packs of werewolves, stronger and more powerful than ordinary werewolves. Parts of the tales Derek heard were true, but they’re not hermaphroditic and they were only as strong as the pack – the clan – itself. They’d been coveted for a reason, but they only married when they wanted to, never gave in to pressure the way others had expected them to.

Stiles figures that’s why he’s maybe the last survivor of his people. Certain people are used to getting their way and when they don’t, well. They turn on you. It’s basic human instinct: be denied, again and again, and eventually someone will start feeling antagonistic and bitter and try to take what wasn’t freely given.

There isn’t blame to lay on just one part, though, because Stiles’ people were persons, too, had emotions and dreams and wishes just like everyone else.

Of course, when there’s someone supposedly more powerful around, mythical and invincible, it’s not unheard of for people around to think they’re owed something, owed help for accepting strangers into their homes, for opening gates and offering safety.

Lydia is smart, though, she can see through anything so long as she the right information. Right now, with Stiles, she sees him as a person and Stiles is more than all right with that.

--

After that, there are nights where Lydia kidnaps him and plays dress-up with him. She has more clothes than she knows what to do with – most of which don’t fit Stiles because he’s tall and lanky where Lydia is short and curvy. Still, it’s been forever since he last painted his nails or since he wore a skirt. It’s little stuff, stuff he misses doing with his mom. He’s always had a penchant for being a guy, but sometimes he enjoys getting in touch with the softer side of himself.

Dad doesn’t really say anything, which Stiles loves him for, but he looks knowing and maybe a little worried. Stiles doesn’t really know what to do with that, though – the worry – so he ignores it.

--

In a roundabout way Stiles doesn’t possess all the details of, Dad manages to find out what Derek got his A.A. in and sets him up with a job. Or gets him to set up a business. Stiles isn’t actually sure what Dad does, all he knows is that Dad had handed Derek a folder eerily similar to the one Stiles had been handed at the start of his last summer break. Dad had looked just as amused, too, so Stiles’ spidey-senses had been tingling and Derek had looked constipated and cautious the way he did when someone he respected but hadn’t expected to do something nice for him had, well, done something nice to him.

What it leads to, though, is Derek tearing up Mrs. Smith’s garden and half the neighborhood watching. Stiles can relate; Derek in a dirty wife beater is nothing to scoff at. Not when he’s a little bit sweaty, has streaks of dirt on his arms, is wearing thick, sturdy work gloves and heavy work boots, that said wife beater is too tight. Oh, yes, Stiles decides, it’s much, much too tight. Like Derek’s jeans or the way his stupid tool belt just enhances his sheer sexiness.

Sometimes, Stiles hates Derek a little for being so attractive. Right now, he hates him for being so smug about it that Stiles can pick it up with his nose from across the street.

“I don’t like that look on you,” Stiles says.

Derek just smirks. “Of course not.”

“Smug is off-putting.”

“Mhmm.”

“And doesn’t even take into account your—” Dad cuts him off, putting a hand on Stiles’ shoulder.

“Son,” Dad says. “You know Derek’s across the street, right? And that you talk with your hands?”

Stiles gapes. “Are you saying I look like a crazy person, Dad?”

“I’m not saying anything,” Dad says. “Stop laughing, Derek.”

--

Lydia is indirectly responsible for the first time Stiles and Derek go out on a date. She makes him sit down and talk, and the next thing he knows Derek is picking him up and driving them off into the sunset. Okay, so it’s before noon on a Sunday, but whatever. Lydia might not be the most caring and warm person Stiles has ever met, but she makes him realize that he can’t move on and step forwards into the next, great big adventure if he never ventures outside the front door.

So the next time Derek suggests they have a night in, Stiles says no. Derek doesn’t look surprised, exactly, but there’s a hesitance in his eyes, in his stance, that isn’t usually there.

“I think we should go out,” Stiles says.

Derek frowns. “We do stuff all the time.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. “But, like, we’ve never been on a date, Derek. I think we should go on a date.”

Derek just looks at him. “I wasn’t aware thirteen year olds went on dates,” he says and he sounds amused.

Stiles sticks his tongue out at him. He isn’t sure how much of his nerves he’s covering up, but he wouldn’t be surprised if Derek knows more about what’s going on inside Stiles’ head than he lets on. “I was thinking we could upgrade to sixteen.”

“Sixteen, huh?”

Stiles nods. “Yep. More making out, some light groping below the belt, dates, stuff like that.”

“So, did you have anything in mind?”

“Not really,” Stiles says and Derek nods.

--

It’s not like they haven’t done similar things a thousand times before, but this time they’re outside Dad’s house, just the two of them and it’s nice. They’re in the forest, which is fairly predictable and not exactly something they haven’t done before, but it’s in the forest surrounding Beacon Hills where they haven’t been before.

But it’s not the new moon, it’s in the middle of the day, Derek has a backpack with food and Stiles is holding his hand. They walk until they reach a small stream, then Derek spreads a blanket out on the ground and Stiles divides the food up between them. They don’t talk much while they eat, easily decimating every scrap of food they’d prepared together earlier that day between the two of them.

If asked later, Stiles couldn’t say who made the first move. He just knows that at some point after eating the last jam-filled pancake roll and sharing a bottle of coke, a kiss is exchanged. That kiss leads to more kisses, leads to Derek’s hands pressing up under Stiles’ shirt and Stiles stroking the hot, tight skin over Derek’s sides. They kiss until they’re sprawled out on the blanked, Stiles kneeling over Derek, mouths hot and wet and open against each other’s as they kiss and suck marks wherever they can reach.

“I’m not having sex with you outside,” Derek murmurs at one point.

“I’m so hard,” Stiles says back. “I don’t think I’ve been this turned on in my life before.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s scary.”

“I know,” Derek says, reaching up to steal a kiss. “Wanna head back?”

“Not yet,” Stiles mumbles, leans in and steals more kisses, enough to leave him feel lightheaded and high for hours afterwards.

--

“Mom used to say that when our kind lived in proper clans – we had clans, not packs – then even the lowest ranking female was higher up in the hierarchy than the highest ranking male. You know, like most of the females defaulted into alphas automatically.” Stiles wets his lips. “But that was a long time ago, before hunters and other werewolves decimated us. I’m not even sure if there’s anyone else left who’s, who’s like me. I don’t know how we ended up with the Baxter pack, but I’m guessing they saw a chance to expand their numbers, that they saw this ragtag group of ‘weak’ women and ‘pathetic’ men and some kids they could control and take over without breaking a sweat. That didn’t happen and I know for a fact that the Baxters supposed takeover didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped.”

Derek frowns at him. “How do you mean?”

“I mean, unless I’m all for it, no one’s going to be able to force themselves on me.” Stiles’ breath hitches. “Historically speaking, anyway. Before date-rape drugs. I mean, in theory sex itself isn’t that complicated, but procreation is.”

“So…”

“How much do you know about spotted hyenas, Derek?”

“Not enough, I’m guessing. Why?”

Stiles shrugs. “Just, they’re matriarchal. Even though we lived in a male dominated society, they couldn’t take us in an actual fight because we were stronger than them. But there were more of the Baxters and they just kept coming, so I’m guessing they either killed every one of my kind off or they ran away or they chose not to have kids or something.

“Right from the start when my people figured out what the Baxters were planning, they grouped together and took down every attack that came at them until they just didn’t have the numbers anymore. Mom never really talked about how many of our kind there’d been around when she was a kid, but I got the feeling there weren’t that many of them.”

“Nonna sometimes told me and the other kids stories,” Derek says. “I don’t know how much was made up, but did you ever get told about how werewolves would spike in numbers, then just disappear?” Stiles nods, so Derek goes on. “I think, as soon as there are too many of us, the hunters expand as well. They take out people they wouldn’t have otherwise and kill innocent families until they think we’re all dead, and then it starts over again.”

“The circle of life. Well, the fucked-up, supernatural version of it.”

“I’m not saying all werewolves are innocent; there are plenty who think they’re better than humans, but the hunters don’t exactly help.”

“I know.”

They sit in silence for a while after that, Stiles leaning against Derek and Derek penciling out sketches on the notebook in his lap.

“I’ve never heard anyone compare themselves to a hyena before,” Derek says, startling Stiles out of his purveying of Derek’s drawing. It’s a garden of some kind and Derek’s basically been filing it in, one plant at the time. Sometimes there’s a crude approximation of what it looks like, but mostly it’s little squares and circles filled with Latin names.

Stiles hums. “It seemed fitting at the time.”

Derek almost smiles. “Are you saying you’re a spotted hyena, Stiles?”

No, I’m saying I’m something like a spotted hyena.” Stiles huffs. “Try to keep up.”

“Why is procreation so difficult?”

Stiles hesitates for a full on minute. “Uh, why don’t you look up those hyenas, instead, dude?”

“Stiles—”

“No, seriously, I don’t think I want to have this conversation with you face to face. As entertaining as it’d not doubt be, I think this is probably one of those things you should look up on your own.”

That said, Stiles is sure it won’t take long before Derek comes back, armed with more questions Stiles isn’t sure he’ll be ready to answer. Derek nods, though, and he lets the conversation drop. Well, at least until Stiles bursts out, “Dude, what the fuck are you doing? How do you even pronounce bletilla?”

“It’s mostly the spelling,” Derek says. “Some plants have a hundred names, so using Latin is easier.”

“Are you planting a dragon? And phalum, isn’t that, like—”

Dracocephalum ruyschiana,” Derek grits out, “is a Northern Dragonhead. It’s a blue flower for the blue oasis my client asked for.”

Stiles grins. “Some of these names are awfully suggestive, Derek.”

You’re awfully suggestive,” Derek mutters.

--

It’s rare that Stiles interacts with all of Derek’s pack present at the same time. Still, Stiles can’t move forwards with Derek if he keeps staying away from the pack, so. He finds himself with them on the next full moon. It’s different from what he’s used to, from the moons he spent with his mom in their basement, from the times he and mom had to run, run so fast to stay ahead of the rest of the Baxter pack to make sure they weren’t caught.

It’s definitely different from the very last full moon he spent with his old pack, the full moon he’d planned so carefully for down to the last detail that his contingency plans had contingency plans. He got away, though, so it worked. Running away on a full moon may have been stupid, but it was so stupid that no one would ever expect it and he’d played on that.

Stiles shows up early at Derek’s, early enough that Cora is still asleep and Derek hasn’t progressed past pajama pants and bedhead – so he’s nervous, sue him.

“Stiles.”

“Hi,” Stiles says, bouncing on his feet. “So I couldn’t sleep last night but on the other hand I levelled my Khajiit assassin fifteen levels, so—” Derek puts a hand over his mouth and just glares at him. There’s sleep-crust clinging to his eyelashes and he has a pillow crease running down his cheek. “No talking in the morning before coffee, I know,” Stiles mumbles. “Do you want me to cook?”

Derek scowls. “Sleep,” he says and clamps a hand down around Stiles’ neck that he squirms out of only to slide into a hug, and he lets himself be led to Derek’s bed. “Shift?”

Stiles considers it, then he nods and strips. By the time he’s curled up in the middle of the bed, Derek’s already asleep again, still human, and he has a hand fisted in Stiles’ fur.

--

“That’s not a wolf,” Cora says, and Stiles opens his eyes. “You’re a hyena, seriously?”

Stiles stands up and stretches, then jumps from the bed. He considers baring his teeth at her, just to show that they’re plenty sharp, but before he can she starts taking her clothes off. Derek sits up at that.

“Cora—”

“We need to sort this shit out sooner or later,” she says, glaring at her brother. “Preferably before Peter comes over, right? I’m assuming there’s a reason you didn’t tell anyone that your boyfriend is a spotted hyena.” She has a point in that, Stiles thinks. She rolls her eyes. “Seriously, Derek.”

If there’s anyone in Beacon Hills that would know exactly what type of werewolf Stiles is by sight, chances are it’s Peter Hale. The evidence of him knowing more than he should seems to be in his favor, all things considered.

Derek doesn’t say anything, but he stops protesting which is telling enough.

Cora’s wolf is sleek and strong – a runner’s wolf – and her coat is dark and beautiful. She’s smaller than Derek, though, and while she does put up a fight – is strong and fierce, the best kind of pack member – Stiles wins and she bares her throat to him. It resonates within him and he thinks he’s maybe deeper into forming a pack with the werewolves of Beacon Hills than he’d thought.

“Don’t steal my sister,” Derek says and Stiles bares his teeth at him. Cora chuffs and starts grooming his ears.

--

After, when they’re human shaped again, Cora looks at Stiles and asks, “What color are your eyes when you do the half-shift?”

“I don’t do the half-shift,” Stiles says.

“Never?”

“Not really. I never needed to and I feel kind of awkward when I do it. Like I’m running around with my underwear over my pants or something.”

Derek half-grins at him. “Only you, Stiles.”

“What?”

“Do you know anyone else who doesn’t tap into their wolf while human because it’s too conspicuous?”

Stiles just rolls his eyes, but Cora shifts closer, eyes a little narrowed. “How do you hide from other werewolves, then? I mean, if you’re not ‘tapping into your wolf,’ then how?”

Stiles frowns. “I don’t know. I mean, in a way I am tapping it, ‘cause that’s where my power is, you know? Mom always taught me that the wolf inside was like a big ball of warm, fuzzy fire, right, and that I could borrow and add things to it, like energy. But if I did take something then I had do something with the power, right, because energy can’t be destroyed, just transformed into something else. So that’s what I do, I reach inside and I grab some of that spark, then I just… make it do what I want it to? What?”

Derek just shakes his head, looking kind of fond, a little grumpy. It’s his “I’m proud but I don’t want to admit it face.” Sometimes, it’s also Derek’s “I’m gonna kiss you stupid face.” Stiles likes and approves of that face. In fact, he’d very much like to get a little more personally acquainted with that face, right now.

Cora seems to have some kind of sixth sense – seventh, if you count being a werewolf as the sixth – and cuts in. “Okay, whatever,” she says. “But not even your eyes?”

“Maybe my eyes,” Stiles admits after a while. “I just tend not to.”

“Why? I mean, I do it as a reflex if I get up in the middle of the night. Way easier than turning the lights on, right?”

“I guess I was running before I ran away,” he says, skirting the edge of the truth. “I think in her own way, Mom was priming me for the day we’d make a break for it. Staying low, not popping up on anyone’s radar, blending in. The first time I even shifted after I ran was when Derek wanted us to run together.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “That explains so much. It wasn’t like I had to spend that whole night running for my life or anything,” he says and, yup, there’s sarcasm a plenty in his tone.

Stiles grins, feeling only a little sheepish. To be fair, he’d warned Derek beforehand, said it’d been a while and that he was used to being the top dog, that Mom raised him to take over as alpha of their family of two after her. “Yeah, I’m not really sorry about that, by the way. I did warn you I was feeling very, uh, free. Needed to stretch my legs and all that.”

“And prove your dominance eighteen times? I got it the first time you chomped down on my neck, Stiles.”

“Sorry,” Stiles says, but he’s in a room with werewolves and they can all hear the blip in his heartbeat.

Cora is still grinning as she leans closer, casually draped against her brother, when she says, “So, how much of your alter-ego is true for you as well?”

Stiles stills. He’s smirking mostly because Derek looks a little lost and a lot grumpy. “Did I miss the after school special on hyenas or something?” Derek asks.

“Or something,” Cora agrees. “It’s a chick thing, looking up dominant, kickass female species. So?”

Stiles shrugs. She obviously knows a lot more about spotted hyenas on sight than Derek does, which means there really isn’t a point keeping anything from her. At the same time, he doesn’t feel like he knows her well enough that he wants to tell her everything about himself, either.  It’s a bit like Lydia all over again, but she’d paced her integrations out over a stretch of time.

What Stiles does says is: “So if Derek ever got around to looking up those hyenas, he’d know exactly what you’re hinting at, I’m guessing.”

“Stiles, I already know you can—” Derek makes a gesture, as if he’s got a beer belly and Stiles rolls his eyes.

Cora laughs. “Oh, big brother, how little you know.”

--

So yeah, Stiles is early to the full moon shenanigans to the point where he isn’t sure he can argue that’s why he came over to Derek’s in the first place. The first to show up from Derek’s pack is Isaac and he strolls in around five in the afternoon, so.

“Stiles,” Isaac says, eyeing him. “You finally decided to join up with us?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Not yet.”

“He’s just here because he and my brother are being all sickly cute together,” Cora puts in from the couch.

“That’s all Lydia’s fault,” Stiles calls back. “Well, partly her fault, Derek and I were already a thing but—”

“I told you to behave,” comes Derek’s voice from the bathroom.

“Shave your scruff before I do it for you,” Stiles returns. “I’m not kissing you until you stop competing with Gimli for thickest beard of Middle Earth, okay?”

There’s a short moment where the hum from the electric razor can still be heard before it’s cut off. Stiles has that warning and the noise the bathroom door makes when it’s opened. He doesn’t hear Derek come down the stairs, doesn’t smell him, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know that Derek’s there. It’s all in the way Cora’s laughing on the couch, in Isaac’s suddenly wide eyes.

In the shadow across the floor.

Yeah, he hasn’t felt the need to shift with the moon since he was a kid, has been in control over himself for longer than he can remember. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel the pull, doesn’t feel the extra energy flooding through him. And, yes, he wins most of every fight when they’re shifted but Stiles is awkward on two legs, is clumsy and has a tendency to flail. As humans, Derek is bigger than him in terms of muscles, possibly even taller though Stiles isn’t sure if he’s done growing or not.

So no, he isn’t that good in hand-to-hand combat, but neither is Derek. They don’t trash too much of the apartment because most of it is just open space. Still, he’s laughing as he evades Derek, lets the power of the full moon complete his movements to give the alpha inside him that extra edge. He’s giving as good as he’s getting because even growing up as an outsider, he’d still had plenty of chances to wrestle and play-fight with the other kids in the neighborhood.

That, and the instincts are still there, Stiles’ screaming that he’s nobody’s beta, Derek’s screaming who knows what.

“What say you?” Derek asks, panting as he’s keeping Stiles down on the floor, but he’s grinning and Stiles just laughs.

“Never!” he cries, then manages to put just the right kind of pressure on Derek’s collar bones that he can’t help but twitch away in self-defense – no one likes to be tickled, after all.

When the door opens again and Scott steps inside with Lydia and Jackson, Stiles has Derek on the floor, is kneeling on his back with an arm across his neck. Maybe his knees are nudging too close to Derek’s sides, but Derek is still laughing and Stiles isn’t for a second buying that it’s just because there’s the threat of more tickling disguised as wrestling on the horizon.

“What the fuck is going on?” Jackson asks.

It’s Isaac who answers, but he doesn’t sound that sure what he’s saying and what he does end up saying sends Cora into hysterics. “I think maybe Derek didn’t want to shave?”

--

Stiles isn’t sure how the topic comes up between all the full moon shenanigans and mock-wrestling matches going on. He knows it isn’t Lydia because for all that he was doing a fishtail braid in her hair, they’d been discussing boring schoolwork. It probably wasn’t Derek or Cora, either.

Stiles is securing the end of the braid off with a hair tie when he becomes aware of the silence in the room, and he looks up to find Scott staring at him, a tiny frown between his eyebrows. “What?” Stiles demands. “I like hair, okay? Just because I don’t have—”

“No, it’s not— How do you run away from a pack, man? Derek says he can always feel us no matter what, so how do you even do that?”

“I wished really hard?” He smooths his hands down over Lydia’s head, then stands up.

Scott shakes his head. “And the scent-thing— I just, how?”

Stiles frowns, bites his lip. He’s honestly not sure what he’s about to tell Scott – and the rest of the room, eavesdropping bastards, the lot of them – but he doesn’t get a chance to say anything. Entre stage left: Peter Hale.

“Yes, how did you run away from an established pack?” Peter asks, and Stiles shrugs even as he bristles inside. “Even just continuously dodging one alpha is difficult enough, but a whole pack of them? Dozens of betas? It’s not something you just do without a reason and good planning and ingenuity.”

Stiles just really doesn’t like Peter, which is why he mostly ignores him and never gives away more than the absolute bare minimum, so he pretends that he’s still talking to Scott. “I spread my scent around half the country in every direction I could.”

“How would you even do that?” Scott asks, frowning.

Stiles shrugs. “I sold my clothes, gave them away at shelters, handed them out to strangers and forgot them in public places. Why do you think it took me over two weeks to get to here from, from where I was?”

Scott just stares at him and Stiles can’t help but grin. “Let me guess, Derek catches up with you in a matter of minutes when you practice tracking in the woods,” he says and Scott nods. “Scott, you need to stop thinking like a human—” Scott scowls, and Stiles hurries on— “You play videogames, right? Pretend, like, you’re in a video game and you need to practice your stealth abilities to get them up to a hundred. We’re not animals, but we can be predators and sometimes we’re more than human. We’re not less, Scott, so don’t ever think that. We’re different, but not less, okay? Play on all your strengths to get away, not just what you think you have at hand.”

Peter steps closer, blue eyes too knowing, too interested. “Who taught you to divide your scent?”

“My mom,” Stiles says, deadpan. “Who taught you to be a creep?”

Peter just stares at him, eyes a little narrowed, too curious and perceptive for Stiles’ comfort. “Your mother taught you a little too well how to hide, deflect and deceit werewolves. It makes me wonder ever so much where you are from and what your purpose here is.”

“You just can’t stand not knowing, can you?”

Peter smirks. “Knowledge is my weapon of choice. What do you want here, Stiles?”

“Curly fries,” he says, deadpan. “I heard Beacon Hills produced the best ones in the world.”

“Now, that I don’t believe. I find it curious that you would take the time to get close to Derek, yet choose not to be part of his pack. Isn’t that strange?”

“Actually, mostly it’s just bad timing—”

“You wouldn’t be suffering under the delusion you could take his pack from him, would you? Become an alpha?”

Stiles glares. He can hear the room grow quiet around him, feel Derek’s frustration clear as a bell.

“Peter,” Derek growls.

“No, no, nephew,” Peter says, and his smile is tight and smug. “I want to hear Stiles answer this one question. What place would you take in Derek’s pack? Beta? Or alpha?”

“Whatever the place, it’s above you,” Stiles snaps. “I’d show you, except you can’t do the full shift anymore, isn’t that right, Peter? Lost it in transition from dead to zombie, I hear. There’s not satisfaction in crippling a lame dog,” he spits.

--

There is no way of knowing what Peter had intended to do, but fact of the matter is that Stiles couldn’t answer his question without— Without saying that his place in Derek’s pack would be as an alpha. Sometimes silence is golden and sometimes you say it all when you say nothing at all. Stiles is well aware of what his silence told Derek’s pack and it doesn’t matter that Derek put an end to Peter’s line of questions.

The damage, whatever it was, is already done.

--

“Chris Argent!” Stiles shouts as he steps inside the door.

“Stiles—” Dad starts, hands on his hips as if he’s forgotten he isn’t dressed for work and therefore isn’t wearing the heavy belt that comes with the uniform. “I invited him—”

Chris Argent,” Stiles says again, this time with more emphasis on the name.

Dad sighs and rolls his eyes. “Kitchen, as I’m sure you already know.”

Argent’s sitting by the table, a cup of coffee in front of him, and there’s a tension around him that’s so thick Stiles can almost taste it. “I had almost expected the partial shift,” he says. “Going by your entrance.”

“Please, I’m not a noob,” Stiles says rolling his eyes. He slams his hands down on the table, which makes Argent shift in a way Stiles just knows means he’s got a gun aimed at him from under the table. “Peter Hale.”

“What about him?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Oh my god, what’s not about him? First, put your gun on the table. Dad, make him put his gun on the table.”

Dad sighs. “Chris, you might as well put your gun on the table before I have to arrest you.”

“Of course, Sheriff,” Argent says and puts his gun on the table. Stiles isn’t for a second fooled that it’s the man’s only weapon and Dad probably isn’t either. “What do you want to know about Peter Hale, Stiles?”

“Everything. You knew him before.”

Argent doesn’t ask why Stiles isn’t going to either Derek or Cora for information. Instead, he says, “We never knew much about Peter. He always kept his business close to the chest. I do know he was Derek’s mother’s younger brother, if that’s any help.”

Stiles frowns. “So he’s never been in line to be an alpha?”

Argent shakes his head. “No, not unless he killed most of his family off first. Even if he did kill another alpha, it’s doubtful Derek’s mother would have let him remain with the pack. She didn’t exactly condone mindless killing.”

Stiles purses his lips and nods. “Would he?”

“Stiles—” Dad starts, surprised.

Argent has narrowed his eyes, though, is looking at Stiles as if he isn’t sure what he’s seeing. So Stiles spells it out: “Would Peter Hale arrange to kill off most of his family in order to become an alpha?”

“What did he do?” Argent asks.

“He didn’t do anything,” Stiles says, drumming frustrated fingers on the table top. “It’s me that’s doing the doing, if anyone’s ‘doing’ anything. He doesn’t like me. Near as I can figure it’s because he can’t control me, doesn’t know where I’m from or what I can do. Because I’m close to Derek, because Derek trusts me and didn’t tell him about me until it was way too late for him to get Derek to be suspicious over me and my ‘motives.’”

“Peter isn’t the type of person who would leave any kind of evidence just lying around for anyone to find,” Argent points out.

“I know,” Stiles agrees, because Peter’s the kind of person – the kind of psychopath – who plants words and whispers, that worms his way inside people’s heads without them being any wiser. “He gives me a bad feeling. That’s what I have, a bad feeling. So, yeah, I get that people ask questions when someone’s new in the neighborhood, right, but the way he’s asking them? His wording? It’s setting off bells. I don’t like it.”

“What kind of bells?” Dad asks.

“The kind Mom told me to never ignore,” Stiles says. “The kind that landed me in Beacon Hills in the first place.”

“Stiles, if he’s pressuring you—”

“Please,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “If it came down to a fight, I’d take him.”

“Because Peter Hale is the kind of man that fights fair,” Argent says, eyebrow raised.

“Not the point,” Stiles says. “But, yeah, you’re totally right. I have Derek on my side, though, so I don’t think Peter’d dare do anything obvious.”

“Surely the other betas mistrust him? I know for a fact Scott holds no love for him.”

“Well, yeah, but do you really wanna bet your life on him not being able to twist that around somehow? Make me out to be the bad guy while painting himself as the good guy? It wouldn’t take much, probably. Just push a few buttons, play on Scott’s distrust of Derek. I’m not saying Scott would suddenly trust Peter or anything, but it’d at least get him to start doubting.” Stiles twirls a hand in the air, snapping his fingers. “And then he has one person in his camp, which means he won’t even need to convince anyone else; Scott will do it for him and unless someone starts probing Scott for answers, no one’s gonna be able to pinpoint it back to Peter.”

“Suddenly,” Argent says, something tired and amused in his eyes. “Suddenly, I’m very glad you decided to make Derek play with us instead of against us. I have the distinct feeling I’d never have known what hit us.”

Stiles shrugs, because Argent’s right. At the same time, though, he knows that he has Derek, he has probably Cora and definitely Lydia. With Lydia comes Jackson and where he goes, Danny goes. It means Scott would probably be with him, too, because Scott’s the kind of person who sides with those who can’t protect themselves. It’s bullshit, of course, but Scott’s of the opinion that Danny – Jackson, Lydia – are only in this mess because of him in the first place. So, yeah, Stiles thinks, Scott would probably side with Lydia, but that really depends on Allison, so. Who knows. Isaac goes where Scott goes, but Isaac also tends to be loyal to Derek.

Scott is the wildcard, the one with the sway to make the situation go from one direction to the other. If Stiles knows it, then he’d bet his favorite Skyrim character on that Peter knows it, too, and what Peter knows? Well, that’s dangerous.

“Would Peter have managed to make sure Kate met Derek?” Stiles asks and both Dad and Argent grow still. Stiles frowns. “You gotta have known, right? Kate got to the Hales through Derek, that was her way in—”

“No,” Argent says, but his heart isn’t as convinced. “She wouldn’t— He was sixteen.”

“And from all accounts, she wasn’t all that bothered with technicalities. There were kids in that house who hadn’t even started school yet. If she could set the place on fire, then what’s to say she wouldn’t have—” Stiles makes a complicated gesture.

“It makes sense,” Dad says. He sounds pained. “I never could figure out how she got past a family of werewolves when I can’t even sneak frozen bacon past Stiles. If she had someone on the inside, knowingly or not, then it would explain why no one reacted to her getting so close. They’d have been used to smelling her on Derek, right?”

Stiles shrugs. “Probably, yeah. Look, I don’t know for sure, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“Based on what?” Argent asks.

“Derek’s load of guilt,” Stiles says. “A bunch of little things, I don’t know. Look, point is I don’t trust Peter. No one does. We keep him here because it’s the lesser of two evils, better the devil you know and all that claptrap, but fact is that no one likes him. For all I know, he sent out feelers about runaway werewolves the day he found out about me and I wouldn’t answer his questions—” Argent’s scent changes at that, just a little, but it’s enough for Stiles— “Really, Argent? You couldn’t leave it be?”

“I couldn’t know you hadn’t killed someone,” Argent says and at least he has the sense to sound a little sheepish. “As it is, I don’t know whether to be impressed you got away or scared that you chose to settle in the same place where I live with my daughter. You’d been here for months without anyone noticing you were a werewolf; of course I looked into it.”

“If you blew my son’s cover in any way because you couldn’t keep your nose out of business that isn’t yours, there won’t be enough left of you to be found, are we clear?” Dad says, giving Argent his very best “I’m the Sheriff of this town” glare.

“I know how to be discreet, Sheriff,” Argent says, not a little stiffly.

Dad just says, “Do your contacts know that?” Stiles can get what Dad’s hinting at; oh, he can so totally get that. Argent doesn’t have anything to say to that, so he probably knows it, too. “If you know what my son is, then you damn well know what some people would do to get their hands on him.”

“Besides,” Stiles adds. “Shouldn’t the fact that I’d been here without causing trouble for so long have been a pretty strong indicator that I wasn’t going to be trouble? Hunters, man. The problem with you is that you don’t think.”

--

“There were notations in the bestiary to journal entries made by my father,” Argent says and he’s very carefully looking at nothing but the table. “There were details, diagrams. He’d made several mentions of experiments and torture.”

Stiles’ stomach feels heavy, sick. “We’re freaks,” he says. “A lot of the time, werewolves don’t want anything to do with us. Hell, we’re the reason that hyenas have such a crap reputation in the first place.”

Argent frowns. Stiles fidgets and says, “During the Middle ages people thought hyenas were all hermaphroditic males. Thought they were the work of devils and witchcraft, that they were wicked.”

“Why would they think all hyenas were male?” Argent asks.

“Because the females are the dominant sex of their species. The spotted hyenas— It looks like they all have dicks, okay?”

Dad clears his throat. “How about some coffee?” he asks.

“Hot chocolate,” Stiles says. “Look, to an outsider a pack with werewolves like me would have looked a lot more powerful, and maybe we are, too, I don’t know. Back in the days when women had it even worse than in today’s society, a pack that was populated solely by people with dicks?”

“We let our women be leaders for a reason,” Argent says.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “There’s no ‘letting,’ idiot. You’re a leader because you’re suited for it, not for any other reason. What I’m talking about was before that, before Argents set up their little hunting business. There wouldn’t have been misogyny among my people because everyone had dicks, okay? With no one looking down on someone else because of what’s in their pants, they had a lot of time over to do other stuff. Like be badass fighters who took down every threat they faced except time and their enemies growing numbers.

“People were afraid of us because we were different. Werewolves wanted us in their packs because of our strength and hunters went after us to see how we look from the inside.” Stiles stands up, grabs the mug of hot chocolate out of his dad’s hands. “Excuse me, I need to take a bath now before I get actually physically sick from this conversation.”

--

“Stiles,” Derek says a few days later. It’s the Saturday after Argent’s visit, and Derek’s been acting strange for a while now. He’s frowning, looks awkward and a little pained.

“Yeah? What’s up, wolfy?”

Derek glares, but then he says, “Stiles, your penis turns inside out.”

Stiles blinks. “Actually, you kind of just scrunch it up like a shirtsleeve.” He’s about to demonstrate, has already raised his arms to do so, but Derek isn’t really listening.

“There were pictures,” Derek goes on. “There was— Scars, Stiles, there is tearing and there were scars.”

Stiles turns a little wan at that. “You know, I’m a werewolf so I’d probably heal without a fuss, but, yeah, thanks for bringing that fascinating little gem up.”

“You give birth through your dick, Stiles! I didn’t need to know that! I have images in my head that I can’t get away because you—”

“Oh my god, Derek, I am an intersex hyena/wolf hybrid!” Stiles exclaims. “That was the whole point! My vagina looks and acts like a dick, okay?”

“It turns inside out,” Derek says and he sounds completely horrified. “You give birth through a penis.”

At that, Stiles throws his head back and laughs so hard he cries. Of course, he thinks, of course Derek is horrified on behalf of the penis nation because the average penis isn’t actually a pseudo one like the one Stiles has, like his mom had, one that is a cleverly disguised and enlarged clitoris.

--

“But honestly,” Stiles says later when they’re sacked out on the couch, Derek’s head in Stiles lap, therapy in the guise of the original Star Wars trilogy on the TV and Stiles’ fingers in Derek’s hair. “How did you think it worked? Me getting pregnant?”

A shudder runs through Derek. “Not like that,” he grumbles. “I have mental scars.”

Good,” Dad says, voice decisive and firm. “I’m too young to be a granddad.”

They both jump at that, the horror on Stiles face matching Derek’s perfectly. It’s not that odd that they hadn’t noticed Dad; he’s Stiles’ family, is pack in a way and most importantly: Dad is protector, not threat. Dad’s maybe smirking a little as he comes around the couch to sit in the armchair, but for the most part he’s studiously watching as Han cuts open the belly of a tauntaun on the screen.

“We’re not—” Stiles starts.

“Do we need to have a conversation?” Dad asks.

“Uh, no, no, we don’t,” Stiles decides.

“Good,” Dad says. “Now watch the movie. Derek, relax.”

“I can never relax again,” Derek mutters.

--

Lydia corners Stiles at school on Friday. Stiles had been peripherally aware that she had been experimenting with perfumes lately, but it’s not until that day that he realizes she had succeeded. The scent she’s wearing is subtle and floral but it’s not overpowering Stiles’ senses the way perfume usually does.

“You smell good,” he says.

Lydia smiles, flips her hair over her shoulder. “It’s just chemistry.”

“But better. What is it? Jasmine?”

“A little. The complete formula is a lot more complex. Anyway, I wanted to talk.”

Stiles nods. “Do I need to be afraid? I feel like I should be afraid.”

Lydia’s smile is, of course, sharp and terrifying in a matter of nanoseconds. “Cora told me something quite interesting.”

“Okay, no,” Stiles says, gesticulating behind him as if he needs to go, “I take it back – I’m terrified, I—”

“My place,” Lydia says. “Girls night out.”

--

Stiles should have known that “girls night out” would include both Allison and Cora. He isn’t sure how he should have known, but he should’ve. He definitely should have. For sure. He wants to fidget, to pace and investigate Lydia’s room. He wants to touch her stuff because it’s been a while since he last visited her and Lydia’s one of those people who hide their most interesting belongings in plain sight.

“Do you use a vibrator, Stiles?” Lydia asks. Allison chokes and goes beet red. She looks hesitant and Stiles realizes that out of everyone in the room, she’s the only one who doesn’t know about Stiles. He has the distinct feeling that this was Lydia’s plan all along; she doesn’t like lies, secrets and deceit among her friends.

“Okay, fine, I see your point,” he says. “Allison, I kinda thought your dad would’ve said something.”

“About what?” Allison asks, looking confused.

“Hyenas?” Stiles chances.

Allison rolls her eyes. “He’s been obsessed with them lately. I don’t know why, because he’s never been into nature documentaries before but lately it’s, like, all he’s ever watching. He’s turning into the bad kind of TV hog.”

Lydia and Cora laugh, leaning against each other on the bed and, yeah, Stiles isn’t going there.

“I, uh. You know how I’m a werewolf, right, but I’m not— I’m not the same kind. Technically, I don’t think I’m even that much wolf.”

“You look nothing like a wolf,” Cora says.

“Not even a little bit?”

Cora shakes her head. “I don’t think so. I mean, not all werewolves look like wolves, but you? No, not at all.”

“What are you talking about?” Allison asks. “I saw him changed into a wolf.”

Cora rolls her eyes. “Are you blind?”

Allison shrugs. “It was dark, I didn’t get a proper look.”

Anyway,” Lydia interjects. “We’re talking about the fact that Stiles isn’t a wolf.”

Allison frowns. “Then what—?”

“I have a pseudo-dick,” Stiles says, and it’s blunt and crude, but if her dad’s really been watching all those specials on hyenas, then she’ll get it. Probably.

“You…” Allison makes an ‘o’ with her mouth. “Like a hyena?”

“Like a hyena.”

“Oh. How?”

Stiles shrugs. “Like, how is it possible or how does it work or how am I one?”

“All of them.” It’s Lydia who says it, and she’s got her investigator face on, the one she’s never worn in all their interactions with each other. Stiles can’t help but wonder how long she’s been waiting to ask.

“I am one because Mom was one. Given that my dad is human, she wasn’t sure if I’d be werewolf or not. She always called us werewolves. I don’t really know why, but she did. I don’t actually know how it’s possible,” Stiles says. “I just know it is, because I am one.

“There used to be clans of us. Mom said we had treaties with a lot of different packs. I have no idea what happened, but, yeah. We might be extinct, might not. And, hey, Cora?”

“What?”

“I don’t know— Derek said he could sort of remember my kind, that your grandmother talked about us. Your pack had a treaty with a clan once upon a time. Like, to the point where they married each other. I think that’s how he knew I was— That I’m different.”

Cora smirks. “Oh, you mean how he knew you could get knocked up but hadn’t worked out how that was possible?”

Stiles grins. “Exactly.”

“Oh, no,” Allison says, face white. “How?”

“Pseudo—”

“I know!” Allison screeches. “I saw the documentary! But how? I don’t get it, it looks like—”

“Looks like a dick, acts like a dick.” Stiles nods. He pulls his shirtsleeve down over his arm, then holds it up for Allison to see. “Look, this is highly embarrassing and private but, like, you can kind of roll it back like this—” Stiles pushes the sleeve up slowly— “And it scrunches up?”

“Fascinating,” Lydia says drily. “I still want to know about the vibrator.”

Stiles feels a red flush creep up over his face from the back of his neck. “It’s not impossible,” he says. “You have to— Look, it’s delicate, okay? I can’t play rough or it’ll tear, you can’t work it open without consent—” And Stiles heart skips a beat, his breath hitches, but he forces himself to move past it because girls night out— “You have to be careful.”

“Do you get wet?”

“Not wet enough. Lube is key. Lots and lots of lube.”

“But where does the clitoris go?” Allison cries. “It never made sense to me. Like, the clitoris is at the point, isn’t it? If you scrunch it up, where does it go?”

“It goes inside,” Stiles says. “Look, the shirt-sleeve analogy isn’t fool proof, but it’s roughly right. It doesn’t open up or anything, but there’s a hole—”

Allison shakes her head. “I take it back, I don’t want to know.”

“I do,” Lydia says.

“Derek read up on spotted hyenas,” Stiles blurts, because he doesn’t really want to talk about his not-dick either. Lydia just raises an eyebrow, smirks, and she knows exactly what he’s doing, of course she does.

Cora looks gleeful. “So that’s what all the angst and man-pain was about.”

“Oh, did the mighty alpha get upset at the thought of a dick being fake?” Lydia says, rolling her eyes.

“No, I think what got to him most what the fact that when hyenas give birth, their pseudo-penis tears open. It’s disgusting, there’s blood and everything. He was understandably scarred by this revelation.”

“I can’t do this,” Allison protests. “My dad—”

“Your dad can’t leave well enough alone,” Stiles grumbles. He winks at her, though, reaches out to squeeze her hand. “Seriously, though, there are people out there who would stop at nothing to, to have me. Own me. Hunters used to experiment and—”

“Stiles?” Allison asks and this time she’s the one who squeezes his hand.

“My old pack— I ran away, okay. I ran away because they were fucked up. If you have a vagina, you don’t have the right to say no. They’re fucked up chauvinistic bastards and they indoctrinate their kids so no one ever protests or speaks up. They don’t think it’s wrong because it’s what they’re expecting, ‘the way it’s always been.’ It’s sick, okay, it’s fucking sick and it’s not okay.”

“What happened?” Allison asks. Lydia makes a protesting sound, but Stiles…

It’s not that it becomes easier, telling people. At the same time, every time he tells someone it’s like he distributes the weight. He doesn’t have to carry it alone anymore, other people can help him be on the look-out, can tell him if they hear rumors.

Allison— Allison would probably be a good ally, he thinks, and Cora takes shit from no one. They are all strong, all fierce warriors in their own rights. When he relaxes his control, when he lets himself pretend and wish and want, he knows he’d have them all in his pack in a heartbeat. He’s omega because he doesn’t have a pack, but if he did, he wouldn’t be a beta and he could claim them all so easily if they consented to it.

“There are werewolves out there who thinks that mating for life is a real, legitimate thing. It’s a fucked up fairy-tale – even wolves move on if their mate dies; nothing is forever, okay? But— They thought that you had to spend the rest of your life with the first person you had sex with. All the girls thought it was so romantic, that they were lucky when some alpha or beta high on testosterone chose them. They called it an honor. It was fucking barbaric. Some of the kids my age were ‘mated’ with guys old enough to be their dads.”

“Oh my god,” Allison says, her grip on his hand tight enough to bruise.

“You didn’t tell me that,” Lydia says.

“Excuse me for not wanting to extrapolate on the whole ‘women being okay with it’ topic because it fucking sets me off every time. They don’t have a choice but the worst part is that they don’t even know there’s a choice to make. They think it’s okay and it’s so not okay.”

Cora sits silent, a dark shadow behind Lydia, and her eyes are like dark thunderstorms.

“No one ever leaves because they don’t know it’s a choice they can make. Mom ran away and they found her and dragged her back. I won’t let that be me. Maybe I’m painting a picture that’s way too dark here, but it wasn’t like— I had friends, okay, I had tons of them when I was a kid but the older I got? The less of them I had. Playing with dolls and trucks was easy; navigating high school and pack politics is really not. There comes a point when you have to stand up for yourself, and for most of them backing down was easier. Mom said we weren’t alone, that we couldn’t be the only ones wanting to break away, but— Mom didn’t trust anyone. We didn’t have an underground network of rebels and we didn’t call ourselves the Alliance. We had each other because fear is a fucking powerful dictator.”  Stiles wets his lips, casts an apologetic glance Allison’s way. “Your dad— I know he knows where I’m from, what pack it was because he couldn’t not look it up. I’m not okay with him knowing because the fact that a hunter knows about me is terrifying. But…”

“Stiles?” Allison prompts.

“I’m scared as hell of Peter. He gives me bad vibes and I freak the fuck out from him. If he knew— It’d be bad. I think it’d be pretty epically bad if Peter ever found out about me.”

Cora just nods. She purses her lips, looks away. “Derek doesn’t believe in mates,” she says. “None of us did when we were kids. Derek has this pragmatic, romantic notion of mates in the same way other people have ideas about who they want to spend the rest of their lives with, the marriage thing. You know, it’s a mutual decision to spend the rest of your life with someone and it doesn’t always work out.

“I know Peter thinks— He thinks he had a mate. Like, the fairy-tale version. I know he used to talk Derek’s ear off about it when we were kids, but we never took it seriously. I mean, he for real was convinced that his wife was his mate from the first time they met. Mom said it was just him being overly romantic and we laughed it off, but… He believes it. Or at least he did.”

“What does that even mean?” Allison asks.

“It means that Peter is unhinged enough to convince himself that Stiles is his new mate. Or, well, he would if he knew Stiles is biologically female. Who knows what he’d to with the knowledge, though,” Lydia says.

“He’d probably offer not to tip off my old pack in exchange for my body,” Stiles says. “Derek would get huffy, try to fight him off, and Peter would kill Derek by turning the pack against him.”

“He can’t do that,” Allison protests. “No one likes Peter. I hate him; he killed my aunt and I get that she was a killer, okay, but I still loved her.”

Stiles nods. “I know. But all Peter has to do is get Scott to start questioning what I’m even doing here and what I want with Derek – you know, since Scott doesn’t like Derek then no one can like Derek. He’s a bit like that, isn’t he? Scott doesn’t trust me, doesn’t know me. He thinks I have dubious motives and that my morals aren’t straight. He doesn’t like that I hid for months from everyone or that Derek keeps my secrets. He’ll do Peter’s dirty work for him and no one will be any wiser.”

“It won’t even matter what Peter’s starting point is,” Lydia says. “He’ll find a hole in the fabric and he’ll tear it all up.”

--

“But, wait,” Allison says later. “Stiles, are you—?”

“What?”

Allison looks away, cheeks pink. “This is so rude,” she mutters under her breath.

“I’m both and neither,” Stiles says, smiling gently. “I’m a boy most of the time, but sometimes I like being a girl, too. It’s just not what I identify as. I’m kind of fluid in that aspect, I guess. But male pronouns, okay? That’s— I only do male pronouns.”

“Speaking of,” Lydia says, shark-grin firmly in place. “You promised me make-up privileges and a cute pixie chick make-over. I stocked up on everything gold for you, Stiles.”

“Gold?” Cora asks, frowning a little.

“Yes, gold,” Lydia says. “He has the perfect coloring for it. Do you want to do his hair, Allison? Now that it’s finally long enough to do something with it.”

Allison hesitates for maybe a second, then she shrugs.

“Cora?” Lydia asks.

“I’m good,” Cora says. “Make-up was never my thing.”

--

Later, Stiles is wearing a beautiful, feather soft dress that Lydia found for him via one of her fashion-dealers. He has golden make-up on that’s framed by earthy, neutral touches and a thin faux-gold chain around his neck with a small charm on it, but that’s it in terms of jewelry. Cora deigned to help by choosing a perfume from Lydia’s slowly expanding assortment of subtle scents.

There are golden flecks of glitter clinging to his eyelashes and peppermint flavored gloss on his lips. His sneakers match his dress, both of them shimmering gold – Lydia had a theme in mind, okay? – he has black leggings, a belt cinched around his waist and a long-sleeved shirt on under the dress with a wide and loose neckline. He hadn’t been convinced it would fit together until he’d put it all on, but of course it looked gorgeous.

Lydia is a fashion guru. She knows how to work clothes, that’s for sure; Stiles never should have doubted her.

The skirt swirls around his thighs as he walks and Stiles feels beautiful, feels like he’s on top of the world. Allison had done his hair, had done something that made it look cute and feminine despite it being so short. Stiles kind of loves it; he’s missed doing this, being a girl and a boy at the same time.

Mom used to help him paint his nails, had kept his closet stocked with as many skirts and dresses as he’d liked, but Stiles has missed this, girls night out. He wants to paint his nails now, but he’ll wait to ask until later, when he has his hands free again.

He’s doing tiny braids in Cora’s hair, keeping most of it free as they bond over Tenel Ka, reveling in a childhood spent reading Young Jedi Knights books. Allison is trying on clothes in Lydia’s bathroom, the door wide open so they can talk to each other while Lydia does her make-up.

Stiles didn’t know they were going out, but he supposes he shouldn’t be surprised: Lydia is a mastermind like no other. If she wants to make something happen, she will personally make sure that it does.

“Do you wear eye-liner?” Stiles asks Cora.

Cora raises an eyebrow. Stiles just grins. “Right, stupid question.”

“Can you walk in heels?”

“I don’t as a rule, but yeah.” He flashes a grin at Cora. “You never know when you might need to beat a hasty retreat.”

“Stiles,” Lydia says, using a stippling brush to apply foundation. “What did you mean when you called Derek a crap alpha?”

Cora snorts, is the one who answers. “The Derek I grew up with never had an ambitious bone in his body. Out of all the kids, he was pretty much the only one who never tried to boss anyone around. He and Peter used to be close, but they had nothing on Derek and Laura. I was so jealous on how close they were, but I guess they just got along easier.”

“Fascinating,” Lydia says. “Not the answer to my question.”

Cora rolls her eyes. “He’s a crap alpha because he doesn’t want to lead. He’s the kind of person who’s perfectly content to fall back and let someone else take charge. He’s the ideal beta, for Christ’s sake. Sure, he’s good at taking care at people and at being the best fucking pillar of support you’ve ever seen, but he’s the happiest when he can hide away in a corner with a book for half the day. Alphas can’t really do that.” Cora smirks. Stiles knows what she’s about to say before she does it, but he doesn’t do anything to stop her. He thinks he could, but… There’s no reason to, is there?

“Besides, I don’t think Peter was that far off with his comment about Stiles taking up the reins as alpha. Not if the way Derek’s been submitting to him is any indication.”

Stiles studiously keeps on braiding Cora’s hair and ignores that Lydia turned around on her make-up chair to stare at him, ignores that Allison stepped out of the bathroom in her underwear to do the same.

“Derek wants a pack,” Stiles says. “He doesn’t want to lead. I want a pack. I can’t follow. At this point, it wouldn’t take much to make it official.”

“You flash those eyes of yours, baby,” Cora taunts, lazy smirk curling her lips. “Come on, let’s see them.”

Stiles just shakes his head.

“Stiles, what color are your eyes?” Allison asks.

“I don’t— I haven’t since Mom—”

“Hey,” Cora says. “You honestly think she wouldn’t want you to be all you can be? I haven’t— I have to believe Mom would’ve been proud of me or I’ll go insane.”

Stiles doesn’t say anything, just nods to show he knows what she’s talking about, that he agrees, even if he doesn’t know if he can—

If he can do what they’re asking.

“Laura’s weren’t blue or yellow,” Cora says. “She always had eyes that were closer to alpha than beta. Stiles?”

“I know what I told you before, but I haven’t shifted them since Mom died. I’m an omega, I don’t know— I don’t want to know if I lost them, okay? I can’t—”

Cora slaps him over the back of the head hard enough to hurt for real which is pretty much her way of saying she means business. “Are you being stupid on purpose? Your eyes change color for two reasons and this isn’t one of them, okay?”

“It’s a legitimate fear if that’s how I feel,” Stiles snaps.

“Then you’re stupid,” Cora informs him. “Now shift your eyes.”

Stiles looks away to glare at the wall, hands clenched to fists in his lap. The wolf is always there with him, under the surface, the shift never more than a deep breath away. It’s easy to coax it out, to let it slide down over his eyes. He hesitates, then just lets it happen, lets it run down his spine like water droplets tickling along his skin and he shivers, feels goosebumbs erupt on his arms, down his neck.

He’s been afraid for so long – of his old pack, of losing his dad, of being found and dragged back. He’s been afraid of losing the last connection he has to his mother. He’s always afraid these days and, yeah, it’s been getting better and better. There were times in the beginning where he was so terrified he didn’t sleep until he literally passed out from exhaustion.

Since coming to Beacon Hills, since finding his dad, meeting Derek, meeting Derek’s pack and making friends among his betas… Sure, he’s settled a little, has grown comfortable and lazy.

He’s become complacent, but right here, right now, he’s not sure if that’s a bad thing.

“Stiles,” Cora says.

“Yeah. I’m, yeah. I’m good.”

The world shifts when you’re looking at it with the eyes of a wolf. He can see the heat the girls give off, can see their hearts beating without even needing to turn around. Cora’s grip is firm on his arm, coaxing him to look at them.

“Oh,” Allison says.

“Well, that just says it all, doesn’t it?” Lydia rolls her eyes.

Cora grins, lets her own eyes shift and Stiles is almost overtaken by the urge to have her submit to him, to have her bare her throat so Stiles can claim her into his pack.

“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Cora asks.

“You have no idea,” Stiles says, eyes lingering on her neck.

“Derek will kill you if you do that.”

“No, he won’t.”

“Fine, he won’t.” Cora rolls her eyes. “Because my brother is a giant pushover.”

Stiles just hums, then he says, “That’s not a no.”

“Why would it be? You care about my idiot brother for some reason that’s above me. Being an alpha, the leader of a pack? He doesn’t want that. You’re perfect, Stiles, because if he had you, if you were pack? He could still have everything he has right now and he’d be happy.”

“Beacon Hills can’t take two packs,” Stiles says. “Why do you think Derek and I’ve been waiting to do anything about it? And no, it’s not because we’re cowards or being ‘pushovers.’ The time was never right and—”

“What?”

“I was scared. Am. I’ve been scared for so long I don’t even know what I’m afraid of anymore.”

“Excuse me,” Lydia snaps. “This is the representative from the human delegation speaking. What would you let Stiles do, Cora?”

“Bite me,” Cora says deadpan, then winks. “Literally.”

“Which would make Stiles your alpha and put two packs in Beacon Hills. Stiles,” Lydia says. “You can put your eyes away.”

“I don’t want to,” Stiles sniffs. The he grins, wide and sunny, and lets his canines sharpen just enough to make him look like a vampire. “The partial shift is super awesome—”

“Not the time, Stiles,” Lydia snaps. “How long have you and Derek been planning a leadership change?”
                                             
Stiles shrugs. “It’s not that we’ve been planning as such, it’s just… I want a pack, you know? And I want to be with Derek and he wants me to be pack, too. We want to be packmates. You have no idea how much it hurts knowing that I could have that again, that it could be mine, but that I can’t because, because the time isn’t right. Because I can’t be selfish when there are kanimas and hunters and alphas— We just want to be pack, Lydia.”

“Okay.” Lydia nods. “I assume you made lists.”

“Oh, I made epic lists. I have pros and cons, I have speeches and campaigns.”

“I knew you were my favorite for a reason.”

Stiles grins, then says, “When Cora stayed at my house over Christmas I wanted to jump in on all the wolfy snuggle times so bad, but I’d never done the shift with Cora and— Wolves fight out their hierarchy. In theory, all the other betas would have to do is submit to me, but humans are more complicated, you know?”

Cora smirks. “I want to see you take Derek’s ass down. He always beats me.”

“Could you do it right now? Shift?” Lydia asks.

“I could but I’d have to get naked first.” Stiles touches his cheek. “It’d mess with my make-up. Tomorrow?”

Lydia waves him off. “What would change?”

“Nothing?” Stiles shrugs. “I mean, you guys already have a pretty neat system. Derek would probably be the biggest change, what with not being on top of the food chain anymore. Who knows, he might become mellow. Less uptight, though tight is a good look on him— Ow, sorry, Cora.” Stiles knows he looks shifty, like he’s holding something back. The others know, too, because Lydia makes a gesture and Cora goes with it, slapping Stiles over the head. Again.

“I made him negotiate a treaty with the Argents,” Stiles mumbles. “I wrote it down for him, told him what to agree to and what demands to make. I’ve been kind of taking up the slack for a while now. Derek likes it, you know? We talk. I wasn’t ever someone he had to train or someone he was in a position of authority over.”

“Oh, Stiles,” Lydia says. “Next pack meeting, there will be talks of impending leadership changes.”

“But—”

“No buts,” she sing-songs. “You will tell them everything you told us and then you will accept Derek as your first beta, okay?”

“He probably won’t be a beta, but, yeah. But what about—”

“Leave that to me,” she says.

“So you get Jackson, I know that,” Stiles snaps, throwing his hands up. “He gets Danny, Danny gets maybe Isaac—”

“I love it that you plan so well,” Lydia says. “Leave it to me and Allison, okay?”

“Allison gets Scott,” Stiles mutters. “Scott gets Isaac, Isaac—”

Lydia throws a shoe at him.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “For real, though. It’s going to be hard and it’ll take time. Accepting a new alpha into an already established pack isn’t a cakewalk.”

“Why?” Allison asks, frowning. “Cora seems all right with it.”

“She was born rocking this lifestyle. The others were bitten and they don’t have the same connection to their wolf sides. Does that make sense? Am I making—”

“Yes, Stiles,” Lydia says. “You’re making perfect sense. Now leave it to me and Allison.”

Stiles sighs. “You’d have made the best alpha,” he says. “You would all make a really fucking powerful and strong pack, okay?”

“Of course,” Cora says. “Put your eyes away.”

Stiles nods, blinks back his human vision. “What— What color were they?”

Cora smirks. “Look in the mirror, dumbass.”

--

Hours later Lydia declares, “We should go out. We look too fabulous to waste away inside.”

So they go out. There’s a theme night at The Jungle and by the time they get there and make their way inside, the rest of their gang – the pack – is already waiting for them by the bar.

Stiles doesn’t care that Jackson rolls his eyes or that Scott does a double take and stares. He doesn’t give a damn that Danny grins at him or that Isaac gets his adorable shy look on. Stiles cares that Derek has his back to him, that he can walk over and slide an arm around Derek’s waist, that he can lean in and press a soft kiss against Derek’s stubbly cheek and scrunch his nose up as it tickles against him.

“Hey, Derek.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, then he shifts around, slips an arm around Stiles in turn and kind of freezes.

Stiles grins. “Hi,” he says.

Derek’s eyes sweep over him, lingers on his eyes, his hands. Derek has this look on his face like— Like he can’t believe Stiles is his, that he got this lucky.

Derek kisses him, then says, “I like you better without lip-gloss.”

Stiles just rolls his eyes because he doesn’t like the chemical taste of it, either, but he loves the way his lips look shiny and full when he puts it on. “Come dance with me,” he says. “I’ll let you lead.”

“Really?” Derek asks.

“I’m a terrible dancer,” Stiles says. “I step on toes, I kick shins.”

“I don’t think I want to dance with you,” Derek says, smoothing his hands down Stiles’ sides. They rest on his hips, feel impossibly hot and heavy. Derek’s eyes soften. “You look amazing, Stiles,” he says. “I didn’t know—”

“I thought I mentioned the lace panties?”

Derek closes his eyes, looks away and takes a careful, measured breath. “No,” he eventually says. “You didn’t mention the lace panties.”

“Oh.” Stiles’ grin is impish, sly and teasing. “In that case, they’re black, feel silky smooth—”

“We can hear you, you know,” Scott cries, an embarrassed flush clinging to him. “I don’t want to know about, about—”

“My black lace panties? Allison has a really cute pair—”

“Why have you seen my girlfriend’s underwear?” Scott asks.

Stiles just grins. “Girl’s night out,” he says. “I curled her hair.”

“Actually,” Isaac cuts in. “Can we go back to the panties? The ones I have chafe.”

“Oh my god!” Scott exclaims, an expression of the deepest betrayal on his face. Stiles just laughs, then he hooks his fingers through Derek’s belt loops and drags him off to the dance floor. There are people all around them, jumping to the beat, and Stiles slides his arms around Derek’s neck and pulls him in close.

In all their various escapades in the realm of dating, they’ve never been to a club before, never danced like this, bodies pressed close to each other.

Stiles… He likes it, okay? He likes that he can nose under Derek’s ear, that he can steal kisses whenever he wants and that Derek can do that, too, that he can be near and drown in the comfortable warmth of Derek’s body, his scent and his emotions.

“Lydia has a plan for the next pack meeting,” Stiles murmurs in Derek’s ear.

“Yeah?”

“I’ll—”

“Stiles?”

“I’ll be there. It’s— Lydia thinks it’s long over-due and your sister, Derek, I want her in my pack so bad.”

“Oh.” Derek squeezes Stiles close, grip almost bruising. “I thought— You weren’t ready.”

“I managed the full moon, didn’t I?”

“Yeah. Yeah, you did.”

“I shifted my eyes.”

Derek makes a humming noise, lips pressed close to Stiles’ ear.

“I haven’t done that since Mom,” he says quietly.

“After— After. I shut everything down for months. I couldn’t—”

“I know. Come on, Derek, let’s be young and stupid for a night.”

“How old are we?” Derek asks with a smile, the question familiar and easy.

Stiles grins and pretends to think about it. “How about our real ages?”

Derek hums. He rubs circles with his thumbs over Stiles’ hips. “What’s yours?” he asks.

“I got pushed up a grade,” Stiles says, then kisses Derek until they forget they were talking in the first place.

There’s a lot of dancing, a lot of wandering hands in maybe-new areas. Stiles sneaks in kisses every moment he can, lets Lydia and the girls sweep off with him and lets Derek steal him back again.

--

The next day, he wakes up in a tangle of Lydia’s bed sheets moments before she pushes him off the bed.

“Shift.”

“Ow, what the hell, Lydia?”

“Shift,” Lydia says again, resting her head on a raised hand.

Stiles groans, but then he pulls his underwear off and changes into his wolf and jumps straight back up on the bed before Lydia can say or do anything.

--

“Why do you even call yourself a wolf?” Lydia asks later.

“Habit.” Stiles shrugs. “Maybe Mom thought it was safer somehow?”

“Reasonable,” Lydia says. She starts tugging on the comforter, so Stiles holds on to it. It’s the only thing keeping him from being completely naked in front of her and, while he doesn’t exactly care about nudity, it’s still something private. “Please?” Lydia says.

“It looks like a dick,” Stiles says. “My labia looks likes balls. I’m a grower, a natural brunet and—”

“Ugh, fine,” Lydia says, rolling her eyes and gets off the bed.

--

The next day in school, Isaac sits with him during lunch. They haven’t really sat together before, mostly because they aren’t in the same year and ostensibly they don’t even know each other. But Isaac joins him that day, doesn’t talk much, but he’s there.

Ten minutes before the first bell rings, Isaac says, “Cora said…”

“What?”

Isaac looks up, wariness and faked arrogance in his eyes. “She said you’d make a sweet alpha.”

Heart pounding, Stiles raises an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

“She said Derek was a tool, but totally fine with it?”

“Oh. I mean, yeah. It’s— Derek and I talk a lot.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s not— I wasn’t someone he had to teach how to be a werewolf,” Stiles says. “We became friends.”

Isaac raises an eyebrow. “And at what point did you become friends who make out in public on a dance floor in a gay club?”

Stiles blinks, then frowns. “He’s my boyfriend, dude.”

“Oh.”

“I thought you knew?”

Isaac shrugs. “I mean, I knew you were close, I just— I hate assuming and I didn’t want to ask.”

Stiles smirks. “You mean you didn’t want to ask Derek.”

“Because Derek never gives a straight answer when I ask about you.”

“That wasn’t funny, Lahey.”

“I’m hilarious.” Isaac shifts a little, then says, “That time I got hurt and you saved me…”

“What about it?”

“You were pissed off that he used his alpha voice on you.”

“You can bet I was,” Stiles grumbles. “There are aspects of werewolves that come closer to wolves than humans. It doesn’t mean the human part of us isn’t there, it’s just that sometimes we dish things out when we’re shifted.”

Isaac nods. “Like?”

“Like a pecking order.”

“Alpha beats beta?”

Stiles looks a little smug. “Stiles beats Derek. Every single time.”

The bell rings before they can talk more, though, and they have to rush off to class.

--

Cora takes to seeking him out between classes. She rubs against him, smirking, and Stiles just knows it’s a scent thing. If her plan is to rile up Derek or to get the other betas to start using their noses, he doesn’t know. He finds he doesn’t mind, though. He isn’t usually one for scent marking in that sense, but maybe the Hales were in to it, back in the day.

Maybe it’s different when the pack you used to belong to was actually your entire family. Stiles remembers loving the way his mom smelled when he was a kid, but he also remembers all the other scents and smells wafting around, the ones that belonged to the betas and alphas Mom was always telling him to stay away from. He hadn’t liked any of those scents.

--

The next time they meet, Derek takes one look at Stiles and rolls his eyes.

“What?”

“I hate my sister,” Derek says and Stiles laughs.

“You love her; don’t pretend you don’t.”

“You reek of her.”

Stiles shrugs. “So?”

“So,” Derek drawls, “How am I supposed to kiss you if you smell like my sister?”

Stiles blinks, then he starts taking his clothes off. “Hold that thought, man, I’m gonna grab a shower.” Maybe he forgets that he’s at Derek place and that he can’t walk around naked there the same way he can when he’s at home, because he passes Isaac in the living room who turns red and looks away, Cora’s cackling on the stairs and Scott’s just standing there, staring.

“Dude with a dick, passing through,” Stiles says, waving, then disappears up the stairs.

He supposes he should be lucky Peter wasn’t around. He tends not to be, though, except for on full moons and when Derek calls official pack meetings.

When Stiles is showered and freshly scrubbed, he shifts into the wolf because he doesn’t feel like flashing everyone again, then noses the door open with his snout. He can hear four heartbeats, same as before, but there are four new ones now by the entrance. Stiles thinks it’s Lydia, Allison, Danny and Jackson. It doesn’t smell like it does when Peter’s around and Stiles can’t hear his off-beating heart.

Stiles barks quietly.

“He’s not here!” Cora calls back.

It’s really all the information Stiles needs, so he pads for the stairs and jumps over Cora where she’s still sitting on the same steps, then heads for the dresser where Derek keeps his clothes.

“What the fuck is that?” Jackson asks.

“That’s Stiles,” Derek says.

“So, what, he’s an alpha now?”

Derek raises an eyebrow, looks at Stiles. Stiles chuffs.

“Everyone can change into a wolf,” Derek says. “Even betas.”

“You didn’t say that,” Scott accuses.

“You didn’t ask,” Derek starts.

Stiles chuffs again, then shifts to human. “Derek,” he snaps. “Shut up and find me some clothes. Look, most werewolves have the ability to change fully into a wolf, but not everyone. It takes a lot of practice, okay. I don’t think there’s been time until fairly recently for you to start practicing, and before that there was so much going on anyway that you needed to focus completely on surviving. Of course, Derek should still have told you it was possible, but so could Cora.”

“Or you,” Lydia says, eyebrow raised as she— Okay, fine, she’s studying his package.

“Or me. I’m kinda surprised you didn’t say anything. Stop looking at my dick. And Scott, you saw—”

Scott looks away. “Mr. Argent said not to— He said that born werewolves were different.”

Stiles smiles. “Not that different.” Derek throws a pair of underwear at his head and Stiles scrambles to catch the rest of the flying clothes coming his way, then gets dressed as quickly as he can without falling on his head.

“Is he leaving?” Jackson demands. “Lydia said this was a pack thing.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Lydia said?”

Lydia smirks. “I asked Cora,” she says evenly.

Cora grins and waves when Derek turns to glare at her.

“What’s going on?” Scott asks.

Stiles keeps tugging on the sleeves of the Henley he’s wearing, frowning. He’s not sure—

“Stiles is an alpha,” Lydia says.

Stiles starts, then he glares at her. “Geeze, thanks for just taking away my freedom of speech like that, Lydia. Really appreciate it.”

“Well you are, aren’t you?”

“If I had a pack, I would be. I don’t—”

“You could have,” Derek says. “You know you could.”

“I’m not—” Jackson starts, but Lydia silences him with a glare.

“You’ve been planning this all along?” Scott asks. He gesticulates at Derek. “You’ve been sleeping with him to—”

“I actually haven’t been sleeping with Derek,” Stiles snaps. “There’s been no plans, either. You’re bitten, Scott, you don’t have the need for a pack ingrained in you the way me and the Hales do, okay? I didn’t come to Beacon Hills for a pack, I came to find my dad. My mom— She died. I didn’t have any family left but I knew I had a father, so I came to find him.”

“Then I found Stiles,” Derek says. “He’s— I didn’t have to be in charge around him. I don’t— Scott, look me in the eye and tell me I’m a good alpha. That you’d be in my pack even if you had a dozen other choices. Do you honestly think I can’t tell that you don’t like me? That you resent me for killing my uncle? For ‘stealing’ your cure?”

Scott glares at Derek. “I know you, though. I know you better than him. He hid from us for months and you let him!”

“He had a reason, Scott! Not all packs are like this one – there are packs out there that would kill you before they let you leave, that would hunt you down and drag you back, that would force you to join. You know what Peter tried to do to you when he was alpha—”

“How do I know Stiles isn’t the same!?” Scott snaps. “He doesn’t even look like a wolf! What if he’s another kanima, or if—”

“It’s a hyena,” Stiles says. “My wolf is a hyena. Don’t ask me why or how, but that’s my family history. Oh, and don’t ask me what’d happen if I bit someone, because I have no clue.” Stiles frowns. “Like, would—”

“Stiles,” Derek says. “Not the point.”

“Some alphas stop at nothing to force members into their packs. The one I ran from would probably kill you because you’re bitten.”

“Ugh.” Cora groans. “I hate purity maniacs. They’re so full of themselves.”

Stiles flashes a grin at her before he turns back to Scott, frowning a little. “What did Peter try to do?”

Scott scowls. “Derek said it was like an initiation.”

“He tried to make you kill.”

Scott nods.

“You know, the more I hear about him, the less I like him. Scott—”

“How can you be an alpha?” Jackson demands. “You’re an omega, you don’t have a pack—”

“My mom was an alpha. The second I have a pack again, I become an alpha, too.”

“And why would we be okay with that?” Jackson asks. “Huh? You’re just a runaway, a nobody.”

“I think I’d be okay with it,” Isaac says. “I mean, Cora said it was fine? Like, that Derek was cool with it. Right? I don’t— I owe Derek everything, he saved my life. The least I could do is make sure he’s happy, right? He’s— He’s happier with Stiles. I. I can tell, I mean.”

Stiles smiles at Isaac. “You can tell that? That’s awesome. Emotions are a bitch to sort out and I’m kind of balls at it. Derek, you should be more vocal with your praise and encouragements.”

“Great, that’s just great,” Jackson snaps.

“It’s not a choice if there’s no alternative,” Scott says.

“It’s always a choice,” Derek says. “Look, no one is forcing anyone to do anything here. Stiles and I— We’ve been discussing what it would mean to bring him into the pack. There was never time to do anything official about it, but there is now and—”

“But you’re an alpha, too!” Scott cries. “Why—”

“Do you know how wolves sort out leadership changes in the wild?” Cora asks.

Scott frowns. “They fight it out. So what?”

“So, Stiles takes Derek down every time. One day, I’m gonna see it happen with my own eyes, but— Like, look at their body language. Derek’s a perfect beta which is why he’s such a crap alpha, and for all that Stiles is spastic and built like a grasshopper, he’d still make a good alpha.”

“So why isn’t Peter here?”

Stiles raises his eyebrows. “Because we don’t like him and trust him even less? He’s up to something. I bet—” Scott looks away, clenching his fists. “Oh. He’s been talking to you?”

“He won’t stop,” Scott says. “Like, he’s dating my mom and I can’t make him stop without hurting her.”

“She doesn’t know?”

“I can’t tell her. I mean, she knows about werewolves, but— What if she thinks I’m just being a whiny teenager about his mom dating? I was really weird about it last time, and…” Scott trails off, shaking his head.

Stiles nods. “I could ask Dad to tell her. Show her some files. But… Why didn’t you say anything before?”

“Because he never does,” Derek starts, but Stiles turns and makes a shushing motion at him.

“Scott?” Stiles prompts. “A pack is meant to support you. It means you don’t have to be alone, that you can always have someone to lean on.”

“I never wanted to be a werewolf. The others, they had a choice, but I never wanted this. I just want to be normal.”

“You’re a werewolf,” Stiles says, not unkindly. “You can’t have normal. But you know what? You can rock the paranormal shit out of this world.”

--

“So, like, what would happen?” It’s Jackson who asks. It’s hours later, after Stiles cooked something for them all because werewolves who haven’t eaten in a while grow really cranky. “If Stilinski went on a biting spree.”

“I would claim Derek first, then Cora, then Isaac if he’s up to it.”

“I’m offended,” Lydia snaps. “I thought we had something special.”

Stiles grins at her. “We do; humans are way more fluid. Me and Derek can have you at the same time.”

Lydia raises her eyebrow. “Oh, can you, now? I thought you needed my consent for that.”

Stiles feels his face heat up, because that wasn’t how— “You gave your consent,” he says. “Inviting everyone here, making the pack work together, united— Betas do that, yeah, but so do alphas. You’d be a great addition to any pack.”

Lydia sits back, a pleased smile on her face. There’s an air of smugness, of satisfaction and pride coming from her.

“But… What happens when you bite an alpha?”

“We don’t know,” Derek says.

“Don’t you care?” Scott asks. “You’ve been power-hungry since the get go—”

Derek grits his teeth. “I wasn’t— He killed my sister, Scott, my alpha. She was more to me than I can explain and Peter killed her. I couldn’t have stopped myself from taking revenge even if I’d wanted to. It wasn’t about power, I— I wanted to make him stop.

“Stiles… Stiles, he’s smart. He’s clever, he knows how to— He made me hammer out an official treaty with the Argents. He’s good at talking, at being in charge. He cares. He’s not overbearing or power-hungry, he lets me be myself, he doesn’t— When I’m tired, he takes care of me. There are days when I can’t talk and he just lets me be. He’s good at taking care of people. Sometimes… Sometimes I wish he’d moved to Beacon Hills before I came back. Sometimes I think that—”

“Derek?”

Derek shakes his head. “I— It’s nothing.”

“It’s legitmate if that’s how you feel,” Stiles says.

“Sometimes I think that everything would’ve been better. Easier. Maybe you would’ve been happier if I’d told you about him sooner. I never told you— I should have told you all to go to Stiles sooner.”

Stiles reaches out, twines his and Derek’s fingers together. “Maybe,” he says. “But I wasn’t ready. I was too scared, too busy looking over my shoulder everywhere I went. I wouldn’t have been any use to them before—”

“But you were,” Derek insist. “You helped me, held me together.”

Isaac clears his throat. “Uh, sorry. It’s just… Should we go?”

Stiles ducks his head, grins. “No. You should stay. There’s—”

“What? There’s more?” Jackson rolls his eyes. “You know, this wasn’t why I signed up to be a werewolf.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Jackson, this is simple: you can’t tell Peter about me. I’m not joking, tell him that I’m an alpha or a hyena, and I’ll—”

“What? Throw us into trees?”

“No, Jackson. I’ll key your car.” Stiles smiles sweetly at him, then turns to Derek. “Really? You throw them into trees?”

Derek grumbles, but he doesn’t deny it. Maybe he ducks his head a little, but mostly he refuses to look at Stiles at all.

Isaac raises a hand. “I know I said I was in, but you don’t throw people into immovable objects?”

“No,” Stile says slowly, “I don’t. Games, Derek, you play games with young werewolves. Tree throwing, really?”

“I was under pressure,” Derek mumbles.

“Hmm,” Stiles says. “Well, anyway, there won’t be any tree throwing on my watch. Maybe, like, actual tree throwing like that pole-thing they do in Scotland or wherever and, you know, cookie baking—”

“Okay, I’m in for real,” Isaac declares and stands up. “Cookies, no tree slamming, what’s to refuse?” He comes over to sit with Derek and Stiles, worming his skinny butt into the non-existent space between them.

“This is uncomfortable,” Derek says.

“Yeah, I actually thought it’d feel more natural,” Isaac says. “Cora mentioned wolf piles.”

“We aren’t wolves,” Stiles says.

“I’m getting that. I think I’m stuck.”

--

“Can anyone fight it out?” Jackson asks the next day in school.

Stiles blinks, then shrugs. “Yeah, sure. Why?”

Jackson looks away. “I want to fight it out.”

“Okay. I’ll let you know.”

“You can’t do it now?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Beacon Hills isn’t big enough for two packs.”

Jackson turns his head to glare at Stiles. “So what you’re carefully not saying is that it’s everyone or nothing happens.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, that’s what I’m not saying.”

“Why would you be okay with that?”

“Honestly, Jackson, what’s the alternative here?”

--

Two days later, Allison drags Scott over to Stiles’ place after school.

“Uh,” Stiles says.

Allison smiles tightly. “Scott has something to say,” she says. “Don’t you, Scott?”

Scott scowls. He crosses his arms and looks away.

“Scott?” Allison prompts. “Tell Stiles what you told me.”

“I, uh, I don’t understand why you don’t kill Astrid?”

Stiles blinks, because that’s one random statement— but then he squawks in outrage. “How can you kill Astrid?! She unlocks some of the coolest quest lines and, like, you get armors and kickass followers and a horse! You get a horse, Scott!”

“But you can buy horses and you don’t have to kill anyone!”

“No, no,” Stiles says. “That’s wrong. You can’t— Oh my god, I bet you never joined the thieves guild. I bet you and Mjoll the Lioness were tight as virginal—”

“How could you steal from innocent people?” Scott hisses. “Take their livelihood from them and leave them to die from poverty?”

“Sneaking, Scott, sneaking! It’s how you kill people without being a target and how you can take stuff right under peoples noses!”

“If you’re honest then you don’t have to sneak and steal!”

“Stormcloak or Imperial?”

Scott narrows his eyes. “Stormcloak.”

“Oh my god, I can’t talk to you, you Talos worshipper!”

Aldmeri bootlicker!”

--

Stiles and Scott broker a truce over Mass Effect 3 Co-op play.

The less said about Skyrim, the better. Stiles feels fairly certain Allison has no idea what she stirred up with that seemingly innocuous comment and desire to make Stiles and Scott talk, but he thinks she should be very, very happy about the fact that Skyrim isn’t Co-op.

Yet.

That said, though, Stiles gets along with Scott far easier and better when they can have a kickass video game between them.

--

That weekend, Derek comes over with a bag of snacks and a couple of cans of soda. It’s not that they have standing dates on Sunday mornings, but they usually hang out at Stiles’. It’s familiar and comfortable, something they’ve done hundreds of times before and sex has never been on the day’s agenda.

X-Files is on the agenda, and they’re marathoning season one. Stiles is kind of surprised by how much he likes it, how a show that’s almost two decades old by now that’s considered cult by so many managed to get renewed even though it doesn’t have much in ways of a season wide plot – the kind of plot most people clamor for these days. The show has old computers, ill-fitting suits and is kind of before the cell phone era. Stiles clamps down on Derek’s arm every time to point and grin. Derek just kind of rolls his eyes and smiles.

Even in the nineties, Mark Sheppard played creepy, bad characters. Stiles definitely likes that.

They start to kiss, though, somewhere halfway through the season, chaste little pecks that grow more heated the longer it goes on and no one breaks it off. Derek likes to nip and bite at Stiles lips, he likes it when Stiles takes charge and he likes to hold Stiles, to kiss him until he’s dizzy with it.

Stiles thinks maybe he loses his shirt first, but Derek’s isn’t far behind. When they’re actually naked together, Stiles—

He reaches for Derek, cups Derek’s head and buries his fingers in Derek’s thick hair, and he kisses him until the world makes sense again, like being naked with someone in a sexual sense isn’t world changing and terrifying. Derek runs his hands up and down Stiles’ sides, kisses him back before he pulls away. “You’re not hard,” he says, a worried frown between his eyebrows. “You never keep what you feel to yourself.”

Stiles laughs and it’s only a little hysteric. “No, I don’t, do I?”

“No,” Derek agrees. “Tell me?”

Stiles bites his lip, then leans over Derek, until his mouth is by Derek’s ear and says, “I can’t be hard if I want you inside,” he says.

“Inside?”

“Just inside,” Stiles murmurs. “If I’m hard, I can be inside you if you want, but—”

“Oh,” Derek says. “How— Show me?”

Stiles sits back, Derek’s hands in his and— It’s scary, okay? Putting someone else’s hands on basically the most private part of yourself, but… It’s Derek, okay? And it’s Stiles’ choice. Derek is pretty much always Stiles’ choice.

“Soft,” Derek murmurs.

“Yeah.”

“You, you need to be—” Stiles breath hitches, heart pounding up a storm as he watches Derek’s fingers touch him down there, as they fondle and push and pull to go inside. “Oh my god.”

“What?” Derek breathes.

“Careful. You need to be careful.”

“Yeah, okay,” Derek says, and Stiles just stares.

Derek is naked under him, flushed, his hair is mussed and his eyes are wide and dark. Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone as gorgeous before. He’s got his hands on Stiles’ dick, fingers pressing inside his dick and Stiles doesn’t know where to go, what to do, because that? That feels so fucking amazing you don’t even know and he tells Derek that, “Oh my god, that feels fucking amazing.”

“You’ve never done this before?”

“Dude, yes, of course I have but how is that even comparable to this? Nothing feels the same— oh fuck.”

Derek pulls his hands back, but he licks his lips and he’s looking right at Stiles. “Too much?”

“It’s supposed to go inside,” Stiles says, out of breath. “I’ve done it with, like, my fingers and a vibrator, but we’re gonna need a fuckton of lube and so many condoms you don’t even know if you’re gonna stick your dick up there.”

“Stiles,” Derek groans. “Don’t talk to me about you getting yourself off.”

Stiles grins. “Why? You like?”

“I like too much,” Derek grumbles, but then he kisses Stiles again. It’s all right, he thinks, if they’re both too excited to do everything or even get everything right. They have time; plenty of time.

“You should probably be on top, though,” Stiles says. “If we’re doing that.”

“I don’t have condoms,” Derek murmurs into Stiles’ neck and Stiles laughs. They are so unprepared for this sexy-time business shit.

Instead, Stiles reaches down, takes Derek’s cock in his hands and squeezes a little, feels how hot and smooth it is, how heavy it is in his hand, how different from his own. Derek’s hips bucks and he groans, so Stiles starts to move his hand.

Derek clutches at him when he comes, groans and curses and says his name like he’s— like Stiles is the best thing Derek’s ever heard of in his life. After, Derek is loose-limbed and pliant, and he pulls Stiles close, kisses him and rolls them until Derek’s on top.

“You didn’t come,” Derek says.

“Doesn’t mean I don’t feel great,” Stiles replies, smiling as he reaches up to kiss Derek. He pulls back, runs his fingers over Derek’s face, traces his eyebrows and down along the bridge of his nose. “I feel kinda awesome, Derek.”

Derek smiles at that, raises himself up on his arms a little. “It’s basically a clitoris?” he asks.

“Yeah, why?”

Derek doesn’t say anything. What he does do is put his mouth on Stiles’ dick, laps at his clit, sucks and uses his fingers to hold him in place and push his tongue inside and—

Stiles comes so hard he thinks he might have blacked out for, like, a second. But just a second, and when he’s with it again, Derek’s stretched out along his side, tucked in tight, nosing at Stiles’ cheek.

“Good?” Derek asks.

“It was all right,” Stiles says airily. He thinks maybe his failure to catch his breath and his racing pulse somewhat spoils his ability to act nonchalant, though.

Well, that and the grin stretched over his face.

--

Maybe Stiles has his head up in the clouds for a couple of days after that, but Derek does, too, so it’s okay. It feels really, really okay. Even when Dad, in his completely obvious and embarrassing way, puts a box of condoms on Stiles’ bed for him to find, it doesn’t bring Stiles’ mood down even a notch.

Maybe it even makes him laugh, makes him snap a photo of it and send to Derek with a “compliments of Dad” text attached to it.

Derek sends a picture of Gandalf’s “You shall not pass” pose back.

Stiles isn’t sure what to make of that.

--

“Can we talk?” Stiles asks.

Dad looks up. He has his reading glasses on and he’s going through reports. “About what?”

“Do you have a file on Peter Hale?”

Dad grimaces. “Stiles—”

“Scott says he’s dating Ms. McCall,” Stiles blurts. “I thought you—”

“I helped her through a difficult time when she was divorcing Scott’s father,” Dad says, tone carefully even. “I think we both know a thing or two about timing not being right.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, it’s. Yeah.”

“Son?”

“I think it’s almost right now, Dad.”

Dad smiles and reaches out to ruffle Stiles’ hair. “That’s good.”

Stiles nods, puts his hands on the table and starts to fiddle with a pen. “Do you like Ms. McCall?”

Dad sighs. He closes the file in front of him and pulls his glasses off. “I think I could. She’s a good woman, doesn’t take crap from anyone.”

Stiles nods. Dad reaches out and places a hand over Stiles’ before he can dissemble the pen entirely. He pulls the pen away, then takes hold of Stiles’ hands, runs his thumbs over the bright pink nails. “I know there are some things we never talk about, Stiles,” Dad says. “I get that it’s partly my fault and I want you to know that you can, okay? I don’t always know if it’s okay for me to ask or if it’s something you want to share with your dad, but I’m always here if you need to tell me something.”

“I’m a girl, too,” Stiles blurts.

“I know,” Dad says.

Stiles nods, cheeks hot. “Good. I— It’s not that I don’t like being a guy most of the time, it’s just…”

“What?”

“Mom just let me be, you know? It wasn’t weird with her if I blew all my money on make-up one month and action figures the next, I just was her kid, you know? She made me feel so free sometimes.”

“Have I been—”

“No, no,” Stiles says, quick as a flash. “You’re great, it’s not— But I never had to tell people. Everyone back there, they already knew about, about freaky Stiles. Here? I have to tell everyone, and when we went out to the Jungle a while back—”

“Stiles? Did anything happen?”

Stiles grins, shakes his head. “Lydia got me this gorgeous dress. Derek didn’t care. I don’t really know about the other guys because they don’t know about me being, you know, but Derek… He didn’t care, Dad. It was great. I forgot I hadn’t told him about that because he knows way more about me than anyone else but I’d never told him…” Stiles trails off and shrugs.

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

Stiles nods, then he says, “Could you—”

“Stiles?”

“Could you talk to Ms. McCall? About Peter? Scott’s worried and he’s— He doesn’t know what to say. I think it’d be better if it came from you.”

“You know there was never any evidence against him.”

“That’s because he’s a werewolf, Dad. She knows about werewolves. Scott’s afraid of what will happen if he says something, not if you talk to her. If you want, have Argent give her some wolfsbane or something. Just make sure she keeps it sealed in something airtight.”

--

Stiles isn’t sure at what point Peter’s awareness of him moves from “something curious” to “potential threat,” but it does. He knows that Ms. McCall broke off their thing, whatever it was, that Scott stopped listening and started coming up with excuses whenever Peter sought him out. He knows that Derek’s been inviting Peter less and less, that he’s been short and withdrawn when they do meet.

Stiles can’t pin point it, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what’s happening.

School and work takes up a lot of time and on top of that he’s hanging out with Derek’s betas in a way he hasn’t before. He exchanges usernames with Scott and they play videogames over their Xboxes, Isaac sits with him at lunch, Jackson bumps into him occasionally in the hallways – stuff like that.

There’s also college: as in, Stiles doesn’t know what to do.

He might feel safer, more secure in himself, but he still doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t want to risk someone recognizing him or catching his scent. At the same time, he likes school, he likes reading and learning. Back when he lived with Mom… It wouldn’t have been up to him to choose what to do.

There was never a choice for people like him, only what their captors allowed them. It was absolute bullshit and Stiles hated it.

Now, though, now he just doesn’t know what to do. There’s a local college in town, a state university not that far away. He has options; he knows he has options. It’s just a matter of figuring out what he wants.

Stiles sits down with Dad again. It’s almost like when they picked out his high school classes all over again, except this time they’re going over college curriculums.

“You have good grades,” Dad says.

Stiles shrugs. He’s never been that obsessed with his GPA, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware that he has a good one.

“You could get in at some great schools,” Dad continues.

“I don’t— I’m not leaving, Dad.”

Dad looks at him. “Why?”

“I don’t want to,” Stiles says. “It feels like I just got here and I don’t want to leave. I like it here. I mean, yeah, I’m still afraid that someone’s gonna grab me away from here, but… That’s not the only reason why I don’t want to leave. My life here, it’s good.”

“You’re still young, Stiles.”

“So? I know what I want and I know how I feel. If I go to college, I want to do it here or at State.”

Dad nods. “Okay,” he says. “What do you want to study?”

Stiles bits his lip, then says, “Justice systems, gender studies, legal stuff.”

Dad doesn’t look surprised, exactly, but he looks a little proud, maybe. A little like Stiles just said something he’d been expecting for a while. “Do you have a major in mind?”

“Not yet,” Stiles says. “I might do a double.”

Dad nods. “Have you looked into scholarships?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Who do you think I am, Dad? Of course I looked into scholarships. If I keep my grades up, I should get something.”

--

It isn’t the first time Stiles has been in Derek’s apartment without Derek there, but it’s the first time he’s been there alone with most of Derek’s pack. It’s a little bit weird, but mostly it just feels that way because no one really seems to care.

Isaac’s doing homework, Cora sitting next to him reading on her phone while Scott and Stiles play videogames on their computers. Stiles is a little distracted, but he still manages to give Scott back-up as he dives into a hostage situation.

“Anyone seen Peter lately?” Stiles asks.

Scott’s character on the screen almost dies, but Stiles throws a wave of healing followed by a resurrecting spell his way before it’s too late. “What? No. Not since— Mom was mad that I didn’t tell her who Peter was, but I think she kinda understood why I— why I asked your dad to say something.”

“I don’t like his scent,” Cora says.

“His heart sounds off to me,” Stiles says. “But no one’s seen him? Because usually he creeps around, right, except I haven’t seen him in ages and that makes me twitchy. I hate being twitchy. Makes me tense.”

“Right.” Isaac snorts. “It makes you tense. God forbid you be tense, Stiles. You know what I do when I get twitchy? I grow claws.”

“I thought your control was better than that,” Stiles says, throwing a frown Isaac’s way. “Derek said you were really good at it.”

“Derek likes to oversimplify things sometimes,” Cora says. “Yeah, Isaac’s good at keeping his mind on the full moon, but he spooks out at nothing.”

“I don’t spook out at nothing,” Isaac snaps. “I don’t like it when people sneak up on me.”

“No one likes that,” Stiles says.

“And my anchor isn’t something I like thinking about all the time.”

Stiles nods. “Exactly, which is why you have more than one.”

This time, he isn’t fast enough to keep Scott from dying on the screen. He curses and looks up to glare at Scott, except Scott is already staring at him as if he just told a gaggle of kids that Santa isn’t real. Actually, Isaac’s staring, too, and even Cora looks intrigued.

“What?”

“Dude,” Scott says. “What do you mean more than one anchor?”

Stiles frowns. “You mean you don’t? Like, I have a boatload of shit that keeps me anchored in myself. What kind of crap has Derek been teaching you anyway?”

“I don’t think he knows,” Cora says. “I mean, I don’t remember Mom every saying anything about having more than one thing helping you keep your humanity afloat.”

“Yeah, but I don’t need to change to let my wolf out and play, you know.”

“No wolf-powers during lacrosse,” Scott puts in, frowning a little. “We can’t— The aggression calls out the wolf.”

“Yeah, so bring it out enough that it can watch and see what’s going on. If you just keep it pushed away it’ll feel what you’re feeling, but it won’t know why. Not that the wolf’s a separate being from you in the first place, but whatever. Look, you need to let that other side of yourself be with you all the time so you can get to know each other. If it knows that lacrosse is basically a game, it’ll want to play, too, only it’ll do it without the aggression.” Stiles frowns as he looks the other three over. “Do I need to have a talk with Derek?”

“Okay,” Scott says. “I think I’m good now.”

“What?” Stiles frowns at Scott. “I talk to him or I don’t—”

“I mean, no. How do we do this?”

“Do what?” Isaac asks. “Get Stiles to talk to Derek?”

Scott shakes his head and closes his laptop without exiting the game properly. “This— The pack thing.”

Stiles sits up straight. “Really? You’re— Really?”

“It can’t be worse, right?” Scott shrugs. “Besides, it’s not like we aren’t already doing it.”

“Fucking finally,” Cora says, rolling her eyes. “Where’s Derek?”

“Planting Mrs. Hudson’s begonias,” Stiles says. The wolf feels heavy under his skin, feels anxious and anticipatory, gleeful and smug.

Derek’s pack is a good pack, the betas strong in their own ways. They might not always get along or even work together that well, but Stiles thinks it’s only because they’ve never been given a chance to get along without the constant threat of death and suffering hanging over their heads. It’s gotten better lately, but there’s still a long way to go.

A really long way.

“I still can’t believe Derek’s a gardener,” Scott says.

“Technically, he’s a landscape architect. He doesn’t really weed, he kind of plans the outlines for the gardens and we weren’t talking about Derek’s job, nope,” Stiles says. “You’re sure about this? I’ll fucking hurt you so bad if you’re just playing with me here, Scott. My emotions bruise easier than, than something that bruises really easy, okay, I’ll be crushed, I’ll be devastated—”

Scott reaches out and puts a hand over Stiles’ mouth. “I think— Yeah, I’m sure. You aren’t scary. Dude, you’re kind of just like me. But…” Scott trails off. “Like, do you just bite Derek?”

Stiles shrugs. “I don’t know. I probably wouldn’t need to. It’s more symbolic and subtle than that. At this point I think all I’d really need to do is let him know that it’s all right to relax, you know? That I can be his alpha and that he doesn’t have to do it anymore.”

“Oh,” Scott says. “I still can’t believe that he— He always seemed to want power to me. Like becoming an alpha was the best thing he could do.”

“At the time I’m sure it was. If you’re an alpha, you can build a pack. You can not be alone. And, you know, we don’t actually know what’ll happen.”

--

What happens is that Derek runs and Stiles chases. It’s eerily similar to the first time they shifted and ran together, except this time when Stiles catches up and tackles Derek, when they fight and Stiles wins – this time when Stiles bites down on Derek’s neck, Stiles lets his wolf reach out and howl.

The connection, when he finds it, snaps into place and where Stiles was alone, where that hole his mom left behind has been for so long, an awareness of pack and Derek snaps into place around it.

Now, when Stiles howls into the night, Derek responds and Stiles isn’t alone any more. Cora tackles him when he and Derek are still busy grooming each other and Stiles bites her, too, then Isaac and then he has to catch and fight Jackson.

Scott is easier. He never connected with his wolf the way the others have, still isn’t sure he wants to be a werewolf at all. Scott sits down with Stiles, shows him where Peter’s bite was before it healed.

Stiles bites down there, reopens the old wound. The pack bond with Scott is a lot more tentative, but it’s there and Stiles counts that as a success.

They celebrate by watching old movies into the night, eating crap and drinking soda by the bucketful. They’re sitting on top of each other, everyone clamoring for attention and to make sure they’re always touching.

--

The human members of the pack show up the next day with breakfast. Lydia looks entirely too smug, and Stiles feels that he owes this, finally having a pack, in part to her for making him do something about it.

He isn’t sure how long he and Derek would have kept on as they were, but it would probably have been a lot longer. For instance, Stiles can’t help but think, it would have been long enough for them to have come up with something to do regarding Peter. As it is, Peter is a wild card.

Stiles has no idea if Peter can tell that Derek isn’t the alpha anymore, if Peter can tell that he’s more omega now than when he supposedly was part of Derek’s pack, if he ever was part of Derek’s pack. Stiles doesn’t know; maybe he pretended, maybe he didn’t want to be his nephew’s beta. Maybe Peter never submitted to Derek that way, content to simply glide in and lurk in the shadows.

--

It’s late on a Sunday afternoon when Stiles says his goodbyes to the pack to drive home and check in on his dad. He knows that Dad’s been working the weekend, that he gets off just in time for them to fix dinned together and then conk out in front of the television for a couple of hours. Stiles feels great, feels like he’s on top of the world, and the good mood Stiles had been rocking since yesterday is thrown off kilter when he comes home. Dad— The cruiser isn’t in the driveway, but that doesn’t really mean anything since Dad will walk home on occasion, and Dad—

“Hello, Stiles,” Peter says when Stiles comes home. The house is empty, Peter’s the only heartbeat in the air, and he’s lounging against the stair case, arms crossed casually over his chest. The chairs in the kitchen are all over the place, the fruit bowl Stiles stocked with apples yesterday upended.

“If you hurt my dad, you’re over,” Stiles says, heart beating a mile a minute in his chest from fear, from anger, from panic and terror. “I will kill you. I’ll rip you limb from limb and hand you over to the hunters.”

Peter tuts, shakes his head. “Stiles, I’m disappointed. What you did yesterday, without inviting me? That was rude.”

“It’s exactly what you deserve.”

“You stole my pack,” Peter says sharply, eyes dangerous.

“It wasn’t yours; I joined Derek’s,” Stiles snaps back. “I just happened to be an alpha. Derek was only too happy to hand over the reins. Did you know that? Derek didn’t want to be an alpha. The power he took from you for you murdering his sister – he never wanted it— You killed your own niece! Do you even get how fucked up that is?”

“Regrettable, but necessary,” Peter says.

Stiles glares. “Where’s my dad?”

Peter smirks. “Alive,” he says.

Where—”

“You will do something for me,” Peter interrupts. “In exchange for your father’s location.”

Stiles doesn’t say anything, but he’s pretty sure his eyes must be shooting sparks by how hard he’s glaring. He’s clenching his hands into fists but he can’t keep them from shaking. He’s angry, okay? He’s just terrified, too, because he can’t lose his dad and Peter’s a fucking psychopath—

“I looked into you,” Peter says in this sick conversational tone. “Not too much, but a little. I didn’t care at first, but then you started meddling, became someone Derek trusted and Cora liked. You turned Derek’s betas to you, started plotting against me.”

“Just doing my civic duty,” Stiles says.

Peter shakes his head, smirks. “I looked harder, Stiles. The supernatural community is odd in how silent it can be. It makes the noisy parts stand out so much more. It didn’t help that our resident senior hunter was looking as well. He asked the questions I didn’t have, then all I had to do was follow the ripples.” Peter looks satisfied, looks pleased and it— It makes Stiles feel sick. “You don’t run away from packs who have a policy of not letting anyone go unless, well. Unless they’re dead, Stiles. You’re far too scared for your old pack to be dead.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is you ran from a pack my mother was afraid of. My mother wasn’t afraid of anyone; she instilled fear in others, but things she actually feared? They were rare, Stiles.”

“Good for her,” Stiles says.

“I thought so, too. Why did you run from the Baxter pack?”

“Because they’re assholes.”

“That’s not incentive to run away. That’s incentive to kill someone to become alpha— Except you already were one, weren’t you? Born into it, just like Laura was.” Peer grimaces. “It’s despicable. I would have been much more deserving of the position and the power than either of you.

“Do you know how many rumors surround your old pack? Do you know what price they put on your head? Dead or alive? Did you know,” Peter continues, “That they also said you could have a small child with you?”

“I’m going to kill you,” Stiles says. “If they come here looking for me because of you? I’ll kill you.”

“But then how will you find your father, Stiles?”

“I’m a fucking werewolf, you douche. I’ll always find my dad. And you know what? I’m an alpha. I bet I could make you tell me everything, I bet—”

“I can smell your fear, Stiles,” Peter says. “I can always smell your fear. You reek of it.” He smirks. “Well, that and my nephew.”

“How much does it piss you off that you can’t use the ‘seduced him to steal his pack’ trope?”

Peter merely smiles and the sight of it, well. Last time Stiles felt like this, he was running for his life. “Not nearly as much as the fact that a child half my age has come into possession of so many old, almost forgotten secrets about werewolves. That fascinates me. How did you mother obtain all this information? Do you know how hard I had to search to find out of it was even possible to divide your own scent? How time-consuming it was to learn? And you just do it as if it’s nothing.”

Stiles wants to say that it wasn’t easy, that he practiced with his mom for years but that they had to do it in secret so the rest of the pack didn’t realize what they were doing. He wants to shove Mom’s bestiary in Peter’s face, wants to brag about all the secrets and spells his mom taught him, all the secrets of his family culminating in Stiles. He says nothing, though, bites his lip and looks away. If there’s one person out there who shouldn’t come into contact with that knowledge, it’s Peter Hale.

“I heard tales,” Peter continues. “I read the histories my family wrote down. There have always been people with more information, more power. Hunters learn things, take them from us and used them against us. But werewolves? We aren’t good at sharing information amongst each other, even things that could keep us alive.”

“I had to learn how to split my scent to survive,” Stiles says, shaky. “You— You lived a cushioned, safe life in a sleepy town—”

“I was beta in a pack that would never see me as an alpha,” Peter snaps. “I know my family history: in Hale packs, the alpha is female nine times out of ten. When my sister had a daughter, I knew I would never be the next alpha in line.”

“You were never next in line,” Stiles says. “The alpha goes to the next generation, not sideways—”

It isn’t that Stiles never sees Peter move, because he does, he dodges and pushes Peter back, but Peter throws a cloud of wolfsbane in his face.

Stiles coughs, gags as the wolfsbane hits his mouth, burns his eyes, his nose. He doesn’t understand why Peter isn’t affected— But there are antidotes, ways of keeping yourself safe from being poisoned by the plant for short periods of times. It’s painful, though, leaves you weak and instable, but of course Peter knows about them, of course Peter knows – he always knows.

Peter pushes Stiles up against the wall, puts a hand over Stiles’ throat, and Stiles can feel the prickling of claws against the skin. If Stiles wasn’t so busy panicking, he’d have an easier time of sharing in the wolf’s rage.

“Do you think I don’t know the old rumors about the packs of werewolves that were more powerful, stronger than ordinary werewolves? Packs of hermaphroditic werewolves so shrouded in mystery and myths that it’s impossible to tell if they were true or not?” Peter pauses, then adds, “I never thanked Mother for that, by the way. She always did insist on teaching us the old ways.”

“I— I’m not—”

“What was that, Stiles?”

“I’m not a hermaphrodite, I’m not—”

Peter just smiles, presses a claw deep into Stiles’ neck. The wolfsbane makes it hurt a lot more than, than getting clawed up by a psychotic werewolf usually would – oh god, oh my god – and Stiles can feel the blood running down neck, he can feel it because it’s not healing and he should be but he’s not. “You would have been remarkable if you were. You’re something entirely differently, aren’t you?”

“Where’s my dad?”

“I want to know what you are, Stiles. Do think I can’t tell when you’ve been over at Derek’s? That I don’t know you both shift? You don’t smell like a wolf.”

“What? You want me to say that I’m the abominable snowman? That it’s more of a seasonable— Oh my god, you’re crazy,” Stiles blurts out. Okay, fine, so Peter’s got, like, a handful of claws in Stiles’ neck awesome. He feels like if he’s anymore panicked or afraid right now, he’ll skip right past the “fight or flight” reflex and go straight for “passing out now, thanks.”

“Hyena, Stiles, yes or no.”

“Fuck you.”

“Hmm, no, I don’t think so.” Peter cocks his head to the side. “Do you think I should just kill you and be rid of the headache, or keep you?”

“I think you should fuck off. Seriously, you’re crazy—”

“I think you’re forgetting who has the upper hand here. You could give me power, couldn’t you? Progeny, a pack—”

Stiles tunes out, because he’s heard it all before. He really wishes he knew how strong his glare looks right now. He’s giving it his all, honestly, but there’s wolfsbane in the air, a set of claws in his neck, Peter standing too close, looking too smug and reeking of so many awful scents that Stiles doesn’t—He doesn’t want to anymore, okay? He wants—

He wants to be happy. He wants Dad to be fine and Derek to be here, he wants his pack to crowd him and paint his nails with Lydia and—

He wants everything bad to be over.

“Dad,” Stiles says. “Where’s my dad?” Maybe there’s something defeated in his tone, maybe it’s the way he looks down, but Peter answers and he doesn’t lie.

Stiles can tell. He’s a werewolf, okay?

“Oh, he was never here,” Peter says. “You didn’t really think I was tasteless enough to kidnap innocent people, did you?”

Stiles takes half a second to register Peter’s words, then he just lets go of his wolf.

He’s never done that before, never let one part of his consciousness take full control of the other. It’s not that he’s two different beings caught in one body, more that his emotional span is a lot more complex than most. His emotional span allows him to change into a werewolf at will, but never without all of him being present.

Letting go is scary, yeah, but it’s all he can do because letting Peter win? That’s not something he can live with.

--

Stiles wakes up curled around Derek. He’s human, he’s naked and his mouth tastes like death. He’s in Derek’s apartment and he has no memory of how he got here, how he ended up naked in Derek’s bed and for a moment he’s gripped by a panic so strong that he can’t breathe.

“Stiles, hey, Stiles,” Derek says, touching his face until Stiles flinches back.

Stiles can’t breathe, okay? There’s no air in the room and he can’t breathe and Derek’s too close and he can’t breathe.

Derek is wide-eyed, looks shocked, but he sits back and— He waits.

--

When Stiles can breathe, he asks, “How— How’d I get here?”

“You ran, I think,” Derek says, looking concerned. “You were so deep in the wolf I didn’t think you’d come out anytime soon. What happened, Stiles? You were dragging your dad—”

“Dad’s here? He’s fine?”

“He’s in the kitchen,” Derek says. “You kept pushing him to move with your snout. You refused to leave him alone until he fell asleep on the couch—”

Derek’s voice follows him as he runs out of the room. Dad’s by the coffee machine. He looks a little rumpled, but he’s alive and his heart’s beating its familiar strong, steady beat.

“Dad!” Stiles says, wrapping his arms around him. “Oh my god, Dad.”

“Stiles?”

Stiles shakes his head and presses his nose deeper into Dad’s neck. He wishes that he could push enough, get close enough that nothing could—

He isn’t ready to lose his dad, okay. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be, and Peter—

“Stiles?” Dad says, patting Stiles on the shoulder, running a hand through Stiles’ hair. “Stiles, son, you okay?”

“I don’t remember how I got here,” Stiles whispers.

“You made me drive here from the station,” Dad says, heart steady. “And let me tell you, taking instructions from the hyena in your passenger seat is among a list of things I never thought would happen to me.”

“You drove me here?”

Dad nods. “Yeah, then you dragged me up the stairs. Wouldn’t let me go. I’m assuming I fell asleep on the couch at some point, because the crick in my neck is out of this world. Are you okay, Stiles? You were in a tizzy last night—”

“How did you know it was me?”

Dad shrugs. “I’m not stupid,” he says. “Your eyes are the same no matter what, and I called Derek to check.”

“Oh,” Stiles says.

Derek enters the kitchen with a blanket in his hand and Dad takes it from him and wraps it around Stiles, then puts an arm back around Stiles’ shoulders. It isn’t that Derek reaches out at such, but he stands close with an awkward tilt to his shoulders, and he doesn’t relax until Stiles reaches out and tangles their fingers together.

Stiles kind of loves that Derek knows when Stiles needs to have control over who gets to touch him and how, that Derek’s touch isn’t the same as Dad’s.

“What happened?” Dad asks again.

“Peter,” Stiles says. “Peter— He was waiting in the house.”

Stiles tells Dad and Derek what he can, about the wolfsbane and Peter’s creepy words, about the claws in his neck. He tells Derek that he let go and Dad’s scent suddenly gets upset.

“Dad?”

“What do you mean you let go?” Dad asks, voice carefully even.

“I— I always have to be in control. Of myself, I mean. I can be a lot more than human and that’s dangerous, Dad, that’s so dangerous. If you let go—”

“It means you put your animal instincts above your human ones,” Derek fills in when Stiles goes abruptly quiet. “It’s risky. The wolf part of ourselves has been with us since we were kids but that doesn’t mean it’s human, it just means it knows what humanity is like based on the kind of person we are. Just letting go… Anything could happen.”

“I don’t know what I did, Dad. I can’t remember— I could’ve killed someone—”

“There’s been no animal attacks reported,” Dad says. “I haven’t checked in with the station today, but I’m the sheriff. If something big goes down, they give me a call.”

It reassures Stiles a little, it does. But it still leaves what happened to Peter after Stiles blacked out up in the air, what happened after that and until he showed up at Dad’s work to drag Dad to Derek’s. It isn’t that weird that his wolf wanted to go here, to the loft; Stiles’ den was invaded by a threat, the first instinct in his wolf would have been to go somewhere safe, to protect his dad and make sure he wouldn’t wander into danger by mistake.

--

They never do find Peter. Whatever happened in his house, no one can figure out where they went afterwards or if anyone was hurt – or worse. Derek finds a scent trail, but it doesn’t lead anywhere, and Argent takes Dad and Allison on a short tracking-by-eyes hike, but they don’t get much further than Derek and his nose did.

Stiles doesn’t think about it. He doesn’t actively try to forget, but he doesn’t try to jog his memory, either. It’s a bit of a limbo, but not one he minds.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t go all tense and hyper aware, on alert for whispers and rumors of werewolves from Maine being on the prowl. Peter talked, liked to use words as his preferred choice in weapons.

They have no way of knowing if Peter told anyone his suspicions of Stiles, what kind of people he talked to, what kind of questions he asked.

But Stiles doesn’t remember.

Last time he didn’t remember something, he ended up running across the country. This time, he ends up frantically scrubbing every trace of Peter from his house, then drags his pack over until the smell of cleaning products is buried beneath them. He carves wards into the house, plants herbs and spices that keep ill-will and bad omens away. He makes the place as safe as can be and when he feels done, Derek’s there to catch him.

“If he comes back, we’ll know,” Derek says. “The pack is strong.”

“I hate not knowing.”

Derek doesn’t say anything. He just nods, tugs Stiles closer and kisses his temple.

“Derek?”

“Hmm?”

“Let’s be thirteen again for a while.”

“Thirteen was a good year,” Derek says.

“Yeah?”

“First time I beat Laura at tracking. She was so mad.”

Stiles smiles. “I bet you didn’t let her forget about it.”

“I rubbed it in her face for months.”

--

Stiles picks himself back up, but he does it slowly and is methodical about it. This time, he has Dad to help him, he has Derek at his back and a pack that supports him whether they’re consciously aware of it or not. The point is, Stiles isn’t alone this time.

He thinks that helps.

--

Epilogue.

--

Derek doesn’t flash his eyes until the next morning, when he and Stiles are alone in Stiles’ bedroom. Dad is downstairs in the kitchen and the whole house smells like waffles.

“Well?”

“I like them,” Stiles says, tracing Derek’s eyebrows, the soft skin around his eyes.

“Yeah?”

“I like you.”

Derek smiles, his eyes melting back into their usual color. “I like you, too,” he says, heart beating steady and hard under his breastbone. Stiles grins and feels giddy with it all the way down to his toes.

--

Stiles decides to go to the state university after they offer him a full ride. It’s not the only reason why he chooses to go, but it’s a main factor. There’s also the fact that the school offers a good gender studies curriculum, that it boasts about its criminology department and that Stiles feels right at home the first time he visits campus with his dad.

The university is thirty minutes away in the next town over and they don’t require locals to live on campus. It means Stiles can stay with his dad for a while longer, can have his pack nearby for another couple of months yet. Of course, they still have a year left of high school first, but Stiles knows there are already plans being made.

Some of them want to go far away, but a lot of them want to stay close-by or just go to other places in California, and not everyone is going to college, either. Stiles knows that Cora has been talking to Dad about the best way to become a cop, that she’s been looking into joining up with the law enforcement one way or the other. Lydia is going to be a genius and Scott has been looking into becoming a nurse like his mom or possibly a paramedic.

That’s just some of them, just the ones that will occasionally come to Stiles to talk things out.

But first there is a little left of high school to get through, and then there’s a long break before schools and jobs and real life comes knocking again. After that, after the summer that didn’t want to end, after pack nights in the woods and movie sessions at home, after a week spent at the beach, after all that, Stiles sees the members of his pack off as he gets ready to leave for college, even if he's still living with his dad. He knows that next year it'll be him helping them make decisions and pack their belongings up. For now, Stiles helps them prepare, helps them get jobs and supports them in every way he can.

It’s even later when Stiles realizes he’s been together with Derek for over a year, almost double that, and that he’s had a pack for almost one. That’s he’s ready to move out and start a life on his own. He doesn’t feel afraid or anxious of losing what he has, because he’s till in Beacon Hills and he’s not alone anymore.

He feels safe and settled when he leans into Derek one night, playing with his fingers as they catch up on the original Star Trek series.

“Zheleztso,” Stiles says.

“Gesundheit,” Derek murmurs.

Stiles laughs. “No, no,” he says. “Zheleztso. It means iron. It’s my dad’s first name.”

“I thought John was his first name.”

“That’s just what he likes to be called. I think it’s his middle name, to tell the truth, but Mom— She named me after Dad.”

“Oh,” Derek says. “She named you— I can’t even say it. She named you that?”

Stiles nods. “She almost always called me Stiles, but sometimes… Sometimes she pulled it out, like a special secret between just the two of us. That name is pure torture, but I miss it sometimes. Miss it because Mom gave it to be, you know?”

“Yeah,” Derek says. “I know.” He murmurs a thank you into Stiles hair later that night, when they’re curled up under the covers in Derek’s bed, and Stiles knows he’s not thanking Stiles for telling him his name

Stiles isn’t sure at what point he stopped being terrified, but he thinks it was a while ago and Derek— Derek deserves to know, Stiles thinks, and he promised Derek his name a long time ago.

Later, a lot later, after high school and Peter, after moving out of Dad’s house and into an apartment of his own. Later, after all that, Stiles is on fast track of getting a double major in criminology and gender studies. He has vague ideas of becoming a cop, of following in his dad’s footsteps.

He thinks he’d like it.

--

Derek asks him to buy a house together on their four year anniversary. His lease is running out and Stiles’ has six months left. It doesn’t matter that they’ve never lived together before, that they have no way of knowing if they’ll kill each other or not with their habits, because Stiles feels his heart pound, sees the smile hiding in Derek’s eyes, in his softly curved mouth and the dimples almost peeking out, and says yes without even pausing to hesitate.

Stiles might have started to run on a Monday, found his dad on a Sunday and fallen in love on a Thursday. He isn’t sure what day he found his pack, or when they all became close and fully-functioning, a perfect clockwork. He doesn’t know when he stopped running for real, but today, today…

It’s the perfect day to start living for the future instead of running from the past.

It’s a Wednesday when Stiles walks into a bank with Derek at his side to discuss loans. There’s a house at the edge of the woods, not far from Dad’s. It’s one and a half stories, whitewashed stone with blue windows and doors, matching the fence running around the property. It has a master bedroom on the top floor next to a smaller one, a room with pale purple walls and a dinosaur themed border.

There’s been no discussion of kids, but Stiles feels like it’s okay if that happened, if they settled and talked about how, maybe, in a couple years, they could fill the room next to the big bedroom with something new, something precious and tiny, something with hope for the future, something they could love and cherish and nurture together.