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Reversible Warriors

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Stiles slipped his mother’s old rainbow-colored polka-dot apron on over his dress and put his phone on speaker as he got out the ingredients for Laura’s thank you for fixing my car cookies. It was a good thing he’d gone to the store earlier that week because he was going through peanut butter at an alarming rate.

“Son?” his dad said, sounding pretty much normal, if a bit concerned. Nothing like the passed out shade of a man Stiles had last seen connected to wires and tubes in a hospital room identical to the one where Stiles’ mother had died.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, pushing the memories away. There wasn’t any use dwelling on the instinctive terror he’d felt, not when they were both finally physically safe, if currently neck-deep in a different kind of trouble. Werewolf pack trouble. Also, his dad was very clearly fine.

“Yo, Pops, how’s it going?” he answered with false joviality and a tightness in his throat.

Stiles made his body focus on the task at hand as he dumped the dry ingredients together and tried to distract himself by thinking about what to make for lunch, assuming Derek would be up and awake by then. There wasn’t any red meat in the fridge or freezer, but Stiles felt pretty good despite his recent magic usage, so he figured he didn’t need it to help him out or however it was that all worked. The day and a half spent unconsciously cuddling with his werewolf anchor-mate slash magical expenditure buffer undoubtedly had something to do with his sudden abundance of energy.

The sheriff let out a harsh breath that whistled through the phone. “Hell, Stiles you scared me half to death. I tried to wake you up when I stopped by yesterday, but you were passed out cold.”

“Well, the last time I saw you it was the same,” Stiles said without thinking, then bit his lip because yeah, he probably should have waited to bring up the thing he wasn’t sure he was prepared to talk about. The werewolf and magic and kidnapping thing. The fact that it was Stiles’ fault his father had gotten involved in the first place.

The fact that Stiles was actually a murderer.

“Hey, kid, I thought Melissa told you not to come see me in the hospital, you know she had it under con-”

“Derek’s uncle was dying,” Stiles butted in, unable to stop himself. Talking about it without Derek there to help anchor or pacify him or whatever was probably a stupid idea, but Stiles was generally known for those, so he persisted as he mixed in the wet ingredients on autopilot. “His Uncle Peter was dying and Derek’s family went to the hospital to be there for him and I couldn’t just let it happen,” even though it was Stiles who was partially responsible for having put him in that position in the first place. Though in his defense, Peter had tried to kill him first.

“I uh, I healed him.”

There was a beat of tense silence before the sheriff swore under his breath. “Goddammit Stiles-”

“I know, I just. He has two young kids, Dad, and I had to at least give him a chance-”

“And so you healed him and then what? Came to see me while I was still out of it before you basically fell into a coma for the better part of two days?"

Stiles chewed on his bottom lip and shrugged as he finished mixing. "Something like that."

“We are going to have a very long discussion about this, Stiles. A very long, very honest discussion. But first I should tell you that I already had a talk with Talia and Rollin Hale.”

“You, uh, you did?” Stiles asked, forcing himself not to pause in his cookie making or else risk the rolled up peanut butter dough melting in his hands before he could plop the lumpy balls onto the cookie sheet.

His dad made a noise of agreement. “I can’t believe you were keeping werewolves from me.”

Stiles choked out a noise that was somewhere between a laugh and a cry. He sounded a bit hysterical.

“I mean, it wasn’t my secret to tell-”

“I know, I know, but seriously, Stiles? Werewolves?”

He couldn’t keep back a grin. “I know, right! How crazy is that?”

"Well,” his dad said, sounding good-naturedly resigned, “if there's anything your mother taught me, it's that the world is far more mysterious and magical place than I'd ever dreamed of. This also explains a lot about the Hale family. I mean, I can't tell you the number of times I was been called in to investigate the preserve because of barking and howling out in the woods. That never added up, since there aren’t any wolves in California and Deaton never admitted to there being a stray dog problem, but the reports mysteriously stopped around the same time the Hales left. I guess them being werewolves explains that away."

Stiles grinned down at his baking sheet and slipped it into the oven. "They certainly are something else, aren't they?"

"You're telling me," his dad grumbled, but not without some humor.

That was one of the great things about the sheriff. Once he got over the shock of something he generally stopped fussing about it. And thinking of that made Stiles close his eyes for a second, imagining his courage as a liquid thing bubbling up inside of him. When he was filled to the brim with it he opened his eyes and squared his shoulders, hyper-aware of how the cotton and satin of the dress moved with him, of the patches of skin left bare.

"Hey Dad, remember when mom used to make me skirts?" he asked quietly, unable to keep the tentativeness from his voice.

"Of course I remember, you were the cutest darn thing twirling around the house all the time. It was a miracle if we could get you into pants to go to the store. I'm pretty sure we didn’t manage it and few times and just went out with you dressed like that, anyway."

Stiles grinned at the memories. Mrs. Hinkley from up the street had been scandalized by his family’s acceptance of the whole skirt situation, but his mom hadn’t ever let her embarrass Stiles because of it. "Yeah, I was a bit precocious," he allowed.

"Precocious? You were a hellion, but that never stopped us from loving you."

He wiped his suddenly watery eyes with the back of his hand because he wasn’t going to start crying. "I love you, too, Dad."

"So what does the skirt thing have to do with werewolves?"

Stiles rolled his eyes. “It doesn't, or at least it doesn't directly relate."

"They're not harassing you about it are they-"

"No, no,” Stiles butted in. “No, uh, kind of the opposite, actually. Laura bought me a dress, not as a joke,” he was hasty to add, “I don't think. And I was just, I wanted to make sure-"

"Stiles," his dad interrupted, "I would still love you even if you decided to forsake clothing altogether. If you want to wear a dress around the house then that's up to you. Derek’s not upset about it is he? You know I'll talk to him if he's out of line."

"I know, Dad, I know you would. And no, Derek's not uncomfortable with the dress thing. He's, uh, he's taking a nap right now, actually."

His dad made a considering noise. "Well he should, he was awake every time I called to check on you."

Stiles grinned and shook his head. "So when are you coming home? I can have dinner ready whenever you want it." He was pretty sure he had the ingredients for vegetable lasagne, which his dad would grumble about, but would ultimately eat and enjoy.

"I'd love to, kid, but it's my turn for the weekend shift, so I'm working tonight, but dinner tomorrow sound good."

Stiles nodded. While he knew things weren't completely fine between them, the Stilinskis weren't the type to remain upset, at least not with each other. They said their farewells and Stiles managed to bake three dozen cookies and whip up a relatively healthy version of chicken salad before he heard Derek thudding around upstairs. Stiles paused and set the glass serving bowl down on the table beside the tortilla shells, lettuce, and platter of warm cookies.

"Der? I'm in the dining room," he said unnecessarily. Stiles was pretty sure Derek would have been able to locate him in a blizzard, so the sheriff's house couldn't have posed that much of a challenge for him, not with his apparent ability to hear Stiles’ heartbeat always.

Which was just a touch creepy, but whatever, it also had the potential to be pretty useful in case Stiles ever got lost or kidnapped again or yeah, that wasn’t a train of thought he wanted to pursue.

Stiles slipped off the apron as he tracked the quiet sound of Derek making his way down the stairs and through the kitchen. He stopped abruptly at the doorway, hair mussed and eyes blinking owlishly at Stiles, who had actually forgotten what he was wearing underneath the apron.

The heated look that took over Derek's sleepy expression reminded him, though, and he felt his cheeks and chest blush a bright red. Probably the same red as the satin ribbons and cherries accenting his dress.

But still, there was no way Derek had slept for long enough.

"Why'd you get up?” Stiles asked as he turned fully to face him, taking in Derek’s vulnerable appearance, his bare feet and chest, the scant covering of his boxer briefs. He was otherwise naked and despite his astonishing musculature he looked soft like that, soft and almost delicate.

Well, as delicate as a two hundred pound werewolf could be.

Derek didn’t answer immediately, instead he shuffled forward and wrapped his warm arms around Stiles’ shoulders, one hand sliding down his exposed back to thumb across the satin around his waist as Derek’s scratchy beard brushed against his neck where the hickey he'd left there was undoubtedly on display.

“Hey,” Stiles said, sliding his own hands across the soft skin just above Derek’s waistband, “what’s up?”

Instead of answering, Derek grunted and pulled Stiles closer until their fronts were pressed flush and he could feel the soft rumbling coming from the werewolf’s chest like wolfish kind of pur. Through it all he exuded a strangely grumpy kind of contentment.

It suddenly occurred to Stiles that although Derek was decidedly a morning person, to an almost ridiculous degree, he was not a very good napper. It was something of a hilarious revelation, really, since Stiles was entirely the opposite.

“You wanna eat something before you talk?” he asked, trying and failing to hold back his grin.

Derek grunted an affirmative and Stiles slowly pulled away so they could look each other in the eye.

"Come on, food and then talking,” Stiles said, linking their fingers and pulling Derek toward the long end of the table where they could sit beside each other. He was incredibly conscious of the swishing sound his skirt made with every movement, but Stiles refused to let that get in the way of the meal he’d prepared. Besides, if left to his own devices Stiles had no doubt that Derek would just dig into the cookies and call it a day.

And yeah, he was very much like the sheriff in that regard.

Once settled, each prepared their wraps, Derek’s movements still post-sleep fumbly, but Stiles didn’t comment as he poured them glasses of water from the pitcher he’d found in one of the cabinets. He’d even put some slices of orange in it for an added burst of flavor.

It all felt terribly domestic.

“You’re happy,” Derek said. They were the first words out of his mouth since he’d woken up and Stiles smiled broadly in response.

“I talked to my dad,” he admitted with a soft smile.

Derek raised both thick eyebrows, clearly expecting Stiles to elaborate, but he took a big bite of his wrap, instead. That earned him a soft snort as Derek followed his example. Stiles wasn’t about to get into that conversation until they’d both eaten and Derek had woken up all the way.

They were leaning back in their chairs, cookies in hand, when Derek finally sighed deeply and finally seemed to be fully alert and functioning properly.

“You look amazing,” he said with a quiet kind of sincerity, studying the table like he wasn't sure he was allowed to comment on Stiles’ outfit.

It took Stiles a moment to process that. It was getting easier to feel and parse out Derek’s emotions, especially with the way their skin was touching, ankles lazily hooked together under the table. He found it kind of amazing that he could tell Derek wasn’t lying. Not that Stiles thought he would, given his previous enthusiasm when faced with the possibility of Stiles dressing like that, but it was still nice to know for sure.

He also felt some other emotions through their bond and smiled a bit wickedly in response.

“My dad won’t be back until tomorrow afternoon,” he said, dragging his foot slowly up Derek’s shin.

And for once Stiles wasn’t the only one blushing.

“Would you rather talk now, or later?” Stiles asked, pausing with his foot tucked in the warmth under Derek’s knee, giving him a chance to parse through the situation and make a decision with only minimal interference. Well, besides the arousal Stiles was exuding. He knew what he wanted to do, but tried his best not to project.

Derek’s broad fingers wrapped around the delicate bones of his ankle and he swiped his thumb across the skin there, his mood conveying contemplation and an echo of Stiles’ interest.

“I can tell mother not to expect to hear from us until tomorrow,” he offered a bit unexpectedly. Stiles hadn’t forgotten their missed breakfast plans that were supposed to have taken place the morning after he’d healed Peter, but since he'd been out of it for a while he silently agreed to the postponement of their inevitably awkward meeting.

“What would you like to do until then?” Stiles asked, already sensing the answer as Derek’s palm slid up his calf.

In response Derek shrugged, his expression carefully blank, but as his fingers found the edge of the skirt his arousal spiked.

Stiles bit back a moan of his own, but he wasn't done playing with his mate, so he very carefully stood up, causing Derek's hand to slide back into more neutral territory, them stacked their plates and calmly brought them to the sink.

Well, he acted calm, but his heart was pounding with anticipation and he probably reeked of arousal by that point.

"Can you put the leftovers in the fridge?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder and didn't miss the blue flash of Derek's wolf eyes. Stiles could only imagine what he looked like, his back mostly exposed, white and red skirt fluffed out to cover his otherwise bare thighs.

Edible, judging by Derek’s expression, but he did what Stiles had asked and quickly put the rest of the chicken salad away, even taking the time to wrap it up properly so it wouldn’t dry out.

Stiles made a mental note to take some to his dad for lunch the next day as he turned back to the task at hand.

He was wrist-deep in suds when he felt the familiar heat of Derek’s body press up against his spine, his hands hot against the thin cotton covering Stiles’ stomach as his bristly beard brushed the back of his neck.

“Are you really going to do the dishes right now?” Derek asked with an amused kind of exasperation, his lips ghosting warmth against Stiles’ ear.

Stiles shrugged his bare shoulders to cover up his shiver. “I mean, yeah,” he said throatily, “unless you have a different proposal in mind.”

Derek shorted and nipped at the mark he’d put on Stiles’ neck.

“I can think of a few things I'd rather do,” he said, hands sliding back to grip Stiles’ waist and yeah, he could get behind that. Well, technically Derek was the one behind him, but-

“Oh?” he said, his hips suddenly pressed firmly against the counter.

“Now what I’m really curious about,” Derek said, dragging his lips over the satin strap of the halter top and across Stiles’ shoulder, his touch achingly gentle, “is what you’re wearing underneath this.”

Stiles shuddered and tried to remember how to talk, but most of his concentration was absorbed by the feelings Derek was exuding and evoking in him. Lust, mostly, but also a heady dose of affection and anticipation.

Broad palms smoothed down the fabric of the skirt, then carefully began to draw it up from the bottom, the tulling tickling Stiles’ legs as it rose, exposing more and more of his bare  skin.

He managed to rinse his hands and turn off the water before Derek found out exactly what Stiles wasn’t wearing underneath.

Jesus, Stiles,” he whispered roughly. The almost overwhelming burst of arousal made him moan and clutch the edge of the sink. And if they kept that up, later he’d have to scrub precome out of the silky slip that made up the underlayer of the skirt because his already hardening cock was sliding against the material in a very tantalizing manner. But really, that was a sacrifice he was willing to make, so long as Derek didn’t stop touching him.

“Didn’t have anything that matched,” he reasoned and Derek’s punched out little whine helped him gain a bit of his snark back. “Besides, now we’re even, we each have on only one article of clothing.”

“But yours is much more enticing than mine,” Derek replied, moving his hand to to slide against the silky fabric beneath the tule, his touch feeling even hotter than before.

“Don’ know about that,” Stiles said, tilting his head forward as he arched his spine, pressing his barely covered ass more firmly against Derek’s palm.

He was definitely going to have to look up how to get precome out of whatever type of fabic that was.

“I could bend you over and take you just like this," Derek confessed, and yeah, hearing him talk dirty was a major turn-on for Stiles.

Hearing him, seeing him, smelling him.

Pretty much everything Derek did turned him on. But the talking? Yeah, that was extra nice.

"Promise?" Stiles asked as he tilted his head to the side to let the wolf scent his neck again.

Derek growled against his skin. "You're already beginning to smell like me, like you're mine."

Judging by his tone that was a very good thing.

"Care to take this party up to my old room?" Stiles asked. While kitchen sex was still on his list of things to do, he wasn't quite sure he wanted it to happen in his childhood home, even if he knew his dad would be out of the house until the next evening.

Also?

Lube.

Because there was no way he was using anything in the cabinets as a substitute for the real thing.

That was just.

No.

Derek's thumb traced the curve of his ass and dipped into the crease, sliding the silky fabric across his puckered hole in a move that sent another shiver up Stiles’ spine.

"Holy yes," Stiles breathed shakily. "Yes, we are going upstairs right now and you're going to continue doing that and many many other delightful things. Yes? Yes. Okay good, let's go."

Stiles practically dragged him up to his room, but Derek was chuckling the whole time so he was clearly just as willing of a participant in the upcoming events. Also, he was most definitely rocking a pretty obvious hardon, so that just served to encourage Stiles' less than subtle approach to getting them where they needed to be for things to happen.

“Wait,” Derek said as Stiles shut and locked the door behind them and he froze, hand still on the knob because there didn’t seem to be anything to wait for. They were both aching for it, they didn’t have any immediate obligations to deal with, and Stiles pretty much just wanted to climb Derek like a tree.

But he clearly wanted to say something so Stiles did as requested and waited for Derek to find the words he was clearly struggling with.

“I don’t,” he started, then gave an angry sigh and pulled back so their skin wasn’t touching and so he could run both hands through his hair. It showcased his insane musculature and made him look even more bangable, but Stiles knew he was probably trying to say something important, so he refrained from adding his own commentary.

“I don’t want you to feel anything other than pleasure when we’re together,” Derek finally ground out. It sounded like it took a lot of effort for him to articulate his feelings, which was something they were going to have to address at some point, but since Stiles recognized the fact that Derek was trying, he arranged his face into what he hoped was a supportive look. Talking about feelings really sucked, sometimes, as he was well aware. He didn’t want to come across as a dick if Derek was willing to discuss his own.

“I want you to feel comfortable around me, which I know might be hard, after what you’ve gone through and what my family and I have put you through. You mentioned before that we needed to renegotiate limits and I’m always willing to do that with you. I’ll do anything you want me to do,” he trailed off at Stiles’ unimpressed look, “as long as I’m comfortable with it as well,” he finished quietly.

Derek’s face was flushed, his muscles tensed as his shoulders drew forward a bit and Stiles didn’t need to be touching him to know his mate was uncomfortable and embarrassed by his confession.

But what a confession it was.

“Derek,” he said gently, holding out his hand and waiting until the other man took it before he continued, “I don’t even have words to express how grateful I am for you and your support. I completely agree that we need to do some major renegotiations, but for now can we just be,” he didn’t even know a word for what he was looking for, “attentive? Considerate?”

While he wasn’t nearly as fatigued as he had been, Stiles didn’t think he was up for any kind of crazy marathon sex. He just wanted the proximity, the intimacy, and then they could have a more in-depth discussion. It might not have been the preferred order of things, but they both felt the bone-deep yearning for closeness and even he could tell that their bond was still somewhat fragile.

“Okay,” Derek said, closing the distance between them and cupping Stiles’ face in his hands so gently it sent a rush through him. “Okay, we can do that, but if you feel uncomfortable at all-”

“I’ll say our safeword and you’ll stop,” Stiles said, gazing into Derek’s hazel eyes. He knew Derek would stop, too, which was such a relief he could hardly believe it. “But that’s a two-way street,” he pointed out, “the same goes for you.”

“If anything happens that I’m not okay with I’ll say knife,” Derek agreed because he’d been listening and paying attention, which was more than Stiles could say for pretty much any of his previous lovers.

Not that any of his former relationships were in any way comparable to what he had going on with his werewolf anchor-mate.

Stiles smiled, cheeks pressing against Derek’s palms and he let himself be pulled forward until their bodies were flush, fitting so easily together. Their kissing was less frantic than it had been. Smoother. Lingering and heated all at once.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Derek whispered against his lips, but the depth of the emotion behind the statement told Stiles so much more than his words could express.

He wanted to reply with something like I always feel safe when I’m with you, but that wasn’t quite true, no matter how much Stiles wanted it to be. At least it wasn’t true yet.

Instead, he grazed his cheek against Derek’s beard and kissed his way down the man’s neck, nipping and licking at the tendons, resting his lips on the steady thumping of his pulse.

“We’re going to be okay,” he said. Because they would be, eventually.

Probably not for a while. A month, a year even, down the line, but at some point the psychological wounds would heal along with the physical ones. Stiles would stop flinching when he saw rope in the hardware store, he’d be able to look at the scars on his chest without feeling a flicker of imagined pain and a burst of adrenaline. He’d stop expecting the worst to come from his relationship with Derek.

That last one would likely take the most time, probably, but he was willing to try for it.

“Tell me what you want,” Derek whispered against his temple, his hands were pressed against Stiles’ bare spine, gently stroking up and down, ghosting just at the edge of the satin ribbon around his waist.

It was a familiar enough conversation that Stiles had to grin as he licked at the soft skin under his mouth, then bit with enough force to make Derek’s arousal jolt and his hands to tighten against him.

Stiles kept on, sucking until the skin grew hot against his tongue, then released his hold with a wet pop. Derek’s pecs quivered under his palms as Stiles pulled back to survey his newest mark with a smirk of satisfaction.

“How do you feel about sitting back and letting me do all the work this time?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows.

Predictably, Derek snorted and captured Stiles’ lips in a filthy kiss.

“That sounds promising,” he admitted several long minutes later, “Are you going to keep the dress?” Derek stepped back far enough to give Stiles a lingering once-over.

He totally wanted Stiles to wear the dress.

“That depends,” Stiles said, one hand flat on Derek’s chest as he pressed just hard enough to make him step back toward the bed.

“On?” Derek prompted, pupils blown wide as his heart began to race faster with arousal.

Stiles smirked. “That depends on how good you are,” he decided and it was worth the warm chuckle Derek gave in return.

“Oh, really? And just what constitutes goodness in this situation? Am I allowed to touch you?” he punctuated his question by grazing his fingertips down the length of Stiles’ torso, hesitating at the ribbon like a promise.

But Stiles wasn’t quite done playing.

“Hm, I think that’s a good rule. For now, you have to keep your hands to yourself,” he said and Derek immediately withdrew his hand, placing both of them behind his head like he was in a hold up or a catalogue photo shoot. It did unbelievable things to his torso and arms.

Delicious things.

“Cheeky,” Stiles commented, then kept pressing against Derek’s chest until his calves bumped against the bed and he sat heavily on the mattress, hands shooting back to brace himself.

“You’re in control,” Derek said, though the flippant announcement had so much more meaning it made Stiles pause in contemplation.

He did have control. Perhaps for the first time in his life Stiles was in charge, in control of the situation. Derek gave that to him so readily, so completely that Stiles couldn’t help but want to give it back, to share the burden of power with him.

Which was relationships were supposed to be about. Later they could discuss the more kinky aspects of power play, but that wasn’t something he was willing to delve into at that particular moment.

“Or,” Stiles said, biting his lip as he withdrew his hand and gripped onto the fluffed out skirt of his dress, probably wrinkling it, but whatever. “Or you could help me decide.”

Because compromise was important. Because he wasn’t sure he was ready to take charge quite yet. Because he wasn’t even sure how to be in control like that. Not really.

Stiles was still reeling from the amount of world-changing revelations he’d experienced over the previous days, months, of his acquaintanceship and then relationship with Derek. He didn’t want to do anything to risk compromising the fragility of their growing bond. Plus, despite their drama, he did trust Derek enough to know that he was invested in looking out for Stiles’ best interests. That despite some momentary demonstrations of stupidity, he was a good person, and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize their future anymore than Stiles would.

Derek smiled at him, his expression honest and open as he leaned his weight back on his palms, his firm chest on display, legs spread, easy and inviting.

“I want you to want me,” he sang softly, arching one eyebrow in what could only be interpreted as an invitation.

Stiles grinned and yeah, that wasn’t an issue at all. The dress may have hid it, but he was unequivocally feeling some want for his mate.

“I need you to need me,” Derek continued. He looked amazing like that, arms supporting his stretched torso, feet planted firmly on the floor, boxer briefs tight against his hard cock.

Stiles stepped close enough for the tulle peeking out from under the skirt to tickle against Derek’s knees.

“I’d love you to love me,” Derek continued easily, without any of the pressure Stiles thought would be behind the words.

“I’m begging you to beg me,” Stiles sang back with a smirk because he could be a bit of an ass, but also because the sudden thought of Derek begging was an extremely arousing one.

In answer, Derek grinned, cocking one eyebrow as he lifted his chin to expose the red marks, Stiles’ marks, on his bare throat. “I want you to ride me,” he said, and while it wasn’t begging, it certainly did the trick for Stiles.

“Lube?” he asked, aware that his blush likely matched the red ribbon around the back of his neck.

Derek nodded toward the headboard where Stiles had always stashed his lotion and tissues. He hadn’t been all that subtle about his teenage jerk-off sessions, at least not until his dad had found his kind of pathetic toy collection.

But that was then, and it really wasn’t the time to dwell on the past when Stiles had a very hot, very sexy man in his bed, waiting to be ridden by him.

“Get it and prep me,” Stiles said, wishing he could do the cocky eyebrow thing, but settling instead on smoothing his hands down the fluffed out skirt of his dress and biting his lip in an attempt at coyness.

He wasn’t sure how well he pulled it off, but Derek practically threw himself back across the bed to fetch the lube, so that was something.

When he turned around, the powerful play of his muscles making Stiles’ mouth go dry, his eyes were electric blue and Stiles wasted no time closing the distance, climbing onto the bed and moving to kneel so he was straddling Derek’s lap.

“Come on, Der,” he said, fingers tangling in Derek’s hair, tilting his head back so Stiles could kiss him deeply.

Derek, ever adept at multitasking, kissed him back with fervor as he snapped the lube open and slicked his fingers. Stiles lost track after that, lost in the delicious slide of their tongues and the little subvocal moans Derek was making, but then he felt a hot hand against his thigh and had to restrain himself from bucking at the sensation because he was letting Derek do that, letting him control how quickly he prepped Stiles.

Stiles didn’t even care if they got lube on the dress, or come or anything else because suddenly Derek’s finger was there, circling and thick, pressing into him and they both groaned at the sensation like it had been weeks and not days since the last time they’d touched so intimately. There wasn’t even a burn as Derek breached him, sliding easily in and out, igniting Stiles’ like no one ever had before. After a few more easy undulations he slipped another finger beside the first and Stiles muffled his shout against Derek’s lips, kissing more frantically as his hips began to rock.

“So beautiful,” Derek whispered, twisting his wrist until the pads of his fingers grazed against Stiles’ prostate and he shuddered at the sensation.

“More, more Derek, I need more,” he said, words tripping over each other as he nipped and kissed his way down Derek’s neck, gasping against his skin as he tried to quicken the pace.

“Whatever you want, Stiles,” he replied, easing out just enough to fold a third finger in with the first two, pressing against the tight opening, waiting for it to give before pressing in and Stiles couldn’t stop the throaty noise that erupted from his chest, more of a grunt than anything else, but he felt Derek’s satisfaction at having made him produce whatever the hell kind of noise that was.

“Der, Der, come on, come on,” he begged, vaguely aware that it was Derek who was supposed to be begging, not him, but he was too lost in the sensation of fullness, of being plundered, to bother with semantics.

“Want me to take off your dress so it won’t get ruined? Stiles?” Derek asked, his free hand moving from where he’d been clutching Stiles’ waist to the back of his neck, gripping there and pulling Stiles’ back so they could see each other.

Stiles was barely holding on to cohesion by that point, his mouth wide open as he panted, his cheeks undoubtedly splotchy red, pupils blown like Derek’s, though he didn’t have glowy werewolf eyes to show off.

“Stiles,” Derek repeated, slowing the thrusting of his fingers enough that Stiles whined at the loss of contact with his prostate. “Stiles, I’m going to unzip your dress and take it off of you. Is that okay?”

His hand was already slipping down Stiles’ spine to where the zipper was pressing against his skin and he leaned forward, tucking his head back against Derek’s neck, mouthing the warm skin, his own hands tracing up and down the defined muscles of Derek’s back, over the tattoo between his shoulderblades, trying to keep still enough for the other man to undress him, but wanting nothing more than to ride his thick fingers until he came from it.

“Hurry,” Stiles pleaded, licking and nipping at an unmarked patch of Derek’s skin, smirking when he felt the fingers twitch. “Come on, I want you inside of me.”

“I am inside of you,” Derek said, but his voice was a bit strained his hand shaking as he jerked the zipper down. Cool air swept against Stiles’ newly exposed skin, making him moan.

“Stiles, I need you to lean back so we can get this off of you,” Derek said, his breath ghosting against Stiles’ temple where his hair was already growing damp from sweat.

He did what Derek said, leaning enough so he could grip the puffed out bottom of the dress and awkwardly tug it up and over his head, only slightly strangling himself with the yards of fabric before he managed to free himself and toss it aside. But then his body was bare and he felt terribly exposed, straddling Derek’s lap, the man’s fingers pressed inside of him as they stared at each other.

“Do you want to ride me, or do you want to get off like this?” Derek asked quietly, probably sensing or smelling Stiles’ sudden bout of uncertainty.

“I uh,” he said, swallowing and glancing down at where Derek’s cock was straining against his boxer briefs, the head peeking out from underneath the band, both already wet with precome. “I want,” he tried again, then bit his lip and slipped a hand between them so he could wrap his fingers around Derek’s length, knuckles grazing against the lone stretch of fabric remaining between them. “I want you,” he said, squeezing his hand just enough to make Derek’s breath hitch, “to come inside of me.”

Derek’s fangs dropped for a second before he snapped his mouth closed and he swallowed.

They’d done it before, before Peter had taken a turn for the worse, but Stiles wanted to know what it was like when he wasn’t hopped up on so much adrenaline, when he wasn’t feeling the afterglow of having just escaped certain death.

Stiles wanted it all to be real.

As if hearing the inner workings of Stiles’ brain, Derek nodded silently and kissed him, sliding his fingers free and lifting up to tug off his underwear in a move that probably wouldn’t have been possible if he’d been human. Not that Stiles’ minded because he enjoyed feeling the powerful play of Derek’s muscles beneath him.

He didn’t waste any time. As soon as Derek’s skin was as bare as his own he pressed forward, his own cock sliding against Derek’s abdomen as he circled his hips teasingly, the tip of Derek’s dick just catching on his rim.

“Stiles,” Derek grunted, one hand clamping onto Stiles’ hip to still him as the other, slick with lube, guided them so he could push inside.

They both moaned at the feeling, the hot clutch and slight burn, the overwhelming sensation of completion.

Stiles wasn’t even aware he was gasping against Derek’s shoulder until the other man wrapped his arms around Stiles’ back and shushed him, holding his fast until he caught his breath.

It was dizzying, being joined like that, Derek’s cock buried within him, hot and hard and perfect. Stiles gave an experimental roll of his hips, just about the only movement he could make with Derek hugging him like that, and it drew another set of moans from the two of them.

“Ease up, big guy,” Stiles said with a smile, feeling a flash of amusement come from his mate as his arms loosened their tight hold.

He cautiously rose up a few inches, muscles shuddering with the sensation, then back down, groaning at the feeling of Derek and heat, their sweaty skin making the air seem thicker, somehow, even more intimate.

After a few more cautious thrusts he gained more confidence and speed, until he was thrusting down, Derek’s hands on his hips, helping maintain the momentum.

“Fuck, Der,” he mumbled, damp forehead pressed against his shoulder so he could look down between them to see the almost frantic movements, the muscles of his thighs twitching with the strain, their chests heaving, Derek’s thumbs digging into the skin over hips.

It felt so right, so perfect.

There was a kind of heat inside of him and with every piston of his hips, with every tensing of Derek’s unbelievably muscular forearms, the tension inside of him ratcheted up, winding tighter and tighter, igniting until Stiles was sure he would shatter from it, his throat burning from his sharp gasps until he fell over that edge and his muscles locked in a long, hard orgasm that whited out his vision and made his fingers claw against Derek’s back.

Beneath him Derek stilled, letting him ride it out, holding him steady as he fell apart, kissing his parted lips, not seeming to care about the come slicking both their chests.

When Stiles finally finished, the aftershocks no longer shuddering through him, Derek flipped them easily, not even needing to pull out as he pressed Stiles’ back against the mattress and rolled his hips in an easy glide. Every time he grazed Stiles’ prostate it still gave him a jolt, but he just wrapped his legs around Derek’s waist and his arms around his neck and reeled him in, encouraging him into a searing kiss that managed to finally push him over the edge as well.

Stiles held him through it, amazed at how silent Derek was when he came, already thinking of ways to cause him to scream out his orgasm, but that was for later, after they’d talked and negotiated and found a place of their own where they wouldn’t have to worry about nosy neighbors and noise complaints. As it was Stiles’ couldn’t quite be sure his dad wouldn’t hear about their probably pretty loud sexcapades from Mr. and Mr. Eliot next door, but it had definitely been worth it.

“Whatever you’re thinking about, stop it,” Derek mumbled against his chest and Stiles grinned, tucking his chin so he could look down at him. It was an awkward angle, but Derek looked completely blissed out, so it was worth making himself look like he had twenty chins.

“What if I was thinking about your dick?” Stiles asked because his brain was starting to come back online even after the amazing orgasm, and yeah, he’d come untouched.

That was a thing.

A very glorious, amazing thing that he wanted to have happen again.

And again.

And just, a lot.

“Okay, you can keep thinking about what you’re thinking about now, but I’m not going to be up for another round right this second,” Derek said, still sounding blissed out and not entirely coherent, “just give me a few minutes to recover.”

“You mean recover from an awesome orgasm because that was pretty awesome,” Stiles said with a smile.

Derek groaned and rolled them again so Stiles was on top and suddenly empty, Derek’s come and the lube leaking out of him and that was never not a weird sensation. Not that he’d ever felt it before he’d been with Derek because while Stiles was often stupid when it came to relationships, he had always used protection before.

Which reminded him that STI testing was at the top of his list of things to get done. Well, they’d need to probably get dressed first, and then there was figuring out whether or not werewolfiness would show up on that kind of medical test-

“Stiles,” Derek whined and Stiles couldn’t contain his giggle because hearing a grown man use that particular tone of voice was kind of a privilege. A hilarious privilege.

Also, Derek was adorable when he pouted.

“Alright, alright,” Stiles finally conceded when he felt Derek’s mood start to get grumpy again. He nuzzled his cheek against Derek’s pec and slipped his hands around the man’s surprisingly trim waist so his hands were tucked in the warmth between his spine and the bed.

That contented the both of them and they settled in to enjoy the afterglow for a few more moments, Derek’s chest soft under his cheek as Stiles listened to the even thudding of his heart and the quiet in and out of his breathing. It was a bit hypnotic, actually, hearing the way Derek’s body worked.

It felt right.

Because even when he’d been in relationships before, Stiles couldn’t ever remember feeling so blissfully content with another person, wrapped up in each other’s arms, sharing the same space and feelings and dreams.

“Me, too,” Derek said, his voice reverberating a bit under Stiles’ cheek.

That was another thing, he’d never had a magical connection with any of his previous lovers. Not that he would have wanted to, they had all been pretty terrible people. Not that Derek hadn’t had his moments, though Stiles wasn’t without guilt, either.

Derek’s rumbling took on a different tone as he slid his broad hand from Stiles’ shoulder and slid it between them onto his chest, rubbing at the scar tissue there like he could read Stiles’ mind. “It’s okay,” he whispered.

“It is now,” Stiles agreed, wrapping his arms more firmly across Derek’s sweaty stomach and closing his eyes.

Chapter Text

Stiles was just on the verge of falling asleep when his pillow shifted along with Derek’s mood.

“Mmrp,” Stiles groaned, pressing his face against his mate’s chest.

“You were the one who said we should talk,” Derek pointed out, moving them so Stiles was sprawled between his legs, chin pressed against his enviable and still damp abdomen. It took Stiles a second to remember that it wasn’t just sweat slicking his throat, but strangely enough that didn’t really bother him at all.

And in all honesty he really would have preferred going for another round of sexytimes to having any kind of discussion, but Derek’s unyielding gaze told him that wasn’t a possibility at that particular moment in time.

So since that plan was shot, Stiles grudgingly decided to play along.

“We’re having dinner tomorrow night with my dad,” he said and Derek nodded. “I know we were supposed to eat breakfast with your family-”

“But you were drained from using magic to keep my uncle from dying, so that has been postponed until further notice,” Derek finished for him, thumb brushing against Stiles’ cheek and he felt his mate’s residual anxiety, probably at having seen him nearly wiped out because of the magical exertion his crazy healing powers had caused.

Which reminded him of the hospital and seeing his dad laid out there and then his conversation. “Um, my dad said he talked to your parents,” Stiles informed him quietly.

Derek made a grumbled noise of attentiveness.

“He, uh, they told him about the werewolf thing.”

Stiles did not anticipate Derek’s lack of surprise.

“Okay,” he said, like it was that simple.

“Uh,” Stiles replied watching his face for any signs of deeper goings-on, but his expression was just as unruffled as his mood. “So you’re okay with my dad knowing you guys are werewolves?”

Derek shrugged. “My mother’s the alpha. If she thinks it’s appropriate for him to know about us, then who am I to disagree with her? Besides, it might make things easier if he knows about it and how that impacts your relationship with me.”

Stiles seriously needed to figure out a way to wrap his head around the whole Hale family dynamic they had going on. And actually, there was a lot more to it than just the Hales themselves, like basic werewolf physiology and healing rates and customs and taboos. Stiles was also still wrestling with figuring out his own place among them, as Anya’s kid and a spark and a mate and an anchor.

And the whole being Anya’s kid thing, that was one of the biggest considerations he had to come to terms with. We do not submit, his mother had written to him. He’d read it too late, though, already having accepted a place in the Hale pack under Talia, but since then he’d undermined her authority to an extent that he wasn’t sure what his position was, anymore.

It was all pretty stressful and confusing, really.

But then there was Derek-

“I know we talked a little bit about this, but I’m still not entirely sure what I’m going to tell your mom about the whole pack situation,” Stiles said quietly, worrying his bottom lip. On the one hand he refused to force Derek away from his family, into becoming the bad kind of omega, the lone wolf without a pack to help stabilize him and his more fundamental instincts, but on the other the Hales weren’t exactly a trustworthy bunch. Not from Stiles’ perspective, at least, though Talia and Rollin both seemed interested in making amends for their previously shitty behavior. Well, that's what they’d said, but he still wasn't all that willing to trust Talia in particular after the whole manipulation and handcuffing thing.

Derek hummed softly and brought a hand up to slide through Stiles’ probably crazy-looking hair. “I told you that I’d follow you,” he pointed out, like it was just that easy.

Maybe it was for him, since he was apparently a natural follower, having been a beta in his family’s pack for his entire life, but Stiles wasn't about to just accept that kind of commitment, nor was he interested in demanding it of his lover.

So he shook his head. “And I told you that this wasn’t a relationship built upon submission and dominance. Well,” he amended, knowing that his face was blotchy red as the implications of that sentence struck him, “ at least it’s not about that outside of thoroughly negotiated scenes.”

Derek huffed out a laugh, making his abdomen tremble underneath Stiles’ chin.

“But, that still requires communication and discussion and trust and therapy,” Stiles continued a bit more soberly, resting his cheek on Derek’s somewhat sticky stomach and letting his eyes lose focus as he thought about it. “I really don’t know what to do about the pack stuff, though.”

It bothered him that he didn’t know. It was similar to how his mom had described her magic, like he was cast adrift at sea, unable to tell which direction to go in order to get safely back to shore. He didn’t like not knowing.

They stayed like that, in still silence, until Derek exhaled a long breath and hauled Stiles up so they were pressed firmly together from shoulders to toes, noses almost touching.

“You don’t have to know everything right now,” Derek said quietly. “No one expects you to have all of the answers, and you’re allowed time to think about it. If you’d like we could go to Chicago first, then meet with my mother to discuss it when we get back. How long do you think you’ll need to be there to wrap things up?”

Stiles shrugged, he hadn’t really given it much thought, too caught up in the drama of the alpha pack and his newfound magic and the Argents and the general terror of his cross-country flight. “A few days, a week at most,” he said.

Things were moving kind of fast all of the sudden, but Stiles knew that even if, by some chance, he ended up staying in Chicago that there’d be no way he’d be able to stay in the apartment he’d shared with Charlie. He figured he’d at least move what he wanted to keep over to Derek’s place, and then they’d come to a more permanent conclusion later. It was a bit exhilarating that Derek seemed to be on the same page, though their timeline was a bit inconvenient given the upcoming holidays.

“If we left now that would put us at around Christmas Eve,” Stiles trailed off, thinking about the timing and traffic and general December chaos. He hadn’t even begun shopping for anyone, yet. Then there was the exorbitant cost of plane tickets-

Derek’s chest rumbled soothingly against him. “How about four days? We’d miss dinner with your father tomorrow night, though.”

Stiles considered that and glanced over at the clock. It was midafternoon and if they actually got motivated before dark he’d be able to prepare and bake the vegetable lasagna, then take some over to his dad at the station. He’d even throw in a few cookies if the sheriff promised to eat his relatively healthy dinner instead of diner fare from across the street. Plus, it would give Stiles a chance to see that his dad was okay, even though he knew it intellectually.

“If we leave in the morning,” Derek continued, “we would be able to return in time for the solstice.”

That got his attention. “Wait, do you guys do some kind of ritual for that or something?” he asked.

Stiles had read a bit about pagan ceremonies occurring during that time of the year, but for some reason hadn't made the connection with Derek's family, though from what he’d seen they did seem to be a bit more in touch with nature than regular humans. He wondered if his own mother had participated in similar events, too. Stiles couldn’t quite remember, but then again he’d apparently missed the entirety of her magical persona, despite having helped cast some full moon magic with her, so he wasn’t about to rely on his own incomplete memories to draw conclusions.

“Of course, Stiles, we always celebrate the solstices and equinoxes,” Derek said like it was completely obvious.

It wasn’t, but Stiles supposed it made a certain amount of sense. The bonfire he’d helped light the night of his pack initiation had been constructed inside of a large ring of cleared earth, which must have formed the ritual circle they had used for that kind of thing. Even after the Hale’s long absence from Beacon Hills there hadn’t been anything growing high enough to impede the ritual, which meant the space was either preserved through some kind of magic or Deaton’s lawncare handiwork. Stiles could also tell that the bonfire itself had been expertly stacked so that, in theory, when a spark struck the kindling the entire thing would burn evenly, all of which indicating that the Hales were used to constructing them that way.

And thinking about the whole solstice ritual thing had Stiles’ eyebrows raising along with the question he told himself he wouldn’t ask, but finally it burst out of him in a rush. “Do you all go skyclad?”

Derek rolled his eyes, but there was a fondness underneath his exasperation. “Yes, Stiles, we go skyclad for the celebrations. Or we shift into our wolf forms.”

“And do you have a bonfire like we had the other night?”

“Mhmm,” Derek murmured.

Stiles barely resisted the urge to bite his lip, but he was pretty sure Derek could feel his reticence since his hot hand smoothed down his back in response.

“Is it like the mating ceremony?” Stiles asked quietly.

Derek’s muscles spasmed for a second before he got them under control. His heartbeat, though, that wasn’t quite as calm as he pretended to be and neither were his emotions as they flickered too quickly for Stiles to grasp.

"You know that's another thing we're going to have to talk about," Stiles said with a sigh, then closed his eyes and tucked his face against Derek's neck, partially for the comfort and partially so he wouldn't have to see his mate's expression, even if he was beginning to parse out the feelings he was exuding.

Resignation, affection, fear, contentment, love, apprehension. It was an odd mix, but one Stiles could relate to given that he was in the same boat. The forced-to-be-together-because-of-a-mystical-connection boat. Also a bit of the for-better-or-for-worse boat. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about all of that, either.

“We’re also going to have to find some kind of relationship counselor,” he added and a thick bolt of shame burst into the emotional cocktail Derek had going on.

“Hey,” Stiles said, sliding a hand up his mate’s chest to rest on the vivid red mark he’d placed on his neck. “None of that, now, we’ve both fucked up, but the fact that you feel bad about breaking my trust and that I feel bad about, well, all kinds of things including murdering people. Okay, don’t give me that look, I know I just lied. Those fuckers deserved to die and we both know it. But I do feel bad about our communication issues, which are at least partially culturally based, I think. Right?”

Derek nodded slowly. “It can be hard for a werewolf and a human to be mates, since wolves can more easily tell when someone is lying or what they’re feeling. Humans sometimes resent that.”

“But we have our super awesome magical anchor bond, right? So in theory I should be able to what? Gauge your mood and tell if you’re trying to pull one over one me?” Stiles wasn’t quite sure how that all worked, but it sounded pretty close. At least it should work like that if they were touching.

Derek nodded again. “I thought you might have figured out what I was doing with the handcuff,” he said, and Stiles felt another stab of what he could only describe as self-loathing coming from Derek.

“I could tell you regretted doing it,” he said slowly, “but I was so hurt and angry I couldn’t figure out what was going on, other than the obvious.”

“The obvious being that I was abusing and deliberately trying to alienate you,” Derek said miserably.

Stiles was torn between pushing the issue, maybe even metaphorically rubbing Derek’s nose in the fact that he’d completely violated the trust they’d built up, and comforting his clearly repentant mate who had already gotten his forgiveness for the infraction.

Stiles decided to put aside his pettiness and let it go.

It was a bit of a rush, really, acting like an actual adult.

He cupped Derek’s face in his hands, kind of awkwardly because Stiles was partially laying on him, but whatever, what he had to say was important. “You did a pretty shitty thing. We both know it and while I’ve forgiven you and understand the ends your means were trying to justify, it still hurt me at a pretty deep level. But,” he continued quickly, feeling Derek’s misery and seeing the liquid glistening in his eyes, “I get it. I get that you had faith in me and my ability to get myself out of that handcuff. A bit of misguided faith, as it turned out, but still you were in a really tough position, your alpha versus your mate, and I’d rather not make you choose between us again.”

Derek’s angst faded a bit as his confusion shone through. “Choose? But I’ve already chosen-”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Stiles interrupted, quiet and determined. “You shouldn’t ever have to pick between your family and your lover-”

“You’re much more than a lover, Stiles-”

“-but I’m still having a hard time trying to figure out the terms I’m going to present toTalia.”

That seemed to shock Derek into silence.

Finally, his impressive eyebrows quirked into a frown. “You mean we’re not going to leave the pack?” he asked, voice heart-breakingly small.

Stiles’ thumbs smoothed the dark hairs over his mate’s hazel eyes. “No, Derek, we’re not leaving the pack. I wouldn’t do that to you. I didn’t have very long to be with my mother, I can’t imagine how I’d live with myself if I forced you to give up yours and your family.”

Derek hauled him into a tight hug, his relief so potent it brought tears to Stiles’ eyes as well.

“Thank you,” Derek whispered against his cheek.

Stiles didn’t see any other choice but to turn his face and kiss him.

The kiss turned heated almost instantly and before Stiles could figure out what he wanted to do with Derek he found himself with his back pressed against the mattress and the firm weight of the werewolf on top of him.

“Let me?” Derek murmured, lips trailing down Stiles’ body and it took him a stupid amount of time to realize what Derek was doing.

“Are you seriously mapping out my moles right now?” he asked breathily.

Derek glanced up at him and licked the patch of skin under his chin. “I warned you that I would,” he said, and Stiles rolled his eyes even though he was smiling at the absurdity.

“You’re adorable, but I want to make dinner and take it to my dad tonight, so you better not start something you’re not going to finish, Hale,” Stiles warned and grinned wider at the flush that bloomed over Derek’s cheeks and the tips of his ears.

And apparently he liked being called by his last name when they were being intimate.

Good to know.

Stiles wondered what else he’d want to be called, but it wasn’t the time for their renewed kink negotiation. He was far more interested in seeing how things played out at the moment than in delving into anything else.

“I’m going to take my time with you,” Derek warned. It was a warning, too, as well as his way of seeking permission.

They still had plenty of time.

“You can hold me down by my hips,” Stiles suggested, accepting the proposal.

Derek nodded against his skin and continued, licking and sucking, nipping and soothing as he made his way across Stiles chest, the touches creating a low-simmering kind of burn in him without pushing him too far toward the edge.

Eventually he felt himself relax into it as he closed his eyes and reveled in the conflicting sensations of Derek’s raspy beard followed by the kitten licks of his silky tongue. Hot then cool as he abandoned the saliva-slicked patches of skin to mark new territory.

Stiles jumped when Derek got close to the sensitive skin under his arms, but didn’t make any move to stop him from exploring there, too.

“Gonna do this to you sometime,” he warned, voice slow and soft, just like Derek’s steady licking.

His answer was the low rumble of a contented growl.

There were probably marks littering his torso, by the time Derek moved on to his arms, but Stiles couldn’t help but enjoy the faint throbbing of his skin. He liked wearing Derek’s marks. They were far more welcome than the scars he bore.

“Hey, why didn’t my other scars go away when Peter tried to vivisect me?” he asked, hating his sudden curiosity and how the question made Derek pause in his ministrations, aroused mood shuddering with what Stiles assumed was the remembered fear Derek had felt at seeing him nearly die from his wounds.

He was too curious not to ask, though, his skin unblemished where the werewolf’s claws had pierced his abdomen and apparently punctured his lungs in what should have been a deadly strike.

Derek licked at the patches in question, like his tongue could erase the memory of Peter’s violence and the blood that had undoubtedly stained the skin there. He worked methodically, mood gradually calming as he centered himself and Stiles closed his eyes at the repetitive sensation of Derek’s tongue, sinking into it as Derek worked himself up to answering the question.

“Your magic played a part,” he finally admitted, “that and the pack bond. We were all touching you, taking your pain and giving back to you what we could. My mother expended a great deal of energy trying to heal you, almost to the point of jeopardizing her own power.”

Which was news to Stiles.

“But I thought she was going to bite me,” he said quietly. It seemed like a time for quiet, for whispered words and delicacy. As if the topic would crack and shatter if they spoke about it too aggressively.

Derek kissed the cool skin he’d just attended to. “That was her last resort. My father was pulling her hand away, to keep her from draining herself too much, and I could see her fangs like she was on the verge of turning you.”

Stiles swallowed at the thought. He liked the werewolves he knew, he thought their enhanced senses and ability to shift into actual wolves were among the coolest kinds of super powers, but Stiles was already magical, as a human. For what felt like the first time in his life he had something no one else had. He wasn’t just the annoying kid with the dead mom or the spaz with a history of terrible taste in girl and boyfriends. Stiles was finally unique in a way that meant something good.

He didn’t want to throw that away to fit in with the status quo, even if the status quo happened to be populated by werewolves.

“So what happened?” he asked, intrigued.

Stiles knew what he thought had happened, though his memories were more sense than logic-based.

“You were dying,” Derek said quietly, though his tone didn’t even begin to convey his anguish. “It took me a few seconds to get to you, since you and Peter were initially engulfed in flames,” which was news to Stiles. He knew that he’d burned Peter, but not that it had apparently affected him as well. “Isaac and Boyd held me back until there wasn’t a danger of me being burnt, but by then your blood was everywhere and I was terrified that I’d lost you already.”

“But you could hear my heartbeat, right?” Stiles asked because that seemed like something that needed to be pointed out.

Derek shook his head, his beard rasping against the soft skin over Stiles’ abs. “I could barely hear anything over the terror I felt, seeing you hurt again so soon after what happened with Argent and Deucalion.”

“I think our therapist is going to have to know about werewolves,” Stiles decided in an attempt to lift the mood from the depths from which it had plunged.

Predictably, thankfully, Derek snorted, his breath warm against Stiles’ skin. “That narrows the field quite a bit, doesn’t it?” he asked with a wry smile.

Stiles shrugged. “Hey, I figure if there’s an emissary vet, there might as well be a counselor somewhere with a degree in supernatural studies. Right? I mean, you are a werewolf cop, and your sister’s a yoga instructor, of all things.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but didn’t object.

“So does that mean your collective werewolfing plus my magic made my new wounds heal?” he asked, wanting to get it out of the way so they wouldn’t have to bring it up again. Stiles was pretty sure the whole chain of events with the Argents and alphas wasn’t something they’d look back on with fondness.

Derek closed his eyes and placed his lips against Stiles’ smooth skin. “You were fading, but somehow a combination of our abilities and your magic allowed you to come back to me. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but the result is that you were spared any physical reminder of what happened.”

When he was finished, warm breath tickling Stiles’ sensitive abs, Derek looked up at him through his eyelashes. He wanted to be done with the conversation as much as Stiles did.

“How do you feel about shower sex?” Stiles asked in a change of topic so abrupt Derek’s lips quirked before he could school his features.

His arousal spoke volumes, however, and Stiles smirked back.

“That a yes? Because I still need to make dinner so we can take it to my dad, and then we have to figure out how we’re going to get to Chicago, but yeah, first thing’s first, right?”

Derek rolled his eyes. “I’ll grab the lube,” he said, hoisting himself off of Stiles, who took the opportunity to jump off the bed and race to the bathroom.

“Last one in bottoms!” he called over his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Stiles had his eyes closed, face tilted into the warm spray, reveling in the way his muscles loosened under the familiar pounding pressure. It felt like ages since he’d been able to just relax like that, with no impending doom or deadlines or crisis on the horizon. Of course there were still things to worry about, like his dad knowing about werewolves and Scott suddenly becoming one, but it all seemed a bit more manageable with Derek by his side.

Well, not literally. Apparently he was taking his sweet ass time finding the lube. Not that Stiles was going to fault him for that, there was no telling where it had ended up.

He didn’t move until he felt a trickle of cool air against his legs as the shower curtain was pulled back, followed quickly by the stuffy warmth of Derek sealing it against the tile.

"Hope you brought the lube," Stiles said with a grin, shifting just enough so he wouldn't get water into his mouth. It felt almost unbearably good against his sensitive skin as Derek sidled up behind him until his body was just touching the length of Stiles’ spine, equally warm despite him not yet touching the water.

Werewolves.

"I brought more than that," Derek said huskily, pressing firmly against him and Stiles couldn't help but sigh happily and lean back, enjoying the sensation of being surrounded by heat and his mate's contentment and arousal. The comforting combination worked to help dissipate his own nagging doubts.

"I can feel that," Stiles said with a smile, shifting his hips back in a playful grind. "But you heard what I said before, didn't you?" he asked, suddenly not quite as confident about his brash challenge. They'd talked about both of them being versatile when it came to sex, but for the most part Stiles had been the one bottoming. Which wasn't exactly a problem, not as far as Stiles as concerned, at least, considering he was more than happy to have Derek in on and around him at any given point in time, but he also enjoyed switching it up on occasion.

Derek hummed, his chest vibrating against Stiles' back. "Oh, I heard you."

Stiles waited, but that was it, apparently. That and the slow burn of arousal Derek was exuding.

"Let's wash up, first," Stiles said, a bit thrown, but he figured they might as well shower away the funk they had going on, and then he'd make his move, if his mate still seemed receptive to the idea.

Heh.

Receptive.

Derek appeared willing enough to keep following Stiles' instructions instead of initiating anything on his own, so Stiles shifted them around so Derek could get under the spray and grabbed the shampoo, feigning disinterest in both of their erections as he reached up and began lathering Derek's dark hair, which looked a bit ridiculous plastered slick against his forehead.

"You don't-"

"I want to," Stiles interrupted. After all, Derek had taken care of him so often already, it was definitely his time to return the favor.

Not that it was a direct exchange of services or anything, Stiles actually really liked the feeling of someone else massaging his head and from the look of it, Derek concurred.

"We could just rub each other off," Stiles said as he moved to wash his own hair, but Derek's hands slipped underneath his as he took over the task and at some point he'd gotten into the shampoo as well. Stiles lowered his arms, smiling as he watched Derek work. His hair was comically sudsy, even though Stiles had somehow managed to restrain himself from giving him a foamy mohawk or horns or anything like that. He’d been pretty tempted, though.

Derek didn't immediately reply, he just curled his strong fingers against Stiles' scalp and his eyes slipped shut at the sensation.

"I want you to top," Derek said, almost too quietly to be heard over the rushing water and the deliberate scritching of his expert scalp massage.

Stiles almost opened his eyes, but he could feel some of the shampoo sliding down his forehead so instead he tilted his head in question.

"You won," Derek continued with what had to be a smirk, "and I like the way you feel inside of me. Of course if you changed your mind-"

"I didn’t," Stiles cut in, "I didn’t changed my mind."

“Then it’s settled.”

As if it were that easy for him to give up what could be construed as a pretty significant position of power. Like having Stiles top was no more of a burden than him being the one dominating their coupling.

Not that there was any true domination or submission going on between them. Up until that point, barring one instance of dream sex Stiles still wasn’t entirely comfortable with having perpetrated, everything had more or less been fairly egalitarian, which wasn’t something Stiles had much experience with, actually. None of his previous partners had ever been so willing to compromise, but then again Derek had repeatedly proven that he was in a class of his own.

“Focus, Stiles,” Derek said with a teasing tone, then his hands were cradling Stiles’ skull, easily moving them around in the cramped space until the water washed away the shampoo and drown out everything except for his thoughts on what, exactly, he wanted to do to Derek.

Make him come so hard he howled?

Hopefully.

Make him, at least for a moment, forget about all of the horrible things they’d gone through together?

Absolutely.

Stiles was interested in that as well, in forgetting, but it was Derek’s turn to let go and have someone else take control of his pleasure. Stiles was more than up for that particular task, and finally opened his eyes to gaze at Derek’s earnest expression, his broad hands still cradling Stiles’ skull as he made sure all of the suds had been rinsed away.

It was hopelessly endearing.

With a little bit of fumbling, or a lot, at least on Stiles’ end, they changed places again so he could do the same for his mate. Derek looked unreal under the spray, his muscles diverting the water into taunting little rivulets that emphasized the perfection of his classically toned body. He looked god-like, standing there in the heated air, like a figure Bernini had tried to capture in marble, but no sculpture could possibly encapsulate the uniqueness of Derek’s beauty, the superhuman power lurking behind every movement.

Stiles was maybe just a little bit gone on him.

And that was just another thing he would have to admit to Derek one day when he wasn’t quite so cautious about discussing the things that actually mattered in his life. It wasn’t one of the character traits he particularly admired about himself, his fear of rejection or of putting himself out there or whatever, but that caution was certainly something that he’d come to learn the hard way after a youth of brash obstinance.

After all, keeping things to himself had kept him safe, at least some of the time.

“You’re doing it again,” Derek said gently, though when his broad hand cupped Stiles’ cheek he could feel the undercurrent of his mate’s worry.

“Sorry,” Stiles replied reflexively, even though he knew an apology wasn’t what Derek had been fishing for. He pushed through it, though, not allowing him a chance to give Stiles another out. “Turn around and face the wall,” he said, too carefully to be a true command, but Derek did as he was told, anyway, the last of the shampoo running down the back of his neck and over his shoulder as he moved.

Stiles had always wanted to try rimming, but it wasn’t something that had ever really come up in his previous relationships, for one reason or another. Between the adultery and lies Stiles hadn’t ever trusted any of his partners enough to allow them in his blind spot like that, which should have been a pretty big red flag, but he’d been too stupid and desperate to notice. Besides, they’d often been more interested in their own immediate pleasure than in allowing him to indulge in some of the items on his sexual bucket list.

Focus.

“I’m going to rim you,” he said, not quite firmly enough to be statement.

Derek likely heard or smelled his hesitation because he nodded his head. “Yeah, sounds good,” he replied.

And huh, his voice sounded a little shaky, actually.

Maybe Stiles wasn’t the only one with limited experience.

The water had done a good job washing away the sweat and dried come of their earlier encounters, but Stiles dragged his hands up and down Derek’s spine anyway in a charade of helping clean up the evidence. His fingers trailed over the taut muscles, lower and lower with each pass. Derek was leaning with his forearms and palms flat against the wall under the showerhead, the spray pounding onto the center of his back and sliding across the taut skin of his sides.

“Lower,” Stiles said, voice suddenly deeper and a thrill went through him when Derek immediately complied, thrusting his perfect ass out toward him, his back was arched obscenely, feet pressed against the sides of the tub. Derek was balanced so delicately like that. So trusting.

A portrait of vulnerability.

Stiles moved his hands down Derek’s sides to rest on his hips. There really wasn’t much to say, given the circumstances. Stiles was aware of his penchant for babbling when he was uncomfortable or being faced with a new challenge, but something about the situation made him keep silent as he leaned in and placed a kiss on the small of Derek’s back, water gently misting across his face.

Derek shuddered beneath his lips.

Stiles smiled against him and continued kissing a path lower and lower, his thumbs sliding into the crease and spreading him.

“Your safeword?” Stiles asked, watching Derek’s muscles twitch as his arousal spiked higher.

Knife,” he replied, already sounding wrecked. He hissed when an errant rivulet of water ran in the valley between Stiles’ thumbs, caressing his already twitching hole, like Stiles was systematically dismantling his control.

Derek’s responsiveness was breathtaking.

"Do you have any concerns before we start?" Stiles asked, throat tight and he realized he’d been panting. He took a deep breath and released it slowly, trying to get himself back under control.

"Stiles," Derek groaned, "please just shut up and put your mouth on me."

Stiles chuckled and gave one of his cheeks a nip that made Derek swear.

"Pushy, pushy," Stiles said with a grin.

The thrumming of Derek's tenuously-contained power beneath Stiles' palms and lips had him barely resisting the urge to moan as he licked around his thumbs, skirting Derek's hole as he lathed the coarsely haired skin underneath.

Derek shuddered.

"I've never actually done this before," Stiles said, trying to keep his tone conversational as he licked and sucked the tender skin Derek exposed to him. When he didn't immediately respond beyond a bitten off sound Stiles smiled against him and licked a strip from his balls all the way up his perineum.

"You don't have to be quiet," Stiles commented, working his way along the hot skin, reveling in the way Derek's breath hitched. "I want to hear you."

Derek immediately complied, moaning so loudly it echoed.

It was all the encouragement Stiles needed to focus his attentions on Derek's fluttering hole, lathing it with little kitten licks, alternating hard and soft strokes until the shower was filled with Derek’s surprisingly expressive noises.

“Love the way you sound,” Stiles murmured against his skin, slightly winded and loving the way Derek twitched beneath him. It was empowering to know he had that effect when it was so easy for Derek to pull the same kinds of reactions from him.

“More,” Derek gasped, one hand flailing against the shower curtain as he awkwardly shoved the lube at Stiles. “Need. I need more.”

Stiles had to bite his lip to keep from doing something awkward like cooing because that definitely wasn’t the right kind of reaction to have about his lover demanding to be fingered opened and then fucked in the very same shower where Stiles had first discovered what his dick was for.

Because that was exactly what Stiles was going to do to him. He was going to carefully, meticulously prep Derek before curling over his back and whispering all the things he liked about his mate as he slid into him over and over again until they were both a mess of pleasure.

Providing the hot water held out. Knowing their old water heater, that wasn’t a very likely possibility.

Damnit.

Spurred forward by that thought, he clicked open the container one-handed while the other kept Derek spread wide so he could keep licking and sucking. He had to use both hands to actually pour the lube, though, but he kept up a steady nipping of Derek’s perfect ass, drawing even more throaty noises from his mate before carefully sliding one slick finger into his puffy hole.

And apparently werewolf healing didn’t think a good rimming constituted a worthwhile expenditure of energy? Either that or Derek was actively keeping himself from recovering from the love bites and steady intrusion of Stiles’ tongue and finger.

Either way, Stiles was totally okay with seeing the debauched nature of Derek’s used ass.

He was also okay with the almost scalding heat surrounding his finger as he pulled back to watch, working his way up to two, reveling in the tension strumming through Derek’s bowed body, his ribs expanding and contracting quickly with his gasping breaths. It occurred to Stiles again that Derek may not have much experience with that particular position, like maybe he was okay with the concept of bottoming, but hadn’t had all that many opportunities to participate in the actual practice.

Or he was just astonishingly expressive.

Stiles really didn’t care either way, just as long as he was the only one who saw Derek like that in the future, an unfamiliar sense of possessiveness overtaking him.

“You like that?” he asked, bowing forward until he had to turn his face against Derek’s back to keep the water from his eyes as it pounded against them both. “You like the way I feel inside of you? God, Derek, you’re so beautiful like this, making such incredible noises for me.”

Beneath him, Derek mewled.

“Stiles,” he gasped, his fingers sported claws as he was apparently trying to make a concerted effort not to scratch the tiles, his forearms flexing sporadically as he struggled to keep himself still enough for Stiles, though even his steely self-control slipped when a third finger breached him.

“Easy,” Stiles said, delighted that he was able to tell Derek that, for once. Sweat was starting to slick his own back from the heat of the shower and the pleasurable exertion of opening Derek up. Once he was inside of his mate, Stiles was certain he wouldn’t last long, so he resisted for just a few moments longer, twisting his wrist and flexing his fingers until Derek nearly dislodged him with a powerful, full-body spasm.

Stiles wrapped his free arm around Derek’s trembling waist and eased his fingers from his quivering hole. “I’ve got you,” he murmured, kissing the wet skin on his spine, not caring that the cooling water was thundering against the back of his head and neck. Derek would hear him regardless of the noise. “I’ve got you,” he repeated, changing the angle of his hips just enough for him to slide the tip of his cock against Derek’s hole.

“Stiles,” Derek lisped and yeah, Stiles could see the excess fur along his cheek, but the water quickly obscured his view and made him squeeze his eyes shut as he pushed against the soft resistance until he was finally, wonderfully, able to press into the brilliant heat, a potent counterpoint to growing chill.

He still had one arm wrapped around Derek’s waist, so he slipped the other up to his shoulder, gripping the muscle tightly to keep his mate from moving as they both grew accustomed to the almost overwhelming sensation of being joined.

“Move,” Derek pleaded, just audible over the sound of the water. “God, just-”

Stiles gritted his teeth as Derek rolled his hips, which wouldn’t have been possible had he not been a supernaturally strong werewolf.

He moved his hand from Derek’s shoulder to the back of his neck and squeezed, which had the unexpected result of causing his mate to whimper, his whole body freezing.

Which.

Huh.

That was good to know.

“I’ve got you,” Stiles assured him, giving one more gentle squeeze before resuming his hold on the tense muscle of Derek’s shoulder.

The water was almost uncomfortably cool, but Stiles didn’t bother to turn it off. He just leaned back out fo the way of the spray and gave an experimental roll of his hips, closing his eyes as Derek tensed around his cock, like he didn’t want Stiles’ to leave his body.

And apparently the possessiveness went both ways.

Stiles let his thrusts grow a little harder at that thought and Derek moaned in appreciation. His arousal was a brilliant tingling under Stiles’ palms, like they were both burning with it. And if sex with Derek was always like that Stiles would gladly feed the flames.

Derek hissed and the water cut off abruptly as his body gave a long shiver. Stiles would have made some kind of a wet dog joke, but he was too caught up in the clench of Derek’s hole and his sudden ability to hear the way they were both gasping, the slick-wet slap of their skin and he couldn’t help the way his hips slammed just a little harder against the sinfully muscled swell of Derek’s ass.

“So beautiful,” Stiles groaned and then the pressure was almost too much as Derek’s entire body shuddered, the starburst of his orgasm dragging Stiles over the edge with him and not even the harsh screeching of Derek’s wolf-nails on the tiles could stop the waves of pleasure that washed over the two of them in that delicious feedback loop Stiles thought was probably one of the coolest noncorporeal things in existence.

That and the fact that he was in a relationship with Derek Hale.

He kind of enjoyed that, too.



When they finally stumbled down the stairs to make dinner, both of them were feeling pretty wrung-out, but otherwise at peace with each other and their situation.

“I’ll book our flights,” Derek said as he settled onto the couch with his phone and wallet. He looked amazing sitting there in his boxer briefs, one bare foot on the coffee table, hair still damp from their shower sexcapades. He’d had to rinse off with the cold water after they’d both finished, which Stiles felt kind of bad about, but Derek had assured him with a heated kiss that it had definitely been worth it, regardless of the temperature.

Seeing the ease with which Derek settled into his life, into the familiar space of the living room Stiles had grown up in, he was once again stuck by just how much he wanted them to get a place of their own where he could see a similar scene every day. To witness the simple domesticity of Derek in his boxers, lounging around like he belonged because he absolutely did. He belonged there with Stiles, wherever it was they ended up. Which, yeah, the two of them were kind of moving insanely quickly, especially since they’d only known each other for a few months.

But Stiles was strangely okay with that.

“I’ll, uh,” he said, then cleared his throat and gestured to the kitchen. “I’ll just, food, yeah.”

He knew it would have been way too early in a normal relationship for them to think about the whole cohabitation thing, but the two of them had a very not-normal relationship. Also, it was pretty much set in stone, already. Stiles needed the close proximity so he wouldn’t die from doing his magic, and he was Derek’s anchor. Which, honestly, he didn’t really know all that much about, but figured it was kind of a similar type of deal to whatever thing he had going on.

Stiles shrugged the thoughts away as he scratched at the scant hair on his bare chest, using the there, not-there sensation of his blunt nails moving over his scars to center himself. After all, he needed to cook dinner for the two of them and then take some to the station for his dad. It wasn’t the time to have an existentialist crisis or revelation or whatever it was happening in his brain at the moment.

Food.

That was what he was focusing on.

Food was easy.

The ingredients were simple enough to dig up, though the massive stock pot he needed to cook the noodles in was a bit of a challenge to access, wedged behind half a dozen other pots and pans the awkward corner cabinet beside the oven. The meal was quickly underway, the water heating, the various vegetables spread across the counter along with the cheeses he needed to grate.

Since he was short on tomato sauce and tomatoes, Stiles settled on making it more of a white vegetable lasagna, which wasn’t his normal style, but it would probably work out to be edible. He eyed the spread critically, debating what vegetables his dad would complain the least about, since it would very clearly not contain anything resembling artery-clogging meat.

“Knife?” Derek asked, apparently having snuck into the kitchen at some point.

Stiles was half-turned toward him when he froze at the word, then realized Derek was actually asking for a knife to help him cut up the veggies, not calling for them to stop what they were doing.

“Yeah,” Stiles said as he gestured to the drawer he hadn’t opened since the incident with Cassandra, “I think we’re going to have to revise our safeword.” He’d apparently gotten better about it, but suddenly the thought of putting his hand in there made his chest ache.

Derek glanced from Stiles to the drawer and back before approaching him and wrapping his werewolf-warm arms around Stiles’ shoulders and drawing him into a comforting hug.

“What would you rather we say?” he asked softly, lips tickling as he spoke against Stiles’ neck, “Is there a word or phrase-”

“How about the stoplight system, like people use in BDSM? I mean, I’m not saying we should break out the whips and chains-”

Derek kissed him quiet, his hands cradling Stiles’ neck and throat, thumbs tracing up his pulse points until his heartbeat quickened for an entirely different reason than anxiety.

Finally, Derek pulled away to pepper Stiles’ face with delicate kisses and he let his eyes flutter shut at the sensation.

“Traffic lights are fine, Stiles,” he whispered between kisses. “Red for stop, yellow for slow down and discuss, and green for good to go?”

Stiles opened his eyes and smiled at Derek, who had such an earnest expression and mood that he couldn’t help but press up against him and give a few kisses of his own.

“That sounds good,” he said against his mate’s lips, reveling in the answering smile. “But first,” he continued, putting his hands on Derek’s hips and pushing just enough so they weren’t pressed quite so closely together, “we need to cut up and simmer some of these veggies, cook the noodles until they’re al dente, mix the cheese stuff, and get this bad boy in the oven. If we wait much longer my dad will undoubtedly sneak across the street from the station and grab some greasy diner junk for dinner. Oh! You could totally tell if he’s eaten that kind of thing, couldn’t you? Like, you’d be able to smell it or whatever?”

Derek rolled his eyes and released his hold on Stiles, backing up toward the knife drawer. “Yes, Stiles, I could smell that type of food on your father,” he held up a hand, “but that doesn’t mean I’m going to whip out my werewolf scenting skills just for kicks.”

Stiles pouted, which made Derek snort before he turned fully toward the drawer and extracted a knife.

At least, Stiles assumed he got a knife, but he couldn’t really see because Derek’s body was blocking his view of the whole thing.

“What do you want me to cut up?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder. The swirls of his tattoo shifted at the movement and Stiles vowed to spend some time tracing every one of those lines with his tongue.

“Stiles? The vegetables?”

He blinked at Derek for a moment before he realized he hadn’t answered. Yeah, he was kind of easily distracted when faced with his lover’s toned body.  

Whatever, Derek was kind of smirking back at him, anyway.

Asshole.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until they were on their way to the station, the jeep handling like a dream-

Well, at least it handled better than it ever had before, which wasn’t to say that it compared in any way to Derek’s flashy sports car, but still, it barely even ground in second, anymore.

-before Stiles realized he hadn’t even asked about the plane tickets Derek had mentioned earlier when he’d been busy having an unproductive mini-crisis about their future living situation.

Current living situation?

Whatever.

“Oh, hey, did you end up booking tickets for both of us, or what?” he asked, glancing over at where Derek was watching the road, though there was an utter lack of traffic that time of night, which was to be expected.

But despite that they were stuck at the ridiculously timed light on Maple that had often determined whether or not Stiles had been late for school. Because when he inevitably got stuck at a red he wasn’t exactly able to speed afterward since that route went right past the sheriff’s station and all. Of course when he’d tried to explain that to his dad, pink slip sitting on the dining room table waiting to be signed, his argument had never gone over very well with his parental unit. Something about responsibility and alarm clocks and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Pft.

Derek made a noncommittal noise. “Don’t worry about it, Stiles,” he said dismissively, looking out the passenger-side window into the winter darkness.

Stiles snorted and gave him an incredulous look, but Derek was just sitting there casually like there was nothing at all wrong with that statement.

“Dude, you do know that saying that makes me freak out even more, right? I mean, it’s like telling someone who’s having a panic attack to calm down. That shit? Yeah, it doesn’t work the way you want it to, so we’re going to have to figure out this communication thing so I don’t actually freak out because it kind of feels like your coddling me? Maybe? I mean-”

Derek turned to face him with a chagrined kind of grimace. “Sorry, I’m sorry. I get it-”

Stiles wasn’t quite sure he did, but it wasn’t a time or place to argue, not with the lasagna warm in the back seat and the station only a few blocks away. Stiles pulled forward when the light finally turned green.

“-and yes, I booked the tickets for both of us.”

Which was a little weird, actually.

Wasn’t it?

“But don’t you need to know, like, really personal information about me to do that?” Stiles protested, “My date of birth and address and legal name and all that jazz? Wait, which of my cards did you use?” Because if it was the blue one he was going to get a call from his bank and that wasn’t going to be a fun conversation.

Ugh, his finances were probably a bit wonky since he’d kind of just up and fled Chicago. Plus the fact that his former roommate was actually dead and not contributing his share of expenses any longer didn’t help matters. He wondered if that would get him out of paying his half of the electric bill, a thought which immediately made him feel like a bad person.

Even though he still thought it was a valid question that would eventually need to be asked.

Derek set his warm palm over Stiles’ thigh and squeezed. “Stiles, I know pretty much everything about you, at least when it comes to stuff like that. Why don’t we consider the airfare as part of my gift to you this season, or as an asshole tax or something.”

Stiles glanced over at him, really wanting to get into the whole Derek knowing all of Stiles’ personal information off the top of his head business along with the clear attempt to buy himself back into Stiles’ good graces, but he knew there was a time and a place for that conversation and heading toward the sheriff’s station to probably be interrogated by his dad wasn’t one of them. Instead, he just shook his head with a rueful smile.

“Well, you should probably know that I’m not exactly the best flyer around,” he admitted. It wasn’t so much his fear of heights as it was his tendency toward catastrophic thinking and an unhealthy penchant for panic attacks. Not that he’d ever actually freaked out on a plane, but there had been some eh, turbulent, moments.

Derek surprised him by snorting out a laugh. “Well then you should know I’m always chosen to undergo additional screening procedures, and the combination of smells in the airport and on the plane always gives me a headache, so I’m usually pretty grumpy when I fly.”

Stiles glanced over at him before focusing back on the road. For being near the sheriff’s station there were an awful lot of potholes, but that had more to do with the politics of Beacon Hills than anything else. The mayor hadn’t forgiven the sheriff for letting his deputies write his wife speeding tickets every time she peeled out of the high-end subdivision where they lived, and thus the city road workers somehow hadn’t quite made it to that area of town quite yet.

“That is unexpectedly hilarious,” he decided, then smirked as he pictured Derek being frisked. “Oh my god, everyone probably thinks you’re a terrorist because of your grumpy face and the scruff and the leather jacket. I’m right aren’t I?”

Derek’s expression told him he was totally right.

Stiles laughed, loud and bright, and when he looked back at Derek he was smiling as well, if a bit reluctantly.

“Sorry, dude, that’s terrible but also funny? I mean, we’re probably going to just be a total mess tomorrow with you freaking out before the flight and me freaking out during it. I mean, I haven’t ever actually lost it before, but I’ve also never really flown with anyone else, so I’ve kind of had to keep my shit together up until this point. Oh, god,” he said, the amusement he’d felt draining from him with a stomach-churning abruptness, “what if I actually lose control and summon lightning or something? Holy shit, Derek-”

His breath was starting to catch in his throat and Derek laid a very gentle hand on the corded muscles of his tensed forearm, Stiles’ knuckles were white where he was gripping the shifter too tightly.

“Stiles,” Derek said, voice and emotions exuding a kind of zen-like calm, “it’s going to be fine. We’re going to be with each other the entire time and nothing bad is going to happen to either of us. Okay?”

It took another block, but Stiles finally managed to suck in a deep breath and release it slowly like he’d been taught. There was still so much to discuss about the whole traveling situation, not the least of which was Derek’s apparent willingness to buy Stiles’ forgiveness or affection or whatever. Not that Stiles really thought that was Derek’s intention, but he’d gone down that road before with Samson and had learned from experience that material goods did not make up for douchebaggery.

But they were at the station already and he didn’t to want the food to get cold before he fed his dad.

“We’ll talk about this later, okay?” he said, turning off the ignition and twisting back to grab the casserole cosy his mother had quilted once upon a time.

And really, the amount of things they seriously needed to discuss was kind of staggering, but Stiles was hungry and sated, which was a weird combination, and he kind of just wanted to see his dad. They walked up to the doors side by side, their fingers brushing as they moved and Stiles could feel the little sparks of Derek’s concern though his affection, as always, flowed as steadily as a current.

Jody was at the front desk when they entered and didn’t bother restraining herself as she raced around the desk to wrap Stiles in a tight hug, talking a mile a minute about how much she’d missed him and then immediately launching into how her kids were doing, Fletcher was twelve and Dixon was eight. Stiles had spent many an evening babysitting the two hellions when he’d been in high school and smiled as she told him about their latest antics and he felt his body relaxing into the familiar rhythm of listening to her frantic storytelling.

It was Derek that finally reminded him of why they were really there. His fingers tangled with Stiles’ on the straps of the casserole carrier in a casual gesture, mood stable but with just enough urgency that Stiles told one more joke, Jody loved his jokes, before he gave her his standard the sheriff’s been eating crap again and I won’t stand for it excuse.

Jody let him off with a wave, just like old times. She was one of the few people at the department who hadn’t made a huge deal about the whole Cassandra thing, even if she’d clearly cared about Stiles’ being injured, though she’d had plenty of things to say about him moving to Chicago. Stiles was pretty sure she and his father had spent many an evening thinking of worst-case scenarios when he’d first admitted that was one of the cities where he’d been considering accepting a job.

It had all worked out, though, since he’d gotten Derek out of the general clusterfuck of events that had occurred since he’d left the relative safety of Beacon Hills. Not that Beacon Hills had remained all that safe, but Stiles was willing to acknowledge that he’d had a lot to do with that particular issue. What with his super special magical powers and all.

Seeing the way Jody looked Derek up and down as they walked back toward the open door with Sheriff Stilinski written on it, Stiles was actually kind of impressed that she hadn’t tried pulling him into their conversation as well. Once she got started interrogating people she didn’t really stop, which was kind of funny since she wasn’t actually a deputy.

The sheriff was in his office, as Stiles had known he’d be, glaring at a file in front of him, but he closed it with a relieved huff when he glanced up at Stiles’ knock.

“Hey, kid, come on in. Derek, welcome.”

“Dad,” “Sheriff Stilinski,” they replied, Stiles letting Derek take the casserole while he lurched forward to wrap his dad in a tight hug.

Not for the first time, he was insanely grateful that the Stilinskis didn’t mind physically showing their affection for each other. Stilinski hugs were pretty much the best, after all.

“Good to see you, son,” his dad said with a choked little hitch in his voice.

Stiles just nodded, not trusting himself to speak quite yet. He hadn’t quite known just how much he’d needed that physical reassurance of his father’s touch until then, and he was finding it hard to let go.

Eventually, though, his dad put his hands on Stiles’ shoulders and pushed him back a step.

“Hey, now, I smell something good. Maybe not quite as good as a cheeseburg-”

“Ah ah!” Stiles interrupted, pointing a finger at his dad, “I told you I’d talk to Sal and I mean it. No more greasy diner food for you, not until your panels come back with pristine numbers. And then you’re only going to eat lean beef, if you continue to insist on red meat.”

The sheriff rolled his eyes and gave Derek a long-suffering look. “You see what I have to put up with? Better watch out or he’ll do the same to you.”

Derek smirked, “I think I’m okay, you can say I’m gifted with a pretty good metabolism.”

Stiles glanced between the two of them because really? A werewolf joke, already?

But his dad smiled goodnaturedly and Stiles realized he’d apparently missed out on the whole lover/father bonding experience when he’d been unconscious. Which could either be very good or very bad, depending on whether or not they were going to use their newfound connection to gang up on him.

Stiles could pretty much predict the future of their alliance.

It did not work in his favor.

“So, eating time? Ready for that now?” he said, stepping back to flail a hand toward the casserole cover. He figured it would still be hot enough to eat without them having to head back to the little kitchenette slash break room where he was sure they’d quickly be surrounded by the on-duty deputies in search of a good home-cooked meal. Not that they didn’t get those in their respective homes, for the most part, but they’d always enjoyed Stiles’ surprise dinners. Oftentimes more than the sheriff, himself. The whiner.

His dad rolled his eyes, a gesture that spoke of him being long used to Stiles’ unstoppable interference with his diet, and waved Derek over.

“Come on, put it here,” he said, stacking the case files that were on his desk before dropping them onto the floor beside him. “No use standing on formality, this is a Stilinski tradition.”

“Hell yeah it is,” Stiles said, pushing aside the picture frames and his dad’s nameplate to make room for the three of them. “We ate at this desk so many times after school that I’m pretty sure there are actual dents along the bottom from where I kicked it over and over again before I got my whole attention deficit thing under control.”

Derek gave him an amused look as Stiles unzipped the quilted bag and pulled back the aluminum foil covering the lasagna. They all made appreciated noises as perfumed steam rose from the dish.

“It smells good, I’ll give you that,” his dad said, opening a drawer and producing plastic utensils,paper plates, and napkins.

They really had eaten at his desk a lot.

“Stiles is a good cook,” Derek said kind of out of the blue. It was a nice compliment, sure, but Stiles wasn’t exactly sure he’d earned it.

“I mean, I can make cookies,” he said, then pointed at his dad, “and you’re only getting one tonight, so don’t even try finagling anymore out of me. Or Derek,” he added as an afterthought. Seemed like he should put his foot down early on, with that one. While he didn’t mind the most important people in his life bonding, he didn’t want it to be at the expense of anyone’s health or his own sanity.

Also, he didn’t like that gleam in his dad’s eye.

The three of them settled into it quickly enough after that, and despite some of the typical complains-

“Where the hell is the meat, Stiles?”

-they enjoyed their meal with a minimum of smalltalk until three quarters of the lasagna was demolished and they all leaned back in their seats with contented sighs.

Normally after eating at the station, the sheriff would tell Stiles to close the door and they’d go over one of his cases, new or old, as a kind of father-son bonding exercise. Also to get a new perspective on things, though Stiles also suspected it had been kind of a game for his dad, to help him develop his own problem-solving skills. It had worked pretty well, actually, since that was a pretty major part of his auditing work, being able to see the connections other people might miss.

But Derek was there with them, which wasn’t part of the ritual. The times when Scott had come with Stiles after school they’d normally figured out some other way to occupy themselves until the sheriff was done with work for the night, homework or harassing the deputies or something like that. Once they’d been tasked with cleaning out the break room fridge, which was not an experience Stiles was eager to relive.

“Stiles, the door,” his dad said and apparently they were treating Derek like another son instead of a friend, which shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was. Stiles really wanted to know what they’d talked about when he’d been unconscious.

He obliged, of course, scuffing his shoes across the floor as he closed the door, pulling the blinds down out of habit rather than necessity. He was pretty sure his dad wasn’t about to bend down to pluck one of his case files off the floor for them to peruse, but Stiles had been wrong in the past.

Frequently.

More frequently of late, really, at least since the Hales had turned his life upside down with their blood feud with the Argents and connection with his mother and all.

When Stiles resumed his seat he found himself the subject of both his father and Derek’s scrutiny.

“What?” he blurted, glancing between the two of them, but their expressions were identical in their exasperation.

“Stiles,” his dad said in his patented don’t give me any shit voice, “you’re going to start talking, now, and I want to hear exactly what it is you’ve gotten yourself into with this whole werewolf business. No offense, Derek,” he said, glancing at him with a wry smile, “I know my son well enough to identify him as the troublemaker in this case. In most cases, actually.”

Which, ouch, but also true more times than not.

But still.

“Dad,” he whined, apparently a teenager all over again. It was amazing how his maturity level could be stripped from him so easily when faced with his dad’s interrogation face. Stiles had never stood up to that kind of scrutiny with his dignity intact for long.

But then again he’d also never been forced to confess with the object of his affection in the same room. Derek didn’t seemed at all perturbed, though, if anything he relaxed into his chair and gave Stiles a look like, you’re on your own, buddy, or maybe even, you got yourself into this mess let’s see you get yourself out.

So unfair.

“Fine,” Stiles huffed, slouching against the uncomfortable wooden back. “I guess I should start with how we met, even though I’m pretty sure I told you that part already.”

It wasn’t a short, nor a particularly happy story, but the people he cared about were finally safe, and if Stiles had to sacrifice what was left of his dignity in the retelling, at least he had that small measure of comfort.



“That was brave of you,” Derek said as they pulled out of the sheriff’s station parking lot. Stiles took a left instead of a right, but it didn’t seem like Derek noticed. He likely didn’t quite know the layout of the town, yet.

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles replied, not really eager to rehash the humiliating tale of his magical incompetence and general fainty demeanor post-casting. It hadn’t occurred to Stiles before, but it was suddenly pretty clear that he’d pretty much been a damsel in distress for the majority of his interactions with Derek.

It was kind of mortifying, actually.

“Your father’s worried about you,” Derek added, clearly not understanding Stiles’ let’s not talk about it anymore attitude.

For someone with advanced senses, he kind of sucked at picking up on the subtext, sometimes.

They were almost all the way to the cemetery when Derek finally seemed to take note of their surroundings. “We’re not going back to your house?” he asked, though he didn’t seem particularly concerned.

Stiles wouldn’t have been, either, if he’d had the ability to shift into an actual wolf, deadly fangs included. Or if Derek had been driving him around, for that matter.

“We’re going to see my mom,” he said, pulling up to the locked gate. The place was always locked after sunset, but the stone fence bordering the property was easy enough to scale, as he’d learned during his partially-unsupervised youth. But unlike other kids his age, he’d always gone there to visit, not to vandalize.

Derek looked kind of uncomfortable.

Which, yeah. That was kind of a lot to ask of someone, that they go with you to visit their dead mom's grave when you may or may not have hero-worshiped her as a kid.

Jesus, Stiles was an asshole for not having mentioned his intentions earlier.

“Do you,” Derek started before Stiles could apologize, then swallowed and glanced out the window at the gate. His expression spoke of longing instead of disgust, which Stiles hadn't considered even being an option. “Do you want me to wait here, or-”

“Come with me,” Stiles said. That time there was actually a bit of a command in his voice, but he exhaled slowly and tried again. “If you want, you should come with me, though I’m warning you that I pretty much always cry, so I don’t know if you’re up for that-”

“I don’t mind,” Derek cut in, then blushed. “I mean, of course I care that you cry. That you feel bad,” he corrected.

And apparently Stiles wasn’t the only one who failed at words when he was flutered.

It was reassuringly human.

Werewolfian?

Whatever.

“I care about you,” Derek settled on, cheeks red and eyebrows quirked in a sad puppy kind of expression.

Stiles could really use some Ginger Bear cuddles, right about then, but he was still a little wary about asking Derek to shift since it was apparently a bit of a taboo. Even if he had permission to do so because mates?

Or something?

“Come on,” Stiles said instead of voicing any of that. The air outside was cool, but nothing like the frigid temperatures in Chicago or Wisconsin. Still, he slipped his hands into his hoodie pocket and linked his fingers together. For warmth, he told himself, even though he knew it was to keep his hands from shaking.

Lying to himself was getting easier and easier even if it was never not stupid.

He led the way past the gate and onto the manicured grass bordering the fence. It remained too high to climb for a few dozen feet before gradually getting shorter until it was only about a foot taller than Stiles, the lowest the fence got anywhere around the graveyard.

“Here’s where I usually go over,” he said unnecessarily. The little hand and footholds chipped out of the grout were easy enough to see if he looked, even in the relative darkness of the waning moon.

Stiles didn’t wait for Derek’s response, just dug his fingers into the familiar grooves and slowly hoisted himself up until he could swing his leg over the top of the wall. It was thick enough to sit on, so he did, scooting over enough for Derek to climb up the same way, but when he glanced back Derek was backing up from the wall with a determined look on his face.

“Wha-” he started to ask, but Derek was already running toward the wall and before Stiles could articulate his question the werewolf was leaping over it and falling into a crouch on the other side, neatly landing between two grave markers like he hadn’t just cheated death and physics.

Stiles snorted, telling his heart to calm down, that Derek was fine, if kind of dumb.

“Showoff,” he said, twisting his body so he could climb down that side, but then Derek was there, his warm hands wrapping around Stiles’ hips, using his supernatural strength to ease Stiles steadily to the ground without even a hint of a tremor at the exertion.

“I like showing off for you,” Derek said, breath ghosting across the back of Stiles’ neck and when he shuddered it was definitely not from the cold.

But instead of pursuing that line of thought or action, they were in a cemetery, after all, Stiles twisted around and grabbed one of Derek’s hands in both of his, twining their fingers together.

“Come on, Der,” he said with a peck on his lover’s cheek. “We’ll explore your gymnastic abilities later, but for now we’re going to see my mom and probably embarrass ourselves with our feels.”



Stiles pulled ahead, out of Derek’s reach when they reached their destination. The tombstone was the same dull gray as always, black letters spelling out Anya Olesia Stilinski. Her date of birth was a guess, March 15, 1965, though her date of death wasn’t.

Stiles should know, he’d been there at her side when she’d finally passed, reduced to an emaciated shell of herself, her bony hands too weak to hold a needle, her tremors too great to thread it without Stiles’ help.

Already, the headstone was blurring as tears filled his eyes. He hadn’t visited her with company since right after the funeral, when his dad and therapist had thought it would bring them both closure. It hadn’t. Instead it had brought on a panic attack, so after that he’d always gone alone.

He wasn't sure if his father ever came out to visit her or not.

Derek’s shoulder nudged his. “Auntie Anya was always so kind,” he said and his voice was thick with the same emotions Stiles was struggling to contain. “Though she also didn’t put up with any of our shit.”

A hysterical giggle burst out of Stiles because that was exactly like his mother. At first she had always tried gentle persuasion and treats, but if that didn't work she’d had no problem putting her foot down, sometimes in creatively alarming ways.

Tears wet his cheeks and Stiles wrapped his arms around his chest like he could keep himself from falling apart, even though it had never really worked all that well for him before.

Warm arms settled around his shoulders and Stiles twisted to press his face against Derek’s chest, untangling his own arms so he could grab onto the softness of the leather jacket, clutching onto it like he was drowning.

It felt like he was, suffocated by the guilt he’d always felt for no particular reason, but suddenly he had a reason to feel guilty. Even though he knew he hadn’t been capable of the whole magic thing as a kid when she’d been sick, a part of him refused to acknowledge that little fact. After all, Stiles had healed Peter from the brink of death, he should have been able to do the same for his mother.

He hadn’t even been aware he’d been sobbing until one of Derek’s hands moved up to cradle the back of his head, a deep rumbling hum coming from his chest.

“I know you feel guilty,” Derek said, his emotions tumbling from sorrow to guilt to affection and back, always with the steady thrum of love like a resonating bass note that tied it all together. “I know you miss her, and want her here. I know you want to go back to the dream and try to find her again-”

Which Stiles hadn’t told him about, but yeah, he really did want to do that.

“-but we both know that can be dangerous. As dangerous as it was for you to heal Peter. Even with me by your side I almost lost you, Stiles.”

His sorrow took on an edge so sharp Stiles had to stifle his loud sob against Derek’s tear-dampened skin.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said, sniffing wetly. He sounded terrible. He probably looked terrible, too.

And he wasn’t just apologizing for getting snot on his lover.

No, he was sorry for so many things; for his failures and lies, for thinking that running away from his problems was a valid option, for killing people without remorse, for making Derek come with him to his mother's grave. Stiles really was a pretty shitty person.

“Come on, this isn’t helping you,” Derek said and Stiles didn’t even argue as he was pulled away from the cold gray stone and herded back the way they’d come.



Stiles didn’t remember how they’d gotten over the fence, let alone how they'd gotten home, but when he opened his eyes he was face to face with Derek.

In his orange-furred wolf form.

“Ginger Bear,” Stiles said, voice sleep-thick. The skin of his face felt hot and puffy from his crying jag and the wolf’s long tongue suddenly licked a strip up one cheek, like he knew Stiles was starting to feel self conscious about his undoubtedly awful-looking appearance.

He pressed his palm against Derek’s fluffy cheek, but didn’t push him away as he let himself be scent marked or soothed or both. They were in his bedroom, lounging together on his bed, which shouldn’t have been big enough to hold the two of them, but somehow they kept managing it. Derek had stripped him down to a thin tshirt and his boxer briefs, while his large furry canid body served to keep Stiles warm in lieu of the sheet and blankets which were probably in a heap on the floor.

“Thanks, Der,” Stiles said, nuzzling his face against the wolf’s soft chest fur. “Sorry for freaking out like that.”

Derek was not a fan of the self-deprecation.

“I know, it isn’t my fault,” Stiles said flately. More of a rote phrase than anything that carried meaning. He knew he wasn’t supposed to feel guilty for his mother’s death, but that hadn’t ever stopped him.

The wolf whined.

“Sorry,” Stiles repeated.

Derek still wasn’t thrilled.

Which kind of made Stiles want to cry all over again because apparently he was an emotional mess who couldn’t do anything right at all.

Except that Derek was still there with him, in the exact form Stiles needed him in, the fuzzy, furry wolf who wouldn’t talk back to him or walk away from his angst.

Ginger Bear, Derek, wasn’t ever going to abandon him. Not if he could help it.

“You know,” Stiles said, pausing to take a deep breath and center himself so hopefully his voice would stop sounding so delicately shaky. It was actually pretty easy to do with Derek’s solid body pressed along his front. “You know, this is actually just what I needed," he decided.

It was, truth be told.

The solid presence of his lover, the promise of protection against any conceivable physical threat, the steady thudding of his heart beneath his downy coat.

The wolf’s tail thumped against the mattress and Stiles smiled at him, exhausted but also maybe even a little bit content.

“Night, Der,” he said, and tucked his face under his mate’s chin.

He smelled like summer.

Like a promise.

Chapter Text

For the record? They woke up way too early.

At least according to Stiles.

Derek, though? He seemed to have no problem bouncing up out of bed at the asscrack of dawn, human-shaped and not at all embarrassed by his nakedness as he stretched in the middle of the room with a pleased rumbling noise.

Not that he should ever be embarrassed by his nudity because damn, he had a nice body.

But still, there was a lot of movement going on over there and Stiles was not quite ready for that. Certainly not when the sun hadn’t even risen, yet.

“What the hell time is our flight, anyway?” he mumbled, cheek smooshed against the pillow, definitely in a puddle of his own drool, but he was too lazy to move or think or function.

Also, it really was no wonder that Stiles had once accused Derek of being a robot. The guy seemed to have no concept of sleeping in like a normal person and he was unnaturally perky when he woke up. Even at whatever ungodly hour it was.

“It will take about an hour to get to the airport, we’ll check in, then we’ll have about another hour before our flight, just to be on the safe side. We’ll need to leave in thirty minutes to keep our timeline,” Derek said, practically vibrating where he was standing. He looked so much like an eager puppy Stiles had to physically bite his tongue to keep from pointing that out.

Because he wasn’t a total asshole, even so early in the morning.

“Shower?” Stiles asked, not really feeling it since they’d just taken one the previous night, but it seemed like an appropriate question. Also, the longer they talked the longer Stiles got to lounge around in the warmth of the bed.

Derek shook his head, though. “No, I think we’re good. Besides, we’re going to want to shower again when we get to Chicago, anyway.”

Stiles wasn’t following, not that he was actually giving it much thought. His brain felt kind of fuzzy around the edges as he tracked Derek’s graceful movement back and forth across the room. He appeared to be gathering some of the essentials for their trip; Stiles’ bag, his laptop and power cord, a phone charger, a pair of paperbacks he couldn’t make out the titles of from that distance.

“To wash off all of the smells from the plane,” Derek explained like it was common knowledge and Stiles nodded his head slowly because sure, why not. That seemed like a werewolf thing, so he let it go.

And really? The whole morning was like one big confusing tangle of whatever. He definitely hadn’t gotten his eight hours. Or probably even six hours, considering it was just past four in the morning.

In other words, criminally early.

Stiles groaned and buried his head under the pillow.

“Would you like me to dress you?” Derek asked. Stiles had to untuck his head to check, but yeah, Derek was apparently being completely sincere in his offer to treat Stiles like an actual child. He might as well get his diaper changed while he was at it.

“No,” he said, groaning internally at the thought of moving from the warmth of the bed to go out and face the world. The windy, bitterly cold world of Chicago where he’d have to pretend to be a functioning adult. Though at least he’d have his hulking werewolf mate at his side.

That was a plus.

Derek gave him a concerned look, but went to his dresser after a moment and picked out clothes for them.

“We should dress comfortably,” Derek said, making two separate piles before he turned back to Stiles. “Would you like me to suck you off before we go?”

Like that was an option.

And holy shit, apparently that was actually an option.

Stiles’ body responded before he was even able to articulate an answer, a blush blooming hot across his cheeks and under his collar, which was kind of miraculous because a significant portion of his blood flow was definitely being redirected a bit lower at a dizzying rate.

Derek smirked. “I thought you might like that,” he said, then sank to his knees on the end of the bed.

“How are you even real?” Stiles groused, throwing a forearm over his eyes when he felt Derek’s hot palms against his knees, hands sliding up his thighs with a taunting slowness until he reached the edge of his boxer briefs. Apparently not wanting to be a total tease, Derek quickly devested him of those and his t-shirt before settling back between Stiles’ splayed legs.

Derek’s answer to his question came in the form of his tongue tracing a hot line from Stiles’ balls up to the tip of his rapidly filling cock. He hissed in response, arms slamming against the bed to grip the sheet so he wouldn’t jackknife up at the deliriously good sensation.

“So responsive,” Derek murmured with approval, breath warm against the wet head of his cock.

Stiles’ retort was cut off by another series of licks, long and short, varying in degree of pressure and position until he couldn’t do anything but quiver and pant as the cool air breezed across his dick where it wasn’t in the process of being worshiped by Derek’s clever tongue.

He was almost painfully hard just from the light touches and if he came from that alone he was going to have to reevaluate his stamina because that would pretty much be humiliating.

“Shh,” Derek whispered, the ghost of his warm breath making Stiles’ own hitch in his chest, “just relax and let me take you apart.”

Which, woah sexy.

Also?

Yes.

“Urmph,” Stiles replied with a total lack of eloquence he didn’t even feel bad about.

Derek tucked his face against the fold of Stiles’ leg and chuckled against his skin, a noise as warm as his touch.

Stiles grinned and shifted his hips, arching against the bare air. He could also see his nipples had tightened with the cold or from the stimulation or both and for once the sight of his scarred chest didn’t do anything to temper his arousal.

He uncurled his hands from the sheet and brought his friction-warmed fingers up to pinch at his nipples. Derek let out a groan as Stiles hissed at the pleasurable pain.

“If I had the time I’d gladly watch you play with yourself all day,” Derek confessed, then mouthed at Stiles’ sac, lips hot and damp and perfect.

Stiles tried to arch under him again, either to make his mouth go higher or lower it didn’t really matter as long as the stimulation didn’t stop. Of course Derek just put one of his large, unmovable hands flat against Stiles’ stomach and he groaned in frustration at being made to stay still.

“Der, no more teasing,” he pleaded, about to take himself in hand to relieve the aching pressure when Derek smirked up at him.

“All you had to do is ask,” he said because he was kind of asshole, sometimes.

It was one of the many qualities Stiles secretly liked about him.

But then Derek’s hot mouth was engulfing Stiles’ dick in a perfectly torturous heat that made him gasp out a noise that was was meant to be a word, but just managed to be something much more breathy and high-pitched.

Derek hummed in response, pleased with himself and just as aroused as Stiles, though he somehow managed to maintain his rhythm as he apparently attempted to suck Stiles’ brains out through his dick.

“Fuck,” Stiles finally managed to articulate as his hands scrambled for purchase on the sheets. It was impossible to stay still beneath Derek, though it was also impossible to actually move in any significant way, not with the anchoring hand still pressed just beneath his navel and the steady weight of Derek’s torso on his thighs. It was the perfect kind of restraint as Stiles attempted to buck and writhe, wanting more stimulation and less and the glorious, constant of Derek’s mouth made him pant and gasp.

“I was thinking just a blowjob for now, but when we get to Chicago I believe that can be arranged,” Derek said, his soft hand stroking Stiles’ cock in a perfectly tight grip, twisting at the head of his dick on the upstroke just the way he liked to get himself off. “There’s a wall in my bedroom there that looks perfect for fucking you against.”

Stiles’ answer to that was to come in a thick spatter across Derek’s knuckles and his own chest, breath locked inside of him for one gloriously intense moment before he exhaled with a grunt, his entire body going slack beneath Derek’s weight.

It took the werewolf only a heartbeat to surge up, straddling Stiles’ hips as he brought himself off with a still-damp hand, their seed mixing together on Stiles’ torso and if he hadn’t just come, that probably would have done it for him. As it was he shuddered at the look and feel of Derek’s orgasm, the wolfish noise he made at seeing their combined essence marking Stiles’ skin, which was apparently a kink they shared.

Good to know.

“We have fifteen minutes,” Stiles said, miraculously the first of them to catch his breath. “I’m thinking a shower is definitely in order.”

Derek nodded dumbly.

And apparently he wasn’t always on top of things first thing in the morning, their current position aside.

Stiles smiled up at him and laced his fingers through Derek’s hair. “Kiss me, then we’ll shower,” he said, and drew his mate down until their lips met in a sweet press.

Of all the ways to wake up, morning blowjobs were definitely ranked in his top five.



Derek hadn’t been lying about the airport thing. Stiles immediately noticed that the security screeners had their eye on him from the moment he got in line. It probably didn’t help that he had a scowl on his face and his body language screamed his discomfort with the whole crowded situation. There was definitely a muscle along his jaw that was so tense it was a wonder he didn’t have a headache from it.

If werewolves could even get headaches.

Stiles didn’t have as much of a problem with the amount of people bustling around them as Derek seemed to, but then again he also didn’t have enhanced senses, so that was probably something to be grateful for given the faint whiffs of various body smells and perfumes he noticed. The whole place was probably crazy-pungent to a werewolf.

“Hey,” he said quietly and Derek glanced at him with a slightly less scowly and more inquisitive look. He’d pretty much gone preverbal since they’d checked in, their seats unavoidably apart on the plane, but Derek seemed to think he’d be able to work around that. Stiles took his hand and laced their fingers together, feeling the tension and discomfort thrumming through his mate. He very clearly needed a distraction.

“What are you getting your parents for Christmas? Wait, do you guys even celebrate Christmas? I was thinking of baking cookies for everyone since I haven’t really had time to go shopping, but I have to come up with something not artery-clogging for my dad. Oh, we can go the dollar store and get little tins for the cookies. I’ll need more parchment paper, too. I should probably be writing this down, right? Oh, well-”

Stiles continued to ramble on, and the more he talked about the upcoming holidays the more tension seemed to seep out of Derek until he didn’t look like he was on the verge of murdering everyone around them. By the time it was their turn to take off their shoes and jackets, Derek had actually cracked a half-smile. He was waved through the standard metal detector after Stiles and they were on their way to the gate in no time.

“Thanks,” he said quietly as they walked past the little shops which always seemed to sell the same things, just at different points along the terminal.

“Uh, yeah, you can wait to thank me until we’re on the plane,” Stiles retorted, “I wasn’t joking about not being a good flyer. I can handle it, but I’m pretty sure my heart does dramatic things during takeoff and landing.”

Derek settled a hand on the back of his neck and gave a light squeeze. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right beside you the whole time.”

He managed it, too. Despite having gotten their tickets the night before, Derek somehow charmed his way into the seat next to Stiles, just like he’d promised.

“Did you just pay that lady off?” Stiles whispered as the middle aged woman shuffled back a few rows to where Derek had originally been assigned. She had kind of a dreamy look on her face, which did nothing to allay Stiles’ suspicions.

“Do you really want to know?” Derek asked in rebuttal and Stiles snorted at his lofty tone.

“Dude, you totally just charmed the pants off of her, didn’t you? I knew you didn’t just use your powers for good!”

Derek rolled his eyes. “No one’s pants came off, Stiles, I just explained to her that you’re my fiance and that I get really nervous when I fly, so I’d prefer to sit next to you in case I feel like I can’t handle it.”

Which.

Woah.

“Wait, you said you were the nervous flyer?” Stiles asked before his brain ground to a sudden halt. “Wait, you called me your fiance?”

Derek frowned. “Of course you’re my fiance,” he said, like that was so totally obvious he wasn’t sure why they were having that discussion. And, okay, it maybe should have been obvious since it had been made abundantly clear that they would be sharing a life together, but neither of them had actually put a ring on it, as it were. “And I wasn’t sure how you’d feel about me sharing your fear of flying with others, so I told her I was the nervous one, instead. Why, was that not the right thing to say?”

Stiles could feel Derek’s confusion where their hands were touching and he gave Derek a gentle squeeze, his own mood quickly morphing from the tangled mess of conflicting emotions into elation because while he wasn’t really sure how they’d gotten there as a couple, he really couldn’t be happier despite being on a plane about to hurl across the open sky.

“You did perfectly, Derek,” he said, settling back in his seat and dragging Derek’s hand into his lap. The passengers around them were settling into their own seats, stowing their luggage overhead and generally shuffling about like confused sheep as the flight attendants directed the foot traffic.

“So,” Stiles continued, finally glancing back at Derek, who was watching him with his eyebrows raised. It was his I’m listening expression, which Stiles appreciated both aesthetically and emotionally. “This seems like a great time to have a little chit chat, don’t you think? I mean, we’re trapped here in a giant metal tube hoping gravity stops working long enough for us to get halfway across the country. Seems like a good time for totally honest last confessions.” Stiles kept his tone breezy, but his pulse was definitely quicker than normal and he felt a little bit lightheaded, like there was a lower level of oxygen than there should be? Which he knew was stupid because they hadn’t even closed the cabin door, yet, but it didn’t stop him from feeling like maybe his shirt collar was also a bit too tight despite Derek having picked out one of his worn Beacon Hills lacrosse shirts that had been washed until the red had faded pink and the fabric was soft and loose.

Derek put his free hand on Stiles’ knee and squeezed. “I don’t think that’s how flying really works, but if it would make you feel better we can discuss some things, now,” he said, radiating gentle compassion and comfort.

Clearly they weren’t going to get into their kink re-negotiation, not when they were surrounded by strangers, but Stiles figured they could at least talk about the Hale family dynamic, in general terms, and what it would mean for Scott if he joined their ranks as the pack omega. If he chose to accept that role. As long as they kept their conversation quiet and avoided words like werewolf, Stiles thought they might actually make some headway in their tangle of relationship woes and previous stress-reactions.

The flight attendants encouraged everyone to find their seats and secure themselves and their belongings for takeoff. Derek took Stiles’ bag from his lap and pushed it under the seats in front of them, mindful of his laptop, then actually moved to buckle Stiles’ seatbelt.

He batted Derek’s hands away with a laugh. “Dude, come on. Although I appreciate your dedication to keeping me safe, I can totally do this part myself.”

Derek gave him an amused look, but easily acquiesced, securing his own and glancing up and down the aisles as the flight attendants checked all of the passengers.

“The emergency exits are twelve seats in front and three seats behind us,” Stiles reported. “My dad used to quiz me whenever we went anywhere, to make sure I knew the safest ways into and out of whatever building we were in, along with roughly however many people there were inside.”

“That must have been entertaining,” Derek said without guile.

Sometimes Stiles wondered where the broody guy Derek used to be had gone, so he asked.

Derek blushed, which was never not adorable, but Stiles waited him out, raising his eyebrows when Derek tried to deflect.

“Come on, you used to look constipated like, eighty percent of the time when we first met, and that was even before we started awkwardly touching each other,” he said, earning him an alarmed look from the older lady across the aisle, but he ignored her.

“Jesus, Stiles,” Derek muttered, wiping the hand that wasn’t still holding Stiles’ down his face. “Fine, I was actually confused when we first met,” he admitted, lowering his voice so Stiles had to lean in to hear.

Not that leaning closer to his mate was any kind of hardship. Well, it might become harder - more difficult - if they kept up that kind of proximity along with Derek’s low level of arousal Stiles had just begun to notice. He wasn’t opposed to joining the mile high club on principle, but the practicality of it had always gotten in the way of it ever becoming an actual fantasy of his. Plus the whole not-quite-fear of flying he had going on. That tended to put a damper on things.

“Wait, what?” he asked. “Why were you confused?”

Derek looked, and felt, a bit sheepish as he diverted his gaze to look at their joined hands where they still rested on Stiles’ lap.

“I uh, I recognized your heartbeat, but I couldn’t figure out where I’d heard it before. Your scent seemed vaguely familiar as well, but we left Beacon Hills when I was so young I didn’t make the connection right away.”

“And you didn’t know my name when my mom was still pregnant with me, well, you knew my last name-”

“But you didn’t tell me that at first, either,” Derek pointed out.

And Stiles hadn’t figured out Derek and Laura’s identity as those Hales until Thanksgiving, so that hadn’t helped him out very much.

“Well, okay. But, uh, what does any of that have to do with the looks you were giving me?” Stiles asked. The flight attendants sealed the cabin doors and Stiles’ grip on Derek’s hand tightened as the inner workings of the plan thudded and whirred around them. He’d never tried figuring out what the noises meant, but he assumed it wasn’t anything catastrophic since Derek’s emotions stayed the same smooth calm and no one started screaming and running up and down the aisles.

“I was instantly drawn to you,” Derek explained, “I wasn’t sure why, at first, just that you sounded and smelled right, but I thought-”

He cut off and looked up at the flight attendant who was asking for everyone’s attention as she began the safety demonstration. Derek pulled out one of the laminated folders from the seatback in front of them so they could follow along.

Stiles appreciated the gesture, even if he was pretty sure that if the shit hit the fan he wouldn’t be of much use at all, despite the safety refresher course.

By the time the attendant was finished, the plane was taxiing toward the runway and Stiles hand a white-knuckled grip on the window-side armrest and Derek’s hand.

“Should we close the blind?” Derek suggested, apparently not all concerned with what was happening. Stiles couldn’t make up his mind as to whether that was reassuring or not.

“Uh, no, open is better,” he said. Because despite being kind of a freak when he flew, he still liked to be able to see what was going on.

Even if it made him feel kind of nauseous.

“Do you want me to keep talking?” Derek asked. They’d raised the armrest between them when they’d first sat down, so Derek was able to sidle up beside Stiles as much as he could with them both wearing seatbelts, their shoulders and thighs touching in a long line of warmth.

Stiles nodded, leaning a bit harder against him. It was extremely fortunate that Derek had managed to snag them a pair of seats together, and the fact that there were only two, instead of the sets of three across the aisle, made Stiles want to kiss him. They’d have about as much privacy as they could, given the nature of airline travel, and there wouldn’t be anyone next to them who would object to their touchy-feely proximity. Well, maybe the old lady across the aisle, but she was already busy reading a murder mystery to notice what they were up to.

Derek waited for Stiles to nod before he continued. “I was drawn to you, but I wasn’t sure why, at first. You see, I thought I’d already found my mate-”

Stiles’ heart stuttered so hard he felt it. Derek pressed his lips to Stiles’ temple and exuded more affection and peace through the bond.

“Back when I was a child, even though I was so young and you weren’t even born yet, I could tell you were mine, that we were meant to be together. I didn’t fully understand the implications of the bond, of course, but as I grew older and learned more about mates it was always with the understanding that mine was still back in Beacon Hills, somewhere, being raised by Auntie Anya.”

“Except that she died,” Stiles pointed out, hating how thick his voice sounded, eyes burning with the threat of tears.

Derek nuzzled against the side of his throat where the mark had turned into a mess of purples. “I wish I could have been there with you, to help you through that,” he said quietly, remorseful.

Not wanting to have a total breakdown on the plane, one ugly crying jag was enough for the week, Stiles simply nodded and leaned his head against Derek’s. “So you knew you had a mate, and that your Auntie Anya was the mother?”

Derek hummed in acknowledgement.

Stiles frowned, thinking it through. “So why didn’t you ever come looking for me?” he asked, trying to keep the accusation out of his voice and definitely failing.

For years Stiles had felt pretty much alone, well he’d had his dad and Melissa and Scott, plus there were his occasional high school and college friends, but he couldn’t help but think about how avoidable some of the shitty things that had happened to him could have been, had Derek not been a thousand miles away in the great white north of Wisconsin.

Of course that could have meant more fighting between the Hales and the Argents, which was why they’d had to leave Beacon Hills in the first place, but Stiles was torn about the whole thing.

Derek seemed contemplative, and a bit guilty, but he was still holding Stiles’ hand in both of his with no indication that he was prepared to let go.

“I didn’t want you to feel pressured to be with me,” Derek said. “That’s why I never returned to Beacon Hills, assuming you still lived there.”

Stiles really wanted to protest that, to point out that clearly Derek’s parents had known about Anya’s death and that he and his dad had still lived there, but he held his tongue when Derek continued quietly.

“It’s different for wolves than it is for humans. When we find our mate, we do have a choice as to whether or not we pursue the attraction, but it’s difficult not to want to be with them. If I’d gone back to Beacon Hills and found you unreceptive to my advances, or not attracted to me, or even that you were with someone else, I don’t know that I could have handled that.”

Stiles leaned against the window so he could see Derek’s earnest expression. “So you decided to punish both of us by not trying to find me at all?” he asked with an incredulous tone.

Un-fucking-believable.

Derek’s eyebrows quirked into what Stiles had come to know as their defense position, which meant Derek knew he’d messed something up and was willing to do nearly anything to fix that error.

He was saved by the captain’s announcement that they were preparing for take-off and whatever anger Stiles had felt drained away along with all of the blood that had been in his head until he was dizzy and tense with anticipation.

Most crashes occur during takeoff and landing, he reminded himself, barely resisting the urge to say that outloud.

Derek opted to temporarily table the discussion as well, probably because Stiles’ heart was definitely doing ultra-dramatic things, just like Stiles had warned.

“Easy,” Derek murmured, wiggling one hand out of Stiles’ death-grip so he could sling his arm over Stiles’ shoulder and pull him closer until they were pressed as tightly together as they could possibly get given the circumstances and the fact that they were in still in public with their clothes on.

The lady across the aisle was giving Stiles a commiserating look, which was a vast improvement from her earlier expression, so he decided she wasn’t an entirely terrible person.

Also, Derek’s zen was kind of catching.

“Are you doing some kind of mojo thing?” Stiles asked.

Around them the plane rumbled as it picked up speed on the runway.

Derek hummed, chest vibrating a counter-rhythm to the machine noises. “It’s not a mojo thing, Stiles, it’s a mate thing,” he murmured against Stiles’ ear. “I’m sorry I never came looking for you, but now that we’ve found each other I’m not going to let anything happen to you, and I’m certainly not letting you go. Not unless you want me to.”

Stiles closed his eyes and focused on the way Derek’s body seemed to so effortlessly surround him. How he could feel the steadiness of Derek’s emotions through their clasped hands and the gentle brushing of their cheeks. It had been a long time since he’d felt so physically secure.

And of all the takeoffs, that one certainly wasn’t the worst.

Chapter Text

It had only been eleven days since the last time Stiles had stepped foot inside his Chicago apartment, but already it had an empty, foreign feeling to it, like he was intruding on someone else’s territory instead of returning to his own. He had thought the semi-familiar environment would be a welcome change of pace after the tedious hours of traveling and dealing with the car rental and the general hassle of being surrounded by strangers, but in all honesty it made him feel just as tense as he’d been during their final descent into ORD when he’d very nearly broken Derek’s fingers, Stiles had been gripping his hand so tightly.

But the apartment, for all its odd feel, was just the way he’d left it. Cool and clean and relatively tidy. Neatly discarded shoes lined up on the mat by the front door, drafty hallway, creaky wooden floors, the chipping paint, and the scuff marks on the entryway walls from where Charlie’s bike had been propped up there. It was all there. All the same.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, stalling in the cluttered living room, trying not to associate the various cop drama DVDs littering every available surface with his late room- flatmate, but it was hard not to since the entire place screamed of Charlie’s influence and his oddly hoarder-ish tendencies when it came to media. The tangled pile of destroyed cameras was also where Erica had left it on the battered coffee table, a jarring reminder of the Argent’s attempt at surveillance and Charlie's involvement and subsequent death.

“This isn’t going to work for me,” Stiles decided, backing up a step and into Derek, who immediately wrapped his arms around him, dragging Stiles flush against the werewolf warmth of his body, their leather jackets whispering against each other at the much-needed contact.

“Then we’ll pack up your things and stay at my place while we’re in town,” Derek said, chest rumbling with a soothing noise as one of his hands brushed up Stiles’ torso and curled around his throat in what would probably look from the outside like an intimidating gesture, but was actually incredibly welcome and grounding.

Stiles swallowed, feeling his adam’s apple bob against the curve of Derek’s palm, and suddenly he didn’t want to think about the terrible things he was likely to face when he talked to his landlord about the whole Charlie situation. He really just wanted to get the hell out of there so he could stop feeling like the walls were closing in on them.

“Can we do that?” Stiles asked, knowing his voice betrayed his growing desperation. “Just throw my stuff in suitcases really quick and head over to yours?” He wrapped his fingers around the arm Derek had slung across his waist like a safety belt or an anchor or something equally secure. He felt a little better, knowing that there was no possible way his mate would abandon him or send him off to face things on his own.

Derek murmured his agreement and let himself be pulled forward as they shuffled their way down the hall, awkwardly bumping into each other as they went because neither seemed to want to let the other go. By the time they got to Stiles’ room they were both grinning and chuckling at themselves.

It helped to lighten the heavy mood, that and Derek’s seemingly unbreakable calm, a soothing counterpoint to Stiles’ waxing and waning mania.

“You mentioned something about a shower,” Stiles reminded him as he finally pulled away and opened his door. The weird water stain on the ceiling had grown, but otherwise the space looked exactly the same as when he’d left. Somewhat tidy and not at all homey, at least not compared to his room at his dad’s house.

Derek nodded, trailing his fingers up and down Stiles’ spine over the battered leather of his jacket. “I did, but I figured we can do that at my place, if you’d prefer.”

From his tone, it was definitely something Derek would prefer, but since he hadn’t come out and said it, Stiles realized that meant he was allowed a say in things if his opinion differed.

It really didn’t.

Also, he appreciated the fact that Derek wasn’t bossing him around, that he clearly valued what Stiles had to say and his feelings about what was going on. Those were definitely points in his favor.

“Cool, there’s a duffle bag under my bed,” Stiles said, pointing unnecessarily, “and I’ll get the suitcase from out of my closet. We can toss in whatever clothes will fit, then come back for the extra stuff when I tell my super about what’s going on, and that I need to break my lease. Packing up shouldn’t take too long, this place came furnished and I didn’t really bring much stuff from California when I moved in here.”

Stiles was babbling and knew it, but he didn’t care because sometimes he needed to talk things through when he was feeling stressed. Which he was because he was once again in a physical place where he didn’t feel completely safe. It wasn’t exactly a logical fear, he understood. Nothing bad had actually happened to him in the apartment, nor would it. Certainly not with Derek right there to defend him, and especially not with Stiles’ newfound magical badassery, but the residual terror from all the things that had happened was still lingering around like it had somehow sunk into his bones. Like he would never really be truly rid of it.

Plus there was the very real stress of having to figure out how the hell he was going to manage moving back to California while juggling his new job responsibilities and getting out of his lease without being financially bled dry. Then there was the whole Charlie component, including doing something about his meagre belongings without really knowing how he was supposed to proceed with that or where he would even send his things, probably not including the copious amount of condoms and other paraphernalia.

It was all a bit overwhelming.

Stiles blew out a hard breath.

But first came the packing.

Derek dutifully knelt down beside the bed and Stiles took the opportunity to snap out of his downward spiral of obsession long enough to ogle his mate’s amazing posterior because that was always going to be one of his priorities, the rest of the world be damned.

“I know you’re staring at my ass, Stiles,” Derek commented without looking back. He was on his knees, stretching out to reach for the bag. It was probably dusty under there, Stiles belatedly realized, but it was too late to do anything about it.

“I’m not going to apologize,” Stiles retorted, which did make Derek glance at him, an amused smirk on his face.

“I wouldn’t expect you to.”

“Good.”

Derek chuckled and dragged the bag out. It was lightly dusted with cobwebs, but otherwise seemed in fair condition. Before Stiles could comment on his own lackluster housekeeping skills Derek was back to fishing under the bed.

“What-” Stiles began to ask before he realized exactly what Derek would find under there and then his face blushed a reactionary splotchy red.

“Stiles,” Derek said, voice slow and thick as he pulled out the black shoebox and glanced up at him. “What do you keep in here?” he asked casually, even though he had to know. He had to have smelled it, either the artificial lubricant or the silicone or the leather or something.

Stiles’ ears were so hot it was a wonder they hadn’t burst into flame.

“Would you like for me to open the box and we can take a look at it, now, or would you prefer to wait until we can explore all of these items together at my place, where we can also have a more detailed conversation about this type of thing?” Derek asked, keeping his voice calm and low, like Stiles was an easily spooked animal.

A heady shiver went down Stiles’ spine, but he wasn’t quite ready for any of that quite yet, at least not when there was packing still yet to be done and Derek was absolutely right about needing to have a discussion about their kinks and intimacy and the general re-negotiation they kept postponing like that was in any way healthy.

While Stiles definitely wanted, craved, Derek and his body and proximity and just his everything, he hadn’t forgotten about the necessity of open and clear communication, which was best done in an environment free from distractions, including the angst of breaking a lease and a tantalizing box of sex toys.

“Wait,” Stiles said, voice cracking just from that word and he shivered again when Derek surged to his feet and wrapped him in a tight hug, his warm lips finding the mark on Stiles’ neck like it was an instinct. A surprisingly soothing one, despite the potential for erotic implications.

Derek’s breath was hot against the side of his throat as he mouthed the purplish bruise. “We can wait, Stiles, and we don’t have to use them if you don’t want to, but-”

“I want to,” Stiles assured him. Because eventually he very much wanted to see how long Derek could hold off his climax when there was a prostate stimulator pressed snugly inside of him, and vice versa, though Stiles couldn’t quite get those words out.

Maybe when he and Derek were naked and spread out and ready for each other he’d be able to articulate that particular fantasy.

But that wasn’t until after they finished packing up the remnants of Stiles’ Chicago life and gone to Derek’s and then had their probably intense conversation.

“If you keep thinking whatever it is you’re thinking, later is going to be much sooner than we discussed,” Derek said with a growl in his voice, but it was more playful than threatening.

Stiles grinned and gave the mark he’d made on his mate’s throat a soft nip.

“None of that, now, wolfy. We’re packing and then going to your place and showering and talking. In that order, and afterward maybe we’ll see what I’ve got in my little box of tricks.”

Derek groaned goodnaturedly against his neck, but he didn’t protest.



“How does your family have so much stinking money?” Stiles asked as they pulled up to the familiar brick house that he still couldn’t believe belonged to the Hales. It just seemed like too much for them to have that and and yoga studio and the lake house and the other house in Wisconsin and the Hale house out by the Beacon Hills Preserve.

It was just, it was excessive.

Derek shrugged. “We have a large pack,” he said as if that were an explanation.

Stiles really needed to get a Hale to English dictionary.

Maybe he’d ask for one for Christmas, or if there wasn’t one already he could write it up for the next poor sap who stumbled their way into the pack.

“And?” Stiles prompted, slipping out of the rented SUV that had all of the personality of any of the other Hale vehicles. He grabbed his duffel bag and the black shoebox from the back seat, then followed Derek as he carried the bloated suitcase over the frozen ground to the back of the house.

Derek seemed distracted by something for a few seconds before he blinked at Stiles and suddenly recovered, turning to unlock the door.

“Oh, um, beta members of the pack offer up a small amount of money, services, or goods to the alpha each month . It’s a demonstration of their loyalty and a thanks for the protection being a part of the alpha’s pack grants them.”

Stiles mulled that over as they entered and shed their shoes and coats. It was cool inside, but still had that warm-hearth smell he associated with the Hales.

“So, it’s like a tithe?” Stiles asked. He was vaguely familiar with the concept, having helped Scott calculate his monthly donation to the church he attended often enough when they were kids. Though, personally, Stiles had always having thought that ten percent was quite a hefty fine to add on top of sacrificing the free play he had always enjoyed on Sundays, but Scott hadn’t ever seemed all that bothered by it.

Derek considered that as he led the way through the living room and around the corner to a double-doored closet Stiles hadn’t noticed before. “It’s similar, I guess, but there’s nothing religious about it. Well, aside from the solstice and equinox rituals, but participation in those is voluntary.”

Stiles nodded and watched as Derek set down the large suitcase and opened the doors to reveal a washer and dryer that looked like the newer, high-efficiency models he’d seen advertised in some of the fancy magazines the companies he audited inevitably stocked in their waiting rooms. It made sense, though, given the apparent Hale dedication to environmental preservation along with their obvious wealth. Though they seemed pretty keen on using SUVs, which weren’t that eco-friendly.

“We’re washing my clothes?” he asked, kind of baffled by the whole thing.

“They smell like your apartment,” Derek explained.

Not that it was really an explanation.

“And that’s bad because?”

Derek shook his head, probably at himself as he unzipped the suitcase and started pulling out the dark clothes, piling the lights on the floor in front of the dryer. Stiles followed his example with the duffle bag, dumping most of its contents in the washer. He really didn’t have very many light-colored clothes. Even his dress shirts were more often navy blue than white.

“A lot of your things smell,” Derek trailed off, clearly trying to come up with a way to say whatever it was without offending Stiles.

“Gross?” he supplied. People smelled, sometimes, it wasn’t that big of a deal as far as Stiles was concerned, though he did at least make an attempt not to stink up the place if he could avoid it. Though werewolf noses, so maybe he needed to check out his hygiene routine? Also, most of the clothes were already clean.

Maybe it was his detergent?

Derek paused and glanced at him, radiating a surprising amount of embarrassment. “They, uh, werewolves can smell emotions,” he said.

Stiles blinked at him.

He supposed that made sense, given what he’d seen and heard from the wolves in his life. But smelling emotions? That was kind of cool but also had the potential to be invasive and weird. Also-also it threw all of his interactions with Laura and Erica and Derek and their whole family, really, into a whole new light.

“That’s creepy,” Stiles decided, tossing in the last of his load. The only thing left in the bag was his little box of scrap monsters he’d sewed together while his mother had been busy making drapes and bed skirts and whatever else she’d created in her sewing room when he was a kid. “But what does it have to do with needing to wash all of my mostly-clean clothes?”

He zipped up the bag and stuffed it into the suitcase while Derek fiddled with the knobs to get the water flowing.

“I don’t like it when you smell sad,” Derek said in what could possibly be a non-sequitur except Stiles understood exactly what he was implying.

“Oh,” he said. Because he had been kind of sad. Not like a full-blown depression type of sad, just a sort of melancholy. Moving to Chicago had been good for him in some ways, professionally and with helping him get away from the whole Cassandra business, but it had also come with its own burdens, namely his physical separation from everyone he cared about. So yeah, there was likely a layer of sadness stink all over his things.

“Washing everything is going to help?” Stiles asked. He still had so many questions about werewolves, basic laundry habits and getting emotional smells out of clothes seemed like as good a place to start as any.

Derek shrugged, leaving the bags by the open doors and leading the way into the kitchen.

“It will, once you’ve worn them again and they’ve absorbed some of the smells from the house, or wherever it is we end up.”

Because they were going to end up somewhere, together, though neither of them really knew where that somewhere was. Beacon Hills, most likely. In their own apartment or house, preferably. Though that came with its own issues of cost and Derek’s future career since he’d just quit his current one.

Right?

“Let’s grab a snack, then we can shower and talk,” Derek said, opening a cabinet and pulling out a variety pack of granola bars and offering Stiles first pick. He chose one that was s’mores flavored and wrinkled his nose when Derek went for the raisin oatmeal kind.

“Gross, dude,” Stiles said as he unwrapped his snack.

Derek rolled his eyes and put the box back in the otherwise empty cabinet.

Stiles figured Isaac and Boyd had cleaned out the perishables before they’d left for California. His suspicions were confirmed when Derek opened the fridge and the only thing inside was a jug of filtered water, which he poured into two glasses.

They ate in silence, Stiles sitting on the counter, swinging his feet and Derek leaning beside him, one elbow propped on the smooth granite as he slouched.

“So at least two bedrooms?” Stiles asked, finishing up his snack and declining the offer of another.

Derek nodded, taking their wrappers and tossing them into the garbage can under the sink. “Two bedrooms or three, maybe with an upstairs.”

“A loft? Like one of those places with a twisty staircase?”

Derek shrugged. “We can see what’s available. Laura’s looking into it for us while we’re gone. She said something about the new downtown area having a lot of options.”

An area that had basically been all but shut down after the financial shitstorm of the late aughts, Stiles didn’t point out. But if Laura thought it was safe enough for them to live there, he wasn’t going to argue.

Well, Stiles might argue, but only after he’d at least seen what it was she’d found and gotten a feel for it himself.

“That’s nice of her,” he said instead, slipping off the counter and following Derek out of the kitchen and into the living room.

“She can be, especially when she’s feeling guilty about something,” Derek said with a smirk.

Stiles nodded at the revelation as he followed his mate, barely containing his urge to slap the shapely ass in front of him as they climbed the stairs to the second floor.

“You can touch me if you want,” Derek said, glancing over his shoulder with a cheeky smile.

“What if I want to open you up with one of the items in my box of tricks and see if I can make you howl?” Stiles replied, enjoying the way Derek’s eyes flashed blue as he stumbled on the next stair.

“You’re making it difficult for me to concentrate on keeping to the schedule we discussed,” Derek replied tightly.

Stiles smirked, enjoying the easy flirting, even if he wasn’t quite prepared to follow through with his threat. “What can I say, I’m unpredictable.”

“You’re something,” Derek mused.



They showered separately, at Derek’s insistence. He really did seem to be committed to their agreement, which was comforting and kind of frustrating. Showering and then discussing and then perhaps they’d feel like digging into the box of toys Stiles knew was at the bottom of the suitcase still sitting downstairs in front of the washer and dryer.

It was probably for the best that the box stay there, at least until he and Derek figured out what it was they were comfortable with since the manhandling and handcuffing debacle. They’d moved on since then, but a part of their intimacy, the trust behind it, had seemed to have gotten lost along the way. At least Stiles didn’t own any restraints, so that wasn’t going to be an issue when it came to then using his toys.

If it came to that.

He was starfished out on the bed wearing a loose set of borrowed clothes when Derek emerged from his bathroom in a puff of steam. It confirmed Stiles’ suspicions that the werewolf liked his water hot enough for him to feel it, which was likely warmer than Stiles could stand due to his own cooler innate temperature.

Crazy werewolf biology.

“I’m not going to be able to think if you’re only wearing a towel,” Stiles commented when it became clear Derek was more interested in staring at him than in moving to get dressed.

Derek jolted at the reminder and his cheeks pinked with a blush.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, turning to paw through his dresser. The little wooden wolf was still on top.

“Did you make that?” Stiles asked. Not liking the embarrassment he knew he would have been able to feel coming from his mate if their skin touched. He liked the blush, just not the emotion behind it. Stiles much preferred making Derek blush for another reason, entirely.

Derek nodded, pulling a white t-shirt over his head and slipping black boxer briefs on under his towel. “Yes, my grandfather taught me how to whittle when I was a kid, before-” he trailed off and Stiles curled his body up until he was on his knees on the edge of the bed.

“Come here,” he requested, holding out his hands, wiggling his fingers, beckoning.

It took him a few moments, but Derek dropped his towel and walked over until Stiles could grab onto his shirt and reel him into a tight hug, his face pressed against the warm cotton fabric over Derek’s chest.

“It’s really good. Did you make that when you were little or-”

“When I was a teenager,” Derek replied quietly. “I used my claws. It was my fifth attempt and the only one to come out remotely wolf-shaped. I still can’t whittle very well, I think that was a fluke.”

Stiles laughed and relished the feeling of Derek’s warmth, his mate’s gentle hands resting against his spine.

“So how do you want to do this?” Stiles asked. He wanted to get it over with, but he also didn’t quite feel like letting Derek go. Unfortunately, hugging probably wasn’t the best position for them to be in when they got into the re-negotiations. They needed to make eye contact, at the very least.

Derek hummed in response, clearly thinking through his answer before he pulled back with a palpable reluctance.

“We could do some easy poses while we talk,” Derek suggested, brow furrowed like he wasn’t sure Stiles would be okay with the idea.

He smiled, liking the way his mate always seemed so concerned with how he felt. It was a good place to start from. A good foundation for their likely awkward kink and relationship conversation.

“I like it, let’s do that.”

Derek’s answering smile was one of Stiles’ favorites. Genuine and gentle and soft in a way he’d come to realize Derek tried to hide from others, but was willing to share with Stiles. Seeing that, he couldn’t help but believe they were going to be alright.

Chapter Text

“This one really isn’t that hard,” Stiles said. He was suspended over Derek, their only point of contact were his mate’s feet planted firmly against his butt, Derek’s toes tickling his lower back under his borrowed shirt as Stiles looked at him from the weird upside-down angle. He linked his fingers behind his head, elbows butterflied out and his feet tucked around the front of Derek’s knees, stretching his hip flexors in a nice pull as he leaned back.

“It’s actually kind of comfortable,” Derek agreed, arms at his side, undoubtedly ready to catch Stiles if he fell off his perch.

It felt good, being physical with Derek and not having to worry about the sexual component of their touching. Not that sex wasn’t great, but sometimes Stiles just liked to touch and be touched without having to think about all of that other stuff. Which kind of made their upcoming conversation a little awkward, really, since that’s what they were going to discuss.

In detail.

“So you’re okay with the stoplight system instead of a safeword?” Stiles asked because he thought it was best to jump into things quickly. Like ripping off a bandaid or jumping into water he knew was going to be cold.

Derek nodded, seemingly not at all surprised by Stiles’ blurting. Then again he’d known Stiles for a few months, so it really shouldn’t have been all that shocking, the way he skipped from subject to subject.

“Red for stop, yellow for slow down and discuss, green for go,” Derek said, watching Stiles’ expression, but not betraying any real emotion besides attentiveness.

“Agreed. Now what about, uh, what about our kinks? Hold on, there’s too much blood in my head, let’s change positions.”

Stiles dismounted and held onto the side of the bed for the few seconds it took for his body to re-regulate itself while Derek took the opportunity to shake out his legs and roll onto his side so they were facing each other again.

“Want to try any new moves?” Stiles asked, watching as Derek watched him. It had been a while since they’d been able to spend time alone together when they were both conscious and neither of them had any immediate crisis in the works.

Actually, had they ever experienced that?

Derek shrugged, then seemed to pause for a second, glancing off to the side in a way he did when he was contemplating something.

Finally, he looked up at Stiles. “Do you want to be the base? I’d like to try a different pose,” he said quietly and Stiles felt his eyebrows raise because Derek hadn’t ever volunteered to be the acrobat. The one time they’d switched positions had been at Erica’s insistence.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Stiles said. He was interested to see what type of pose Derek chose for them as he let himself be pulled down onto the floor and gently pushed onto his back.

Derek looked down at him from where he was kneeling beside Stiles’s bent knees, brow furrowed and head tilted slightly to the side.

“You don’t know how to get in the right position, do you?” Stiles asked with the hint of a smirk, though he tried not to show it because sometimes Derek could be sensitive about that type of thing.

“I don’t want to accidentally hurt you,” Derek retorted, then frowned because yeah, his tone had been a bit sharper than was warranted. “I didn’t mean to snap,” he said quietly, though he didn’t actually apologize.

Not that Stiles would expect him to, mainly because there wasn’t really anything to apologize for. Stiles knew he tended to push people’s buttons and getting that kind of reaction was common enough that it no longer bothered him. To hear Derek say it, though, that was a bit of a surprise. Not necessarily a bad one, either. It meant Derek wasn’t treating him with kid gloves anymore. That was nice. Stiles liked it when Derek snarked back.

Derek seemed to come to some kind of conclusion because he nodded to himself. “Okay, bend your knees toward your chest. I’m going to put my hands on either side of your hips and my feet by your head.”

Which meant Derek would be hovering over him in what was awfully close to the 69 position. And that was a good memory.

Stiles cleared his throat and nodded to keep himself from taking that particular trip down memory lane. “So, uh, what’s the goal, here?” he asked, doing as he’d been told and tucking his knees up against his chest as Derek manouvered himself above Stiles with that powerful, almost feline grace.

“The goal,” Derek said, he didn’t even sound strained as his ridiculously-muscled arms flexed on either side of Stiles’ butt as he slowly began lifting his legs, “is for you to plant your feet on my thighs,” he nodded as Stiles did just that, tucking his feet close to Derek’s hips, “and straighten your legs enough to support me while I sit, upside-down, with my legs crossed.”

Which sounded all kinds of insane.

But also completely badass.

That was, if it worked.

Derek slowly walked his hands up as Stiles straightened his legs, feet curving around Derek’s taut thighs.

“I’m going to lift my hands, now,” Derek warned, his legs were bent almost into position, but even though he was pretty flexible, Stiles knew that he needed to use his hands to get his feet tucked just right.

“Ready,” Stiles said. His arms were stretched flat on either side of his torso, hands pressed against the carpet as his abs clenched and his legs trembled with the strain of supporting Derek’s bulk.

“Go,” Derek said, lifting his fingers from off the ground.

Stiles really wished they had a camera available because they looked incredible like that.

“I’m totally digging this move,” Stiles said, voice strained because yeah, he was holding up roughly two hundred pounds of werewolf with just his legs, but it really was beyond awesome.

Derek managed to tuck his feet properly and placed his hands on his knees. He looked hella zen.

Stiles told him so and smiled when Derek smirked at the description.

It was nice, reconnecting like that. Stiles could almost forget about the drama and settle into the easily familiarity of touching and being touched.

Almost.

His knees quaked for a second before he steadied them and Derek gave him a long-suffering look.

“Dismounting,” he said, and without waiting for Stiles to respond he shifted his weight backward, untucking his legs and somehow managing to land on his feet while Stiles’ heels thumped to the floor.

Jesus, even his dismounts were stupidly graceful. Stiles probably would have given himself brain damage or whiplash if he’d tried that. Well, if he’d tried it with a partner other than Derek. Not that Stiles was in any way eager to change up their yoga routine.

But still.

“How do you want to do this?” Derek asked, scooting to sit with his back propped against the side of the bed. He had a fairly tranquil expression on his face, which Stiles chalked up to him having just gotten a smidge of a workout. Derek definitely handled things better when he was in motion, or was recovering from having been in motion. “I mean, I know how we did it last time-” he trailed off into silence.

They’d just talked the last time, discussed their limits and the things they liked, but looking back it seemed too insubstantial in the face of how everything had turned out with them, the problem compounded by werewolves and magic and pack expectations. Taking it from that perspective Derek was right, they probably should switch up the method of their negotiation since the last one, when they’d just sat down together holding hands and bringing up whatever they could think of at the time, definitely hadn’t stuck. Clearly that kind of casual conversation hadn’t worked out in their favor, so the whole situation needed a different tone and vibe and process and just, everything.

Stiles hummed, thinking about their options before he realized it really didn’t have to be as difficult as they were making it.

“Why don’t we just print out copies of like, BDSM negotiation checklists or whatever kink discussion forms they have online? I mean, that’s the way these things normally go when people are entering into dom and sub relationships, right? Not saying that’s what we’re doing,” he was quick to add, though that was certainly a body-tingling thought he would need to think about in more detail later, “just that we’re not the first people to have this conversation, so there’s really no reason to reinvent the wheel, here.”

Derek was already on his feet by the end of Stiles’ ramble and held out his hand to help Stiles up. “That’s a good idea, come on we can use Laura’s computer and printer.”

“As long as we put the browser in private mode before we start,” Stiles said as they took the stairs together, shoulders bumping amiably in the tight space. “I don’t want to know what she’d say if she found that in her search history.”

Derek shook his head as he led the way into her room and motioned for Stiles to take the chair in front of the computer while he sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t immediately think of us if she saw that,” he said wrinkling his nose like the whole idea put a bad taste in his mouth.

“Gross, dude,” Stiles agreed. While he didn’t actually have any sisters or brothers, thinking about Scott in that context wasn’t something he wanted to do at all ever. It had to be the same or worse for Derek and his bevy of pseudo-siblings.

The machine booted up quickly and it didn’t have any kind of login required, which Stiles secretly side-eyed Laura for, but it was her computer, so whatever. She did have his favorite web browser, though, so that was better than what he suspected Derek used. The guy didn’t seem all that tech-savvy, even if he had somehow managed to bug Stiles’ phone. Stiles opened an incognito window and searched BDSM negotiation forms.

The results were-

Interesting.

“Well,” Stiles said, quickly clicking out of the link he’d chosen at random, his heart thundering just from that single site. “That is kind of traumatizing. Let’s not with that one.”

He would have searched the images, instead, since they just needed the basic form and not crazy bondage nightmare fuel, but he knew better than to go that route since the results would undoubtedly be even more graphic than the site banner he’d accidentally seen.

“Yellow,” Derek replied and Stiles turned to look at him, kind of baffled and concerned because that wasn’t what he’d expected to hear.

Derek was watching him, though, with a very similar expression.

“It looks like you’re uncomfortable with this, which makes me feel uncomfortable. So why don’t you go upstairs and start the fire, not using magic,” he cautioned with a quirked eyebrow Stiles should not find so stupidly endearing, “and I’ll find us a few versions of the forms to look over.”

Stiles wanted to agree, but something about the tone of Derek’s voice grated. He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, over the scars. “Do you think I can’t handle this or something?” he snapped, knowing he was being kind of belligerent and reactionary, but then again his heart rate still hadn’t quite settled from what he knew was definitely one of his triggers.

Derek shook his head, expression soft and understanding and Stiles kind of wanted to punch him for it, which was how he knew he really did need to remove himself from the situation because he was no longer thinking rationally.

“Okay,” he said before Derek could coddle him anymore. “Okay,” he said more quietly, “I’ll go do that. And you do this, and then we can fill out the forms and talk.” He stood up and went to the door, stomach twisting and he couldn’t just leave, not like that. So he turned back and tried not to lose his nerve at the quickly masked expression of bafflement on Derek’s face. That actually helped him, really, seeing how his uncalled-for negatively affected his mate. Stiles didn’t like it when Derek looked out of his depth, it was unsettling.

“Sorry for being a dick,” Stiles said. “I’m, uh. Sorry. And thank you. In advance. For. You know,” he waved a hand at the screen and yeah, it was time for him to go do what Derek had suggested.

Stiles didn’t even wait for him to respond before he spun on his heel and took off, bounding up the stairs two at a time, trying to work out his sudden excess of energy and angst. The yoga thing had been a good idea, the whole being in contact with each other without fucking thing, but the checklists were even better. They were more concrete. Not that their previous verbal agreement hadn’t been binding, in it’s own way, but there was just something about having a real written contract that seemed like it would be better suited to holding parties accountable for their actions.

Not that Derek would betray him again. Or that either of them would go against each other’s wishes. Not after what they’d been through and talked about since then.

Stiles thought about it all, fingers already lightly dusted with ash as he crouched in front of the fireplace. The kindling in there looked like it could sustain a good flame long enough for the smaller twigs to catch. The match book in his hand was already half-empty and it really would have been simple enough for him to try sparking a fire on his own, but Derek had asked him not to, so he wouldn’t. Besides, he didn’t want to accidentally burn the house down.

It suddenly occurred to Stiles that there was probably a way for him to use his magic to make Derek comply with their agreement, but that same thought came with the stomach-chilling realization that whatever magic that entailed would also prevent Derek from exercising his own free will. Their relationship was supposed to be about mutual respect, or at least Stiles hoped it was about that. Violating that through force of any kind, either through magic or physical means, wasn’t adhering to the spirit of their relational law.

Also, that would be completely wrong and creepy of him.

The fire was burning merrily by the time Derek reentered the room, a sheaf of papers in one hand, pens in the other.

“I made two copies of each,” he said, apparently willing to ignore Stiles’ previous mini freak-out. He went to the dresser and separated them into piles, one for Stiles and the other for himself. “I figure we can decide which is more our speed, or if we like more than one we can fill out multiples.”

Stiles nodded, skimming the first contract, it had a lot of bondage questions, so that was a no, then the second, which covered a plethora of everyday kinks. He put that one in the keep pile. The third was a bit more extreme, going into intricate detail about cutting and sounding and enemas and other things he wasn’t quite ready to get into. Stiles quickly discarded that one, but the fourth was a general kind of inventory he liked the look of, so he decided that was a keeper as well.

“How about these two?” Stiles asked, holding up his choices.

Derek glanced at them and nodded, taking his own identical copies. “I’ll go by the window to answer the questions, you can stay here and use the dresser,” he said, already moving around the massive bed.

Stiles would have told him that he didn’t have to do that, but the illusion of privacy was actually kind of nice, given the extremely personal details the questionnaires asked. He knew himself well enough to know that he needed some space when it came to these things. Space to move and pace and mutter under his breath.

Even though Derek would still be able to hear and see and probably even smell him.

But still, the illusion was nice.



Derek glanced down at Stiles' questionnaires, eyebrows raised. Stiles didn't even bother looking at the ones in his hands, just blatantly stared at Derek's expression as his eyes flicked down the pages.

"So, uh, no beating of any kind," he said much more calmly than he probably felt. Stiles couldn't be sure of what Derek was actually feeling, though, not without touching his skin and it seemed like almost too intimate a moment for that, ironically enough.

"I, yeah," Stiles replied. He may have gone a bit overboard scribbling a giant FUCK NO across that portion of the form. He was just, he didn't want that. Wasn't comfortable with it, even though he knew Derek wouldn't strike him out of anger. The domestic violence feel of it was too much for him.

So, just no.

“Except for spanking,” Derek pointed out as he turned to the next page and Stiles kind of hated his own physiology because his face grew instantly hot as he blushed.

“Uh, yeah,” he said, finally looked at Derek's answers and couldn't stop his eyebrows from going up. He seemed pretty interested in bondage. In being bound, in particular.

Huh.

Stiles could maybe get behind that.

"You don't want to be called your real name?" Derek asked.

"Not really, it’s what my mom used to call me so memories and stuff," Stiles said, skipping to the part where Derek had written his own naming choices. "Oh, so you're okay with Der and Derek, but not Der-Bear or Ginger Bear?"

"Not in a scene," Derek replied, not looking up from the papers.

Stiles made a noise of acknowledgement. Derek was also interested in several different kinds of roleplay, but not age or medical play, though he seemed to be into education play? So like, teacher and student? But who would star in each role?

And would there be spanking?

Stiles thought he’d probably be okay with spanking in that scenario.

More than okay, really, as he started thinking about just what, exactly, they would be acting out. He could even wear a skirt for that one-

Maybe?

Stiles checked and yep, Derek had marked that he was interested in crossdressing. In Stiles getting dressed up in particular, so that was definitely in line with his own interests.

The contraception section was similar to Stiles’ own. Their barrier of choice was a condom, obviously, though Derek had no reservations about not using them. Which, yeah, they’d had sex both ways, but seeing it in writing made Stiles realize just how careless they’d been, having initially negotiated something so important in the heat of the moment, instead of discussing it in detail first, like they should have done.

Derek had written werewolves don’t get sick beside that section and Stiles couldn’t help but shake his head because that was fine and all, but not really the point. He made a mental note to contact Deaton about having them both tested for STIs because even though the had a magical connection with each other, Stiles still wanted them to be as safe as possible.

But overall, they seemed like a highly compatible pair. There were certainly some things Stiles hadn’t known about Derek on there, and probably vice versa, but the more he read the easier it was to settle the reservations he hadn’t even been completely aware of having harbored over the whole intimacy piece of their relationship.

“Thank you for doing this with me,” Stiles said, glancing up and seeing Derek’s fond expression already fixed on him.

“I want you to be comfortable. With me. With us,” he clarified and Stiles grinned in response before he looked back down at the paper.

What do I want from this arrangement? The question read.

Derek had circled: to take care of someone, to feel safe, to be taken care of, and to have control.

“I think this is going to work out pretty well,” Stiles said, feeling his shoulders relax as he breathed deeply and exhaled what he imaged to be the last of the tension from his body. “I’m certainly willing to try.”



Talia called when they were curled up together on the couch downstairs, just lounging and watching the fire burn low in the fireplace and basking in their general contented togetherness like the stars in a sappy love story. That was, until they both saw the caller ID.

Of-fucking-course.

“Guess we should have seen that coming,” Stiles mumbled, belatedly realizing that a simple text of Made it to Ctown to their families upon landing in Chicago probably wasn’t their best or most thoughtful move.

In their defense, they’d both been a little frazzled from the whole flying-across-the-country thing and then their stressful rental car experience. Since apparently finding an available vehicle so close to the holidays was kind of a challenge. Or whatever. Stiles didn’t really know since he had largely stood off the the side sending the text messages while Derek had taken care of the car thing.

Regardless, Derek took the call with a grumbled, “Mother,” and pushed himself into a seated position so Stiles was sprawled limply across his lap.

Without superhuman hearing, Stiles couldn’t quite make out what Talia was saying, but from Derek’s plummeting mood he got the impression she wasn’t thrilled about their sudden unannounced departure from Beacon Hills. He sighed and rolled off of Derek and onto the floor in what wasn’t exactly the most graceful move, but it put an indulgent kind of smile on Derek’s face, so Stiles figured his slight embarrassment at being such a flailer was worth it.

Also, being able to stretch up onto his toes, arms thrown up and muscles vibrating with the pleasurable tension was a nice change from the still-present muscle memory of being cramped into airplane seats for a majority of the day. Thinking that put a kind of fire in his veins and since he didn’t have to sit still anymore, Stiles took the opportunity to work out some of his energy through exploration.

He made a vague gesture around the room, indicating his interest in checking things out and Derek gave a distracted nod, apparently still being reamed out by his mom slash alpha.

Which, yikes.

Stiles had studied the artwork during his previous visit to the house, but he hadn’t really poked around too much. There weren’t many cabinets or drawers to open, but the ones Stiles found held the same random stuff he’d expect to find in the junk drawer at his dad’s house. Take out menus, rubber bands, pens that were probably dry, and various other nicknacks. Stiles took out a few of the menus to peruse. He hadn’t had Indian food in a while and one of the places said they delivered.

But he put it back on the entryway table when he heard Derek tell his mother a curt goodbye. He just sat there on the couch afterward, looking kind of stunned and upset.

“Derek?” Stiles asked, walking forward until he could better see his mate’s expression.

“My uh,” Derek said, studying his blank phone in a way that told Stiles he was highly uncomfortable with the situation and whatever it was his mother had said. “My family thinks we might not have a very healthy relationship. They think you’re just using me for the power that grants you.”

Which, out of everything, was not what Stiles had expected to hear from Derek.

He bit back his first reaction, though, which was to point out that Derek had a pretty big role in whatever dysfunction was going on between them, and that the Hales had done their share of using Stiles, but he somehow managed to keep the anger from bursting out of him because he knew that Derek didn’t deserve that reaction after having shared what was clearly an uncomfortable piece of information with him.

Besides, Stiles kind of knew the Hales, and after everything he’d seen and learned about pack dynamics he thought he at least had a vague grasp of where the they were coming from with their apparent concern for Derek’s well being as Talia’s son and beta.

Stiles took a moment to breathe, to center himself and think about the situation from their perspective. It probably seemed odd, he recognized, that Derek had up and left with him after having just returned to Beacon Hills after so long an absence. When Stiles looked at it like that there were all kinds of ways their apparent flight could be misinterpreted as a kind of kidnapping or emotional manipulation.

Just like Cassandra had done to him.

And woah.

Was it manipulation?

Had Stiles been so caught up in his own drama that he’d completely disregarded Derek’s feelings on the matter?

He didn’t think so, but the further evidence, Derek buying their tickets and paying for the rental car, his lack of contact with his family, the way he seemed so eager and willing to go along with almost everything Stiles proposed without question-

“They have a point,” Stiles admitted quietly, cold dread curling inside of him.

It was a hard thing to have pointed out to him, after his own nearly obsessive fight for free agency. Had he really been so blind to the fact that he had actively been compromising Derek’s own?

And holy shit.

Stiles felt himself pale.

During the course of their relationship, he’d somehow managed to turn the domestic abuse checklist around and make himself the emotional abuser.

He was no better than anyone he’d ever dated. He’d taken Derek’s commitment, the bonds they had to each other, and deftly twisted them to get what he’d wanted. Stiles really was a completely shitty person, just like Samson had accused him of being when he’d publicly dumped Stiles.

“I’m sorry,” he said, aware that it wasn’t the first time he’d said it that day and it shouldn’t be the last because those words barely conveyed the extent to which he felt gutted by the revelation that he was no better than any of his past boy or girlfriends. He’d used Derek, played him, forced him away from his family, and hadn’t taken into account his desires or feelings about any of it.

Derek, who, despite a few lapses that Stiles had forgiven him for, had gone out of his way to ensure Stiles’ safety and comfort in nearly every situation they’d been in. Derek, who was magically bonded to Stiles just as much as Stiles was magically bonded to him, hadn’t ever used that connection to force his compliance.

Stiles opened his mouth to say it again, but Derek didn’t let him. He surged to his feet and lunged forward to wrap Stiles in a tight hug, momentarily forcing the breath out of him as he squeezed and murmured something too quiet to understand, but Stiles felt the affection coming off of him like a warm cloud of love and forgiveness and Stiles wasn’t going to cry about it.

When he managed to get himself back under control he tried to push Derek away, to explain how much of a horrible human being he was, but Derek simply refused to let go.

“No,” he said when Stiles started to struggle. “No, just let me.”

Let him take care of Stiles, apparently. It was one of his drives, after all, and he was good at it, but Stiles didn’t think he actually deserved that kind of attention, not after acting so abominably for so long.

“How can you even like me?” Stiles asked miserably, cheek pressed against Derek’s shoulder, arms limp at his sides while Derek’s hands pressed possessively at his neck and lower back, keeping him right where he wanted him.

“I don’t, sometimes,” Derek admitted, but his mood remained steadily affectionate and not at all perturbed. Stiles would have expected at least some anger, but there wasn’t even a trace of it. “I don’t like that you put yourself in danger and that you think you have to handle things on your own. I don’t like it when you’re hurt or sad or lonely. I don’t always like the decisions you make, or how you think you have to hide how you’re feeling from me, but never doubt that I love you, Stiles.”

“Do you want to, though?” he asked, unable to stop the question because it was important. Neither of them had agreed to the arrangement they were in, the whole anchor-mate situation. Hell, Derek had been hobbled by it for over two decades before he’d even known Stiles existed in real life as an actual person. He’d been drawn to Stiles when he’d still been a fetus, for fuck’s sake.

As far as Stiles knew, the anchor thing for werewolves wasn’t set in stone. And for that matter, his own magical anchor maybe wasn’t, either. If that was the case, their whole arrangement wasn’t just creepily non-consensual, it was also more fragile than he’d ever suspected.

Stiles felt his next breath hitch in his lungs and squeezed his eyes shut tight because that was just what he needed, to freak himself out to the point of having a panic attack.

Though, really, if anything should make him lose control it was the thought of somehow having forced such a beautiful, sweet person into the freakshow parade of a dysfunctional and abusive relationship the two of them had managed to cobble together from the broken scraps of Stiles’ stupidly complicated life.

Derek tried to sooth him, his broad hands rubbing up and down Stiles’ tense spine, but the feeling of self-loathing overwhelmed whatever positive vibes Derek was giving off as he felt himself start to shut down.

“I don’t,” Stiles gasped, breathing erratic as the panic settled deeper into his chest, “I can’t-”

“Breathe, Stiles,” Derek said, the beginnings of his own fear feeding into Stiles’ in a way that did the opposite of help him calm down.

The way Stiles’ shoulders were twitching with every failed attempt to breathe in made his back sore and his neck twinge and it had been a long time since he’d had one that bad. It was almost we’re going to the hospital bad.

His vision swam as his throat burned, convulsing around the lack of air from his abortive gasps. He tried the coaching techniques that had been drilled into him from the time of his mother’s death, but nothing seemed to work in the face of his revelation.

Stiles was an abuser and he’d trapped Derek in a relationship so unhealthy it made Samson’s actions seem reasonable in comparison. Maybe he was right to have said the things he did when he’d dumped Stiles’ ass. Bethany was likely right, too, when she’d accused him of being controlling.

Derek said something he couldn’t understand, but his panic was echoing Stiles’ to the point that nothing else penetrated his consciousness, just the feedback-loop of unbridled terror. Stiles’ body went immediately numb and heavy as everything became unfocused until the edges blurred black and then Stiles closed his eyes and just let go.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke slowly into the dream.

Which was a pretty weird feeling, waking up and knowing he was actually asleep.

He knew he was in the dreamscape, though, and not Derek’s house in Chicago because even with his eyes closed he could feel the soft grass under his bare back and the warmth of sunshine on his upturned face.

He could also breath, so that was a pretty significant indicator.

“Stiles?” Derek asked, voice so uncharacteristically timid it made him turn his head and open his eyes before he could think of why that would be a bad idea.

Derek’s tear-streaked face was not what he expected to see, nor was the potent feeling of emotional devastation roiling off of him despite the short distance between their bare bodies. Stiles shouldn’t have been able to feel what Derek was feeling, not unless their actual skin was touching in real life, which it likely was, he supposed. The last thing he remembered was standing in the living room with Derek, his lungs refusing to work and then he must have passed out because of it.

“Der,” Stiles said, reaching out his arms to touch and bring Derek closer, to take away the hurt he was feeling, but the werewolf shied back, scrambling into a crouch like he was preparing to bolt.

“Derek?” he asked, struggling to his knees and feeling tears start to gather in his own eyes because it felt like they were both falling apart too quickly to be put back together again and he didn’t know how to fix it. To fix them. Or if they could even be fixed.

They stayed there for a long, tense moment before Derek finally scrubbed his cheeks with the heel of one hand, the other gripping the ground so forcefully Stiles couldn’t tell if his claws were out or not. He suspected they were, though, given the tension in Derek’s tightly coiled body.

“I have trouble controlling myself when you’re feeling like that,” Derek said in what Stiles considered a bit of a non sequitur.

But instead of blurting out a demand for a better answer, Stiles bit his lip and waited, either for a more elaborate response or for himself to figure out what Derek was getting at as he brooded at Stiles.

Derek stayed silent, looking predatory and scared, feeling unbalanced, while Stiles worked through his brief response.

“When I have a panic attack?” Stiles guessed. He couldn’t actually remember the full extent of it, which meant he’d passed out and had finally started breathing normally. That also made it one of his worst, then. He should have thought to pack his inhaler and would have to schedule a meeting with his old pulmonologist in California if it happened again.

Derek nodded, eyes downcast.

“Do you understand why I freaked out?”

A beat of hesitation, then another, slower nod.

“So you get that it isn’t your fault?”

Derek glanced up at him, then away.

Stiles fought back a frustrated sigh, which wouldn’t have done either of them any good. The situation required patience and honesty, not petulance. “I realized that I’ve basically held you hostage since before I was even born.”

Derek looked up sharply, but Stiles continued.

“You were drawn to my heartbeat when I was still in the womb. You knew, or thought you knew, that we belonged together. That knowledge kept you from having other relationships,” which was just an assumption on Stiles’ part, but Derek made no attempt to refute it. “It loomed over you for your entire life, but despite knowing where you could probably find me, you never made the effort to come back to Beacon Hills.”

Derek didn’t seem to have anything to say to that, either.

Stiles couldn’t contain his sigh, that time.

“Derek, the only conclusion I can draw from this is that you never wanted to meet me, that you didn’t want to be controlled by whatever bond it is we have, and me being in your life, now? That is a violation of your right to free agency. You can pick another anchor, you don’t need me, and I’d rather never do magic again than face the reality of being your oppressor and-” he swallowed, but he had to force himself to say it, to label exactly what he was, “and your abuser. Because this? This is emotional abuse, plain and simple.”

Derek flinched at that, like he’d been struck by it and that was too vivid of a descriptor of his expression for Stiles to handle, so he looked away and tried to blink the tears from his eyes.

“I don’t want-” Stiles began, but Derek was moving inexplicably closer when he should have been running away.

“I don’t want to lose you,” Derek said, his hands suspended between them like he was unsure if he was actually allowed to touch.

Stiles finally looked at him, at his glossy hazel eyes and the furrows in his brow, the way his lips curved down. It was an expression of concern, not hatred.

Derek didn’t feel like hate, either, he felt confused and scared and so full of love it made Stiles’ breath hitch, which just served to make Derek’s expression turn even more heart-wrenching.

“Why would you still want me, if you don’t have to be with me?” Stiles asked, baffled by what was going on. He understood the biological imperative of five year old Derek being drawn to Stiles’ fetal heartbeat, or, at least he understood the concept as best he could, but being shackled by that memory for so long? He couldn’t fathom why Derek wasn’t willing to take the out he was offering.

“Stiles,” Derek said, finally closing the last few inches of distance between them and cradling his face between werewolf-warm palms. “I love you. I’ve always loved you, and nothing you do or say will change that. I get that you’re new to this, to mates and werewolves, but pushing me away isn’t going to change my feelings for you.”

“But it’s not fair to you,” Stiles protested, his tears finally falling from the corners of his eyes and catching on the sides of Derek’s thumbs, sliding across the curve of his hands and down to Stiles’ chin. “None of this is fair, you haven’t ever had a choice!”

Derek smiled, but it was a sad sort of expression and his emotions shifted to a quiet contentment. “Being a werewolf isn’t like being a human, Stiles. I’m a beta in my mother’s pack, which is the role I’ve had for my entire life. It isn’t something I chose, but I know that at any time I can quit. I could walk away from it all and join another pack, if they’d have me, or I could become a lone omega. Those are my choices and I’m well aware of them, even if I never choose to act differently.

“Having, finding, a mate is the same. At least for wolves. I knew I was drawn to you when I was a child, and as I grew older I finally realized what it was that connection meant. That left me with a few options. I could have returned to Beacon Hills alone, went back to where my grandparents had been killed, to a place the rest of my family actively avoided, and tried to find you without knowing if you were even there or if you were already in a relationship. I could have ignored the feeling and tried to build a new, albeit empty, life. Or, I could wait and trust in fate to bring us together when we were both ready for it.”

Stiles blinked at him, his eyes finally unclouded by tears. Derek had an expression of resolve, his emotions echoing that in a way Stiles’ hadn’t ever felt from him, before.

“Being a werewolf means living a life that’s largely been predetermined. That’s something I actually like about it,” Derek said, his thumbs brushing Stiles’ cheeks. “I like not having to struggle through every decision because I already know that the major ones, where I’ll live, where my family will be, who I’m meant to be with, those have already been decided. All I have to do is make good choices about the little things, like what to major in or the job I want. It really takes the pressure out of life.”

“But,” Stiles argued, “but what about your free agency? What if you don’t want to stop being a cop, or to move back to Beacon Hills, or-”

“But I do,” Derek interrupted with a gentle smile. “I want to be near my family, I want to be with my mate, and the rest of the world can go to hell. Being a cop isn’t what defines me, Stiles. Sure, I enjoyed my job, but I didn’t necessarily feel fulfilled by it. Boyd, Isaac and I chose that career path because we like to help people and there was a need for us here. Who knows what we’ll try in Beacon Hills.”

Stiles narrowed his eyes, feeling his cheek muscles move under the soft press of Derek’s hands. “You’re being awfully zen about this whole thing. Are you sure you’re not under the influence of my pheromones or some kind of whammy spell or something?”

Derek chuckled, the last of his angst evaporating as he leaned forward to place a chaste kiss on Stiles’ forehead. “There’s no magic involved in my decision, Stiles. I said I’d follow you to hell and I meant it. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try to stop you from going, just that if you couldn’t be persuaded against it I’d be there by your side for the entire journey.”

He leaned back and finally released Stiles’ face, though the warmth of his touch lingered. “I know you might not want to talk about it quite yet, but my mother gave me the name and number of someone we can call,” Derek said, glancing off into the distance at the rolling hills and the cloudless sky. “She’s a counselor in Beacon Hills, but she knows about this kind of thing, about werewolves and the rest. Her name is Morrell.”

Stiles barked a laugh before he could stop himself and Derek glanced at him, expression quizzical.

“If it’s Ms. Morrell then I know her, she was the school counselor at Beacon Hills High. Oh my god, of course she knows about supernatural stuff. Why wouldn’t she? I wouldn’t be surprised if she and Deaton were related, somehow.”

Derek cocked his head. “They’re siblings, actually,” he said and Stiles couldn’t help but grin at him, relishing in the way the final edge of tension in Derek’s arms seemed to loosen.

“Are you sure you’re okay with us?” Stiles asked. Everything that Derek had told him made sense, to an extent, but he couldn’t help but doubt. It was in his nature to question and investigate and wheedle out the truth of things until he had convinced himself what he had discovered was the absolute final word on the matter.

Derek nodded. “I’m okay if you’re okay. You were right, though, we do need to discuss things, not just about our sexual relationship, but also our emotional baggage. We can think of this as a kind of fresh start, if you want.”

“I want,” Stiles said, and finally leaned in for a proper kiss.



“Morrell speaking.”

Stiles glanced sideways at Derek, then down at the phone they’d placed on the coffee table in front of them.

“Um, hi, my name is Stiles-”

“Stilinski, yes, I’ve been expecting your call since Alan told me about the power you inherited from your mother.”

“Wha-”

“This is Derek Hale as well,” Derek said before Stiles could question her about what the hell she meant about his mom.

“Hello Derek, Stiles,” Ms. Morrell said. She had a professional-sounding voice, calm, but firm enough to take control of the conversation. From their one or two sessions together, Stiles remembered that she looked the part as well. “Shall we get started? Alan and Talia have already filled me in on the circumstances of your first connection, and then your chance encounter in Chicago. You two certainly took long enough to find each other, did you not?”

Stiles opened and closed his mouth because that wasn’t how he’d expected things to go. He’d seen his fair share of therapists and counselors and psychiatrists over the years, for various reasons, and they’d normally been more interested in forcing him to talk about things than in giving a curt summary of events all on their own.

“Then there was the situation in Wisconsin,” she continued, “which was fortunately covered up quite quickly by the Hale pack, and again in Beacon Hills, but I understand you are now both back in Chicago.”

“That’s correct,” Derek said, reaching over to squeeze Stiles’ hand in a reassuring grip.

“Are you capable of understanding Derek’s emotions when the two of you touch, Stiles?” Morrell asked and he stuttered out a surprised yes.

Definitely not like any of his previous therapy appointments.

“That is a good thing, don’t worry,” she said, probably to reassure him, but her tone was too flippant for it to have much impact. “It means the bond is setting and eventually you might not even need the physical contact to know what Derek is feeling.”

Which, what?

“What?” Stiles asked.

Derek was just as baffled.

“But that’s a topic for another time,” Morrell said, ignoring his question. “What we need to know is whether or not you two are okay with this bond. Talia shared some concerns with me-”

Because of course she had.

“-and it sounds like she isn’t certain of your commitment to each other. Or at least the emotions and motivations behind that commitment. The simple fact that you have been sharing dreams and that Stiles can feel your emotions, Derek, those two things tell me a lot about how this relationship is progressing.”

Not that she was apparently willing to share her findings with the two of them, which made a certain amount of sense if she was, indeed, Deaton’s sister. Stiles was convinced he said mysterious shit just for the fun of it, more often than not.

“How is it progressing?” Derek asked in his serious cop voice. Stiles hadn’t heard that one in a while. His emotions were edging on worry, though, so Stiles tightened his grip on Derek’s hand in reassurance. They were both just starting to figure things out for themselves, but having a relatively-neutral third party to help them work out the details shouldn’t hurt.

Stiles hoped.

“It is going well, I assure you,” Morrell said, “though there is the inherent struggle associated with having a werewolf bond with a human, as I’m sure you’ve already experienced.”

Struggle was a bit of an understatement, in Stiles’ opinion.

“We’ve just been discussing that,” Derek admitted, glancing at Stiles with the barest hint of a smile. “We want to work things out.”

“I just want to make sure Derek has a choice,” Stiles said, ignoring the way Derek rolled his eyes, like he’d already put the topic to bed and didn’t see the point in rehashing it.

Morrell made an agreeing noise. “That is a common fear for humans newly bonded to werewolves,” she said. “After my discussion with Talia I suspected you might have a similar concern, but rest assured Derek is in full control of his own desires and actions.”

“Even though I’m not just a human?” Stiles asked, his skepticism definitely showing. “I mean, I get how this typically works, but I definitely inherited something extra from my mom-”

“A spark,” Morrell interjected. “Yes, that could complicate things, but in this case I believe it simply settles it more easily. According to Talia, you are each other’s mates and anchors. The fact that you’ve discovered this so soon after first meeting indicates a high degree of compatibility.”

Derek nodded like it all made sense.

Which it didn’t.

“But how-” Stiles began.

“How does that affect your bond? You may not know this, but those born with the spark are exceedingly rare, Stiles. They also have an affinity for attracting the attention of the supernaturally-inclined.”

Like Cassandra and the alpha assholes, apparently.

“I’m aware,” he grumbled and Derek swiped his thumb over the back of Stiles’ hand.

“Then you also know how valuable sparks can be to an already established supernatural entity or group.”

“Talia mentioned it, but my mother never joined a pack,” Stiles pointed out. It felt like they were straying from the original topic, but figuring out his place in the world and in Talia’s pack was also something he needed to pin down, he knew. Especially since he seemed to have settled on returning to Beacon Hills, which was evidently Hale territory.

“Yes, Anya chose to separate herself from the Hale pack, but she was still a valuable asset to them. Without her they would have all been killed when the Argents attacked.”

Stiles didn’t need the sudden tightening of Derek’s hand on his to know that was a touchy subject.

Also, what?

But Ms. Morrell breezed on like she hadn’t just casually dropped the kind of information that changed Stiles’ entire perception of his mother’s relationship with the Hales. She’d saved them? But how? And why had the Argents attacked them to begin with? Why had no one talked about that? Why hadn’t she mentioned it in her letter?

He had too many questions and not enough time to articulate them before she was already moving on.

“Now, I want the two of you to think about your relationship in regards to the pack. What are your needs, what are your desires, and what do you think you’d be willing to compromise on? We’ll speak again tomorrow. Call me at six in the evening and we’ll discuss your thoughts, then.”

She ended the call before Stiles could protest and Derek sat back heavily, dragging Stiles’ hand over to rest on his hip.

“What the hell was that?” Stiles asked, glancing over at him, but Derek was still stunned.

Derek just shrugged. Clearly he didn’t know, either.



“This bed is really big,” Stiles said as he stared up at the white and dark beamed ceiling. Derek had lit a fire, so there were jumping orange flickers and shadows as far as he could see, but it was still pretty dark despite that.

Beside him Derek grunted.

“We’re acting like an old married couple,” Stiles pointed out because it was true. They might as well have been in two separate beds since they weren’t even touching, which was a shame because Stiles was kind of cold and Derek was kind of hot.

In every sense of the word.

“I’m not really in the mood,” Derek said like he was following this kind of scripted 1950s domestic comedy.

“You’re not in the mood to talk about how hilariously gigantic this bed is, or the fact that we’re three feet apart and both pretending we’ll be able to actually sleep right now?” Stiles asked, glancing over to look at Derek’s profile. He could barely make it out in the firelight.

Derek probably rolled his eyes, but Stiles couldn’t tell for sure.

“I don’t really want to talk about what Morrell said about my family,” Derek clarified and Stiles made a noise of understanding. In all honesty he was kind of dying to get more information about the Hale-Argent-Stilinski attempted-murder connection, but if Derek didn’t want to discuss it then Stiles would respect his wishes.

“Okay, we don’t have to,” he said lightly. “I’m going to try to schedule an appointment with Mr. Youngblood sometime this week, but I’m not sure if he’ll have time to meet with me since it’s kind of short notice.”

Derek finally turned to face Stiles, his eyes glowing blue in the dark. “You’re going to Youngblood and West during the open investigation regarding Argent Unlimited?” Officer Hale asked. “Is that wise?”

Stiles shrugged, unperturbed. His dad had often used a similar tone of voice with him when Sheriff Stilinski wasn’t interested in dealing with his shit or thought he was doing something particularly stupid. Regardless, that hadn’t really worked on Stiles, at least not since he was a kid. The sooner Derek figured that out, the better.

He snuggled down a little further under the covers to try to get a bit warmer. Stiles was wearing some of Derek’s too-loose clothes, but they weren’t enough to actually warm him up on that frigid Chicago night. He wondered if he should ask for another blanket. “Probably not, but I’m here right now and if I can somehow save myself a trip back to Chicago in the future I don’t mind sitting in the waiting room for a few hours on the off chance he’ll have an opening. Besides, I kind of want to get that out of the way so I can focus on the,” he swallowed and looked back at the ceiling, “on the whole Charlie, apartment thing.”

His super was probably pissed about bullet holes in the elevator, and then losing not one, but two paying tenants so close to the holidays on top of that? Bad business, right there. Stiles figured his security deposit was a lost cause, but he hoped to at least be able to break his lease without incurring too many additional charges. He wondered if a dozen chocolate muffins would help ease the way.

The blanket shifted across his chest as Derek wiggled a bit before he settled. “I can go with you,” he said quietly.

And yeah, Stiles had just kind of assumed that, but he supposed it was good to hear Derek say it out loud.

"Thanks, maybe you can help make sure I don't get totally screwed over," Stiles said into the semi-darkness, only half joking.

Derek shifted again. "You think Mr. Youngblood is going to screw you over?" he asked quietly, though there was a definite edge to his voice.

"What?" Stiles asked, turning his head again and finding Derek's eyes still glowing blue. "Oh! You mean you'd go with me to the office? That's sweet, I'd like that. I was talking about the painfully uncomfortable discussion I’m going to have with my super, but no, I don't think my new boss would be that much of a dick. He seemed pretty cool on the phone."

Derek blinked at him and finally nodded.

“What about you, Derek? Don’t you need to go to the station and, I don’t know, clean out your locker or whatever?”

“The precinct? Yeah, I guess I should. It might be nice to say goodbye to everyone, since I didn’t get a chance before.”

Because Stiles had run away from Isaac and gotten himself kidnapped like a dumbass, Derek didn’t say. He didn’t need to, Stiles was very much aware of his own stupidity in that regard. In how he’d put Isaac and then the rest of the Chicago-based Hales in harm’s way with his impulsive dickishness.

Which brought him back around to Charlie’s death.

“I’m really not going to be able to sleep if you keep obsessing,” Derek said with what Stiles thought was probably an amused tone, but it was hard to tell in the dark.

“Well, I’m not going to be able to sleep if it doesn’t warm up in here,” he retorted and immediately bit his lip because it sounded like a cheesy line. He hadn’t meant it like that, but that’s definitely how it had come out.

Derek was still watching him, werewolf eyes trained on Stiles as he tried pulling the blankets up higher, but they were already at his chin and he hadn’t ever liked to sleep with his head underneath the covers.

“Come here, if you’re cold,” Derek said quietly, his tone too neutral for Stiles to read.

It would have been handy for that emotion transference without touching thing to kick in around then, but despite Morrell’s assurances that it would happen, it hadn’t yet.

“And what will happen when I do that?” Stiles asked, never capable of just doing what he was told. Not when he wasn’t sure of the outcome.

Derek didn’t even blink. “When you get here, you’ll find out.”

Stiles bit his lip. He remembered reading on Derek’s negotiation form that he liked to be in control, which was kind of convenient because Stiles liked it when someone else took over the decision-making, sometimes. Well, it depended on the person, but Derek was definitely someone he wouldn’t mind relinquishing power to in some instances.

At least that’s what Stiles suspected.

“My what big eyes you have,” he said with a smirk, scooting a little closer to the werewolf.

Derek just lifted his dark eyebrows and grinned, his white teeth visible in the dark. There was definitely some fang action going on and Stiles couldn’t suppress his shiver of interest.

“What big teeth you have,” he continued, not really sure why he kept on with the fairy tale quotes, especially since Derek wasn’t verbally playing along, but he moved a little closer, anyway.

When there was barely a foot of space between them Derek finally reached his hands under the covers and wrapped them around Stiles’ waist, dragging him flush against his muscular body.

“The better to hold you with, my dear,” Derek rumbled, not waiting for Stiles to squeak out a comment about his hands.

The warmth of Derek’s body was intoxicating after feeling chilled for so long. Stiles burrowed against him unselfconsciously, tucking his nose against the side of Derek’s throat and pressing his toes against the hard lines of his shins.

“I like this,” Stiles muttered, “this is a good consequence.” He moved his face to warm his ears, one at a time, against the front of Derek’s shoulder. Beneath him Derek chuckled, his hands sweeping slowly up and down Stiles’ spine underneath the borrowed shirt.

“I thought you might like it,” Derek said, letting Stiles use him like a glorified hot water bottle or heating pad or whatever other external warmth-generator.

“And here I thought you were going to have your wicked way with me,” Stiles joked, nuzzling against Derek’s neck and giving him a playful nip.

Derek’s chest vibrated with a quiet growl. “Careful, pup, or I just might.”

Stiles knew he probably shouldn’t respond so viscerally to being called pup, but a shiver of arousal went down his spine, anyway.

“Wha-whatever you say,” he said, then swallowed thickly because there was a thread of startlement mixed with satisfaction coming from Derek and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Well, besides aroused.

Because, as they’d established, Stiles had no problem with his mate’s werewolf side. Not at all. It was part of Derek’s allure, actually. That and his body and personality and pretty much all of him.

Stiles was beginning to regret not having emphasized that on his kink negotiation forms because he was always up for more werewolf roleplay.

“What if I say I want you to take this off?” Derek asked as he tugged at the collar of the shirt Stiles was wearing. His voice seeming to rumble a bit more than usual as he avidly watched Stiles’ expression.

Stiles swallowed and began pulling at the hem of his borrowed shirt, but it was hard to pull off with Derek’s arms still wrapped around him. After a moment of struggling with it, Derek seemed to get with the program and they had Stiles shirtless in short order.

Derek lowered his face to Stiles’ bared clavicle and took a deep breath, his hot palm sliding from the center of Stiles’ scarred chest, down his abs to stop just at the top of his pajama pants.

“And these?” Derek asked, breath whispering across Stiles’ skin.

He fumbled with the drawstring for a second before he managed to get it untied. Once again, Derek helped him get out of the too-big clothing, also taking the initiative of pulling down Stiles’ boxer briefs, leaving him completely naked under the covers.

“If you want me to stay warm, you’re going to have to help me out, here,” Stiles said. He probably should have been a bit more nervous, since he was blatantly baiting a werewolf, but there was something about the firelit scene that added an air of intimacy that they’d been largely lacking in a majority of their sexual encounters.  

“Hm, you think so?” Derek asked with a smile in his voice, slowly kissing his way across Stiles’ shoulders and neck, his beard brushing thrillingly against the sensitive skin.

Scent marking him.

“I know so,” Stiles retorted, sliding his hand across the back of Derek’s shirt. “Honestly, you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

Derek rumbled a non-reply and suddenly bent his head to take one of Stiles’ nipples into his mouth.

“Fuck,” he gasped, back arching as Derek nipped and sucked, alternating between the two until Stiles was outright moaning, his hips thrusting against the insubstantial pressure of the blankets.

“Did you want something?” Derek asked, lifting his head enough for Stiles to see his placid expression, though he knew his mate was simmering with arousal. “If you do, you’re going to have to ask for it.”

Which was even hotter than anything Derek had done to him that night. And apparently Stiles really responded to that kind of dirty talk.

Those checklists had been an awesome idea.

“I uh,” Stiles said, gripping handfuls of Derek’s shirt and trying to pull it up and off of him, but Derek just smirked and nipped lightly at his chin. “I want this off,” he said with an indignant huff, though they both knew he wasn’t really upset, just horny and impatient.

Derek smiled, wide and predatory. “If that’s what you want,” he said teasingly and Stiles may have kneed him in the ribs as he yanked on the shirt again.

“Hurry up, dammit,” he muttered, shivering in delight at Derek’s chuckle as he finally knelt up, his knees on either side of Stiles’ hips, and pulled his shirt off.

The firelight emphasised the unreal musculature of Derek’s toned torso, the shadows and valleys of his muscles standing out in the flickering orange light.

“That’s hot,” Stiles said, but he had his arms crossed over his own chest, partially from the cold, but also because he couldn’t help but feel just a smidge inadequate when faced with that kind of perfection.

Derek’s brows quirked for a second before he bent forward, his fists pressing into the mattress on either side of Stiles’ head, their noses almost touching.

“You look so beautiful like this, laid out for me so nicely,” he said and apparently he’d noticed Stiles’ checkmark next to praise kink on his form.

Stiles blushed and bit his lip, but Derek shifted his weight onto one hand while the other cupped the side of his face, his thumb brushing against Stiles’ lips and he couldn’t help but open his mouth at the gentle press.

Derek slipped the pad of his thumb over Stiles’ bottom teeth, then just onto the tip of his tongue.

“Good pup,” he said evenly, no hint of teasing in his voice or emotions, just satisfaction and arousal and love.

Stiles made a noise in his throat and Derek’s eyes turned blue in response.

“Tomorrow we should investigate the box of toys you brought with you,” Derek said with an utterly casual air, like he wasn’t massaging Stiles’ tongue with his thumb and driving him nearly mad with want.

Unable to truly articulate just how okay with that he was, Stiles did the next best thing and moaned wantonly around Derek’s finger before sucking it deeper into his mouth.

Derek actually growled in response, one of his sexy growls, not an angry one and Stiles smirked, running his tongue teasingly around the tip of Derek’s thumb.

“Fuck,” he muttered, pulling his finger free and wiping the moisture onto Stiles’ lips for a lingering moment before finally leaning down to kiss him.

It turned wet and savage almost immediately as Stiles bucked his hips up, his cock hard and aching, but Derek’s knees were pressed against the sides of his hips and he couldn’t move far, certainly not far enough to get some much-needed friction.

Stiles moaned again, that time against Derek’s lips and the noise finally seemed to have the desired effect because then Derek was hastily pushing down his pajama pants and boxer briefs and Stiles immediately wrapped his hand around Derek’s cock, hot and silky-hard against his palm.

“Yes,” he whispered as Derek grunted against his neck, already mouthing at the skin there and Stiles didn’t care that he was probably going to have hickies on that side, too. Nothing mattered as much as the potent cocktail of arousal and lust and love flowing from Derek as Stiles twisted his wrist just so and his mate let out a soft ah against his skin, precome slicking the smooth slide of his uncircumcised cock in Stiles’ hand.

He loved that sensation, knowing that he was giving Derek so much pleasure. It almost made up for the fact that his own dick was very much not involved in things, and once he remembered that he couldn’t help the whine that built up in his throat.

Derek immediately released the hold his teeth had on Stiles’ throat and went back to kissing him, lips frantic against his as Stiles sped up the speed of his stroking, reveling in the way Derek’s legs began to tremble on either side of his own, how his breathing was chopping and his teeth were almost werewolf-sharp against his lips and tongue, like he was starting to lose control.

But just when he began to feel the beginnings of Derek’s orgasm, his mate abruptly grabbed his wrist and eased Stiles’ hand off of his dick.

“Wha-”

“Not yet,” Derek interrupted, breathless and almost vibrating with arousal. The sensation, even if it wasn’t Stiles’ own, was heady and he let himself be kissed quiet for a lingering moment before Derek released his lips and began trailing his mouth down Stiles’ body.

“But you-”

“You first,” Derek said, and when Stiles didn’t offer any further resistance he murmured, “Good boy,” against his hip.

That time when Stiles bucked up, he was met with the perfect grip of Derek’s hand on his cock and he let out a satisfied moan.

“Finally,” he said, arching up into the sensation, his hands sliding under the bunched-up covers, fingers lacing into Derek’s soft hair. “Yes.”

Derek hummed in response and licked the tip of Stiles’ dick, over his slit and around the head, slicking him up as his hand moved steadily up and down, drawing out impossible noises from Stiles. Noises he was sure he’d never made before, but that didn’t matter because he could feel Derek’s contentment and affection and how hot it made him to see Stiles reduced to a moaning, writhing mess beneath his hand and mouth.

“Come,” Derek whispered, breath hot against Stiles’ wet skin and he couldn’t help but comply, Derek’s confident grip sending waves of shuddering pleasure through his entire body as he gasped at the all-encompassing sensation of release.

Stiles was loose-limbed and pliant underneath Derek’s warm body, feeling for all the world like he was floating as his mate licked Stiles’ come from his deft fingers.

“So hot,” Stiles said, not sure if he was complaining or complimenting because while it was undoubtedly attractive, the come play, he was in no condition to go another round, not immediately, at least.

“For you,” Derek replied, kissing the corner of his mouth and that wouldn’t do at all.

“Kiss me for real,” Stiles complained, aware that his tone was not sexy, but Derek was denying him kisses, which wasn’t at all fair.

Derek smiled, though, complying easily with a lazy kind of kiss, lips soft against his. More of a goodnight kiss than a prelude to anything else. His arousal had dimmed as well, banked into a slow burn Stiles was familiar with. It was almost one of his default emotions, really, that and the affection he perpetually seemed to feel for Stiles.

“Did you-”

“I did,” Derek said without a trace of embarrassment. “I got off when you did. Fuck, Stiles, you drive me crazy. You’re so beautiful when you come.”

And for once Stiles really wished he was a teenager again because he wanted to go for another round immediately, but that wasn’t something he could physically do and it sucked.

“Sh, time for sleep,” Derek murmured against his lips, probably smelling his emotions or something. “We’re going to look at the box tomorrow, aren’t we?”

“Of course,” Stiles replied, wanting to deepen the kiss, but he really was tired. It had been a long day and for the first time in recent memory he felt like he could well and truly relax. They’d finally gotten a majority of their shit sorted out. At least, they’d sorted out their own being-together shit. And as Derek had said, the rest of the world could go to hell, as far as Stiles was concerned at that particular moment in time.

Giving up that kind of worrying was pretty freeing, actually.

“Night, Der,” he whispered, feeling the movement of the blankets as Derek pulled them up and around the two of them, tucking Stiles in against his side.

“Goodnight, Stiles, I love you.”

“You, too,” he mumbled, turning his face so he could press his nose against the warm skin of Derek’s neck. He fell asleep to the comforting scent of his mate.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke to the feeling of slowly-burning arousal. He could tell without even being fully awake that it wasn’t even his own. Well, it wasn’t just his own. Which was all kinds of cool and also a great way to wake up in the morning.

“Mornin’ Der,” he said against soft werewolf-warm skin. Stiles nuzzled against it for a second before stretching his legs out, feeling his knees and the fronts of his thighs press against what he assumed were the backs of Derek’s own legs.

And apparently Stiles had become the big spoon at some point during the night.

Which, hey, that was cool with him, especially when it meant he was in the perfect position to grind against Derek’s smooth ass, which he did unabashedly, rolling his hips slowly as he pressed a kiss to the back of his mate’s neck.

“Stiles,” Derek replied, voice sleepy-slow and muffled by the pillow under his cheek.

He grinned against the soft skin of Derek’s back and kissed the wing of one shoulderblade.

“Yeah?” He asked, finally opening his eyes to trace his lips along the black spirals of the tattoo across Derek’s upper back. It was still early enough that the room was mostly in shadow, but the mark stood out starkly against Derek’s lighter skin.

Uncharacteristically, Derek just made another sleepy noise and grumbled something Stiles couldn’t quite understand.

“Hm?” he murmured in response, sliding his hand from Derek’s hip up his chest, casually circling one nipple with the tip of a finger. The simmering arousal Derek had been feeling sparked a little hotter, but he still made no move to actually join in the hanky panky.

Which was fine with Stiles, he didn’t actually need Derek to actively participate. He was fully capable of taking care of things on his own, and since his partner didn’t make any move to protest-

But Stiles was also well aware that lack of argument did not necessarily equal consent.

“Color?” he asked, kissing the back of Derek’s neck and stilling his hips even though his cock was hard and beginning to ache.

Derek hummed in response, but Stiles didn’t make another attempt to move things forward. Not until he got the all-clear.

So he settled against the warmth of Derek’s skin and pressed his face between his mate’s shoulder blades, affectionately nuzzling his spine.

“Hm,” Derek murmured, sounding a little more with it than he had been. His arousal was constant and his contentment catching. “Green.”

Stiles couldn’t suppress his own full-bodied shiver because they were actually communicating and that was remarkably hot.

“You?” Derek asked before Stiles could voice any of that in what would probably have been an epic rambling fit.

“Green. Like. Super green, dude, you have no idea how green I am with this right now,” Stiles said, sliding his hand across Derek’s abs and grinding against his ass since he actually had permission to do so and that was awesome.

“Was that a movie reference?” Derek asked, finally untucking his face from the pillow and side-eyeing Stiles.

“Don’t judge, dude, you’re the one who wants in on this, you know you like it when I nerd-out on you, Mr. Princess Bride.”

Derek snorted and, in a move Stiles was convinced couldn’t have been successfully completed by anyone other than a werewolf, was suddenly looming over Stiles, one hand gently pressed against his throat and the other holding his hip against the bed.

“That’s ridiculously hot, by the way,” Stiles said, his adam’s apple bobbing under the prefect pressure of Derek’s hand.

“Green?”

Stiles swallowed. He’d marked maybe next to the section on his form that had asked about collars, but was starting to think that was probably a yes, instead.

“Green.”

Derek bent forward and nosed Stiles’ cheek, breathing in his scent and generally acting pretty wolf-like without making any kind of move to get things really going in the whole sex department.

“You want sexy-times or do you want wolfy-times?” Stiles asked cheekily, watching Derek’s eyes for a hint of his shift, but they remained the same whirled blue-green-brown he found so captivating.

“Lube’s in the night stand,” Derek said and grinned at Stiles’ blush because the last time they’d been in Derek’s bed and he’d said that Stiles had ended up being eaten out in an utterly mind-blowing manner.

“Or we could get my toys, but that would require us to go all the way downstairs,” Stiles lamented, enjoying the intimacy of Derek’s touch and the way his thumb stroked up and down the column of his neck.

Derek hummed and began kissing Stiles’ cheeks and lips and forehead, light little touches that made him want to squirm, but he was still being held in place by Derek’s hands and slightly-larger frame. “Or we could wait until tonight to play with those,” Derek suggested. “That way when you’re a moaning, boneless mess from having come three times you won’t have to get up again for a long while afterward.”

He was far too cheeky for his own good, Stiles decided.

“Oh, really?” he said with no small amount of incredulity. “You think I’m going to be the one who’s come-dumb and boneless? I bet I can make you come more times than you make me come. The winner gets-” he trailed off, trying to think of a reward that was better than having multiple orgasms with an incredibly attractive and amazing partner.

He was drawing a blank.

“The winner,” Derek said, nipping playfully at Stiles’ jawline, “gets to pick where we go out to eat tomorrow night-”

Which wasn’t that much of a challenge-

“-and also chooses what the other person will wear.”

Stiles frowned thoughtfully at that, but he didn’t think Derek was the type of person to make him put on anything too uncomfortable or humiliating. Especially since humiliation wasn’t one of Stiles’ kinks.

Not at all.

When he didn’t object, Derek continued. “I’m not just talking about clothing, Stiles,” he said in a low, rumbling tone, “I took a peek at what you have in that box, and some of those items might make dinner a little,” he trailed off, kissing down one of the tendons on Stiles’ throat, “interesting.”

Interesting barely covered how it would feel to wear that kind of kinky thing under his clothes in public, and Stiles realized that he was very much okay with losing their little bet.

But seeing Derek squirm across from him, dressed to the nines in one of the nice shirts Stiles knew he had in the closet, that might be even better.

“You like my idea,” Derek said, glancing down at Stiles’ still-raging erection.

It wasn’t a question because it didn’t need to be, but Stiles grinned up at him, anyway.

“Green.”

Derek kissed the smirk from his lips.



Stiles made a face at the leftover Indian food in the fridge.

“Not interested in lamb masala for breakfast?” Derek asked, pressing his body along Stiles’ back in a suggestive manner, like they hadn’t just both had orgasms and a shower and more orgasms before stumbling down the stairs in their pajamas to raid the mostly-empty fridge. Derek slid one hand up the front of Stiles’ shirt to smooth over his stomach, which was rumbling because it was breakfast time and he was hungry.

Stiles grumbled and closed the door, leaning back against Derek with a pout. “No, so what are you going to feed me? And before you say granola bars keep in mind that isn’t any more of an option than Indian. Those are not breakfast foods, dude.”

Derek hummed and kissed along Stiles’ neck, undoubtedly over one or more hickies because Derek couldn’t seem to get enough of marking him and Stiles was more than okay with that, though he would have to find a way to cover up the marks if he was going to look professional during his visit to Mr. Youngblood.

Assuming he was able to schedule an appointment.

“I don’t know if Boyd and Isaac remembered to cancel our weekly grocery delivery,” Derek said. “I’ll check on that if you want to pull your clothes out of the dryer.”

Stiles was still a bit hung up on the whole weekly grocery delivery concept, but he let himself be herded into the hallway and automatically started taking out his wrinkled whites. Most of them didn’t matter all that much, but the dress shirts would need to be ironed at some point.

Perhaps soon, depending on whether or not he managed to score that meeting.

He really needed to call the office.

“They should be arriving soon,” Derek called out from the living room. “Isaac forgot to cancel it, so we’ll have plenty of food. Anything we don’t eat we can bring to the precinct.”

He lowered his voice as he got closer, leaning against the opposite wall watching Stiles work, arms folded across his t-shirt that advertised the Chicago marathon from a few years ago.

Because of course Derek was a marathon runner on the side. Why wouldn’t he be?

“We might as well repack what you won’t use,” Derek continued. They’d folded Stiles’ load of darks the night before and had left them on top of the washer in neat piles, sorted by type of clothing, which wasn’t Stiles’ typical way of doing laundry, but he could go with the flow.

“You mean we can repack them now that they don’t smell like sadness?” Stiles said, glancing over his shoulder with a smirk.

Derek shook his head and moved forward, pulling the suitcases out of the way so he could get to the clean clothes, plucking out a few pairs of pants, some shirts and underwear to set aside.

“So you’re going to start dressing me, now?” Stiles asked because that was certainly what it looked like was happening. “I thought that was for tomorrow night. If I lose.”

“If you don’t like the things I chose you can always pick some others,” Derek replied casually without stopping what he was doing. He seemed to be kind of unnecessarily handsy with some of the articles, especially the underwear-

“Dude, are you scent-marking my clothes?” Stiles asked, unable to keep himself from full-out grinning at Derek’s slightly constipated expression. Even without touching him, Stiles knew he was embarrassed. Either because it was some kind of instinctive wolfy thing or because Stiles had noticed and called him out on it.

Both?

Whatever, Stiles didn’t actually mind. It was pretty adorable, really.

Derek cleared his throat. His ears were blazing red. “Do you want me to wash them again,” he asked tentatively and Stiles immediately felt like kind of a dick for having enjoyed his mate’s flushed face and kicked-puppy expression.

“What? No dude,” he said, turning and wrapping his hands around Derek’s wrists. “No, of course not. I’m just teasing. You know I don’t mind smelling like you, right? I was just joking because it’s not like we have to worry about other wolves anymore. I mean, that’s not actually a risk or whatever, is it?”

From the complicated things going on with Derek’s face and his emotions, Stiles was suddenly not at all sure about his previous assumptions.

“Derek?” he asked slowly, and that or a change in his scent or whatever must have worked to snap Derek out of his funk because he suddenly looked at Stiles and brought his broad hands up to cradle Stiles’ face, then pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead.

“Sorry, it’s fine,” he said and dropped his hands to his sides. Stiles reluctantly let go of his wrists because he wasn’t going to use his emotion-feeling powers to cheat.

Derek would tell him what was up when he was ready.

“Okay, that’s cool. So there aren’t any wolves I need to be afraid of lurking around Chicago, right?” he asked, double-checking because Derek hadn’t actually answered his question.

“No, Stiles, there’s no one here you need to fear.”

Which. Okay. He could live with that.

“So, what am I wearing today?” he asked, glancing at the smaller pile of clothes Derek had selected.

Communicating wasn’t always easy, but Stiles thought they were getting better at it.

He hoped.



Stiles bit his lip and told himself not to be nervous, that it was perfectly reasonable for him to call Mr. Youngblood since he was in Chicago and all, but despite his little internal pep-talk, he was having a hell of a time actually getting up the courage to make the stupid call.

Derek was sitting beside him on the couch, reading something on his phone that looked like maybe an e-book, but he couldn’t be sure from the angle, Derek’s back against the corner of the couch, his feet propped up on the coffee table, Stiles twitching beside him.

“Problem?” Derek asked, not looking up from the screen of text.

“Prob-what? Oh, no, no problem,” Stiles lied, which earned him an incredibly unimpressed look, which was saying something because those eyebrows were extremely expressive.

He caved almost immediately.

It was sad.

Stiles thought he had better self-control than that.

“Fine, yes, I’m nervous. I don’t know if calling him is going to come across as, I don’t know, creepy? Is it creepy for me to call? I mean, I just spoke to him a few days ago about what was going on, which was when he offered me the job, of course, but-”

“Stiles, breathe,” Derek said, calmly setting his own phone on his lap and taking Stiles’ out of his hand, which was probably for the best because in his anxiousness he’d been flailing it around like a bludgeoning tool.

“Do you want to meet with Mr. Youngblood in person to speak about your new career path?” Derek asked.

Stiles nodded.

“Okay. Do you want me to call him for you, to see when he’s available?”

Stiles shook his head. That wasn’t professional, and also Derek might have quit the force, but having an ex-officer of the law call the auditing firm probably wasn’t the best idea.

Especially not when one of their biggest clients was under investigation for some major fraud.

“Do you want to do this now, or wait until later? We could have lunch, first, if you’re hungry.”

He wasn’t, the omelettes they’d thrown together for breakfast after the truly astonishing amount of groceries had been delivered had been incredibly filling.

“I’m, um, I’m not hungry, but thanks. I think I just need to calm down a bit, and then I’ll call him,” Stiles said. But that was easier said than done. He wasn’t exactly feeling calm.

Like at all.

In fact he was feeling keyed up and maybe even a bit manic.

“Do you dance?” Derek asked abruptly and without any kind of leadup at all.

Stiles was so startled by the question he momentarily forgot that he was in the middle of freaking out. “Huh?”

“Do you dance?” Derek asked again, like it was a natural segway from what they’d been discussing.

Which it very much wasn’t, but Stiles just found himself nodding slowly.

“Yeah, I mean my mom taught me some of the basics when I was a kid, and then we had a hilariously awful unit of it in middle school gym class. It was terrible, they made us-”

“Would you like to dance with me?” Derek interrupted, standing up and offering his hand. He looked sinfully attractive in his tight black pants and gray, v-neck shirt. It was the outfit Stiles had thrown at him when they’d gone upstairs to stash the clothes Derek had selected for him. That and the box of toys they’d still not opened.

But seeing Derek standing there looking so unbelievably attractive?

Well, Stiles really couldn’t say no to that.

“Uh, I’m not actually good at leading,” he warned, letting himself be hauled to his feet and then escorted to the clear rug space on the other side of the sofa chairs. The Hales were apparently big on comfy furniture, but also valued floor space? For wolfy shenanigans? Or for dancing?

“It’s okay, I can lead,” Derek said, drawing Stiles closer so he could wrap his arms snug around Stiles’ waist.

“Um, so what kind of dance are we doing?” Stiles asked as Derek held him close and began to sway. “And, uh, we don’t have any music?”

“Just follow my lead, Stiles. We don’t need music, just relax and listen,” Derek murmured, keeping their movements slow and even until Stiles felt himself gradually calm in Derek’s arms.

“When the night has come, and the land is dark,” Derek sang softly, “and the moon is the only light we’ll see.”

Stiles knew that song, but he couldn’t quite place it.

“No, I won’t be afraid. Oh I won’t be afraid. Just as long as you stand, stand by me.

And that was it. That had been one of his mother’s favorite songs when he was growing up. She’d used to sing it when she was baking with him in the kitchen, playfully bumping her hip against his side when she wanted him to move away from the oven.

“And, darling, darling stand by me. Oh, stand by me. Oh stand, now. Stand by me.”

Stiles was grinning so hard his cheeks ached, but he wrapped his arms around Derek’s shoulders and joined him in singing the next verse.

“If the sky that we look upon, should tumble and fall. All the mountains should crumble to the sea. I won’t cry, I won’t cry. No I won’t shed a tear. Just as long as you stand, stand by me. And darling, darling-”

Stiles silenced them both with an enthusiastic kiss because he couldn’t help himself. It was perfect.

Derek was perfect.

And even though they hadn’t always fit together perfectly, he couldn’t imagine not being willing to try to make them work.

Eventually, he pulled back, still smiling against Derek’s lips. “I think I’m ready to make that phone call, now,” he said.

“If you’re sure,” Derek replied with a sense of satisfaction Stiles couldn’t blame him for. He was pretty awesome at the whole calming-down-the-neurotic thing.

Also, he was an amazing singer.

“I’m sure.”

Chapter Text

“Hi, hello, my name is Stiles, uh, Vyacheslav Stilinski, I was wondering if there was an opening sometime this week for me to meet with Mr. Youngblood, it’s about-”

“Yes, Mr. Stilinski,” the young-sounding woman interrupted. She was definitely not the same person he’d spoken to the last time he’d talked to Mr. Youngblood’s assistant or whatever he’d been. Not that it mattered, someone who was that important, the head of the company, would likely have multiple people doing his bidding. “Yes, Mr. Youngblood is eager to meet with you in person.”

Which. Okay.

That was actually a little unexpected. When they’d previously spoken Stiles had thought they’d agreed to table their in-depth in-person discussion until after the holidays, but since he’d needed to make the trip anyway, it kind of worked out well, then.

Probably?

“Um, well I’m in Chicago for a few days-”

“Tomorrow? Mr. Youngblood has a four o’clock opening if you’re available then.”

“Okay, sure,” Stiles said slowly, a bit baffled. In all honestly, that wasn’t what he’d expected, for the whole scheduling a meeting to go so smoothly.

“Please arrive promptly and one of us will be in the lobby to escort you up-”

One of whom?

“-also, please refrain from wearing any cologne or strong scents, Mr. Youngblood has a sensitivity.”

A sensitivity to what?

“Alri-”

“Thank you, Mr. Stilinski, we shall see you tomorrow,” she chirped, apparently not at all interested in hearing his answering farewell because the line went abruptly dead in his hand.

Stiles took his phone away from his ear and stared at it for a long moment before shrugging and glancing at where Derek was once again sprawled on the couch, though despite his casual posture, he was definitely on alert.

“You heard that,” Stiles said, pointing to his phone unnecessarily. “That was weird right? It was like, interrupting cow, much?”

Derek looked like he was trying to suppress a smile, of all things. Which was wrong because Stiles was discussing some serious business.

“I mean, really, what the hell was-”

“Moo,” Derek said and yeah, he was full on grinning at Stiles’ stunned expression.

“Oh my god, you didn’t just make that joke, did you?” he asked, unable to stop himself from smiling because that was probably the dorkiest thing Derek had ever said and it was so stupid it was hilarious. “That is hilarious, I’m going to remember this moment forever. The time when Derek Hale mooed at me.”

Derek rolled his eyes in response and grabbed onto Stiles’ arm, pulling him half on top of his warm body.

“Shut up, Stiles,” he grumbled, but he wasn’t even a little bit upset about the teasing, so Stiles just chuckled and nuzzled against the soft shirt under his cheek.

“Sure thing, Der,” he said, enjoying feeling his heart rate slow after the phone call had jacked it up. Stiles tried not to get too frantic about things like that, but he wasn’t a huge fan of making phone calls, if he could avoid them. Especially not important ones. Derek, though, he worked like a kind of living meditation cushion or something. A werewolf tranquilizer person?

Whatever, it was nice.

“It’s unfair for you to be so cuddly in both of your forms,” Stiles informed him and smiled when he felt Derek’s chest jump in what had to have been a silent chuckle.

“Is that so?” Derek asked and Stiles knew he had one eyebrow raised because Derek was sassy like that.

“It is known,” he replied sagely and yeah, Derek’s laughter was just about the best sound ever.

“It is, huh? Well, then, I guess it’s nice to know that I’m good for something.”

Stiles shrugged. “Yeah, you’re not the worst.”

Derek snorted and pulled Stiles just a bit closer. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should. Hey, didn’t you want to go to the station, precinct, whatever it is you fancy city folk call it?”

Derek snorted again and tilted his head to kiss Stiles’ temple, his stubble tickling against Stiles’ skin. “Yeah, I suppose we should get going if we want to stop in before lunch. Would you like me to fix us something to take, since we have food, here? If you’d want you can bring some exercise clothes and use the workout room while I’m busy wrapping things up. Or you can hang around the bullpen, but Lopez might be at the desk.”

“Oh, you have to share a desk? That’s rough, dude.”

He felt Derek shrug underneath him. “It’s not that bad. Boyd’s desk partner has halitosis and likes to eat onions at work, so he’s got it worse.”

Stiles made a face. “Gross, dude, that’s gotta suck for his werewolf nose. Wait, are your senses enhanced like all the time, or can you dial it back?”

“Is this going to turn into werewolf twenty questions because if it is we should get our things together and talk about that kind of stuff in the car.”

“Spoilsport,” Stiles said without any real disappointment. After all, if left up to him, they’d likely just spend the majority of the day cuddling on the couch, chatting and lazily making out, which wasn’t really an overly productive use of their time. Of which they were in relatively short supply, what with several places to go and people to see during their small window of opportunity.

Derek pressed a finger under Stiles’ chin and tilted his head until they could look at each other. “I love you, thank you for letting me come back here with you.”

Stiles smiled at him, trying to memorize the hypnotic pattern of colors that made up Derek’s gorgeous eyes. “Thanks for talking to me. I know it’s not your favorite activity, but I think we’ve made some pretty major headway in this whole magical anchor-mate relationship we have going on.”

“Agreed,” Derek said, sliding his thumb over Stiles’ chin for an instant before he sighed. “Time to get up. Your running clothes are in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I’ll fix us sandwiches. Is ham okay?”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah, and mustard if you have it. Please and thank you.”

Derek rolled his eyes. “Up you go,” he said, somehow managing to get them both on their feet in one smooth movement. He even swatted at Stiles’ backside when he failed to start moving immediately.

Stiles squawked in indignation as he took off for the stairs, the sound of Derek’s laughter echoing behind him.



When Stiles bounded back down the stairs, Derek was waiting in the living room, a reusable grocery bag in one of his hands and their phones in the other.

“So this is totally the stuff I was wearing when those dudes attacked me,” Stiles said, holding up the neatly folded clothes, his running shoes balanced on top. Those had been in Derek’s drawer, too.

“They are,” Derek agreed, “Is that okay? If you're not comfortable wearing those I might have something at the station you can-”

“It’s fine,” Stiles interrupted, pressing a kiss to scruff on Derek’s cheek because he could. Also, they probably wouldn’t be able to get in a lot of PDA, at least not when they were at the precinct. It wasn’t like Stiles was overly physically affectionate in public, but still, he’d take what he could get when he could get it. Especially since he and Derek were finally figuring out how they fit together.

It felt nice being on the same page.

Derek let Stiles’ lips linger there for a moment before moving his head and turning it into a real kiss.

Stiles couldn’t stop himself from grinning even though his running shoes were kind of digging into his chest where they were pressed against each other and they didn’t have to leave.

No, they could totally just stay inside all day, kissing and touching and-

“Stiles,” Derek growled playfully against his mouth. “If you keep thinking that kind of thing we’ll never leave.”

“Shame,” he said without remorse.

Derek chuckled and slowly backed up, ignoring Stiles’ pout and patently fake whine.

“Come on, there’s plenty of time for that later,” Derek said, turning to lead the way toward the back of the house. “After the precinct and lunch I want to show you around the city a bit, if that’s okay with you. I know you didn’t live here for very long, but I actually like Chicago. There are some interesting things around here if you know where to look.”

Stiles certainly couldn’t say no to that, even if it did mean postponing their sexual competition. Which was kind of silly and funny and a marked sign of their growth as a couple. The fact that they were willing to experiment with each other. That they trusted each other enough to let the other person take control of their pleasure.

He was very much looking forward to that.

But first, they had things to do, like exploring Chicago, apparently. Which reminded him-

“Remember when we were going to go out together, back before everything got super crazy?” Stiles asked, following Derek to the back door where they began putting on their boots and coats.

Derek nodded, bending to tie his boot laces, which he somehow managed to do gracefully despite having the food bag hanging off one arm. Stiles wasn’t sure what he’d done with the phones, but he wasn’t concerned about it. He kind of liked not having to worry about being immediately available to everyone all the time, especially since things had finally begun to calm down.

“Yeah, you never did tell me where you wanted to go,” Derek said, glancing up at him.

Stiles smiled and ruffled Derek's already tousled hair. It was kind of cute like that, without the normal amount of product he’d seen Derek use. He looked more comfortable, less like he was putting on a front. Derek just rolled his eyes at the treatment, but Stiles knew he was secretly preening on the inside.

The dork.

“Yeah, dude, I didn’t exactly have that much of a game plan, I was just going to wing it, really. Probably stay up too late the night before reading online articles about the best city destinations or whatever before coming up with some half-crazy plan that had us wandering around the place without any semblance of order. I’d be happy to let you lead the way, though.”

“The precinct first, then lunch wherever we feel like unpacking our food, and then we can go explore,” Derek said.

Stiles grinned as he stood up.

“Sounds like a date,” he said.

“Good. Because it is.”



The building was old brick and looked like something from one of Charlie's procedural tv show. Stiles tried not to laugh because it was all a bit cliche, really.

“This is kind of exactly what I expected,” he mused, clutching his workout gear against his chest. He probably should have asked Derek for another one of those reusable bags, but he hadn’t thought about it when they’d still been at the house. As it was he kind of felt like a bit of an idiot, carrying his running shoes etcetera into the bustling precinct like it was an everyday gym or something.

Which he very much understood it was not.

Stiles had practically grown up at the sheriff’s station back in Beacon Hills, but it was really nothing like the Chicago PD.

For one thing, there were scores more people.

For another?

Way more of them were in handcuffs.

Derek easily led him through the throng, one hand on the small of Stiles’ back while the other held onto their bagged lunch, his face a professional mask of don’t even think of messing with me despite his not-so-intimidating accessories.

But somehow it seemed to work because even though some of the perps were heckling each other and the officers around them, none of them seemed able to withstand Derek’s glare for long before they glanced away and found a less intimidating target.

They also didn’t harass Stiles.

He tried not to read too much into that.

“Lopez,” Derek called out when they reached the cluster of desks separated from the general chaos of the perps being processed. A middle-aged man immediately smiled at Derek and stood up to shake his hand. “This is my partner, Stiles,” he said with a casual nod in his direction.

Stiles gave an automatic smile, kind of thrown by the whole partner thing, but he could roll with that, and shook Lopez’s hand as well.

“Pleased to meet you,” the officer said, clearly taking note of Stiles’ appearance and the items he was holding. Which probably had more to do with him being a cop than him passing judgement on Derek’s taste in lovers.

Hopefully.

“Yeah, you, too,” Stiles said. He tended to be awkward with greetings. And conversations with strangers. And with using words in general.

Stiles was just kind of an awkward guy.

“Heard a rumor you, Skinny, and Big Guy quit,” Lopez said, plopping down and leaning back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest.

Beside him, Derek shifted on his feet for a moment before he shrugged and let out a sigh. “Rumor’s true,” he said, not sounding particularly upset about that fact, even though he was talking about his livelihood.

Stiles still had trouble accepting that it was so easy for Derek to just walk away from the life he and Laura and the rest had created for themselves in Chicago, but then again he’d basically done the same thing when he’d moved from California to the midwest.

Lopez let out a low whistle. “That’s harsh, man, you know I don’t like this desk enough to kick you off of it for good.”

Derek smirked. It wasn’t a genuine smile, not by any means, but it still made him look painfully attractive and was sincere enough to pass for the truth. “What can I say, I finally found what I’ve always been looking for and I can’t let that go, not even for the best desk in the precinct.”

Lopez tilted his head back and laughed. “Oh, man, you’re the last guy I’d pin as being a sap, but congratulations. Stiles, you take care of Derek, he’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t I know it,” Stiles quipped automatically. Officer Hale clearly put on a much different front than the sleep-rumpled lover he’d woken up next to that morning, but Stiles knew he’d do everything in his power to keep the guy safe and happy.

No matter who other people thought he was.

Even if it meant being introduced to a dozen strangers and making small talk with them all, apparently. Some were clearly happy for Derek, others expressed their not-quite-subtle jealousy upon realizing that he was officially off the market, and a few were openly upset about losing him to Stiles and the west coast.

“So you’re, what? Going to work as a deputy in some podunk little town in the middle of nowhere?” Officer Johnson asked with obvious scorn in his voice. He had a cup of steaming coffee in one hand, the other folded across his chest as he glared at Stiles like it was all his fault.

Derek shrugged easily, but in the same movement he had an arm slung over Stiles’ shoulders. Calm and quietly protective, angling their bodies so Derek was in front of him, not that Johnson would try anything in the precinct break room, but still. Stiles let himself relax against him, just enough so his spine stopped tingling from having stood with it so rigid, his unconscious reaction to being made to talk to such a dickbag.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, or what Boyd and Isaac are planning. I’m just happy to finally be back in my childhood town. It’s been too long since my family was there, but the place holds a lot of good memories. And a promising future," he said, holding Stiles close.

Johnson just snorted and took a sip of his coffee. “Yeah, sure. Still think you’re an idiot to go leaping across the country for such a flimsy reason.”

Stiles was beginning to get the impression that the guy was speaking from personal experience, or else Derek took a largely non-confrontational approach with his douchey colleagues, which perhaps prompted them to be more open with him when it came to sharing their personal opinions?

Or something?

Which was probably for the best, the non-confrontational thing, since Derek was actually a werewolf and could literally wipe the floor with pretty much anyone that pissed him off, including Johnson the jerk.

“How are your girls?” Derek asked and the guy’s face morphed from his dickish frown into something akin to a kid seeing a puppy romping up to him to play. The transformation was startling and Stiles could feel Derek’s silent mirth because that had totally been his intention.

Johnson the grump immediately launched into a detailed story about what the girls were up to and it took Stiles several minutes to figure out that they were, in fact, his human children and not pets of some kind. He also gathered that he was right about Johnson being divorced since he referred to the girls’ mother instead of calling her his wife or partner or anything friendlier. Though at the very least he didn’t dub her the ex.

And just like that the guy had completely changed his tune.

Derek really was magical, sometimes.



“You’ll be okay working out for a bit while I meet with the officers taking over my cases?” Derek asked for the third time. Stiles rolled his eyes and whipped his undershirt off, immediately accepting his exercise shirt from Derek, who was glancing around the empty locker room like he was paranoid of someone seeing Stiles’ scars or jumping out and attacking them.

Which was actually kind of sweet of him, even if it wasn’t necessary.

“It’s fine, dude, I’ll just go for a jog on one of the machines, and I’m sure everything will be okay. Besides, it’s been too long since I ran, I’m starting to get antsy.”

Derek focused back on him as he shucked his pants and put on the shorts. “Just don’t wear yourself out. Remember that we have plans for later.”

And of course Stiles immediately remembered the box of toys they were planning to crack open that night. He could feel his ears get hot as he blushed, trying not to get too aroused.

“I meant our mini tour of Chicago, Stiles,” Derek said with an eye roll, but he was blushing a bit, too.

Stiles smirked and let Derek fold his street clothes and put them in his locker while he pulled on his running shoes and tightened the laces. “Uh, huh, sure thing, Der.”

Because they could both be assholes, and that was kind of funny to tease him about silly things.

“If you don’t stop I’ll take you to every stupid tourist trap I know,” Derek threatened.

Stiles shook his head. “No you won’t,” he sing-songed, finishing with his laces and standing up into a stretch. “You like me too much to subject me to that kind of torture,” he said with a tight voice as he worked out some of the kinks in his shoulders and back.

He hadn’t thought about it, but all the yoga he’d been doing had really helped with the tension he’d seemed to permanently harbor along his upper back because of the amount of time he’d habitually spent sitting at desks typing away on computers, both at home and at work.

Derek grumbled out a non-reply, but Stiles smirked anyway, playfully thumping his shoulder with a fist.

“Come on, Der-Bear, lead the way. I’m itching for a run.”

“Sure thing, honey-bunch,” Derek replied wryly, and silently beamed when Stiles laughed and followed him out.

The workout room was filled with large pieces of equipment, some probably dating back to the 70s, if the obvious wear and tear was anything to go by, but despite that it all looked mostly usable. The treadmills even seemed to be relatively new.

“Last winter Boyd and Isaac had a competition to see who could run faster and ended up breaking two of them, so my parents donated these,” Derek explained, moving around to the front while Stiles climbed on and started poking at the buttons. “They’re more environmentally friendly machines, though nothing beats running outside, in my opinion.”

“Agreed,” Stiles said, finding the speed control with little trouble and starting off at an easy jog. “Looking forward to exploring the preserve some more with you.”

Derek smiled softly, but then seemed to switch back into his professional demeanor as he straightened his spine, shoulders back. “I shouldn’t take too long. Feel free to use any of the machines in here. You can hit the showers when you’re done, if you want. You know where the break room is if you get hungry and want grab of our food out of the fridge.”

“Roger that,” Stiles said with a wink.

Derek, predictably, rolled his eyes and left as Stiles waved with a grin.

He was a few easy miles into his run when someone got on the machine next to his. Stiles glanced over and nodded to the stern-looking woman, who was side-eying him for some reason as she turned up her speed to match his.

Which was kind of weird.

“So you’re the reason my partner’s bailing on me,” she said, quirking a dark eyebrow.

Stiles couldn’t quite tell if she was pissed off or joking, so he shrugged a bit uncoordinatedly and gave a self-deprecating smile. He hadn’t even known Derek had a partner, actually, though he supposed it made sense.

“You caught me, sorry about that.”

She snorted, so apparently she found him amusing?

Or she could have been hiding her homicidal rage behind humor, so Stiles wasn’t quite willing to take his eyes off of her. Which abruptly reminded him of the last time he’d run and just how terribly that had turned out for him.

And it really wasn’t a good time to dwell on that kind of memory.

“Eh, no worries, Hale’s a good kid,” she said with a wave of her hand. “Hate to see him go, but he deserves to be happy.”

“Was he not happy before?” Stiles asked before he could stop himself. It hadn’t been his intention to grill people about Derek behind his back, but it just so happened to be a pretty good opportunity to get to know a different side of him. The front he put on for the world.

She made a noncommittal noise. “I guess he was about as happy as he could have been, given his total lack of a social life. Well, besides all the time he spends with his family. Never seen a boy so dedicated, before.”

Stiles smiled at her and nodded. “Yeah, the Hales are something else.”

“Harley Oaks,” the woman said, reaching her hand out without breaking stride.

Stiles knew himself well enough to plant his feet on either side of the whirring tread before stretching to shake her hand.

“Stiles Stilinski,” he replied.

In a move that wasn’t entirely unexpected, she didn’t immediately let go, instead pulling him a bit closer so the side railing of the machine dug into his hip. “You hurt my boy, I hurt you. Got it?”

He nodded soberly. “I got it, trust me. The last thing I want to do is hurt Derek. He’s basically the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

She must have realized it was the truth because her gun-calloused hand finally released his and she went back to her run, cranking up the speed so the pounding of her feet prevented any further conversation.

Stiles followed her example, content.



“So, what are we going to tell Morrell when we talk to her tonight?” Stiles asked as they walked hand-in-gloved-hand around the giant mirrored bean.

There weren’t many others there, probably because it was in the early afternoon on a weekday, which was just fine with Stiles. He didn’t particularly like crowds. The cold might have been a contributing factor in keeping many away as well, which Stiles was also not entirely thrilled about, but Derek seemed to radiate heat, even through their leather jackets and the almost comical number of layers Stiles had piled on underneath. Cleaning out Derek’s locker had yielded quite a find in terms of clothes he’d accidentally left at work with his sheepish justification of I run hot.

Derek hummed, his breath fogging out of his nose like a dragon. Something Stiles had definitely pointed out earlier, hilarious sound effects included.

“I guess we’ll have to decide what our priorities are, like she said.”

Stiles moved their joined hands and slipped them into Derek’s jacket pocket.

“I want to build a life with you. I want us to have a strong foundation for our relationship. I don’t want the others meddling with us and trying to interfere when we’re still in the process of figuring things out for ourselves, but I also don’t want us to self-destruct because of isolation,” Stiles said frowning at his warped reflection.

The statue - sculpture? - was huge and didn’t make much sense to Stiles, but then again art often didn’t. Derek had called it Cloud Gate, or something equally bizarre, but it still just looked like a gigantic bean.

“We have to do what’s best for ourselves,” Derek agreed, squeezing Stiles’ hand.

He bumped his shoulder against Derek’s and smiled. “Yeah, that’s kind of easier said than done, though. I mean, now that I’m not completely freaking out about potentially ruining your life I’ve been thinking about it and your mom calling and saying that I was basically abusing you is kind of a load of bullshit.”

Derek didn’t respond verbally, but his mood, somehow detectable even though they were both wearing gloves and none of their skin was touching directly, seemed to agree with Stiles’ assessment.

Stiles got it, though, Derek’s reticence. It had to be hard to go against his alpha mom, just like it was probably hard for her to give up control of her beta son. The fact that Derek cared enough about Stiles to try was heartening, even if it was clearly going to be an uphill battle for both of them.

“I’m sorry about all of this,” Derek said out of the blue. Or maybe not since he was throwing off some sad vibes. “I’m sorry my family is so pushy and aggressive.”

Stiles turned to tuck his nose against the side of Derek’s neck, letting the warmth seep into his chilled skin.

“You don’t have to apologize for them,” he said, enjoying Derek’s shudder. “I just don’t like being manipulated, and it kind of feels like that’s how Talia keeps trying to get me to do things. I mean, the whole deal with joining the pack in the first place, and now the thing with Scott. Not that I blame her for him being bitten. Okay, so yeah, I kind of do, but he needs to be in a pack, right? Or else he’ll be the bad kind of omega and it stresses me the fuck out.”

“So what do you want to do? I know you mentioned staying-”

“I’m not going to take you away from your pack,” Stiles said definitively, tilting his head so he could look at their reflection, warped by the curve of the steel. “But the whole terms and conditions are going to need to be addressed. I don’t want you always having to be the go-between with me and Talia. I want the two of us to be a united front, but I’m also pretty fucking tired of being made to do things I’m not comfortable with. Especially when people keep knowingly withhold information from me.”

“And since Scott needs a pack and we need an omega,” Derek said, trailing off.

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed. “It looks good on paper, at least, but I kind of feel like the stupid, shiny toy Talia’s been eying for ages and now that she has me and some leverage, that’s you and Scott, she’s not going to let me go without a fight.”

“Would you like for Morrell to help facilitate the negotiations with my mother?” Derek asked, leading the way around the curve of the structure so their reflection was no longer so warped, though it put them directly in the path of the wind.

Stiles wasn’t sure how much he trusted Morrell, but even from their brief conversation something about her made him feel like she was on his side. At least more so than Talia, which was probably an unfairly harsh assessment of the alpha, but the facts seemed to point in the direction of her continued manipulations and meddling. To Stiles’ detriment, more often than not.

His mother’s letter abruptly came back to him, submission is not in our nature, she’d written, and he bit his bottom lip even though it made his teeth sting from the icy cold.

“Come on, let’s get something warm to drink,” Derek said at Stiles’ shiver, walking them toward one of the broad streets where they could cross over to the stores. Stiles lengthened his stride to keep pace, thinking about how his mother would have handled everything.

She probably would have taken a direct approach and called Talia out on her bullshit, which was something he wasn’t willing to try, too fearful of the potential fallout. After all, it wasn’t just his own life he’d be impacting, but Derek’s and Scott’s and Allison’s and even their unborn baby.

No, he was far too cautious for that.

They slipped into the warmth of a coffee shop, it wasn’t any kind of national chain he recognized, though Derek seemed pretty at ease in the place, and ordered their drinks.

“Did my mom tell you anything in your letter that could help us?” Stiles asked as they found a table, hot mugs in their hands.

Derek gave him a considering look as he sank into the plush chair across from his. “She was pretty clear about me not messing up our relationship, and that it was important for me to listen to you, but to also, how did she put it? Oh, temper his reactions, when I deemed it necessary.”

Stiles smiled wryly, studying the leaf design on the foam of his decaf latte. Or maybe it was supposed to be a tree?

“Sounds like something she’d say,” he sighed with the same bittersweet kind of feeling he usually got when remembering his mother.

“She uh,” Derek began, then cleared his throat and took a sip of his coffee, which was probably still way too hot to actually drink, but served to betray his nerves. “She also wrote that compromise was important-”

Which, yeah, Stiles got that.

“-and uh, she said to give you time when you were feeling stressed, that if I was patient everything would work out. There were also a few pointers in there for how to help you when you had bad days.”

It almost sounded like she knew what had happened to Stiles, or, rather, what would happen to him, since she’d written the letters so long ago. Way before the mess, series of messes, that had turned him into a jaded asshole with scars and trust issues.

“She used divination to tell the future,” Stiles said even as he realized that’s what had happened. “We used to do that with our birdbath. Well, it was partially for wishing after the full moon, but I’m sure she used it for that as well.”

“Divination?” Derek asked, leaning forward, closer to Stiles.

He nodded slowly as he thought it through, feeling a bit numb with the realization. “I wondered how she knew all those things, how she was able to write letters to so many people, and the things she wrote,” he trailed off and stared, unseeing, at his drink until Derek’s warm hands wrapped around his, bringing him back to the present.

“Stiles, I know you still miss her-”

Which was just about the understatement of the year.

“-but you can always talk about her with me. I know I didn’t know her for very long, or even all that well, really-”

“She was important to you,” Stiles butted in, “and I can’t remember if I ever thanked you for going with me to see her grave-”

“Anything for you,” Derek said, simply, his emotions conveying his absolute honesty.

Stiles felt tears burn at the corners of his eyes, but he blinked them away.

He was not going to have an emotional breakdown in coffee shop in Chicago. That was not on the agenda for the day.

“I have a feeling that a little divination wouldn’t go amiss given the circumstances,” Stiles said in an attempt to dispel the melancholic mood. He was only half-joking, though. If he really did take after his mother when it came to magic, he wanted to utilize it to learn at least the basics of how not to fuck up his future. It wasn’t the right moon for wish-casting, but as far as he knew, divination required no such qualifiers.

“Do you have my phone?” Stiles asked, holding out his hand as Derek placed it gently against his palm.

“Is it wise for you to do something like this without proper supervision?” Derek asked, but he made no move to stop Stiles from scrolling through to Scott’s number.

He shrugged in response as he held the phone to his ear. He honestly didn’t know, but he intended to find out.

“Hey, buddy, I know I bailed on you guys and I’m sorry, but I’m in Chicago wrapping things up and I need Deaton’s number for some uh, personal stuff.”

Scott floundered for a second before sputtering out a half-coherent and mostly strangled Stiles.

Which was not helpful.

“I know, and I’ll totally make it up to you, but this is about the whole, you know, should we/shouldn’t thing. You know what I’m talking about-”

Since it wasn’t like he was going to bring up werewolf pack dynamics in public, he hoped Scott was quick on the uptake.

And thankfully Scott was with it enough to stutter out an affirmative, followed by, “Stiles, we were so worried about you. I can’t believe you almost died. Are you really okay?”

It was a loaded question. On the one hand, yeah, he’d totally survived healing Peter from the brink of death, on the other hand hell no. He wasn’t okay with the direction his life was headed. The direction of him being controlled by Talia and not having the freedom to live his own life away from her manipulative influences. He wasn’t okay with accidentally binding Derek to his will, if he wasn’t careful. Those were all things he was very much not okay with.”

“You know, Scott, not really,” he replied honestly, “but I’m getting there, which is why I need Deaton’s number. There’s something I think I can do that might help me figure out what the best course of action is, and how to make sure we’re all on the same page with how things are going to play out.”

Scott grumbled a bit more, but finally relented and rattled off his boss’ number, which Derek scribbled on a piece of napkin with a pen he must have snagged from the barista, who was looking at him wistfully.

Stiles barely resisted the urge to make faces at the lean, tattooed guy, but he had more important things to focus on.

“Thanks, man. I think I can fix this.”

“You always do, Stiles,” Scott said with reluctant affection.

Stiles smiled down at his drink, which had probably turned lukewarm since he hadn’t even taken a sip of it, yet. Not that it really mattered, though. Nothing did as long as he was able to help his friends and lover.

“I try.”

Chapter Text

“Do you think this is really a good idea?” Derek asked, not for the first time.

His obvious reluctance to let Stiles do things when he wasn’t entirely sure of the outcome was endearing and kind of annoying. Mostly endearing, though, especially since Derek didn’t try to outright stop him from doing what he set out to accomplish.

Which, in that case, was magic divination stuff.

He hoped.

Stiles shrugged his bare shoulders. The basement was just as cold as the first time he’d been down there, when he’d been inducted into the early morning fight club with an accidental shirting, though the fact that Stiles wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing, going skyclad, instead of just being shirtless made it feel ten times colder.

“Gotta try,” he said, sprinkling the last of the salt and herb mixture to seal the circle he’d made around where he was kneeling and the various ingredients he’d collected. The Hales had actually possessed a majority of it. A small wooden bowl, sprigs of dried sage, a paring knife Stiles had wrapped in a piece of silk to keep from having to touch it too much, four white candles he placed in the cardinal directions, and even a flame snuffer for when the ritual was complete. Stiles had only needed to stop for some oil. He’d chosen a bottle of massage oil since the ritual didn’t specify what type and he was nothing if not pragmatic.

Stiles had plans for that little bottle after they finished with the ritual thing.

Sexy plans.

Derek was definitely invited, too.

“I know what Deaton said, but-”

“Deaton is as much of an expert on magic as you are at werewolfing,” Stiles pointed out. “Now, I’m pretty sure I need to concentrate for this? Why don’t you drag a mat over and sit down, if you’re so intent on hovering.”

Derek’s expression was decidedly grumpy, but he did what Stiles suggested and brought over one of the worn workout mats so he could sit directly in front of Stiles, just outside the demarcation line he’d created.

But despite the obvious hovering, and it was obvious, Stiles still found Derek’s presence comforting.

“Okay,” he whispered to himself. He found he sometimes worked better when he talked about it out-loud, which was not something others tended to like about him, particularly not his fellow auditors. Not that that was going to be a problem, anymore.

Probably not, at least.

“Okay,” he repeated, trying to get himself to concentrate on the task at hand, “I just have to light the candles using my magic. That shouldn’t be stupidly impossible. After all, I lit a freaking bonfire with it that one time. Though of course it was outside,” he trailed off and tried not to look at where Derek was wiggling uncomfortably in front of him, clearly barely-able to contain his worry.

Which, huh. Stiles knew he was worried. Not just because of his body language, either. It was also, it was like he could feel it?

Maybe?

Not nearly as potently as when their skin touched, but the impression, almost like a sensory afterimage, was definitely there.

And for some reason, that helped him calm down.

“It’s going to be okay,” Stiles said as he closed his eyes and tried to focus his energy.

Which, in all honesty, was easier said than done.

“Okay,” Stiles said after several frigid minutes of nothing. His legs were decidedly numb and his knees ached where he was kneeling on the concrete and that sucked because he had seriously been looking forward to that night’s friendly little competition, but he wasn’t sure if that was going to end up happening or not because he just might be too freaking cold and sore to want anything more than cuddles. Especially with his legs taking the brunt of the frigid burden.

“Okay,” he repeated because he didn’t know what else to say. His eyes were closed, his breathing was even, though it did stutter a bit with his shivering, and his anchor was there.

And that was the thing he really should focus on, Stiles knew. Derek was there. He was concerned, but safe. They both were. There was no reason for his magic to cause chaos or damage because there was no need for it.

“I, Vyacheslav, order these four candles to light,” he said, pushing his need into the command.

And they did.

He heard the sputter of the flames and felt the heat of them surrounding him even before he opened his eyes.

“Holy shit, that’s cool,” he breathed as he glanced around and behind at the candles, making sure they were the only things on fire. They were, so that was good.

“I just did that,” he said because it needed saying, “and now I’m gonna do this scrying thing and we’re going to figure some shit out,” which probably didn’t need to be said, but Stiles had often found it difficult to shut himself up when he was on a roll.

He poured the water into the wooden bowl like Deaton had explained, whispering his intentions as he did so, then carefully picked it up and held his breath so as not to disturb the surface.

As it was he was pretty sure he could see his pulse in the water, or at least the tiny tremors from the micromovements his muscles were making as he held onto the bowl, but nothing that resembled pictures or impressions.

Nothing that told of his and Derek’s future.

So that wasn’t helpful.

Stiles made a small noise of frustration as he put the bowl back on the concrete. It felt like it was getting colder in the basement, even though he had the added warmth of the candles surrounding him.

Deaton had mentioned that it might not be a quick thing, the scrying. Especially since Stiles wasn’t born under a water sign, whatever that meant.

“Okay, trying the other way,” he whispered as he grabbed the bottle. Stiles leaned toward the bowl as he uncapped the oil, focusing his energy on his intentions.

He figured it wouldn’t hurt to try the same method that he’d used to light the candles, since that had actually worked, so he closed his eyes and focused.

“I, Vyacheslav, request the-”

What the hell was he requesting, anyway?

“-the power to understand my and my mate’s future, and the actions required to achieve the best possible outcome for us both.”

There was a feeling, then, not his or even Derek’s that seemed to work its way under his skin as he opened his eyes and poured a few drops of oil onto the still surface of the water.

It danced with sudden motion for a moment before abruptly settling into-

“Is that a wolf?” Stiles breathed, but then it changed again. That time into a tree, like he’d seen in his latte earlier that day, and again into a dozen other images, flashing quickly from one to the next, too fast for it to be anything other than magic making the oil move.

Stiles kept his eyes fixed there, letting the images sink into him, his mind strangely clear as he just let it all flow through his consciousness until there was nothing left but a faint sheen of oil still floating on the surface of the water.

“I think I might know the answer,” Stiles said. It felt like his voice was strangely distant, but then again he was cold and the candles were burnt halfway down. In the semi-dark Derek’s eyes were his wolfish blue and there was some definite concern there.

For Stiles, undoubtedly.

“Let’s call Morrell,” he continued. Stiles wasn’t even sure what time it was, but the sooner they talked to her, the quicker they could set about integrating back into Talia’s pack.

On their own terms, that time.



“Morrell speaking,” her voice came through the phone’s speaker crisply and Stiles pressed his knee against Derek’s before leaning forward toward where he’d put his phone on the coffee table in front of them. It felt good to be dressed again, in Derek’s too-big sweatpants and Stiles’ own hoodie. He still wasn’t exactly warm, but he was getting there, especially with a living space heater sitting right beside him, one of his arms thrown casually over Stiles’ shoulders.

“Hi, it’s Stiles and Derek. Look, we did a little ritual thing-”

“Ah, yes, Alan informed me that you might.”

“-and okay, cool. Good, glad we’re all on the same page,” Stiles continued, glancing out of the corner of his eye at Derek, who was pretending to be unaffected even though he was just as nervous as Stiles. “So, we’ve decided that we want you to be our, I don’t even know how to put it-”

“Will you act as our emissary?” Derek asked with a calm he didn’t feel, though his voice didn’t betray his nerves at all. “We would like to enlist your services to facilitate our negotiations with the Hale pack in regards to the terms of our continued association.”

And yeah, that was totally what Stiles had been trying to say.

“What he said,” he piped up, grinning at Derek’s little snort of amusement. Stiles knew he was hilarious, but it was nice to be appreciated.

“I accept your invitation,” Morrell said, apparently not at all flustered by the request. “We have much to discuss if I’m to settle the matter on your behalf, why don’t we start with the questions I asked you to consider.”

Stiles looked at Derek with a soft smile. “We can do that,” he said. “So here’s what we’re thinking-”



“Dude, we just ate take-out last night, we have so much food in the fridge, there’s absolutely no reason to buy more,” Stiles argued, which was kind of hard, actually since Derek was draped across his back, rubbing his scruff against the side of Stiles’ neck.

It was kind of very distracting.

“But that takes time,” Derek whined.

“Oh my god, you didn’t really just say that,” Stiles said with a huff of laughter. “Dude, it would probably take the exact same amount of time to have food delivered as it would to whip something up in your fully stocked kitchen.”

Derek grumbled against the side of his throat, breath hot and damp and arousing.

“What was that?” Stiles asked, his own voice suddenly a bit raspier than before.

“I said that would at least give me time to suck you off before dinner.”

Stiles swallowed, which Derek had to have felt because he could sense his mate’s smugness even if Derek couldn’t see the sudden tenting in the oversized sweatpants Stiles wore.

Jesus, Derek,” he muttered as he opened the fridge and grabbed the first thing he found, which happened to be a package of steaks.

Stiles froze with them in his hand, suddenly remembering when he’d previously eaten that particular food and his stomach clenched with the memory, his arousal abruptly fading.

Derek caught on immediately, of course, and gently took the package from Stiles’ hand, setting it on the counter beside them and dragging his hands up and down Stiles’ torso, like he could physically sooth the mental ache and the remembered fear.

It took him a few minutes, but eventually Stiles managed to get over it and he turned to face Derek, to smile softly at him and drink in the comfort of them being together in a safe place.

“We can eat something else,” Derek said, “I don’t want you to-”

“I’ll be okay,” Stiles said, kissing Derek gently on the lips. “Why don’t you cut the meat into strips and we can do a stir fry? Besides, didn’t Talia mention that I’m suppose to eat that kind of thing after doing magic stuff? Need to keep my strength up if I’m going to win tonight’s little contest.”

Derek’s gazed steadily at him for a long moment before finally nodding. “Stir fry sounds good to me. Did you want me to cook while you,” he trailed off, probably not knowing what task to assign Stiles, and obviously too keyed up from the shared stress to touch on the innuendo.

“I could iron a dress shirt for tomorrow, I guess,” Stiles suggested, letting it go as well. If Derek wasn’t interested in having sex, then they could just cuddle or read or do anything else, really, as long as they were willing to communicate about what it was they needed. But that was for after dinner. Stiles considered his options and the tasks he should accomplish before his meeting the next day and ironing was actually a good use of his time. He wanted to look professional and all of his dress shirts had gotten wrinkled in the wash.

“You can bring the iron and board in here,” Derek said, nodding to the empty space on the other side of the kitchen by the breakfast nook. The room really was a bit ridiculously big, as was the house as a whole, at least considering its location in the suburb of a city the size of Chicago.

Stiles hummed to himself absently as he considered it, giving Derek’s scruff a quick peck before wandering out into the hallway like he’d suggested. Stiles found what he needed in short order and brought the iron and board, along with a few of his shirts, just in case he needed extras for the remainder of the week. He wasn’t sure how his meeting would go or if he’d need to head to Youngblood and West again, later.

To sign paperwork?

Cubes of meat were already cooking on the stove and Derek was making quick work of slicing the various fresh vegetables when Stiles came back into the kitchen bearing his awkward load.

“Smells good, already,” he commented, but he couldn’t shake the association with Kate’s weirdly threatening lunches where she’d basically forced him to eat steak with her. It made his palms sweat and his shoulders ache with tension.

Forget using the oil he’d picked out for sexytimes, Stiles was the one who needed a massage.

“Boyd and Isaac have been teaching me how to cook,” Derek said as Stiles set up the ironing board and made sure he had enough distilled water. The Hales did not skimp on things, he noticed. The iron was definitely some undoubtedly top-of-the-line model Stiles didn’t even want to know the price of. His own iron, bought second-hand, tended to leak and sputter out steam at random intervals.

“That’s cool,” Stiles said, draping the shirt on the board. He’d taught himself how to iron through online tutorials, mostly. He wasn’t half-bad at it. “I like picking up new hobbies when I can, though I’m not that great at too many things.”

Derek glanced over his shoulder and gave him an assessing look. “You’re pretty good at yoga, even though you’re new to it,” he said before turning back to his cooking.

Stiles blushed at the compliment and made a noncommittal humming noise. Most of his success in their couples class was due to Derek’s insane musculature and werewolf reflexes, but he knew better than to say that outloud. Derek got kind of weird when Stiles took the self-deprecation route, even if it was entirely true.

“I like reading in the bath,” Stiles said instead.

“I do as well,” Derek admitted and Stiles grinned at his back because that was an adorable image, the hulking werewolf lounging in a tub of bubbles-

“Wait, you totally take bubble baths, don’t you,” Stiles said and he could feel Derek’s embarrassment even though he was all the way across the room. “Oh, dude, no judgement,” he added hastily, “I can totally get down with the bubble beard.”

Derek snorted and shook his head.

“You know you dig it,” Stiles said. He’d been right about the iron, it was way nicer than his and got the job done with half the work. He had one shirt completely finished in the time it normally took him to do one sleeve.

“Dude, this iron is awesome,” he said, slipping that shirt on a hanger and hooking it onto one of the cabinet knobs until Derek’s quelling look made him roll his eyes and take it out into the laundry area where he hung it up properly. When he got back Derek was mixing together the meat and vegetables and some kind of sauce that smelled amazing.

“You know,” Stiles said, smirking as he set up another shirt, “I might just have to wear one of these tonight. What would you think about that?”

Derek glanced over his shoulder, brow creased. “Tonight?” he asked, clearly not getting where Stiles was going with his teasing.

Which was fine, Stiles could elaborate.

“Yeah, tonight. I was thinking of wearing this,” he said, holding up a wrinkled sleeve, “and maybe a pair of white briefs. I’d like to see how long it took you to get me undressed when I’m jacking you off. Without popping any of the buttons off,” he added with a smirk. “The ones around the cuffs might be a challenge with your cock in my mouth.”

Derek swore softly and turned off the stove. It seemed to take him a few deep breaths to get himself under control, but even then his eyes were glowing blue when he turned fully to face Stiles.

“I’m going to make you come until you beg me to stop,” Derek announced, pointing a finger at him.

“You’re gonna scream my name,” Stiles challenged right back.

“I’m going to win.”

“No you’re not.”

“I guess we’ll just have to see,” Derek said, finally moving over to a cabinet and taking out two bowls and a pair of tall glasses. “You’ll need to stay hydrated,” he quipped with a smirk, holding up one of the glasses, and Stiles rolled his eyes.

“Planning on dehydrating me later, big guy?” he asked, finishing a sleeve and moving to the next.

“You’re going to come dry, in the end,” Derek retorted and Stiles barely managed not to burn himself.



“So,” Stiles said, suddenly stupidly nervous as he licked his lips, reveling in the aftertaste of the delicious stir fry Derek had cooked for them. But since they’d devoured all of it, Stiles figured it was definitely time for that evening’s main event. “How do you want to do this?”

Derek smiled and gathered their empty bowls, nodding toward the door that led to the house proper as he stood up and walked backward to the kitchen door. “Why don’t you go ahead and take your box of tricks upstairs. I’ll be up in a few minutes.”

Stiles tilted his head slightly, trying to figure out what Derek’s plan was, but his instructions seemed genuine enough. “Okay,” he said slowly, “I’ll go wash them and take a quick shower.” He preferred to be as clean as possible before sex, it made things much less awkward when certain sexual acts were involved. Also, good hygiene was important when it came to the possible exchange of body fluids.

“I’ll use Boyd and Isaac’s shower, then meet you in my room in fifteen?”

“Sure thing,” Stiles replied. He sounded more confident than he felt, but then again he’d often lived by the motto, fake it till you make it, so that wasn’t an entirely foreign concept for him.

Derek gave him one last, lingering look before he backed out of the swinging door and Stiles was left alone in the dining room, about to prep his toys and himself for some planned marathon sex with the hottest person he had ever met.

No pressure.

Fuck.

Stiles slid his fingers into his hair and pulled, trying to use the slight pain to ground himself, but it was hard to settle down when he knew he was going to be riled up in short order.

But first he had to get his stuff together and get clean.

Which was simple enough for both him and the toys. Stiles had a kind of routine he used with them when he had a chance, made easy because some of the silicone and plastic pieces were waterproof. He took those into the shower with him and soaped them up, then set them between the plastic and cloth curtains. One dildo actually suction cupped easily to the porcelain and seemed to wave at him as he grinned and washed his own body with a single-minded thoroughness.

After drying himself he washed the rest of the items in the sink, using the same unscented soap the Hales thankfully seemed to favor. Those objects he set out on a towel to dry as he gave himself one last once-over, brushing his teeth twice and making sure he was as clean as possible given the circumstances.

Stiles did as he’d threatened and put on one of the shirts he’d ironed, along with a pair of tighty whities he’d stuffed into his luggage back at his place, then took a fortifying breath before he squared his shoulders and exited into Derek’s bedroom.

And he must have taken longer than he’d thought. Either that or Derek had used his werewolf-speed against him because the space had been transformed. There were candles burning brightly along the dresser and a good-sized fire crackling in the fireplace. The sheets looked like they’d been changed as well, to some dark fabric that looked soft to the touch and very easily stained by things like lube and come.

Stiles wondered if that was part of Derek’s game, or maybe it was even a kink of his. After all, there had been mention of come-marking on his form, Stiles recalled as he walked slowly into the warm space, self-consciously folding his arms across his chest because while he wasn’t nervous about being intimate with Derek, he wasn’t exactly sure how things were going to play out. Stiles knew he tended to talk a big game, but when it came down to it, he wasn’t actually all that confident in his own abilities, more often than not.

He did another visual sweep and tried to swallow his nerves, shaking out his muscles in what probably looked like a spastic little dance.

Derek wasn't immediately in evidence, so Stiles took the opportunity to bring out his various toys and debated for a moment before setting them on a dry towel along the far side of the bed. He didn’t know how quickly, or even if they’d end up using any of the various things he’d collected, including that massage oil, but having them relatively accessible on the gigantic bed was a better bet than putting them on the dresser across the room.

He arranged them by type, then rearranged them by what was his favorite, then he changed his mind again and was about to just sort them by color when he heard Derek clear his throat from the doorway.

Stiles whipped around and had to slap a hand to the bed to keep himself from falling over, but his slight embarrassment at his own incoordination was worth it because Derek looked positively edible standing there in nothing but a pair of black boxer briefs, his muscular arms folded across his chest.

“Uh, hey,” Stiles said, kind of feeling like a dork in his dress shirt and underwear. It actually made him feel impossibly inexperienced and actually, he could totally use that to his benefit.

Stiles consciously bit his bottom lip and tilted his chin down so he had to look up through his eyelashes to see Derek. “I uh,” Stiles said quietly, knowing the werewolf could hear him, “I cleaned these for us.” He kept his voice soft and uncertain, but the more he talked, the more confident he felt in his role.

Derek seemed to catch on to the game quickly enough, thankfully, his eyes flashing momentarily before he gave a stiff nod.

“Good,” he said. “Anything in particular you want to start with?”

Stiles had kind of anticipated that, the fact that Derek would let him start things off, and his eyes were immediately drawn to one of the objects he hadn’t needed to wash.

Derek, of course, noticed, and hummed loudly enough to be heard. It was actually more of a wolfish noise than a human one, but it sent shivers down Stiles’ spine, regardless.

“Bring it here,” Derek said, and Stiles could feel his face flush red as he did what he was told, reaching to grab the satin cloth, letting it trail down his leg as he slowly closed the distance to where Derek was standing. He’d moved to lean against the wall beside the door instead of in front of it, which reminded Stiles of his desire for some good ol’ wall-sex at some point in the near future.

“Good boy, or do you prefer pup?” Derek asked, his fingertips ghosting along the sleeve and cuff of Stiles’ dress shirt, then over his knuckles before he took the cloth, the soft fabric sliding through Stiles’ hand as he loosened his grip.

He had to swallow before he could answer, feeling like a lot was riding on what he said next.

Maybe too much?

And he was stupidly nervous, all of the sudden.

“Or?” Derek asked, trailing off, his hazel eyes fixed on Stiles’ face.

“P-pup,” he murmured, trying hard to quell his nerves, but it was pretty fucking difficult when faced with the unbelievable glory that was mostly-naked Derek, softly lit by the candles and fireplace, his pupils blown with lust, his cock a visibly hard bulge trapped beneath tight black fabric.

Derek smirked at him, having to know how unfairly attractive that made him look. “Alright,” he said with a sinfully silky voice, the soft caress of the fabric against the side of Stiles’ thigh equally arresting. “Now, be a good pup and turn around for me.”

Stiles blinked once at Derek, studying his face for any trace of malice, which of course there wasn’t any, before taking a calming breath and doing as he was told.

Chapter Text

“Good pup,” Derek murmured, his warm hands firm as they slid up Stiles’ arms, then onto his shoulders, the satin that trailed from his fingers whispering against the rougher fabric of his dress shirt. “Now, before we begin, what is your safe word?”

“Red,” Stiles replied obediently.

“If you’d like to slow down and discuss something?”

“Yellow.”

“And if you’re okay with continuing?”

Stiles smiled and closed his eyes. “Green, though the same goes for you as well.”

Derek hummed in response, which wasn’t a real response, as far as Stiles was concerned.

“Derek?” he prompted, half a second from opening his eyes and turning around when his mate dutifully responded, green.

Which was more like it.

“I’m going to blindfold you, now. I won’t be using any restraints, though I may ask you to put your hands behind your back,” Derek continued, his fingertips soft against Stiles’ neck.

“Gr-green,” Stiles said around a shudder. It wasn’t his first time actively participating in a scene with someone, or even with Derek, but for some reason it felt entirely different.

More real, somehow.

But even though there was arguably more at stake, Stiles wasn’t worried.

He could feel Derek’s dedication, his affection and interest where his fingertips lightly caressed the angles of Stiles’ cheeks, the satin sliding forward to tickle his lips.

“Tonight we’re playing a game,” Derek said, breath warm on the back of Stiles’ neck above the collar of his dress shirt. “The winner is the one who gets the other to climax the greater number of times.”

Stiles smiled as Derek gently placed the smooth fabric across his eyes.

“The winner will then be responsible for dressing their partner and choosing a restaurant where we will dine tomorrow night,” Derek continued, slowly tightening and tying the cloth so all Stiles could see when he opened his eyes was the vagueness of light and dark.

“Green,” Stiles said because that kind of communication couldn’t be stated enough.

“Green,” Derek echoed, his lingering touch conveying his amusement and contentment.

Though he didn’t state it outright, Stiles intended to win, not because he didn’t trust Derek when it came to dressing him up for a night out, but because he was just competitive like that.

Also?

He really wanted to get Derek in the suit Stiles had seen in the back of his closet.

With that in mind, he turned around blindly to face his mate, sinking to his knees as gracefully as he could manage, which wasn’t actually too terribly awkward because of the yoga-ing he’d been doing. That had been kind of an unexpected consequence, really, Stiles being able to do normal things like kneeling and walking without accidentally tripping over himself.

Unexpected and awesome.

“Stiles, what?” Derek asked, but before he could say anything else, Stiles had his palms pressed against the corded muscles of Derek’s thighs and his nose skimming the bulge in his boxer briefs.

And sure, Derek had said something about Stiles’ keeping his hands to himself, but the temptation to touch was just a bit too overwhelming when his sight was cut off from him.

“Color?” Stiles asked, mouth grazing Derek’s sac over the taut fabric.

Derek actually growled, fingers lacing into Stiles’ hair before saying green with the kind of impatience Stiles hadn’t ever associated with him before.

And that was all kinds of awesome. That Stiles could so quickly and effectively take control of the situation without even really doing all that much. Not that he was under the delusion that he’d maintain his position of power, not with the way his own cock was already straining in his underwear, the front of which he could feel was beginning to dampen with precome.

Stiles slid his fingertips around the elastic band of Derek’s boxer briefs and slowly dragged them down, using his tongue and teeth to mark the exposed skin with his scent.

Because two could play at the whole smell like you’re mine thing, even if Stiles wasn’t actually a werewolf capable of recognizing that kind of claim on another person.

But still, it was the thought that counted.

Or something.

Derek’s bitten-off moan and the slight tightening of his hands against Stiles’ skull brought him back to his task and he wasted no more time in getting Derek naked, sliding the waistband of his boxer briefs over the magnificent swell of Derek’s ass and listening as they snaked to the the floor.

Stiles breathed in deeply. He might not have werewolf senses, but he could still appreciate his own sense of smell and the rich scent of Derek, thick in the crease of his leg where Stiles pressed his nose and tongued the hot skin. He savored not only the unique flavor of his mate, but the soft wolfish noises his actions elicited.

He didn’t have long until his mate took matters into his own hands, Stiles knew, so he licked his way over the coarse pubic hair and smiled against the familiar silky warmth of Derek’s shaft. Stiles licked around the base, lathing his sac and the firm length of him before working his way to the head, tongueing the foreskin that had already mostly retracted with his hardness, enjoying the taste and weight of him as Derek let out a series of aroused noises, his grip never faltering against the curve of Stiles’ skull.

Normally, he would make some kind of comment about the ease with which he’d unraveled his mate, but something about the situation, the apparent spell he’d cast on Derek, whether from his submissive position or actions or both, made him attend, instead, to giving Derek as much pleasure as he possibly could.

Stiles continued to lick around the head, focusing on the slit and enjoying the taste of precome against his tongue. Derek’s grip tightened as Stiles carefully loosened his jaw and took him further into his mouth, hollowing his cheeks as he sucked and tongued and bobbed his head, saliva slicking his lips and chin as he made positively obscene noises on his mate’s cock.

He would be embarrassed about it, but-

Fuck, Stiles your mouth,” Derek gasped, sounding wrecked, breathing quick as his hands trembled where they tangled in Stiles’ hair, though he made no move to control the speed or depth of Stiles’ undulations. He somehow kept from thrusting, too, which in Stiles’ opinion must have taken a herculean effort, though he appreciated not being actually choked on Derek’s dick. That was for some later date, when he’d had more time to practice deepthroating.

Stiles hummed in response, enjoying the additional curses Derek muttered as his hips twitched just a tiny bit, enough to betray the extent to which Stiles had compromised his normally iron-clad control and he redoubled his efforts, intent on making Derek come first and come hard.

It only took a few more tense moments, after Stiles began to tongue the sensitive spot just below the head of Derek’s cock and suddenly his mouth was hot with come as Derek shuddered above him, thighs trembling against Stiles’ palms as he sealed his lips around the cockhead and sucked Derek dry, reveling in the unique taste of his mate as he swallowed.

Stiles finally let it slip from his mouth when Derek made a noise he associated with overstimulation and then he was being hauled to his feet and kissed fervently, Derek’s tongue delving into his mouth like the wolf couldn’t get enough of tasting himself on Stiles.

His feet were barely touching the ground and then they weren’t, his thighs seized as Derek hitched him up and then his legs were wrapped around Derek’s surprisingly narrow waist, Stiles’ back pressed firmly against the wall.

The kiss had teeth as Derek rumbled against him, their chests flush and Stiles didn’t even know how he managed it, but Derek somehow squeezed a hand between them so he could run his thumb along the weeping head of Stiles’ dick through his tighty whities and he totally blamed the quickness with which he shot off on the amazing noises Derek had been making during the blowjob and the lingering taste of his come on his tongue as they kissed and Stiles’ train of thought just kind of blanked out after that as he shuddered through the intense flash of his orgasm, his teeth somehow managing to find the taut tendon along the side of Derek’s neck in a stupid attempt to silence his high-pitched whimper of release.

They were both panting, their chests heaving against each other, lips barely touching while they tried to regain their composure.

“Tie,” Stiles said, smiling as Derek growled and buried his face against Stiles’ neck. “Though let the record show that I totally scored the first point,” he continued because he was kind of an asshole.

Derek nipped the skin just above his shirt collar and grumbled out, “Yeah, well, I barely even had to touch you-”

And he was kind of an asshole, too.

“Be that as it may,” Stiles interrupted, finally feeling his heartbeat lower to something that wasn’t akin to a the pulse rate of a small animal, “I still scored first and that’s pretty impressive, if I do say so myself.”

“You may have gotten me off, first, but our night is only beginning,” Derek replied, stepping back to allow Stiles to disentangle himself, though truth be told he wasn’t exactly steady on his feet quite so soon after having come, also it wasn’t like he could actually see anything but shadows, which kind of threw off his whole ability-to-balance thing.

Derek didn’t seem to mind partially holding him up, though, his hands wandering up and down the probably-wrinkled shirt Stiles was still somehow wearing.

“Ugh, things are starting to feel kinda gross,” he said when Derek slid his hands around to squeeze Stiles’ ass. The groping was nice, but the wet spot in the front of his underwear was definitely not.

“Then take them off and go kneel on the bed,” Derek whispered.

Stiles wanted to do what he was told, but hesitated. “Um, the blindfold?” he asked, trying and failing not to shift uncomfortably where he was standing.

One of Derek’s broad palms slid up under the back of Stiles’ shirt, caressing his skin. “Keep it on?”

Which, yeah, he could do that. Stiles just liked to know what was going on and what was expected of him.

“Green,” he said, relieved.

“Good pup,” Derek rumbled, slipping out of his grip and from the sound of it, moving aside. “Walk straight ahead, slowly.”

Stiles took a few cautious steps, but from what he could remember the bed was a few more, so he started to speed up-

“Slowly,” Derek repeated, which was sweet, that he cared enough to try to keep Stiles from hurting himself out of his own impatient stupidity.

Finally, his knees thumped against the edge of the mattress and he shimmied out of the briefs because he couldn’t really take the uncomfortable dampness any longer.

“Up on the bed, on your knees if they’re feeling okay-”

Stiles nodded. His little foray into magic earlier hadn’t left him any worse for wear, and neither had the blowjob.

Which. Yeah, that had happened. And it had been awesome.

“-legs spread apart, hands behind your back.”

He did as he was told, feeling exposed with his spent dick hanging out while his upper body was completely covered. Faintly, Stiles could hear Derek move across the carpet toward the far side of the bed.

Which was covered in all kinds of fun and interesting things, as he well knew.

“You have quite a collection,” Derek commented, voice warm and, if Stiles wasn’t mistaken, amused.

He swallowed. “I uh, have a variety of interests,” he said, feeling his face and neck flush with embarrassment as much as with arousal. And yeah, despite just having just come his dick was already starting to get interested in the proceedings again.

Derek hummed, though Stiles had no idea what it was he was doing or choosing or anything, just that he was occupied and Stiles was spread out in kind of a defenseless posture and that his heart rate was starting to quicken and the blindfold was beginning to feel a bit stifling-

“I’m right here, Stiles,” Derek said from directly behind him, but instead of jumping he felt his muscles relax with the proximity because Derek wouldn’t let anything happen to him, he knew. Nor would he do anything to endanger him.

“Green,” he said, leaning back just enough to feel the warmth coming from Derek’s body. That helped settle him even more. “It was just, the blindfold and-”

“It’s fine, Stiles,” Derek said, dragging the knuckles of one hand up Stiles’ spine and then carefully gripping the back of his neck. “We can take it off, if you want. I think that might be nice, to see the look in your eyes as you fall apart.”

Or vice versa, Stiles didn’t say. He was still playing like Derek was in charge, after all, it wouldn’t do to ruin the surprise.

Derek slid the same hand up and slowly loosened the satin until it fell from Stiles’ eyes and slipped down the front of his shirt to rest on the dark sheets at his knees. He blinked rapidly a few times, but the fire and candlelight weren’t strong enough to hurt his eyes.

Stiles couldn’t help but glance over at where the toys were laid out, trying to deduce what it was Derek had grabbed.

“No cheating,” Derek said, hand once again on the back of Stiles’ neck.

It felt good, the grip he had there.

Anchoring.

“Are you trying to get me off through anticipation alone?” Stiles retorted, glancing over his shoulder at him with a smirk because he could. “Don’t think that’s gonna quite work out for you, if that’s the case.”

But Derek didn’t rise to the bait. Instead he released his hold and trailed his fingertips down the back of the dress shirt Stiles was still wearing, and he was pretty much done with that as well. It felt kind of itchy against his skin and restrictive along the cuffs and collar-

“You look so good like that,” Derek said, no longer touching Stiles, though he moved around the side of the bed as if he wanted to get a better look at him. He must have liked what he saw because his expression was openly hungry, and when Stiles glanced down he noticed Derek was getting hard. Also, he had a vibrating bullet with a long cord and a little control box in one hand.

“I’d look better if you let me suck you off again,” Stiles said as coquettishly as he could. He wasn’t sure if he pulled it off, but figured the whole bared-bottom thing was working for him, plus the incongruity of that paired with his white button-up shirt probably didn’t hurt. Made for a whole debauched office boy look.

Derek’s eyes flashed blue, so that was an affirmative.

“I promised to make you beg for it, and I will,” Derek replied, letting the little silver-colored egg swing from the cord like a taunt. “Keep your hands behind your back and open your mouth.”

Stiles, being Stiles, wanted to resist, but seeing what Derek had in store for him was too great of a temptation, so he dutifully opened his mouth, avidly watching as Derek gazed back at him with a satisfied look on his face, as if having Stiles there like that was exactly what he wanted.

And Stiles certainly couldn’t argue with him, there.

Derek’s reached out with his free hand and carefully grasped his chin, thumb sliding across his bottom lip, then hooking over his teeth to caress his tongue and yeah, unbelievably enough Stiles was already fully aroused just from being in that position. Just from such a simple touch. Exposed and watched. Spread out for Derek’s erotic consumption.

“Suck while you unbutton your shirt,” Derek instructed, pulling his thumb free and Stiles had to hold back his whimper as Derek instead slipped a finger into his open mouth.

He raised his shaking hands up to his shirt collar and began working the small buttons, knowing he’d have to go slow or risk either fumbling or accidentally popping one of the delicate things off. He managed to get halfway done, down to the center of his chest, when Derek pressed another finger between his lips and carefully stroked his tongue.

Stiles couldn’t contain his moan, that time.

“So good for me, doing as you’re told,” Derek murmured with a soft look in his eyes, though there was still an intensity there that made Stiles’ breath hitch.

But the thing was, Stiles hadn’t ever been all that great at being obedient.

It was a thing.

Though then again he really wanted to keep Derek happy and satisfied and horny and all of the other glowy-good emotions he was throwing off, so Stiles figured he’d compromise between doing what he wanted and what Derek had instructed. He slowed his fingers, teasing at the next smooth button, circling his thumb around it as he swirled his tongue against Derek’s sloppy-wet fingers still thrust into his mouth.

Derek growled.

Which was totally hot.

“Stiles,” he choked out, a warning and a plea and yeah, Stiles was absolutely game for seeing where Derek decided to put that vibrating little toy he still had hanging from his other hand.

“Open,” Derek said, teeth clenched and Stiles immediately complied, raising his eyebrows in an attempt to appear as innocent as possible given the circumstances.

Which, judging by Derek’s suddenly brilliant blue eyes, was not very.

Apparently done wasting time, Derek dropped his hand down as he climbed onto the bed, and Stiles wasn’t sure what to focus on, the play of his mate’s muscles or the direction in which his wet fingers were heading when he suddenly felt pressure against his perineum and the slick push of a finger at his hole.

“Relax for me,” Derek whispered, using the fingertip he had slipped inside of Stiles to pull him forward and he had to press his hands against Derek’s bare shoulders or else risk losing his balance as the finger breached him further, filling him with a wicked heat.

“Fu-uck,” Stiles groaned, clutching harder as Derek continued to push in.

“Not yet, I still have to introduce you to the toy I’ve chosen,” he replied smoothly, like he wasn’t getting off on it as much as Stiles was.

Stiles didn’t have any kind of response to that, except for another animal-like noise when Derek crooked his finger just so and nailed Stiles’ prostate.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, just put it in, already,” he gasped, trying not to grind back against the perfect pressure of Derek’s finger, but finding it to be quite difficult to control himself.

“Not yet,” Derek repeated with a playful nip to Stiles’ bared collarbone. “But if you’re feeling impatient-”

Which, understatement.

“-you can always reach over there for the lube.”

Stiles nearly gave himself whiplash, he turned his head so quickly and yeah, the lube was over by the spread of toys and he was suddenly even more determined to win than ever before.

And Derek must really like seeing Stiles on all fours because they’d definitely been in a similar position before, him trying to get to the slick while Derek continued to wring pleasure from him with a single-minded persistence.

But Stiles was determined, he was determined to win, or to at least put up a decent fight, so he looked back at Derek and carefully quirked his eyebrows, mouth open as he released a truly obscene moan, throaty and uninhibited.

Predictably, Derek’s eyes flashed blue.

“Derek,” Stiles murmured, closing the distance between them, kissing at his mouth and cheeks and neck, rubbing his smooth cheek against Derek’s scruff until he was sure his skin was pink from it. “I want that inside of me, I want you inside of me,” he pleaded, and it wasn’t even an act.

Well, it wasn’t all an act.

There was maybe some exaggeration involved, but his request was completely sincere, if not his method of execution. And really, playing the coquette came surprisingly naturally to him, which was an interesting thing to figure out about himself.

And he’d have to think more on that when Derek didn’t have a finger buried in his ass, pressing insistently against his prostate while he issued requests Stiles wasn’t able to deliver on. At least not with the way they were touching at that moment.

Derek only relented after another series of feather-light kisses where Stiles refused to actually seal their lips together, causing the werewolf to let out a growl.

“Fine,” he said, slipping his finger out of Stiles, which was not the most pleasant sensation, but there was more of that to come, so Stiles resisted the temptation to whimper at the loss. “Go and get the lube,” Derek continued, playfully slapping Stiles’ ass as he scrambled across the bed to do as he was told.

Stiles gave a good-natured squawk of indignation, though they both knew he enjoyed the little shock of pain because apparently he was just a bit of a masochist.

Under the right circumstances.

And Derek spanking him? It turned out that definitely qualified, just like Stiles had thought it would. He really loved being proven right.

Stiles returned to his previous position, kneeling beside where Derek was lounging, gorgeous hairy legs stretched out in front of him, the egg-shaped toy draped across one muscular thigh, his elbows planted on the sheets behind him in a way that made his collar bones more prominent and Stiles really wanted to set his teeth there and mark his mate.

“I would like to watch you prep yourself,” Derek said, giving Stiles a casual once-over, but even without touching him, Stiles knew his calm demeanor was hiding a thirst for more.

Also, Derek’s erection was dark red and leaking precome against his taut abs, so that was definitely another clue as to his true feelings.

“What if I want to give you a little something, first?” Stiles asked, thankful of the half-buttoned shirt he was still wearing because it probably helped him pull off the whole bashful and innocent look he was going for.

And it apparently worked because Derek’s eyebrows went up, but he didn’t shut him down, outright.

“Something for me?” he asked, then glanced down at Stiles’ hands and his cheeks flushed pink at what he saw there.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, holding up the prostate stimulator that hadn’t ever failed to make him come and come hard, though he’d never used it on anyone else, before. “I’ve been wanting to try it on you, but if you’d rather not-”

“No, I would, I’d like that,” Derek interrupted, suddenly not looking nearly as self-possessed as he had before, which Stiles couldn’t help but grin about. They might be in a scene, but Derek was still Derek, and that was hopelessly endearing.

“Okay,” Stiles said, “um, do you want me to?” he asked, trailing off because it was one thing to prep Derek, but it was a bit awkward to ask him about it. It shouldn’t be, Stiles knew, but it was.

Probably smelling Stiles’ mounting trepidation at not getting an immediate answer beyond his mate’s wide-eyed look, Derek quickly leaned forward and placed his hands on either side of Stiles’ face.

“I’d like it if you did it, if you prepped me first, before you prep yourself,” he said quietly, sincerity and boundless love flowing through their bond, even as Stiles crashed against him, kissing his smirking lips because he could.

Because Derek wanted Stiles as much as Stiles wanted him.

And that was pretty much amazing.

As was the hot clench of Derek’s hole around Stiles’ fingers as he carefully prepared him for the toy, the water based lubricant creating a damp patch against the sheets that neither of them cared about at all, which further proved Stiles’ theory that Derek had chosen dark sheets intentionally.

“Relax for me,” Stiles instructed as he slipped his fingers out and began pressing the toy in, “I won’t turn it on just yet.” Mostly because he wouldn’t need to. It was designed to keep continuous pressure against the prostate, and even without vibrating, that was sometimes enough to make Stiles shoot off, so he was hoping for the same with Derek. It wouldn’t do for him to be overstimulated too quickly.

“Oka-ay,” Derek gasped, and yeah, the toy really worked like a charm.

“Feeling good there, big guy?” Stiles asked, patting Derek on the stomach as he straddled his thick thighs, enjoying the introspective look on his mate’s face as he was clearly struggling to sort out just what it was he was feeling.

Overwhelmed, maybe.

And it occurred to Stiles that he may not have had experience with that kind of toy before.

“Just relax and let it do its thing, my darling,” he said, using his already slicked fingers to prep himself for the other toy. He liked to tease himself with it, sometimes, but hadn’t used it nearly as often as the prostate stimulator or even some of his slender vibrators. Well, it had actually been a while since he’d used any of his toys, but those were the ones he’d previously favored.

When he was relaxed enough he took the initiative of slipping the egg-shaped toy into himself, the cord dangling out to connect to the control box he placed in Derek’s hand with a wink.

“Don’t be too hard on me, now,” Stiles requested, though he trusted Derek not to push him beyond what he was actually capable of handling.

But when Derek made no move to switch on the vibration, Stiles focused on his his mate, splayed out beneath him, eyes distant and mouth open, pleasure thrumming through him like a current and yeah, maybe the scene was getting away from them, but Derek hadn’t used his safeword-

“Color?” Stiles asked, leaning forward to plant one fist on the bed beside Derek’s head, his other hand gently sliding into his hair and gripping, tilting his head so they could make eye contact.

“Your eyes are brown,” Derek said and smiled goofily and yeah, he was gone.

“And yours are all kinds of gorgeous colors,” Stiles replied with a soft smile. “Do you want to get off like this, or-”

“Inside,” Derek interrupted with an earnest look Stiles couldn’t help but find adorable. “I mean green. You asked me what color and I meant to say green, but you were right there and your eyes,” he trailed off, avidly watching Stiles’ grinning face before continuing. “I want to finish inside of you. Make you smell like me. Like you’re mine.”

And that was probably some werewolf possessiveness speaking, not that Stiles really minded all that much. Well, he probably should, but he’d learned quite a bit about the intricacies of werewolfiness, and scent marking was definitely a major component of that, so he let it go.

“Oh, really? You want to fuck me like this? Want me to ride you?” Stiles asked teasingly, slowly leaning back, rocking his hips so their erections pressed together in a pleasant zing of damp friction. Both of them were achingly hard and leaking. It wouldn’t take long for that round to be over, not with the added stimulation they had going on.

And oh.

“Want to fuck me while I have this toy inside of me?” Stiles asked, and he hadn’t done that before, but understood the basic mechanics of it. If they did it right, the egg would press against his prostate and possibly also the head of Derek’s dick while they were fucking, which, yeah, that would be something else.

Derek rumbled a pleased-sounding noise, which Stiles took as a yes. He was already prepped enough, he decided, and his patience was wearing thin so he didn’t bother to do more than pop the top of the lube so he could wet his palm and slick Derek’s dick.

“Take my hips,” he instructed, pleased when Derek did as he was told, going so far as to help cant Stiles hips so the head of his cock was poised at the entrance.

“Slowly,” he said, easing himself down, wincing at the strange feeling of being filled when there was already something there inside. Stiles grabbed the control box from where Derek had dropped it on the bed and held onto the cord with the other hand, trying to keep the toy from going too far into himself.

It was a lot more awkward than Stiles had anticipated, but then Derek was bottoming out and the most pleasurable sensation overtook him as the egg pressed right against his prostate, held fast by Derek’s cock.

“Oh, fuck,” he murmured, eyes wide as he glanced up at Derek’s face to find his mate’s attention fixed on where they were joined.

“Beg me for it,” Derek replied, having apparently come back more fully from whatever pleasure-induced stupor he’d been in. Not that Stiles minded because hearing him give that order in such a commanding tone of voice-

Yeah, that definitely did things to him.

He shuddered and almost complied, but he was Stiles and he was obstinate, so instead he rolled his hips in a way that made them both gasp.

“Make me,” he said with a smirk.

Derek’s response was to lace their fingers together, headless of the slick still wetting Stiles’ palm, and he didn’t even realize Derek had taken the little control box until he felt the steady pressure on his prostate ignite with trembling motion.

He cried out at the almost-overwhelming pleasure of it, free hand clawing at Derek’s chest while the other clasped his hand with a bruising grip. Beneath him Derek smiled hungrily up at him, like he was witnessing the most delectable sight he’d ever seen. The passion Stiles could feel flowing from him was almost enough to put him over the edge again, but he wanted to win-

“You are perfect,” Derek said, eyes flashing blue and that did it. Stiles curled forward as he came across Derek’s taut abs and chest, onto his own wrist where he was struggling to still support himself or else risk collapsing completely onto his mate.

A moment later, smile still on his face, Derek climaxed as well and Stiles let himself fall forward.

The vibrations didn’t stop, though, Stiles noted with a kind of distance. There was a tingling sensation coursing through his body like a pleasant kind of static, coming from that insistent spot of pleasure like the building waves of storm.

“Wha-” he began to ask, but Derek’s mouth worked to shush him, stealing his words with lingering kisses. He had one arm wrapped tight around Stiles’ back while the other hand must have still held the control box because the vibrations continued, growing stronger and stronger, causing Stiles to gasp and squirm, but Derek was containing him with ease as, impossibly, he built up to what was inevitably another orgasm.

He hadn’t come three times in a row, not since he had been a sex-starved teenager, at least.

You’re going to come dry in the end, Derek had warned and Stiles couldn’t believe that was actually happening to him.

“Derek,” he moaned, tilting his head enough to search his mate’s face, and the answer was there in his soft expression, love and devotion and determination shining through.

“Just one more, my love,” he said, tightening his hold like he was the only security left in the world.

And for Stiles? That felt fairly accurate.

He buried his face against Derek’s neck as he panted, unable to keep himself from writhing at the unrelenting sensation against his prostate and he couldn’t-

“I can’t, he begged, just like Derek had said he would.

“You will,” Derek disagreed amiably, “you can. Just let go and I’ll be here to catch you.”

And it was such an important promise Stiles found himself wanting to give in, just to see if it was the truth or a lie.

He’d never been one to gamble, having lost too much during his short life already, but Stiles had to be certain, had to find out for sure.

He closed his eyes and came again with a shout.



Sated.

That was the word Stiles would use if he thought he was actually capable of speech. He wasn’t though. Capable of speech.

No, he was pretty much only able to sprawl out, starfished on his back, Derek’s head on his shoulder, face pressed against the side of his throat like he hadn’t already marked a mosaic of love-bites there.

Not that Stiles minded, or anything.

But yeah, he was totally sated.

“I win,” Derek whispered against his skin and Stiles felt his lips quirk into a smile as his eyes drifted shut, too blissed out to argue even half-heartedly about the unfair advantage of werewolf stamina. Even with his toys, the ones they’d used discarded somewhere along with the come-spattered dress shirt he’d been wearing, Stiles still hadn’t been able to pull off a victory.

At least not that night.

But there was always the next.

“‘S good,” Stiles heard himself murmur before he slipped into sleep.

Chapter Text

Stiles woke up surprisingly ache-free, which he attributed to whatever magic give and take he and Derek had going on. Still, his body didn’t feel at all like what he’d expected. Not after the extremely vigorous and exhausting round, well, rounds, of sexytimes they’d had. But there he was, feeling completely fine.

So yeah, that was awesome.

What was less awesome was the amount of dried come and lube he had flaking off his torso and thighs and pretty much everywhere else, really.

Also?

The sheets were a fucking mess.

Stiles giggled to himself.

Heh, fucking mess.

He found himself so clever, sometimes.

Beside him Derek groaned and rolled away, exposing his bare back and the delicate swirls of his tattoo that Stiles actually found kind of creepy, at least since he’d discovered that getting that type of body art had involved a fucking blowtorch.

Which was not cool.

The muscles of Derek’s back, though? Those were still super sexy, even lax with sleepiness.

His entire body was like a living piece of art. It was kind of unfair, really.

“Go back to sleep, Stiles,” Derek murmured, but Stiles was having none of that. He was awake it was starting to get light out, he felt great, and he was going to get up.

Well, he was at least going to stay awake.

“Don’ think so, grumpy-wolf,” Stiles said, rolling so his front was half covering Derek’s back, shivering at the blazing warmth of his mate’s skin juxtaposed to the chill of the room. “Come on, Der,” he whispered against the back of his unmarked neck.

“Already did,” Derek grumbled.

Stiles smirked against his skin. “Yeah you did,” he said.

And speaking of-

He hooked his arm over Derek’s side, pressing his palm against his ribcage and stilling until he could feel Derek’s heartbeat. Stiles closed his eyes at the sensation, sliding his hand down over the lax softness of his muscles and lower, smiling when Derek twitched as Stiles’ fingers closed around his morning wood.

“One more time?” Stiles asked.

Derek grumbled some more, but he bent his knee enough to grant Stiles better access to his rapidly filling cock.

“Color?” Stiles asked, stilling his hand until Derek answered green in a sleep-heavy voice.

He was so beautiful like that, warm and soft and pliant under Stiles’ hand, his own hardness snug in the cleft of Derek’s ass.

“How are you not tired of sex?” Derek asked, though Stiles knew the question was pointless since he could feel Derek’s arousal as well.

“Clearly you have not seen your own naked ass, lately,” he quipped back as he clumsily tried to coordinate his thrusting with the slow jacking of his wrist with variable success. He’d never been all that graceful in the morning, nor was he quite as proficient going at it left-handed.

Derek grumbled something unintelligible and unbelievably enough, Stiles felt him start to slip back into sleep, which was extremely amusing and a tiny bit insulting. He knew his handjobs were awesome. He’d certainly had a lot of practice on himself to support that fact.

So Stiles, being the mature adult that he was, did a brief cost-benefit analysis of his next move, then gave a mental shrug and went for it, anyway.

He loosened his grip on Derek’s cock until his touch was more of a tease than anything, causing the werewolf to finally shift around a bit, like he wasn’t sure whether to push into Stiles’ too-lax grip or grind back against his hard dick in hopes that Stiles would get back with the program.

Not to be dissuaded against what he’d decided, Stiles slowly took his hand away and pressed his palm firmly against Derek’s lower abdomen, rubbing against the skin and the trail of hair there until Derek settled again, though he was by no means content with the sudden lack of stimulation.

Stiles slowly slid his hand up and down Derek’s soft skin, careful to keep his touch feather-light, then raised his palm until only his fingertips were grazing Derek’s sides.

Derek twitched.

Stiles persisted.

Derek wiggled a little bit.

Stiles kept on with his not-quite-caressing the werewolf began to rumble something about teasing, so Stiles pressed a little harder, but by that point he was concentrating mostly on Derek’s tender spots and he gave a sudden, startled jerk.

Stiles-”

He launched his full-out assault, tickling Derek mercilessly and cackling at the werewolf’s involuntary laughter as he tried to curl away from the sensation, but Stiles was pretty awesome at tickle-attacks and moved with him, relentlessly going after the most vulnerable patches of his flushed skin until he stuttered for Stiles to stop.

“Of course,” Stiles said easily as he settled against the bed, not nearly as winded as Derek, who was still chuckling as he clutched his sides and smiled fondly back at him. “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Stiles really should have anticipated the retaliatory kisses, though the subsequent exchange of lazy morning blow jobs was an unexpected bonus.



“Scottie, my man, what’s happenin’?” Stiles asked as he puttered around the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets and the fridge to get a lay of the land, as it were. He was considering throwing something together like enchiladas.

Maybe?

Did Derek even like that kind of thing? Did werewolves have food allergies?

He didn’t think so, and even if they did he was pretty sure the Hales wouldn’t keep known allergens in the house if that were the case.

“Stiles, what are you-”

“Cooking!” he announced jovially, “I’m wrestling up some grub. Preparing to feed the hoard. Grillin’ like a villai-”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Scott said with a laugh, which had been Stiles’ intention, so that worked.

He grinned over at where his phone was propped up on the counter, then began getting out the ingredients for rice and veggie enchiladas with some salsa verde to help fill them out.

And it turned out the Hales had an amazingly intuitive-to-use and efficient rice maker because of course they did.

“How’s it going, dude? I miss your face, even though I just saw it? Whatever, still true,” Stiles said, banging around different lower cabinets in search of a suitably deep pan.

“I’m, we’re good. Chris has been telling us all kinds of stuff about his family. It’s, it’s actually kind of overwhelming,” Scott admitted and Stiles forced himself to move around more quietly because that was a pretty important discussion and he didn’t want Scott to think he was brushing him off.

“Werewolf hunters, right?”

“Yeah,” Scott said, sounding sad, which was completely understandable given his sudden and unexpected species change along with his inherent love of all creatures great and small. While Stiles knew that werewolves were definitely on the human end of the critter chart, he didn’t think it would make that much of a difference when it came to Scott caring a whole lot about what happened to every living thing.

The fact that he was suddenly one such being was probably driving a bit of his fear.

Also, there had been some friction in the past between him and Chris when it came to the guy’s less werewolf-focused hunting, but that was another matter. Or maybe it wasn’t. Not anymore, at least.

“You know I’ve got your back, dude, we’re in this together, and I won’t let-”

“Stiles, he’s not going to hurt me,” Scott interrupted. “He, uh, he’s not like the rest of his family, like his sister and dad. They were-”

“Fucking nuts?” Stiles supplied as he began preparing the vegetables, giving himself a mental pep-talk as he carefully used a knife to cut the peppers into strips. He really wasn’t sure what Derek’s opinion was when it came to most foods, but hadn’t yet seen him turn anything down. And if he didn’t like what Stiles made, well, he could just fend for himself, then.

“Yeah,” Scott said quietly, “this is all kind of crazy.”

And he just sounded so dejected Stiles couldn’t help but frown at his phone.

“Dude, Scott, it’s going to be okay. No, I’ll do you one better. It’s going to be awesome. Derek and I are finally on the same page with this stuff and we’re with you and Allison one hundred percent ‘till the end. Me and you are best friends for life, remember?”

Scott made a wheezing noise that once upon a time would have been a prelude to an inhaler hit, but Stiles stopped himself just before shouting inhaler because his best friend didn’t actually need that, anymore.

“You know, it is kinda cool that you’re no longer in danger of spontaneously suffocating,” Stiles said carefully, testing the waters and maybe pushing a bit at the boundaries of acceptability.

But then again they’d been best friends pretty much forever, so it was expected that one or both of them would broach touchy subjects no one else was allowed to comment on.

Thankfully, Scott let out a sharp breath and laughed. “Yeah, it is kinda cool,” he said, probably trying to sound reluctant, but Stiles could hear the wonder in his voice.

“You know, if I didn’t have my own badass magic stuff going on, I’d probably be hella jealous of you, dude,” Stiles said with a smirk, dumping the veggies into a pan to cook a bit before he stuffed them and the rice into the tortilla shells.

Scott laughed again, but quickly sobered. “Stiles, do you know what’s going to happen to us? I mean, I heard a little bit from Mrs. Hale and Chris, but I don’t-”

“It’s fine, dude, that’s one of the reasons I called you. It’s time to tell you the master plan, but if you and Allison don’t agree then we can draft up another one, though I think this will work out. I mean, I think things are finally under control and that for once we might even have the upper hand. Me and Derek, we’re, well,” Stiles didn’t know how to ease into it so he just blurted out, “we’re engaged, Scott.”

When the anticipated high-pitched shrieking didn’t happen, Stiles paused and glanced worriedly at his phone, thinking that the connection might have been cut off or something.

“Stiles,” Scott said with palpable caution, “is Derek holding you hostage?”

He snorted out a laugh and shook his head as he began to grate some cheese. “Dude, no, of course not. I’m magical, remember. I’d totally fry his ass if he tried anything like that again-”

“Again? Stiles-” Scott shouted, but Stiles forged on.

“-so you don’t have to worry. No, I’m completely serious. I know it probably sounds crazy-”

“That’s an understatement,” Scott grumbled.

“-but I, uh, I really like him, Scott. Like, more than I’ve ever liked anyone ever before. Plus, I think this is the best course of action.”

“But do you-”

“Yeah,” Stiles interrupted, knowing where Scott was going, but still unable to actually say the words out loud. “Yeah, I do. Um, so moving on! We have me and Derek and you and Allison, and maybe her dad?”

“Definitely her dad,” Scott confirmed.

“Okay, so we have her dad and my dad, probably, on our side. What about your mom? Does she know about any of this?”

Scott made a huffing noise. “I’m pretty sure she’ll go along with whatever your dad does. Why did you have to tell me they were a thing, man? Did you know I can smell that kind of stuff, now? The lovey-dovey affection stuff? It’s gross, I didn’t ever want to know that about my mom!”

“Tough luck, Scottie-boy!” Stiles chirped, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?”

Scott’s creative brand of not-quite-swearing never ceased to amuse Stiles.

After a few minutes he wound back down, though. “So, what does all of this mean, Stiles? I mean, I know I’m apparently a werewolf, now-”

“And as far as I know that’s not something we can change. Sorry, bro,” Stiles said. He hated that it was the case, that Scott apparently didn’t have any kind of a choice, but no one had mentioned a potential cure to sudden and unexpected werewolfism.

“That’s, well, like you said. At least I don’t have asthma,” Scott replied, always the optimist.

Stiles smiled despite himself. “Yeah, dude, you’re a suped-up wolf-man! But anyway, we reached out to a kind of expert on this sort of thing, on doing negotiations between supernaturals, and you’re never going to believe who it is.”

“Deaton? Or his sister, Ms. Morrell?” Scott asked because of course he knew that.

“Dude! It’s totally Morrell. You ruined my surprise!” Stiles laughed out. Seriously, his life was full of people who knew things that he didn’t, it was a thing.

“I mean, who else would it be?” Scott asked and he sounded more baffled than gloaty, so Stiles really couldn’t get too upset about his buddy stealing his thunder.

“Fine, fine, yes. We talked to her last night and she’s going to speak to Talia about our place in the Hale pack. Terms and conditions and whatnot. You know about the omega thing, right?”

“Yeah, Chris filled me in about a lot of that stuff.”

“Good, so yeah, we want you to be safe, which means being a part of a pack-”

“But Stiles, what about you? Will you be safe with the Hales?”

“He’ll be fine if we’re there to protect him and his interests,” Derek said from the doorway. Stiles wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there, but it didn’t really matter, he supposed. The two of them had already talked about all of it and had agreed that Scott should be fully informed of what was going on. Still, it was nice to have the three of them talking together in the same space, even if Scott wasn’t actually physically there.

“Yep, what Derek said,” he told his friend, who for once didn’t argue the point.

And maybe he was already using his werewolfiness to tell whether or not Derek was lying?

Whatever, it didn’t matter, the two of them were getting along and things were finally starting to work out for the best.

“So, here are the terms we’re giving Talia-”



“I still can’t believe the hickies healed overnight,” Stiles said, fidgeting against the leather seat of the SUV. Derek, unsurprisingly, had insisted on driving them to the Youngblood and West office for Stiles’ meeting and was back to being his typical broody self.

Which was something Stiles had thought he’d trained him out of, or brought him out of, maybe, but then again he considered that it could be a situational thing. Sometimes Derek was cheerful and smiley and full of playfulness, while other times he was a for serious professional that gave off don’t-fuck-with-me vibes. Similar to how he’d seemed when Stiles had first, literally, run into him at the yoga studio.

Derek grunted something in reply. Or maybe the grunt was his reply. Either way, it wasn’t exactly a response Stiles found entirely acceptable, but then again he remembered how bummed he’d felt when he’d realized that Derek’s quick-healing abilities meant that his own marks faded rapidly from his mate’s skin when Derek didn’t actively concentrate on keeping them there.

So it was probably something to do with that.

Also? Stiles was a bit keyed up in anticipation of meeting with Mr. Youngblood.

“Will you mark me again when we get home?” Stiles asked quietly, trying and failing to keep his fidgeting to a minimum. It wasn’t his fault there were so many buttons on the dashboard.

Derek glanced over at him, brows furrowed, then back at the road. “Would you,” he paused to clear his throat. “Would you like me to?”

Stiles grinned at him. “Of course, Der. I like wearing your mark, and I like it when you have mine, too.”

Although he didn’t say it, Stiles could tell Derek was pretty pleased with his admission.

“Why are you so nervous?” Derek asked after a few more blocks.

Stiles couldn’t keep himself from wiggling some more in anticipation and yeah, there were some nerves going on.

“Um, I don’t know, maybe because I’m meeting with one of the owners of the company? And maybe also because the last people I worked for them I ended up auditing a company turned out to be filled with violent psychopaths that turned my flatmate into a werewolf and then shot him in the head in front of me and were plotting to kidnap me and my future niece or nephew?” He had to pause to take a breath and gladly took Derek’s offered hand in both of his.

“I get it,” Derek said softly, “but I’m going to be with you the whole time, so there’s no need to worry.”

Which was a nice sentiment, but also wasn’t the point at all.

Stiles rubbed Derek’s hand between his. “That’s sweet, but it doesn’t really stop me from wanting to flail around, though I think I can probably restrain myself. Seeing that we’re in a moving vehicle and all. I wouldn’t want to put someone’s eye out or accidentally make you drive off the road or anything.”

“Appreciated,” Derek said dryly, glancing over again with a smirk.

Stiles grinned at him and brought Derek’s warm hand to his face, nuzzling against it and enjoying the sensation of his mate’s ultra soft skin against his nose and cheeks and lips. He persisted even when Derek let out a little wolfish growl.

“Stiles,” he said, a warning and a promise all wrapped up in one.

He grinned against Derek’s skin and licked across his knuckles, which was apparently crossing whatever line he’d stumbled onto because Derek very deliberately took his hand back and gripped the steering wheel at ten and two.

“So I guess you don’t want to have car sex with me before my interview meeting whatever thing today?” he asked cheekily and enjoyed the flush that crept up Derek’s scruffy cheeks.

“No, Stiles, I’m not going to have sex with you right now,” he said with faux patience. Stiles could tell he was really just about at the end of his self-control and yeah, he should probably stop teasing.

But it was so much fun to watch Derek squirm.

So he gave a big, fake pout and crossed his arms over his chest. “Spoilsport.”

Derek glanced at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You’re the one who’s spoiled.”

Stiles made a shocked noise as he playfully slapped the back of his hand against Derek’s arm. “You’re mean, Mr. Hale. I liked you better when you were begging me to stop tickling you this morning.”

“And I prefer when you’re spread out beneath me, begging to be fucked,” Derek retorted easily and Stiles let out a full-fledged laugh at that.

“Touche,” he said, settling back against his seat and enjoying the easy silence that lasted until they reached the imposing dark-glass office building. He directed Derek toward the proper ramp and they found a parking spot in short order.

“So, we’re early,” Stiles pointed out, “which is awesome. I definitely prefer getting places early rather than late. We should probably wait a few minutes before we go in, though. Right? I mean, we don’t want to show up too early. That’s like. That’s bad form.”

Derek pressed a calming hand against Stiles’ cheek, which coincidentally made him look Derek in the eyes. “Everything is going to be fine, Stiles,” he assured. “We’re going to make sure Mr. Youngblood intends to keep his word about the offer he made you. You will likely need to answer some questions about Argent Unlimited and the things that happened, but I’ll be by your side the entire time.”

“You’re not a cop, though, well not anymore,” Stiles pointed out. “What if they don’t let you stay?”

“I’ll stay,” Derek insisted, like that was that.

And while Stiles wanted to believe it was that simple, he knew better than to pin his hopes on words alone, or even just on good intentions.

“We can say that I’m your bodyguard,” Derek suggested, lowering his hand to take one of Stiles’. He was totally serious, too. It was kind of adorable.

“That’s,” Stiles started, but the thing was, that was actually a really great idea. “That’s a great idea,” he said with a smile. “Yeah, you can totally be my bodyguard. I mean, you have the qualifications, you’re an ex-cop, a family friend, I can pay you in sexual favors, which no one else needs to know about-”

Derek laughed and gave him a quick kiss, which effectively shut Stiles up and put a big, probably-goofy grin on his face.

But of course his brain was already in disaster-preparedness mode, so he let out a sigh as his good mood dissipated.

“What is it?” Derek asked with the same understanding tone that Stiles still couldn't’ quite believe was real. Well, he knew Derek was sincere, but it was decidedly unreal that anyone would have quite that much patience with him.

Stiles was self-aware enough to know that he was kind of fucking annoying when he was anxious.

“It’s just,” he started, then shook his head and tried again. “It’s just that I don’t know whether or not the whole Argent-Hale family feud thing is going to come up. And if it does, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.”

Derek was nodding along with what Stiles said and leaned over the center console to wrap him in as much of a hug as they could manage given the car parts digging into their stomachs. “I know you’re worried and I can’t make that go away with words alone, but remember that I’m going to be by your side for as long as you want me there.”

And that was a whole lot more than a simple bodyguard assignment. That was more along the lines of ‘till death do us part.

Stiles let himself sink into the warmth of the slightly awkward embrace for several long beats until he finally pulled back with a coy smile.

“So, what should our colors be?” he asked and reveled in the look of confusion on Derek’s face.

“Colors?”

“For our wedding,” he clarified and couldn’t contain his laugh when Derek rolled his eyes.

“You’re such a brat.”

“Sure am,” Stiles chirped. “Come on, I think we’ll be fashionably early if we head in, now. But seriously,” he continued when they’d both exited the vehicle. “What’s up with us getting married? I mean, of course yes,” he said, waving a hand like he could ward off the worry Derek was throwing his way. “But I mean, like, is there some kind of logistics thing we need to talk about? What about your family traditions? It seems like those might be important when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Derek put a gentle hand on the back of Stiles’ neck and let him ramble his way into the building, not even attempting to interject or answer any of the dozen questions Stiles threw out there while he led them through the familiar maze of corridors to the main lobby.

“This is impressive,” Derek commented when Stiles finally wound down enough for him to get a word in edgewise. And yeah, Stiles needed to learn how to shut up every once in a while if he was going to have meaningful conversations with his mate.

But it definitely wasn’t the time for that, not with his future career on the line.

And Stiles hadn’t really taken the time to look around the entrance of Youngblood and West, not since he had first started working there. It was pretty amazing, though, with dark-tinted glass arching overhead along one wall. All of the windows in the whole place were the same, appearing to reflect gold from the outside and shading the sunlight from within. The furniture in the waiting area was all kind of bland minimalist stuff Stiles found in most places he ended up auditing, though the ones in the lobby were in darker shades instead of the more typical pale blues or whites. Despite that, it all fit in with the general somberness of the decor.

“Moody,” Derek commented as he took a look around at the mostly empty area. Not many people tended to walk into the building who didn’t work there, and those who did tended to be swept up to the higher floors quickly enough to meet with whomever they were hiring to audit them.

“May I help you?” An older woman asked from behind the main desk at the center of the room in front of a bank of elevators that Stiles knew only went to the main floors. The executive elevators were further down the hall and around a corner away from where normal plebes could easily stumble upon them.

“Uh, yes, hi. I have an appointment with Mr. Youngblood. I’m a little early, but yeah,” Stiles said, trailing off.

The woman gave him a blank look. “Your name?”

“Oh, right. Uh, Stilinski. That is my name,” he said and he was kind of glad Derek had already pretty much seen him at his worst or else he’d be kind of mortified.

Well, okay, so he was kind of mortified, but Stiles was by no means new to embarrassing himself in public, so he just accepted the fact that his face was flushed splotchy red and that his hands were sweating from that little social exchange, alone. Things, in his experience, would only get worse.

“Mr. Stilinski, yes,” the woman said, glancing down at her computer screen and back up to him, but her attention was definitely more focused on Derek than on him. “And this would be?” she asked, her tone implying it wasn’t just innocent inquiry. She was definitely, unabashedly, checking Derek out.

Which would have been kind of funny if it wasn’t so blatantly offensive.

“Uh-”

“Mr. Stilinski, this way, please,” a clipped voice called from the hallway leading to the forbidden elevators Stiles hadn’t ever gotten to use since he’d never had a reason to bother the higher-ups. There had been all kinds of rumors about them, though, but he was pretty sure Par-Man was lying about his own little trip to the top floor and the secret wall panel that held expensive bottles of bourbon for the ride up. There was no way a guy like that could get such an exclusive invite.

Though apparently Stiles could?

When he and Derek cleared the edge of the wall they were met by a straight-backed, dark-skinned woman who had an angular bob haircut and a well-tailored white suit.

Very dramatic, all things considered.

Derek wrinkled his nose, but didn’t comment as they followed the unnamed woman down the hall.

“Mr. Youngblood is expecting to discuss with you the new terms of your contract, as well as any conditions you may have for the position,” she said as she waved a fob over a sleek-looking control panel on the wall. The elevator doors whispered open and they went in, Derek silently guiding Stiles to enter before him, which was probably a werewolf thing?

A mates thing?

Whatever, Stiles was tucked into the corner behind him, like Derek really was acting as his bodyguard. And hey, if it made him feel better to keep up the charade Stiles wasn’t going to argue. Especially not in front of company.

The woman apparently didn’t feel the need to keep up any kind of conversation with him as the elevator rose smoothly, the red number above the door ticking higher and higher, so Stiles glanced around the sleek gold and black space, though he didn’t see anything like a secret booze compartment.

Because Par-Man was such a liar.

The woman, who Stiles suddenly realized hadn’t actually introduced herself, stood with her hands folded in front of her, head tilted back slightly to watch the numbers tick higher. The white lines of her suite certainly worked to accentuate her lithe frame, that was for sure, and Stiles forced himself to glance away lest she think he was trying to check her out or something.

Which he wasn’t. Stiles just found himself drawn to aesthetically pleasing things, was all.

Like Derek, who, as he could see in the reflection of the elevator walls, was trying to glare a hole in the back of the woman’s head.

Stiles poked him as surreptitiously as he could and tried to convey his request for the werewolf to chill the hell out before they got themselves kicked out or something.

And maybe bringing Derek along with him hadn’t been the best decision. Especially if the werewolf couldn’t fix his face in an expression other than his patented scowl.

Thankfully, before things had a chance to get even more awkward, the doors dinged softly and slid open into a dimly-lit hallway and the two of them followed the soft clicking of the woman’s heels across the dark wooden floor. The walls were inset with different pieces of art, all in dark reds and blacks and browns interspersed with golden accents. The ceiling was low and tiered in dark wood to match the floors.

All in all, it was very dramatic and very much not what Stiles expected to find on the top floor of an office building in the middle of Chicago.

But then again, he’d never rubbed elbows with anyone particularly important before, so maybe it was normal?

For the incredibly wealthy?

Whatever, Stiles was more concerned with the kill things vibe Derek had going on. He was very much not behaving like a concerned lover or a friend or even like a bodyguard. No, he was practically stalking forward, body poised as if on the verge of violent motion, like a predator.

“Calm down,” Stiles whispered under his breath as he seized hold of Derek’s bicep, turning the gesture into a companionable kind of arm-linking move when the woman glanced back at them.

And Stiles was pretty sure his forced grin made him look deranged, but she didn’t seem to care as she turned back toward wherever it was they were going. To the end of the long hallway, apparently.

“Something’s wrong,” Derek insisted.

Which, yeah, Stiles got that Derek must have felt that way or else he wouldn’t have been acting so wolfish in mixed company, but it wasn’t as if they could do anything about it. Except adapt the adage keep calm and carry on. Because Stiles still had his meeting to attend and if Derek wasn’t going to behave? Well-

“Please calm down,” Stiles tried instead of reprimanding him or telling him to take a hike or anything even more extreme. After all, they were in it together, no matter the outcome.

Which was hopefully not getting Stiles fired, but if that happened he’d just figure out a way to deal with it and move on. Not that he wanted to get fired or anything.

And Stiles really hoped Derek wasn’t intentionally trying to sabotage his career.

“Stay near me, no matter what happens,” Derek told him in a low voice, too quiet for the woman to hear.

Stiles glanced at him, his profile shadowed by the indirect lighting in the dim hallway, but he couldn’t see anything other than grim determination on Derek’s face.

So at least he wasn’t consciously setting Stiles up to fail.

Probably?

He responded by giving Derek’s arm a squeeze where it was hooked around his. And it kind of seemed like Derek was overreacting about the whole thing, but then again Stiles didn’t have werewolf senses, so he wasn’t sure what he was picking up on other than the woman’s cold indifference.

Something suspicious, apparently.

“I’m glad you came with me,” Stiles said as they reached the twin door made from beautifully carved wood. Whatever happened, he figured having his mate by his side, both literally and figuratively, was for the best.

The woman pushed against the golden handles and warm air from inside the room rushed against their skin as she entered ahead of them.

Derek’s eyes flared blue as he roared.

Chapter Text

Stiles stood there at the threshold of Mr. Youngblood’s office gaping at his mate like an idiot.

Derek was wolfed out; eyes and fangs and claws, missing eyebrows, the whole shebang. Well, everything short of sprouting a tail and actually turning into Ginger Bear. He was trying to keep his body between Stiles and the others, growling viciously and exuding a kind of anger that was just shy of rage.

Like a cornered animal.

But Stiles, he just glanced from Derek to Mr. Youngblood, who was standing with his hands clasped behind him, back to them as he gazed out the large tinted window that made up the entirety of the wall and most of the ceiling. The view was spectacular from there, but not even that could distract Stiles from the craziness of the situation.

“Derek, wha-” he began, but then his boss turned around and his words dried up along with the moisture in his mouth.

Because Mr. Youngblood was not human.

Stiles wasn’t even sure how he knew that, since it was the first time they’d been in the same room together and nothing in his research or their phone interactions had clued him into the fact that there was definitely something odd going on with his boss. It wasn’t even because of Mr. Youngblood’s larger-than-life appearance, either. True, he was a bit on the bigger size, a stout man, some would say, but that wasn’t that. It was the look in his dark eyes, the twinkle of intelligence there that seemed to convey a breadth of knowledge far beyond the years of his middle-aged body. And maybe Stiles’ instinct came from the same place as when he’d figured out how the cop in Wisconsin had been a werewolf, though he didn’t think Mr. Youngblood was that kind of supernatural creature.

Even though there were fangs peeking out beneath his thin upper lip.

“Ah, Mr. Stilinski, had I known you were so intimately acquainted with a wolf, I would have extended my invitation to him as well. Please forgive the faux pas,” he said easily, as if Derek weren’t actively freaking out and his own teeth hadn’t betrayed the fact that fangs did not a human make.

Stiles was kind of at a loss for what to say. On the one hand, okay, but on the other-

“What the hell is going on?” he blurted out and promptly slapped a hand over his mouth.

And apparently he wouldn’t have to worry about Derek getting him fired because Stiles was definitely capable of digging that particular grave himself.

But Mr. Youngblood just threw back his head and laughed, his jowls quivering with the movement, his too-sharp teeth brilliantly white against the general pallor of his face juxtaposed to the dark red of the roof of his mouth. The woman who had brought them up moved across the room to a sleek-looking standing desk where she began typing, otherwise ignoring them. There were two other young-looking attendants standing on either side of the large space, a pale man and a tanned woman. They also didn’t seem overly concerned by the whole werewolf revelation as they watched the proceedings with blank expressions.

It was eerie, was what it was.

“He’s a vampire,” Derek spat, his own fangs causing his words to lisp kind of adorably. Well, it would have been adorable if Stiles’ entire worldview hadn’t just been tilted onto its head. Werewolves and witches were one thing, but vampires?

What?” he asked, eyes darting between them again because even though he was pretty open minded, Stiles was having a hard time accepting the new information as fact. His boss was all rounded edges, and seemed like the type who’d been born to wear a suit, not to drink people’s blood. He was meticulously well-groomed, his hands were too small for his body, and he looked pretty much harmless, even with the delicately-pointed fangs. Stiles knew not to judge a book by its cover, though. Laura looked harmless enough, but she could toss a grown man across the room without breaking a sweat.

Lorenzo Youngblood just didn’t look like a creature of the night, was all.

Except for the fangs.

“Your boss is a vampire, Stiles,” Derek spat out, his body thrumming with alertness as he tried to keep his eyes on Mr. Youngblood and his three assistants at the same time, which just kind of made him look even more like a cornered animal. Derek certainly seemed to feel like it as well, if the vibes he was giving off were anything to go-

“Wait,” Stiles said, holding his hands up as if to ward off the crazy in the room. “Wait, vampires are real?” he asked, still struggling to make sense of the anger pouring from his mate juxtaposed with the casual attitude Mr. Youngblood seemed to have about the whole growling werewolf situation.

“As real as witches,” Youngblood said jovially. “Or do you prefer another designation, young one?”

“I’m, how did you-”

“All further questions regarding such topics should be directed through our emissary,” Derek interrupted, extracting his arm from Stiles’ and draping it across his shoulders, pulling him in until their sides were pressed flush, though they weren’t even all the way into the room, so Stiles wasn’t sure what Derek’s game was.

Mr. Youngblood apparently thought the blatant show of protectiveness was hilarious because he burst out laughing again.

And wait-

“Youngblood as in a young person’s blood? Your name is seriously a pun for what you eat?” Stiles asked with an involuntary smile. “Dude, that’s actually kind of funny.”

“Isn’t it?” his boss asked, cracking up again.

And either he was on something or he was just incredibly easily amused. Either way, Stiles could roll with that, if Derek stopped freaking out and let him get things moving. He basically had a job to interview for, after all.

“So, this is unexpected. Or did you know about me before I was hired? Wait, did you hire me because-”

“No, no,” Mr. Youngblood interrupted with a wave of his surprisingly small hand, “You weren’t hired because of your proclivities-”

Proclivities?”

“-you were hired you because of your academic achievements and interview skills, just like the rest of the employees, here. The fact that you happen to be a witch doesn’t matter any more than the fact that Olma here is a harpy, or that Chuck is a selkie,” the assistants in question nodded as their names were spoken, the tanned woman and the young man, though they didn’t otherwise look interested in following the discussion as Derek finally let Stiles pull him fully into the room. “But,” Mr. Youngblood continued, “I won’t lie to you, the sense of community upon recognizing someone else who is not entirely human is refreshing. No offense meant, Glenda.” The woman who had shown them up inclined her head in acknowledgement, but didn’t look away from the screen she was using.

“So,” Stiles said, “you didn’t know I was a spark?”

“A spark, how quaint!” Mr. Youngblood exclaimed. “That’s such a delightful turn of phrase.”

Stiles glanced at Derek and at least he’d stopped growling, but his face was still beta-fied and he was definitely still pissed off.

“But how-”

Mr. Youngblood waved one of his petite-looking hands. “Yes, yes, in time. But let us get comfortable, first. Come, have a seat. May I offer you any refreshments? You are my guests, after all.”

“No,” Derek said a touch too curtly to be considered polite, but his face gradually melted back from wonky beta werewolf into his normal eyebrowed, glaring expression. “No refreshments. We are here to negotiate the terms of Stiles’ employment, not to make friends or gossip about the goings-on in the supernatural community.”

Stiles gave a fake laugh and elbowed his mate in the side. “What Derek means is that we’d be happy to sit and talk with you. Thank you for the invitation.”

Derek grunted, but allowed Stiles to pull them forward to where two low-backed chairs sat facing Mr. Youngblood’s long wooden desk and his throne-like leather chair, which looked out of place amongst the otherwise modern furniture, but still seemed to fit with the man’s abundant personality.

“Nice digs,” Stiles said, glancing around again. he could roll with the whole vampire thing, he was pretty sure. As long as no one tried to drain or hypnotise him or anything. “So, yeah, I’m a spark. You’re apparently a vampire. Which, good for you-”

Mr. Youngblood inclined his head with a magnanimous smile.

“-and did you smell the magic on me, or-”

“I’ve known of your abilities since the interview process began and our background check revealed the particularly unfortunate run-in you had with another witch.”

Stiles’ felt his heart lurch, but he battled to suppress the churn of emotions he always experienced when Cassandra was brought up. She wasn’t there, he was safe enough with Derek at his side. No one was going to try to rip out his heart-

“We are not discussing that, or any other facet of Stiles’ personal life,” Derek said, his tone brokering no argument and derailing Stiles' anxiety train.

Mr. Youngblood smiled indulgently at him, apparently not at all thrown by his aggressive attitude. “As you say, wolf. What is your name? We have not yet been properly introduced.”

“My name is Derek Hale,” he said. Curt and still glaring, though at least he’d dropped the wolf eyes, too.

“Of the Hale pack? Yes, I have had conversations with Talia Hale about territory lines in the past. Rollin was the one who encouraged us to go green, as it’s called.” Mr. Youngblood said and Stiles had to keep himself from confessing that they weren’t actually members of the Hale pack at the moment because that was frankly none of his boss’ business, and also he was pretty sure saying something like that would have made Derek freak the hell out some more.

Though of course his body language or scent - did vampires even have elevated senses? - must have given him away because Mr. Youngblood gave him an evaluating look, quirking one of his pale eyebrows in question.

“Or perhaps you are wiser than that, eh, spark? But, as your mate says, we are not here to discuss pack politics. Olma,” he said, clapping his hands and ignoring Stiles’ open-mouthed stare, “the papers, if you please.”

Derek shifted uncomfortably in the chair next to him, but didn’t bring up the fact that Mr. Youngblood had also figured out their actual relationship as mates. Either that or he’d just said that to check for sure, but regardless, their silence had given them away.

Clever bastard.

Olma, who was apparently a harpy when she wasn’t an attractively human-looking person, brought out copies of what Stiles assumed was the modified contract he’d discussed with Mr. Youngblood over the phone. She handed one to her boss and the other to Derek, probably knowing that the werewolf wouldn’t take kindly to having another supernatural being up close and personal with his mate.

Or maybe she’d handed the papers to Derek because he was the one closer to where she’d been standing?

Whatever.

“Mr. Stilinski, I know you prefer not to be referred to by your legal name, so may I call you Stiles? Yes? Good. You may call me Lorenzo. Now, Stiles, we are in a delicate position with this Argent business, and don’t think that I don’t know about your family’s role in things, Mr. Hale,” he said, pointing at Derek with a good-natured smirk. Not at all accusatory or threatening, though Derek’s lips curled back in a barred-tooth mockery of a smile. “But,” Lorenzo continued, waving his hand as if to dispel the uncomfortable reminder of the Hale-Argent blood feud, “I do need to know the real story of what occurred, not just the things that made it into the report. I assume the Hales played a part in getting the whole thing cleaned up quite effectively before the paperwork was filed, which is fine, but it doesn’t help me see the entire picture, now does it? But regardless of what happened, this conversation is entirely off the record, of course,” and as soon as he said that the three assistants walked out the door in a neat line.

Which was an oddly choreographed move, but then again Stiles hadn’t ever been in an office where the person in charge had three assistants, so his perception of things was likely skewed by his inexperience and lack of dealing with high-rollers. Maybe assistants were expected to do things at the same time.

Synchronized office-ing?

Was that a thing?

If it was Stiles felt confident that it was something that occurred in a realm way above his paygrade and and floor, which was over a dozen below where he was sitting beside his lover and across from the man who would singlehanded determine the course of Stiles’ future.

Also, maybe unimportantly, Mr. Youngblo- Lorenzo, was different in person than he’d on the phone, which was only partially attributed to the fact that Stiles had become aware of his identity as a vampire. That was obviously a bit of a game-changer. He was still charismatic, but not nearly as talkative as he had been.

Though that could have been because of Derek’s unexpected appearance and his buzz-kill grumping.

“I, uh,” Stiles began, but his mate put a hand on his knee, radiating censure.

“If Stiles tells you his version of events, we need your assurance that none of what he says will be used against him.”

And that was an excellent point.

"What he said," Stiles echoed probably unnecessarily, but whatever. Derek gave his knee a reassuring squeeze.

Lorenzo spread his hands in a shrug. "This conversation is, as I said, off the record. The only ones who will hear of it are the three of us, and I doubt it is in any of our best interests to share each others' secrets. Don't you agree wolf? Spark?"

"Vampire," Derek replied, but he seemed onboard with the whole share and tell concept.

And if Stiles couldn't trust Derek's judgement when it came to that kind of stuff he was beyond screwed, so he took a deep breath and began at the beginning.

"It all started when I was assigned to Argent Unlimited-"



Lorenzo Youngblood watched them carefully, his dark eyes hooded in contemplation.

"So you are telling me that your powers manifested for the first time when you were under duress and looking out for the best interests of this company?" he asked calmly, but Stiles could tell there was a bundle of emotions brewing beneath his deceptively calm, middle-aged exterior.

Stiles shifted in his chair, not even Derek's steady hand still resting on his knee could keep him from kind of sort of freaking out.

Internally.

For the most part.

"Uh, yeah?" he said, kind of hating how it sounded like a question. He cleared his throat. "Yes. I know I uh, that it kind of seems like I deliberately put myself in danger to get to the bottom of the issue-"

Derek growled his displeasure at that.

"-but I can't say that I'm sorry because I did reveal a pretty significant breach of ethics and the law and uh, you know, the whole werewolf kidnapping thing. That can't be okay, not even with the whole hunter's creed or whatever."

"The code. And yes, you are correct," Lorenzo said, nodding slightly. "No hunter may harm or otherwise interfere with a supernatural entity if no human has been harmed, unprovoked. That's the gist of it, at least, though there are caveats and exceptions and even a few side agreements made with different covens and septs, though those are mostly regional affairs and don’t factor into this situation. The Argents, though, they're old blood," he smirked at that, like he'd told a joke, and considering that he was vampire, maybe he had. Stiles smiled uncertainly because it was kind of funny. “It is expected for them to keep to some of the more conservative traditions,” Lorenzo continued, “but the mass manufacturing of aconite and the unjust kidnapping, turning, and slaughter of wolves are not part of that tradition. At least not since the code was implemented."

Stiles glanced at Derek, who nodded quietly.

"The Hales have some dealings with these particular Argents, I've been told," Lorenzo said with a level look. "There were bad dealings which led to bad blood betwixt the two. Things have progressed quite dangerously if this is the fallout we can expect from their feud."

It was a warning as much as a statement.

And that wouldn’t do.

"Yeah, I don’t think we have to worry about that, anymore," Stiles said slowly, not really knowing how much he wanted to get into his lover's former blood feud with his best friend's wife's family. That was just a whole lot of potential awkward and maiming and destruction. "So, uh, now that you know my story, what does, uh, does that change anything? I mean, being slightly magical doesn't change my ability to analyze numbers-"

Lorenzo shook his head slowly, eying the two of them, and he had clearly not forgotten about the Argent-Hale connection. But thankfully he seemed willing to move onto the actual topic at hand. "Not to worry, not to worry. You've demonstrated a keen eye for detail and an unparalleled ability to recognize and investigate unusual patterns. We're keeping you on as a consultant, as we discussed. The new terms of your employment  and a proposed compensation package are detailed in that paperwork," he nodded to the packet in Derek's hand. "Why don't you take a day or two to look over and if you agree to the terms, sign it, then drop it off before you leave again for California?"

Stiles was kind of at a loss. It was almost too good to be true.

"That sounds reasonable," Derek said for him when the moment stretched a beat too long. "We will return it before our flight. We can see ourselves out."

He stood, easily dragging Stiles upright with him before ushering them out the door despite Stiles' attempt at a half-stuttered farewell. Glenda met them by the elevator and waved her fob at the sensor to open the door, but she made no move to get in with them.

Which was probably for the best because as soon as they'd gotten inside and Derek had mashed the button for the lobby, Stiles found himself pressed against the mirrored wall with his arms full of trembling werewolf.

"Woah, dude, Derek," he said, clutching onto his mate’s shoulders and holding tightly. "Hey, it's okay, we're okay."

Derek made a low whining noise and tried to shuffle closer, which wasn’t actually possible unless he was intent on merging with Stiles’ ribcage.

Not knowing what else to do, Stiles carefully brought one hand up to grip the back of Derek’s neck. Scruffing, he knew it was called from lazy hours spent watching documentaries on various wild animals and puppies. Stiles was pretty sure scruffing was a wolf thing, too.

And apparently he was right because Derek seemed to melt against him, releasing a rumbling kind of sound from his chest that was decidedly not human in origin.

“Come on, big guy, it’ll be okay,” Stiles said, but he didn’t need Derek’s answering groan to know the werewolf had heard his heart stutter with the lie.

Because the truth was, neither of them knew how things would turn out.



Stiles easily commandeered the keys from Derek and drove them to a park along the shore of Lake Michigan where he sometimes ran when the weather wasn’t freezing cold. But since that was definitely the case the two of them stayed in the SUV with the heat on and looked out over the gray water and darkening evening sky.

“So, vampires are real,” Stiles blurted out, then winced because it was obviously a touchy subject for whatever reason. “Um, and selkies and harpies,” he continued because he didn’t know what else to do with Derek’s stony silence and broody eyebrows besides talk at him.

“I don’t like that he knows about you, that you’re a spark and are involved with my mother’s pack,” Derek finally grumbled. His arms were folded across his chest and he was throwing off some complicated emotions, oscillating between worry and anger. It was a stomach-churning combination, even if they weren’t Stiles’ own emotions that he was feeling.

Perhaps because they weren’t Stiles’ emotions.

“Hey, it’s fine, though. Right? I mean, wouldn’t you have been able to hear if he’d been lying or smelled his evil intentions or something?”

Derek shook his head, another gust of fear bursting from him. “No, that’s the thing, Stiles. Vampires are different. They don’t have normal heartbeats or chemosignals, which are common scents that come from feeling different emotions. A majority of what I smelled from him were the leftover scents of the people he feeds from. His attendants, mostly, though there were a few others.”

And holy shit, that was weird, but it probably meant that Stiles’ boss didn’t have to kill for his meals if he dined in. But still, ew.

“Yuck, that is a gross image,” he said, grimacing at the thought of all that blood and he wasn’t going to think about that anymore. “But that just means you have to read him like you’re a normal person, right. I mean, people don’t typically have the werewolf advantage of being able to discern lies by listening to heartbeats or tell how someone is feeling through their scent. We’re going to have to look at his actions and his history to determine whether or not we can trust him. And if the answer is no, then we’ll walk. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be staying in Chicago. That ship has definitely sailed. We’re returning to Beacon Hills at the end of the week and I may or may not have a job when we do.”

“But you said-”

“I said I wanted to keep my job, yeah,” Stiles interrupted, “but not at the expense of my future. I like what I do, but this isn’t the only place that hires people like me. Sure, it might be hard to find something in California in today’s economy, and with the whole Argent thing still tied up in court or whatever, but I have a bit of savings and if I have to I’ll live with my dad-”

“We can get a place, I’ll pay for everything-”

“Except you’ve got to know that wouldn’t work for me,” Stiles said, then rushed to continue when he saw and felt Derek’s mood plummet. “The mooching off of you thing,” he clarified. “I know it would be best for us to live together, but I’m not going to do that if I can’t contribute. I don’t like feeling beholden to anyone, especially not someone I actually really like.”

“We don’t have to worry about money,” Derek insisted.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Part of life is worrying about money, dude. But regardless, we’ll make it work, one way or another. Now, you don’t think Youngblood, god that’s suddenly a very creepy name, will sell me out or anything, do you? I mean, I’ve heard that sparks are rare, but-”

“No, I believe he thinks of you as too valuable an asset to let you get mixed up in anything like that. He’d better,” Derek amended with a frown.

“Well, it’s a good thing I can summon lightning, then, isn’t it?” Stiles said with a smirk, attempting levity, but the conversation had sunk a bit too low for that. “Whatever, he seems to know the score, so why don’t we focus on what the hell we’re going to do with this kind of information. I mean, it seems like we should probably tell your mom, but as far as I know Ms. Morrell is still in the process of talking to her about our place in the pack, so we should maybe go to her first? Like, test the waters or something? But do we even trust her with this kind of information?”

Derek seemed to be at as much of a loss as Stiles.

“Neither of us know what to do,” Stiles said because it seemed like it needed saying.

“Whatever we end up deciding, we’ll do it together,” Derek insisted, and Stiles couldn’t help but smile. “But for now we should head back to the house and get changed. Our reservation is at seven and I don’t want us to miss it.”

Stiles blinked at him, opening and closing his mouth a few times. “Uh, you still want to go out tonight?” he hazarded.

Derek nodded and reached over to put a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. “Of course. I did win, didn’t I?” he asked with a cheeky smile and even though his enthusiasm was a touch forced, it was still enough to make Stiles grin back at him.

Chapter Text

“You want me to wear that in public?” Stiles asked, eying the simple black satin underwear with a delicate lace trim. The rest of the outfit Derek had chosen for him was normal enough, one of Stiles’ button up shirts he’d just ironed and a nice pair of slacks, but he was still hung up on the panties.

Only partially because they were definitely designed for a woman, though it wasn’t like Stiles had a monster cock, so he figured he wasn’t going to be in danger of slipping out of it. Not unless he got hard and moved around a lot or something.

Which was maybe likely?

“Is that a problem?” Derek asked, his smirk was still in place, but he seemed to tense the longer Stiles stood there and stared at the clothing laid out for him on the bed.

Stiles adjusted the towel he’d wrapped around his waist and shook his head faintly, sliding the fingers of his free hand through his still damp hair.

“No, it’s not a problem, but I just kind of expected a bit, uh, a bit more? I mean, it’s fine,” he clarified when Derek began to fidget because a fidgeting Derek was definitely an uncomfortable Derek and that wouldn’t do. “I like them,” he said definitively because he did. “They look really sexy.”

They’d probably feel amazing, too, snug around his hips and ass. The silky texture against the sensitive skin of his cock. Stiles hadn’t often dabbled in wearing women’s lingerie, not nearly as many times as he’d worn skirts or dresses, but he definitely could tell that some serious craftsmanship had gone into the pair in front of him.

“You don’t have to-”

“I very much want to, Derek,” Stiles said, reaching out to trace a fingertip around the black lace band. “I was actually expecting for you to make me wear something underneath it, too.”

“Underneath? Like-” Derek trailed off as he seemed to catch on and then his whole face flushed red.

“Yeah,” Stiles said with a grin, “I was totally expecting you to have me put in the prostate massager or a plug or something. This is nice, though, I like this. It’s titillating without the potential for becoming overwhelming.”

Derek tilted his head a bit, like he was working through what Stiles had said. “Are those things you mentioned what you would have had me wear?” he asked slowly. And Stiles was definitely determined to rid him of that hesitance when it came to talking about personal things.

Especially personal sexy things.

But at least they were actually talking about it. They’d certainly made some major strides, what with their kink re-negotiation and all, but Derek was still oddly reticent about some topics of conversation.

So Stiles shrugged, like the discussion was a lot more casual than it truly was. “I was going to have you wear something really nice, like that suit in the back of your closet, and underneath that I was going to have you wear a dress shirt and a comfortable pair of your boxer briefs and under that I would have definitely chosen a toy or two. Maybe even a cock ring, who knows?”

Derek’s eyes flashed blue before he got himself under control and cleared his throat.

“I can wear the suit if you’d like. The place where we’re eating supper is nice enough to warrant it.”

And Stiles was terribly curious about that, the restaurant where Derek had chosen for them to eat, but he didn’t push for the name because it was clearly meant to be some kind of a surprise.

“It is, huh?” Stiles said with a grin. “That sounds cool. My mom used to teach etiquette classes at the library and I always had to go with her because my dad was working nights, so don’t worry about me embarrassing you by using the wrong salad fork or anything, I’ve got that stuff locked down. Though I think I tend to follow a more European than American style of dining, since that’s what she knew.”

And Stiles hadn’t figured that out until college when one of his professors had commented on it during a fancy awards dinner he’d been required to go to. Still, Stiles had done far better than a majority of his classmates, who had bumbled around shoveling down giant mouthfuls of food and drinking too much wine and generally making asses of themselves. His mother’s lessons had definitely come in handy in that situation, as well as plenty of others.

Derek shook his head faintly. “No, that’s fine, Stiles. Would you like to get dressed? I’ll jump in the shower, quick. Feel free to come into the bathroom if you need anything. We should leave in about half an hour, if that’s okay with you.”

Sometimes it was really hard to believe that Stiles had nabbed such a considerate, beautiful mate. Derek was always trying to look out for his interests and ensure his comfort.

“Sounds good, I’ll set out your suit,” he called after Derek, watching as he slipped out of his clothes and walked naked into the bathroom.

And in addition to being an overall awesome person, Derek had a really nice ass. Because of course he did.



For appearing so elegant in his tailored suit, Derek actually looked pretty uncomfortable sitting across from Stiles at the cloth-covered table, delicate glasses of water and wine still full as the two of them waited for their salads to be brought out. The silverware glittered in the softly lit room, and Derek seemed just about ready to leap out of his seat at the slightest provocation.

“Not your scene?” Stiles asked, taking in the tense set of Derek’s shoulders and the way he kept glancing around the room like someone was going to materialize out of nowhere and attack them. And maybe it wasn’t the best idea for them to leave the house so soon after having discovered the potential threat that was Stiles’ vampire boss and his supernatural minions. Not that Stiles was particularly worried, but they probably should have at least contacted someone about it, first.

Just in case.

They hadn’t, though, so they had to live with the consequences. Which apparently included Derek looking like he was about to wolf out in a very public place full of hoity toity rich types and couples celebrating anniversaries or promotions or whatever.

And he was very grateful that Derek was footing the bill for that endeavor because there hadn’t been a single item on the menu that had fit into Stiles’ monthly food budget. But really, they had to talk about the whole money thing, eventually.

It wasn’t the time for that, though, it was date time.

“Hey,” Stiles said, reaching across the table, careful not to knock over anything expensive-looking, which was basically everything. “We can leave if you’re not okay with this. We can do the whole fancy dinner thing another night. Not that I’m not having fun,” he hastened to add when Derek’s face did a hurt-looking crumple, “just that it doesn’t seem like you’re having much fun and that bums me out, dude.”

And apparently that was what Derek needed to hear in order to pull himself together because he nodded curtly, then leaned back with a deep breath and exhaled evenly.

Stiles copied him, but he wasn’t nearly as good at sitting still, so he fiddled with the cloth napkin draped across his upper thighs and tried not to focus on the foreign sensation of the lace-covered waistband of the panties pressing against his hip bones or in the delicate satin cloth against his skin.

“Have you had a chance to read through Youngblood’s proposal, yet?” Derek asked, glancing at Stiles, though his attention was clearly still divided between him and the other occupants of the room.

And since Stiles often had a hard time concentrating at just one thing at a time, he couldn’t bring himself to be too upset about that. But it was supposed to be a special dinner, so he decided to make an effort to distract his mate.

In a good way.

“No, I figured we’d want to look over that together,” he said quietly, knowing Derek could still hear him easily over the din.

Derek gave an acknowledging nod, but didn’t verbally respond.

“We also have to go back to my apartment, unfortunately,” Stiles said with a grimace, “I really hope my super isn’t going to be a dick about this whole thing-”

“It’ll be fine, Stiles,” Derek said, and for some reason the platitude actually helped him calm down. Maybe because it was paired with an adorable wrinkle in his mate’s brow and a kind of earnestness he couldn’t help but smile at.

“Yeah, okay,” he said, slowly easing off his shoes. He preferred not to wear dress shoes if he had a choice, plus, it wasn’t like anyone could see what was going on under the table.

Derek didn’t seem to notice, at least, or maybe he didn’t care, but before Stiles could ask him the waiter appeared and placed their salads on the table.

They both thanked him and started picking at their greens.

“So what day is our flight, again? I can barely keep track of what day it is, now,” Stiles said, making sure not to overload the tines of his fork with too much food. He had listened to his mother’s etiquette instructions, after all.

Derek shrugged dismissively, like it didn’t actually matter. And maybe it didn’t. “We were supposed to leave tomorrow afternoon, but if we need to stay a few more days that’s fine. The solstice isn’t until Friday, so we just have to be sure to be back by then. My family is taking care of all the preparations, though, so as long as we’re at the house by sunset everything should be fine.”

“Preparations like laying fresh wood for the bonfire?” Stiles asked, sliding his feet across the smooth carpet until his toes found the edge of Derek’s boots. It was nice to touch his mate, even if it was barely a touch at all.

But the solstice, Stiles was beyond curious about it and hadn’t gotten much information from Derek about what would happen, other than the nudity factor and the expected presence of the bonfire like when he’d gone through his initiation with the Hale pack. There was probably a ritual circle, too, but he didn’t know for sure. He really needed to read up on that kind of thing, but then again he could just wait and let himself be surprised. It wasn’t like Derek would let anything bad happen to him.

“Yes, Stiles, like laying fresh wood for the bonfire,” Derek said with a wry smile, apparently still unaware of Stiles’ under-the-table actions. Not that he was doing anything untoward, he was just touching his feet to Derek’s. “I know you’ve never participated in one before, but it isn’t nearly as mysterious as you’re making it out to be. There’s just the fire and-”

“Oh no,” Stiles interrupted with a sudden grin. “No, you had a chance to tell me all about it, but you didn’t. So now you don’t get to spoil the surprise. Not unless it’s to share super pertinent information like the nudity thing.Other than that I want to experience it with, what, eyes unclouded by-”

“Unclouded by experience?”

“By pessimism,” he said, pointing at Derek with his fork. “You can totally be a pessimist, sometimes, don’t even play.”

Derek shrugged easily. “I’m not arguing, but I will tell you that these kinds of rituals, especially for the winter solstice, are a time for people to air their grievances and to renew or begin commitments.”

Stiles chewed a bite of salad and tried not to let his mind spiral too far down that particular rabbit hole.

Commitment?

And didn’t that was a scary word. Certainly not one to contemplate when sitting directly across from a very perceptive werewolf ex-cop.

Nope.

They both definitely needed a distraction.

“Will you tell me a story about the solstice?” Stiles asked. “One that doesn’t give too much away. I just want to know what the general vibe of the whole night is, not necessarily the chain of events that are going to take place.” He wiggled a tiny bit in his seat, the satin panties sliding tantalizingly across his ass in a move that served not only to distract him from the uncomfortable commitment thoughts, but also made him focus on the situation at hand.

And either his question or movement seemed to snap Derek out of his own internal musings because suddenly the werewolf was focused entirely on him for the first time since they’d entered the restaurant.

Which made Stiles shift in his seat again, that time because his mate’s gaze was penetrating in its intensity. And of course that made him think about other kinds of penetration and suddenly he could feel a blush creeping up his cheeks.

“You want to hear about the trouble I got into during past solstices?” Derek asked, sounding a bit confused by the question, his gaze roving Stiles’ undoubtedly blotchy cheeks, but apparently he liked what he saw because his face slowly relaxed into a slightly calmer expression.

Stiles grinned in victory as he nodded and slowly began inching his toes up Derek’s shin.

“Of course I want to hear stories about your childhood. Do you have any fun ones about your siblings? Without giving away too much of what happens?” he reminded.

Derek rolled his eyes. “Well, there was one time Laura thought it would be a good idea to let Erica dye her fur before the ceremony, when we just so happened to be hosting a neighboring pack-”



Gradually, during the course of his storytelling and their meal, Stiles could feel that Derek was actually beginning to actually have a good time, though that could have at least partially been attributed to Stiles’ sort-of-innocent little game of footsie.

Well, what had started as footsie and had ended with both of his feet trapped between Derek’s insanely muscular thighs.

Which Stiles was more than okay with, actually.

The sensation of being contained like that helped him keep calm as well and they both enjoyed their meal and the various anecdotes they shared from their childhoods. Derek seemed to especially appreciate the ones about Stiles’ mom, which he was more than happy to tell.

“Would you like dessert this evening?” Their waiter asked as he cleared the table of their empty dishes.

Stiles raised his eyebrows at Derek, who inclined his head slightly.

“I’ll be back shortly with your menus,” the man said with a polite smile.

“Dessert, huh? You trying to sweeten me up, Hale?” Stiles teased, wiggling his toes against Derek’s inner thighs. Well, as much as he could given the grip Derek had on his feet.

Derek smirked and slipped his hands under the tablecloth, seizing hold of one of Stiles’ calves and squeezing the muscle firmly.

Stiles could barely contain his groan.

“Derek, that feels incredible,” he murmured, pushing into the touch, knowing his face was probably doing obscene things because he couldn’t help it. The dude’s touch was like magic.

Derek gave him an honest, wide smile. “Dessert first, pup,” he said and Stiles could feel his face get blotchy red as he blushed at the nickname and insinuation. “Yes, and then we’ll go home and I’ll dress you in something else.”

Stiles’ reply was cut off by the return of their waiter with the dessert menus.

Derek let Stiles order for both of them, but by then the erotic tension had eased a bit as Derek carefully swept his thumbs up and down Stiles’ shins.

Soothing and slow.

“Tease,” Stiles accused with a soft smile.

“I haven’t forgotten what you would have had me wear this evening, had you won,” Derek retorted and Stiles chuckled softly.

“Okay, touche, but I think you would have looked great in what I’d picked out. After all, I was right about the suit.” Because damn, Derek looked amazing dressed up. Something about the stark white of the dress shirt against his tanned throat and the scruff of his closely cut beard just sent shivers down Stiles’ spine.

Derek smirked, adding a sexy kind of arrogance to the look that Stiles had to bite his lips to keep from keening over. “You clean up pretty nicely, too,” he said easily.

Stiles rolled his eyes, but then their desserts were there and he cared a lot more about the sugary deliciousness in front of him than he did in responding.

Because even for Stiles, food was more important than talking.

Sometimes.

“This is incredible,” he said, dabbing chocolate from the corners of his mouth.

When he looked up Derek was staring at him hungrily, and yeah, he suddenly remembered their first date where Isaac had prepared a feast of finger foods for them, most of them with purported aphrodisiacal properties.

Chocolate was very much on that list.

“Want a bite?” he asked as coyly as he could, glancing up at Derek through his eyelashes and enjoying the bob of his mate’s throat as he swallowed in response before giving a curt nod.

Stiles grinned and cut off a piece, spearing it with his fork and holding it out with the clear intent to feed it to Derek.

His pupils were blown wide, nearly swallowing the swirled green-brown-blue of his irises, but Derek obediently leaned forward to take the proffered cake from the tines of the fork with just his teeth.

And the groan Derek gave around the mouthful was almost pornographic. If Stiles had been able to he would have put put his foot against Derek’s cloth-covered cock and brought him off as a reward for that noise.

“My turn?” Stiles asked hopefully, aware his voice was raspy with arousal. But besides the porn noises, Derek’s berry pie looked decadent and soon enough Stiles was carefully leaning forward to lick a bite off of Derek’s spoon.

“The couple at the table behind you is talking about us,” Derek said quietly, leaning back with a satisfied look on his face.

Stiles snorted out a quiet laugh. “What are they saying?”

Derek tilted his head slightly, ducking his head to hide a sudden grin. “She’s asking him why they don’t do things like that anymore. Feeding each other in public. He said it’s because they haven’t been on their honeymoon in twenty years. Now they’re arguing about whose fault that is.”

“Wow, way to bring the romance, am I right?” Stiles asked and Derek had to hide his mouth behind his napkin, but Stiles could still see his shoulders jump with his silent laughter.

When he finally calmed down, Stiles could feel how relaxed they’d both become and slowly pulled back his feet so he could slide his toes up and down Derek’s shins in a comfortable kind of massage.

“This was nice, I guess you winning isn’t the absolute worst.”

Derek cocked an eyebrow. “You guess? Well, I suppose I’ll have to prove it to you later tonight.”

And Stiles definitely liked the sound of that.

But he just gave a slow shrug instead of bouncing up and down in his seat like he wanted to, which still served to remind him of the panties he was wearing and yeah he was looking forward to seeing what Derek did with those, later.

“I suppose we’ll see,” Stiles said with a carefully blank voice, though inside he was positively wriggling with anticipation.

Derek rolled his eyes, but he was grinning, so he could probably smell it or sense it.

Whatever, Derek clearly enjoyed the game as much as Stiles.



The drive home contained a litany of Derek’s remonstrations for Stiles to behave himself.

Stiles politely and persistently declined.

“I swear to god, Stiles, if you keep this up I’ll leave that prostate stimulator inside of you all night,” Derek said, warding off Stiles’ attempts to get at his pants zipper with a broad hand against his chest.

“But Derek, I want to suck your dick so badly,” he whined.

Jesus, Stiles, just wait five more minutes and we’ll be home.”

Stiles didn’t want to wait, though, he wanted to get them both off and then he wanted to get out of the panties because they were driving him crazy.

“You’re cruel,” he said, trying a different tactic. “How could you make me wear something like this without warning me that it would literally make me want to hump you the entire freaking night?” he growled, pressing the heel of his palm against his aching cock. But of course that only made him even hornier.

Derek chuckled and glanced over at him. “That bad, pup? Would you have preferred to go commando? I can dress you like that, next time.”

Stiles whined and turned his head against the seat so he could see Derek’s smirking profile illuminated by the streetlights.

“You’re assuming that the first competition wasn’t a fluke. The next time we play that game I’m going to dominate. Well,” he backtracked at the amused look Derek gave him, “I’m going to win. Even if I submit, I can still win,” he added and kind of hated how petulant he sounded.

Derek reached over and grabbed onto one of his hands, squeezing it gently. “Of course you can, pet, but tonight is still my night and I expect you to be good for me. Can you do that?”

Tingles seemed to sweep up Stiles’ body from where they were touching and he choked out a, yes, Derek, before flushing red.

“That’s right. Now I want you to settle down for now. Once we get home we’re going to take off our shoes and coats, then we’ll find you a pillow to kneel on and you’ll show me just how good you can be. Does that sound okay?”

Stiles was nodding before Derek had even finished the question. “Yes, yes that sounds good, let’s do that,” he said, words nearly tripping over each other as he spoke as quickly as he could.

And that proposal sounded amazing.

“Do you think you can calm down and behave for the rest of the drive?” Derek asked, placing his hand back on the wheel.

Stiles had to keep from whining at the loss of contact, but he nodded. “Yeah, I can behave.”

“Good, because when we get home, I’m going to take you apart.”

Stiles couldn’t contain his whine that time.

Chapter Text

“That’s right, take it slow, there’s no need to choke yourself,” Derek murmured, his fingers sliding through Stiles’ hair, but not tugging or otherwise directing him.

Just touching, which was strangely anchoring, really.

Stiles hummed in appreciation as he glanced up at his mate from his position kneeling at Derek’s feet in the middle of the living room. They hadn’t even made it up the stairs before the urge to taste had overwhelmed Stiles. And he probably looked obscene like that, mouth stretched wide and drooling around Derek’s hardening cock, Stiles making sloppy noises as he got him good and wet.

“You’re so perfect for me, pet,” Derek continued, proving once again that he was positively chatty during sex. Which was more than okay with Stiles since it wasn’t like he was able to respond in kind. Not with his mouth so achingly full, anyway.

But the intensity with which Derek watched him was almost too much for Stiles to handle, so he let his eyes slip shut, which had the added benefit of allowing him to focus more on his other senses.

The hot weight on his tongue, the salty taste of skin, and way Derek’s hands clenched just shy of painfully in his hair as he hollowed his cheeks to suck. The noises that spilled from Derek’s lips and the muffled ones coming from Stiles’ own. Nothing about their coupling was quiet, but there was a kind of reverence between the two of them, an understanding.

“That’s right, see if you can take a little more,” Derek encouraged, fingers once again gently carding through Stiles’ hair, the intimacy of it causing a pulse of precome to wet the panties still confining Stiles’ hard cock.

And that, the eroticism of their position and the thrill of presenting himself before Derek, on his knees wearing only the thin lace and satin fabric, wrenched a moan from his throat.

Derek hissed at the vibration, hands clenching against his skull before he dragged Stiles head back away from his wet dick.

“Der?” Stiles asked, blinking his eyes open with a frown. He was pretty sure he hadn’t accidentally gotten his teeth in the way, but-

“Sh, it’s alright,” Derek said, interrupting Stiles’ thoughts, “I just don’t want to finish. Not yet.”

“Then wha-”

“Do you remember our first time together?” Derek asked slyly and Stiles couldn’t keep from blushing because yeah, he very much remembered and the memory was very good.

He squirmed and nodded, biting his bottom lip at the sensation of damp satin against his sensitive cockhead.

Derek grinned down at him, one hand tracing over Stiles’ nose and cheek, down to his lips, but instead of pushing his fingers inside he just traced around them carefully.

“What would you say to trying sixty nine again?”

Stiles’ whimper seemed to be an acceptable enough answer because Derek snorted and dragged him upright, sealing his mouth with a fierce kiss. And apparently tasting himself on Stiles’ tongue was a turn-on because Derek grunted out a moan and without even a little bit of help had Stiles on top of him on the couch from one breath to the next.

“You okay with being on top this time?” Derek said, smiling as Stiles braced himself with his hands against his mate’s stupidly muscular shoulders, panting unflatteringly. Not that Derek seemed to mind, no he was pretty much a mix of arousal and amusement, and damn did it suit him.

Stiles finally gathered his wits enough nod, “Green,” he said and Derek pulled him down for another quick kiss before releasing him and settling back with a smirk, hands tucked behind his head, elbows winged out like he was settling in for a show.

“Well, go on, then, pet.”

The challenge in his voice was clear, and Stiles was torn between whimpering again at the veritable flood of arousal they both had going on, and proving just how good he could be with his mouth. Not that Derek didn’t already know that. But still, he kind of wanted to see Derek’s smugness turn into begging.

Stiles sat up, making sure to grind his satin-covered ass against Derek wet cock, and extended his own arms overhead in a arched-spine stretch. Derek seemed to like that display, his arousal spiking momentarily higher.

“Sixty nine, huh?” Stiles asked coyly, hands dropping onto Derek’s bare chest, nails barely scraping across his taut nipples. Neither of them had kept their clothes for long after they’d shut and locked the door. Especially not since Stiles had been practically begging for it the entire car ride home from the restaurant. During dinner, as well, really.

Stiles just couldn’t quite get enough of Derek, was the thing, and blessedly the feeling was definitely mutual.

Derek nodded, having regained his composure at some point. “Think you can last long enough to turn yourself around, or are you just going to rub yourself off on my stomach?” he asked with a smirk and Stiles had to force himself to be still because yeah, that’s what he’d been doing.

Damn those satin panties.

Derek grinned.

“You think that’s funny, huh?” Stiles asked, not really annoyed, but he could pretend as he clambered around to face the other way, almost kneeing Derek a few times, but his broad hands seized whatever flailing limb was in the process of endangering him and then Stiles was once again presented with Derek’s gorgeous, uncut cock.

“You’re so pretty, Der,” Stiles whispered, leaning down to mouth at the hot skin, reveling in the familiar taste of him, tonging the slit and moaning at the saltiness of the precome that had gathered there.

Derek hissed beneath him and seized Stiles’ hips, dragging him back and down until there was a searing warmth against his cock, still confined by the tight fabric.

“Der-,” he said, shouted, as the wet heat pressed against his straining erection.

Stiles dug his fingers into the meat of Derek’s tense thighs and sank his mouth down onto his mate’s cock, intent on making him come first.

The pressure against his own dick lessened momentarily, like Derek was paralyzed by the sensation, before he seemed to redouble his efforts and they both moaned with it.

When they finally came it was together, Stiles in the confines of the satin Derek had neglected to divest him of, and Derek into Stiles’ ready mouth.

All in all, it was a pretty nice way to end the evening, Stiles decided as he slumped bonelessly against Derek’s sweat-slick skin. Not even the growing discomfort of the soaked panties could ruin his afterglow as he closed his eyes with a contented sigh.



“Who the fuck is calling us?” Stiles whined, trying to bury his face under the warmth of Derek’s side, but his mate was already rolling away so he could get up and grab the phone - phones - that were buzzing incessantly on the dresser. Because apparently Derek had moved them to his bedroom at some point.

Which, yeah, good to know since Stiles had definitely passed out after their mutual orgasms.

“You’re a dick for not taking that program off m’phone,” Stiles mumbled, mind kind of all over the place because he’d just been woken up, but the complaint was more of a reflex than anything else. He didn’t actually care anymore about the phone hacking. So many other awful things had happened since then that it barely even registered on his shit to get mad about scale.

“‘S my mom,” Derek said, using the knuckles of one hand to rub his eye. And he looked pretty amazing like that, bare skin illuminated by the low firelight, his expression unguarded with sleepiness. “‘Lo?” he answered, brain clearly still struggling to come online, but the longer he stood there with the phone to his ear, the faster it became apparent that not all was well with the Hales.

“What?” Derek asked, sounding far more awake than he had a moment before. “Yes, we went to Youngblood and West, I don’t see-” he began, but he was apparently cut off by Talia, whom Stiles could vaguely hear from the bed, which meant she was most likely, what? Shouting?

He sat up, letting the blankets pool around his bare waist even though the air was cold against his chest. “Der?” he asked, not liking the expression on his mate’s face.

“Yes, Mother, we’re fine. No-”

And that, the whole interrupting before Derek could really talk thing, that wasn’t going to fly. Not if Stiles had anything to say about it.

Which of course he did. The day he stopped talking, particularly when it came to sticking up for his mate, was the day he died. Or got laryngitis again. Which had royally sucked. But it was irrelevant to the events at hand, so Stiles followed Derek’s previous path off the bed.

Far less gracefully, but whatever, at least he wasn’t wearing the come-soaked panties anymore. And that was probably thanks to Derek, who opened and closed his mouth again, but Talia just kept talking. Ranting, from the sound of it, and Stiles was so done with the whole situation he plucked the phone from Derek’s hand and put it up to his own ear.

“-know I don’t like that you took off like that,” she was saying with a hard edge to her voice. “Particularly not so close to the solstice-”

“Talia,” Stiles interrupted calmly, but curtly. “It is some ungodly hour in the morning, right now-”

And she tried to talk over him, but Stiles doggedly kept on as was one of his many and varied talents that often went unappreciated, but certainly came in handy. Especially during times like that.

“-and while we appreciate your concern,” he said much more calmly than he truly felt, “you aren’t respecting our privacy, nor are you following the protocol we both agreed upon. We each have emissaries for a reason, and Derek and I expect that in the future you’ll deliver your lectures through them, and not directly to us, at least until we come up with a solution to this whole pack situation. If this is an emergency of some kind, I’m sure Deaton and Morrell would gladly wake up and help us take care of it, but we’re safe at the moment and from the sound of it so are you. Now, is there anything life-threatening going on that we need to know about right this minute?”

Talia was silent for a beat, maybe in shock. Derek certainly looked like he was seconds away from having a breakdown of his own, but she eventually declined to share any earth-shattering information with him.

Which was just as Stiles had suspected. She’d clearly called with the deliberate intention of speaking to Derek when he would be the most off-balance and vulnerable to her alpha-mom-attack.

“Goodnight, Talia, we’ll be in touch. Through our emissary,” Stiles clarified just because he apparently couldn’t emphasize that enough.

“Goodnight,” Derek echoed behind him, but the line was already dead.

“Well,” Stiles said, turning to face his mate. “We probably should have expected that, right? I mean, your mom is kind of intense and I don’t get the impression she likes being told what to do. Not that what she wants matters at the moment because she definitely isn’t respecting our boundaries-” Stiles trailed off as he tuned into Derek and felt his emotional turmoil.

“You doing okay, big guy?” he asked quietly and when Derek shook his head Stiles tossed the phone onto the foot of the bed and wrapped his lover in a tight hug, closing his eyes when Derek pressed his face against the side of Stiles’ throat with a shaky exhale.

“I don’t want my alpha to be upset with me,” Derek finally admitted in a quiet, hurt tone that went straight to Stiles’ heart.

He wrapped one arm low around Derek’s back, and the other across his shoulders like Stiles’ touch alone could protect him from the emotional manipulations and inevitable heartache at being temporarily at odds with is pack. “I know, Der,” he said gently, “but she’s never going to respect us if we don’t stand up for ourselves. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck in the meantime, though.”

“Definitely sucks,” Derek grumbled against the skin of his throat.

Stiles turned his head enough to kiss Derek’s temple. “Come on, what’s going to help make you feel better? Do you want to go back to bed?” Which was a tempting plan, since it was still dark out, meaning it really was some ungodly hour in the morning.

Stiles didn’t catch the grumbled reply, so he gently kissed a line down his mate’s cheek. “Hm, Der? What was that?”

Derek squirmed a bit in his arms, but he wasn’t totally wallowing in guilt, anymore, so Stiles didn’t feel bad about using playful tactics to get him to open up.

“Do you want to take a bath?” Derek finally asked in that delicate way that made Stiles want to frown and yell at Talia and probably the rest of the Hales for having caused such a strong person to become so tentative.

“A bath sounds awesome,” Stiles readily agreed. Climbing back into their still-warm bed sounded even better, but it was Derek’s choice so Stiles guided them into the bathroom, wincing when his feet touched the icy-cold tiled floor, but soon enough they were standing on the plush bath mat and Stiles leaned to start the water, Derek acting like a limpet as he draped his muscular body across Stiles’ back.

“I know you’re not thrilled about me talking back to your mom, but thank you for supporting me in all this,” Stiles said around a hearty yawn as he plugged the tub and watched as the water steadily tumbled into it. He was actually kind of impressed with himself for being able to function given the hour and his history of being terrible at the whole waking up suddenly and having to do things situation.

Derek mouthed at the back of Stiles’ neck and he gave a sharp laugh, twisting around to tickle his wet fingers across Derek’s sides.

“Hey,” Derek yelped, but he was smiling in the dim light cast from the dying fire in the bedroom. “Hey,” Derek repeated, brushing his lips against Stiles’. “Thank you for taking care of us.”

“Always,” Stiles said easily, though in the silence that followed he suddenly knew that he actually meant it. And even when he’d been in relationships previously, he’d never honestly considered his partner to be the one. His one true love, which at the time he hadn’t even really believed had actually existed. Not like how Scott and Allison had been since they’d first bonded over a loaned pencil in high school. Stiles had initially hoped for it, secretly, for that seemingly magical connection, but he’d been disappointed over and over again.

But with Derek-

“Come on, there’s enough water for you to get in,” Stiles prompted, turning the faucet off and making sure to keep in contact with Derek’s superhumanly warm skin as he slipped into water so hot it would have scalded Stiles had he touched it for long, but Derek just sighed and settled back against the tub.

“Feel good?” Stiles asked, smiling at Derek’s happy little noises and the contentment he was giving off in heady waves. Since most of Derek’s body was off limits to him due to the water temperature, he knelt on the rug beside the tub and slowly began massaging Derek’s scalp.

“Imagine me and you, I do,” Stiles sang quietly. “I think about you day and night, it’s only right.”

Derek smiled lazily at him, but it was clear he didn’t quite catch onto what song Stiles was singing because he wasn’t freaking out, yet.

“To think about the boy I love and hold him tight. So happy together.”

Beneath where his fingers were tangled in Derek’s silky hair, his mate froze.

“If I should call you up, invest a dime, and you say you belong to me and ease my mind. Imagine how the world could be, so very fine. So happy together.”

“Stiles-” Derek began, but Stiles kept singing because it was important for him to get the words out, for Derek to know how he truly felt, even if he didn’t have the greatest singing voice in the room.

“I can’t see me lovin’ nobody but you, for all my life. When you’re with me, baby the skies’ll be blue, for all my life.”

Derek’s stunned expression slowly faded into an outright grin Stiles could barely make out in the overall darkness of the room, but he felt the elation coming from his mate like warmth from the sun.

“So, uh,” Stiles said, clearing his throat awkwardly, and suddenly he felt horrendously embarrassed because he’d just confessed his love for Derek using an old 60s song his mother had used to belt out while she’d danced with him around the house, both of them twirling their skirts as they’d cleaned. “So, yeah,” he finished lamely, not even bothering to keep singing because he was no longer sure he could trust his voice not to waiver or break with the sheer amount of mortification he suddenly felt. Not because the confession wasn’t true, but because he’d actually confessed.

“I love you, too, Stiles,” Derek said quietly, lifting his damp hand to caress Stiles’ cheek for a lingering moment before he wrapped it around the back of Stiles’ neck and pulled him in for a sweet kiss.

When their lips finally parted Stiles knew he was blushing. “I, uh, I do love you, even though I suck at saying it outloud,” he mumbled, ducking his head to watch the dark surface of the water shift with the subtle movements of Derek’s body.

And the thing was, Stiles had said it before to other people, but he hadn’t meant it. At least not to the extent he did with Derek, which was a bit of a relief even if it was still intimidating to admit.

“Thank you for telling me,” Derek said at last, amused and content. “The water’s cool enough for you to join me, if you’d like.”

Stiles didn’t waste any time in taking him up on that offer and a bit of splashing and laughter later he was sprawled out on top of Derek, the warm water almost level with the edge of the tub as it gently lapped against his sides.

“We’re going to spill if you move anymore,” Derek commented, though Stiles could hear his smile.

“Then don’t make me move,” he retorted, pressing his face against the damp skin of Derek’s throat, part of his cheek was submerged, but he could still breathe so he really didn’t care all that much.

Derek chuckled in response and held him tighter, both arms wrapped low around Stiles’ waist.

“Me and you and you and me,” he sang quietly into the darkness, his rich baritone voice echoing faintly against the tile walls,  “No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be. The only one for me is you, and you for me. So happy together.”

Stiles grinned against his skin and set about sucking a mark there. Because he loved Derek and he wanted everyone to see his love manifested on his mate.

Also, the marks looked hella hot on him.

“I can’t see me loving nobody but you. For all my life,” they sang together, Stiles’ voice at a whisper because he’d much rather listen to Derek’s than spoil it with his own not-too-talented harmonics, but he still sang because it felt just as right as planting his mark on his mate. “When you’re with me baby the sky’ll be blue. For all my life.”

Derek swept one hand up and down Stiles’ otherwise dry back, his touch warm before the air chilled the wet path of his hand, the sensation sending a delicate thrill through his body.

“Me and you and you and me,” Derek continued and Stiles couldn’t help but join in despite singing not necessarily being his greatest talent, “No matter how they toss the dice, it has to be. The only one for me is you, and you for me. So happy together. Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-ba-ba-ba-”

They kept on until their laughter took over and then they did end up spilling water over the side of the tub and onto the tiled floor. But whatever, the kisses and confessions they exchanged were totally worth the cost of having to clean it all up.



It was still dark when they finally dragged themselves out of the bathroom, but neither were particularly tired, so they bundled up in sweats and socks and bounded down the stairs through the empty, otherwise-quiet house.

“Wanna start the fire while I dig out the paperwork?” Stiles asked around a yawn. He was pretty sure there was a nap in their future, maybe even later that morning, but since they were already up he figured they might as well get the hard stuff over with.

“I’ll make some coffee, too. Decaf,” Derek clarified before Stiles could interject with his whole funky caffeine issues. And he couldn’t help but smile helplessly at Derek’s attentiveness and the fact that he had listened and remembered. The fact that he very clearly cared.

They came together on the couch when he finished getting their drinks, curled up under a soft blanket with warm mugs in their hands and the paperwork tucked beside them.

“I don’t even know what time it is,” Stiles said as he breathed in the rich steam from his coffee. Derek had doctored it just the way he liked it.

Beside him, Derek shrugged and slung an arm around the back of the couch so he could play with the fine hairs on the back of Stiles’ neck in a touch just shy of ticklish. “Doesn’t really matter, we don’t have any appointments today, though if you want we can get the apartment business sorted out.”

Stiles sighed and took a sip from his mug. He didn’t actually want to face his super, not about the bullet holes in the elevator, or about Charlie being dead, or because Stiles was skipping town to move across the country.

Nope.

None of that sounded like any fun at all. It sounded potentially expensive and undoubtedly terrible.

“Let’s do this, first, then we can think about the other stuff,” Stiles suggested, picking up the papers with one hand and quickly scanning the front page that mostly amounted to legal gibberish. And suddenly it made a lot of sense to be on good terms with the Hale pack because even though Rollin didn’t specialize in contract law or anything like that, Stiles figured it wouldn’t hurt to have him glance over the new agreement to make sure everything was in order and that he wasn’t getting screwed.

But unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly an option.

“Let’s skip to the part where it discusses your work options,” Derek said, lending a hand to help Stiles turn the pages until they found what they were looking for.

That part of the contract, at least, seemed to fall in line with what Stiles had discussed with Mr. Youngblood over the phone. He would be doing contract work with the company for a set amount of hours, forty, a week. There was no guidance or preference as to when those hours would occur, as long as they happened sometime between Sunday and Saturday. Overtime was negotiable based on Stiles’ assignment at the time. He would be able to work remotely as he dug through the backlog of cases and prepared reports of his findings, which could be delivered electronically or in person, depending on the sensitivity of the case. Air travel, car rentals, hotels and meals could be comped if discussed in advance.

Stiles would basically be another set of objective eyes to ensure that past work had been done properly, or that irregularities were investigated to the fullest extent possible, given their resources and time limits. There were a few funky things he found, referencing heritage and history, but Stiles shrugged it off, knowing he could get clarification from Mr. Youngblood about that when he went back to the office to sign the contract. Besides, it could just have been Hale stuff, which they’d already partially discussed.

“Yeah,” he said, nodding at the paper, “this is what we talked about. I’m going to be a kind of consultant, mostly for past cases, but also for some of the current ones if there’s something shady going on. I think working remotely would actually be beneficial because then I won’t get caught up in the politics of the office,” which was another thing Youngblood had been concerned about. Clearly nepotism and bribery were both serious things to take into consideration, since so many of the high-ranking auditors were under investigation due to them illegally assisting the companies they were supposed to have audited without preference or assistance.

Derek was quiet beside him and when Stiles glanced over his eyes were closed, his breathing even, though he somehow still had a grip on his coffee cup.

“Seriously?” Stiles whispered with a grin as he set both of their mugs on the table, along with the papers.

It took some maneuvering, but eventually he managed to straighten out Derek’s legs so he could curl against his werewolf-warm mate under the plushness of the blanket, and in no time his eyes were slipping shut as well.



It was light out when Derek finally moved beneath Stiles, grunting as he stretched out along the full length of the couch similar to how he’d been displayed for Stiles the night before, but unfortunately, he was no longer naked and panting for it.

Stiles yawned, enjoying the memory, but not quite ready to jump straight into a sexual bonus round. Though as he stretched out he made sure to end up sprawled on top of his mate with a grin on his face.

“Hey, Der, have a good nap?” he asked, reveling in the way Derek blinked at him a few times before breaking into a smile of his own and between one beat and the next Stiles found himself flat on his back on the couch, looking up at Derek’s alert face.

“Loved it,” he responded before nudging Stiles’ chin up with his nose and then going to town on his neck, noisily sucking a wet hickey against the side of his throat, high enough up that only a collared shirt could possibly hope to cover it.

Not that Stiles actually cared because he found himself mewling in response, his fingers clawing at the back of Derek’s loose sweatshirt before he finally managed to grip onto some skin.

“Wha-” Stiles gasped.

Derek released the side of his throat with a wet pop. “Marking you so everyone will know you’re mine,” he replied easily, licking against the mark he’d made before leaning back so Stiles could see the mischievousness in his eyes.

“Oh, really?” Stiles said, playing along because a mischievous Derek was a happy Derek and he wanted that to last for as long as he possibly could. Forever, preferably. And if giving Stiles hickies was what did that for Derek, then he’d gladly bare his throat anytime. “Why don’t we play a game, then?”

Derek raised an eyebrow.

“The person to mark the other the most by lunchtime gets to choose our next sexual position.”

“What about every position we try tonight?” Derek asked, apparently ever eager to up the ante.

Stiles grinned.

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

Stiles’ inner thighs ached pleasantly with bright red hickies and the faint pink of stubble-burn, as did his back and sides, but it was Derek who had suffered the brunt of their competition. He lounged back against the couch beside Stiles with a blissed-out look on his face and vivid bite marks across his neck and bare chest, almost like a collar. That and the spunk Stiles had rubbed liberally into his skin had served to win him their little competition.

And apparently there really was more than one way to stake a claim when it came to werewolf mates.

Which, yeah, that was good to know.

“Hope you recover before tonight,” Stiles said from where he was tucked against Derek’s side, leafing once more though the contract he was supposed to sign. Of course he hadn’t had the presence of mind to remove it from the room before starting their game, so he really hoped his vampire boss wouldn’t be able to tell what had happened in the presence of the paperwork.

Because, otherwise-

Yeah, that could be hella awkward.

Derek grunted in response, then groaned when his phone buzzed with an incoming call.

But it was just his phone and not Stiles’ as well, so Stiles didn’t bother moving, instead riding the wave of Derek’s stretch as he reached forward to grab it off the table before settling back and frowning at the screen.

He grunted again when he read the name and immediately accepted the call. “Hale speaking,” Derek said, sounding bored and professional at the same time even though he was throwing off some oddly petulant vibes.

Stiles had never quite managed to master that particular tone of voice, particularly not when it was so different from his true emotions, but yeah, he was fairly well versed at feeling petulant. It was a gift.

“Yes,” Derek replied to the unheard question. “Yes, that’s fine. Today? One o’clock? That would be fine. Yes, thank you, sir. You, too.”

He hung up and immediately tossed the phone onto the cushion beside him, settling back against Stiles like he never wanted to move ever again.

Which was more than okay with him.

But the curiosity over what the call had been about was kind of getting to him. Stiles made it to the count of twenty before he couldn’t take it anymore.

“Okay, so what was that? What are you doing at one? Was that someone from the stati- the precinct? What’s up? Come on, you’re killing me with dramatic tension, Der!”

And apparently that had been his plan all along because Derek snorted and nuzzled his face against Stiles’ undoubtedly comically tousled hair.

“Yes, Stiles, it was the precinct. I need to go in for an exit interview and to discuss some things with my superiors. Nothing to worry about, though,” he added, likely anticipating Stiles’ protest. “I shouldn’t be gone more than a few hours and then we can continue our little game.”

Stiles hummed in response and leaned over to fit his teeth against one of the marks he’d made against Derek’s clavicle because it was better than whining like a brat and demanding Derek stay with him, which wasn’t a constructive use of their time and he knew it. Still, the temptation to pout about it was pretty tempting.

“You could come with me, again,” Derek suggested, “though I’m not sure how much fun it would be to wander around the gym for hours.”

Stiles finally released his mate and shook his head. “Naw, I’ll be fine while you’re doing that stuff. Don’t worry about me.”

What Stiles really needed to do was re-read the contract and make sure it was offering all of the things he needed in order to live in Beacon Hills without negatively impacting his way of life. Particularly since it seemed like his partner would be unemployed for the foreseeable future.

“Hey, do you have student loans?” he asked, putting the papers beside him and taking one of Derek’s broad hands in both of his. Stiles’ fingers were long, but not as wide as Derek’s. He couldn’t keep from flushing at the memory of those stretching him open, preparing him to take Derek’s perfect cock.

He flushed at the memory.

Derek’s chest rumbled, a pleased sound, before he shook his head. “No, I had a few sports scholarships and I worked odd jobs all throughout high school and college. My parents made up the difference as long as I kept my grades up.”

Stiles nodded. It made sense that Derek had done so well academically, he was bilingual and had successfully pursued three very different fields of study. Not to mention the werewolf stuff.

“That’s cool, and it makes our future outlook slightly brighter, which is good.”

Derek smiled. “What about you?”

“Eh, I’m kinda swimming in it, actually,” he admitted, unable to suppress his standard physiological almost-panic response; rapid heart rate, dry mouth, nervous sweat. Stiles had gotten used to that, at least, the discomfort of being in so much debt and knowing he wasn’t able to get out of it. Not for years, at least. Still didn’t make him feel good about it, though, even with the pretty cool career he’d earned as a result.

Derek made a commiserating noise and dragged Stiles closer in a one-armed hug. “Hey, we’ll make it work.”

Stiles snorted. “I mean, yeah, but we probably won’t be able to qualify for a mortgage for a decade or two.”

“I can have Isaac and Boyd start looking at jobs for me around Beacon Hills if you’re so worried about our finances,” Derek suggested with an even-keeled kind of emotional projection.

“I don’t, I don’t want to push you, or anything,” Stiles said quietly. “I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

Though a second income would be beneficial, even taking into account the boosted salary Stiles would be taking in with Youngblood’s new contract.

Derek smiled and planted a sloppy kiss on Stiles’ cheek. “Having a job isn’t a hardship,” he said with an easy chuckle. “Besides, I should probably get out of the house every day or else I’ll turn into a troll, as my sister is so fond of pointing out.”

Stiles could definitely see Laura saying that, she didn’t seem to be the type to pull punches, literally or figuratively.

“I have a tendency to freak out about things, just in case you hadn’t already noticed that about me,” Stiles admitted. His overactive imagination sometimes worked against him. Especially when he was already stressed out about something, and his potential future was actually the very topic that had given him the most panic attacks, sadly enough.

“We’ll figure it out together,” Derek said, lips soft against Stiles’ temple as his beard rasped against the thin skin there.

Stiles smiled and closed his eyes as the palpable sensation of Derek’s contentment eased into him.

They would figure it out, was the thing, but before that they still had some work to do in Chicago.

After a few more minutes of cuddles.



“Lunch?” Stiles asked a little while later, wanting to continue to revel in the warmth and peace of their lazy, post-orgasm bliss, but knowing they’d have to eat and shower before Derek would be presentable enough to leave the house. Especially considering what he was covered in. And even if Derek didn’t work with any other werewolves, Stiles was pretty sure a human would be able to pick up on the undeniable smell of the substance that covered his chest.

Derek grunted in a kind of non-response, but at least he was awake, so that was a step in the right direction, as far as Stiles was concerned.

“Should we call up Morrell and tell her about your mom’s midnight freakout?” he asked, smiling as Derek lazily opened his eyes and lolled his head over to look at him. After a moment he snorted a laugh and kissed Stiles’ cheek before arching up with a groan.

“We can do that, quick,” he said with a stretch-strained voice before relaxing back against the couch, looking slightly more awake than before. “She should probably know about all of our contact with the pack, including the things you told Scott.”

Stiles nodded and leaned toward the table to grab his phone. “Cool, I’ll give her a call. Do you want to eat first or shower?”

“Eat,” Derek said decisively and Stiles couldn’t blame him. It had been a while since they’d had breakfast and all of that marking had kind of wiped them both out. A little refueling was definitely in order. “I’ll make something while you call, if you want,” Derek said carefully, once more showing the kind of caution that made Stiles’ heart ache for him.

Derek shouldn’t have to be so tentative about things, at least in Stiles’ opinion.

“Sounds awesome, thanks, dude,” he replied with a grin and a loud kiss on his mate’s cheek. Derek rolled his eyes and heaved himself upright as Stiles absently searched through his contacts before he glanced up and froze at the scene.

“You sure you want to eat?” Stiles asked, taking a lingering look at his mate’s many gorgeous features, some of which were only barely covered by the low-slung sweatpants. He looked both fucked-out and fuckable, it was distracting.

The sound of Derek’s amused chuckle followed him out of the room and Stiles shrugged with an easy smile, tapping on Morrell’s number.

“Morrell,” she answered immediately.

“Hey, this is Stiles. I think I’m supposed to tell you about new happenings and stuff,” he said, levering himself up off the couch and wandering along to follow Derek into the kitchen.

“Yes, Stiles, it would be best if you kept me updated about events involving you and your mate. Have there been any new developments I should be made aware of?”

And the way she said it, Stiles was fairly certain she already knew at least part of what he was calling to report, but he was still going to do his due diligence or whatever.

“So, yeah,” he said, hopping up to sit on the counter by where Derek was starting to prepare sandwiches for them, “Um, I talked to Scott and he knows what’s going on. Argent’s been telling him all kinds of history stuff and werewolf stuff and then I told him about the Hales and how we’re hoping that will work out.”

“That’s good, Stiles, he should have full knowledge of what he may be getting into.”

Stiles kind of wished someone had done the same for him before he’d leapt into that little ritual in the Hale’s backyard, but the past was past and the only thing left was to try to protect his and his mate’s future. Even if it was a terrifying concept.

“Yeah,” he said, scratching the back of his neck, “so there’s that and then there’s this thing with Talia-”

“She contacted you during the night, did she not?” Morrell interrupted smoothly and Stiles found himself nodding, watching as Derek spread just the right amount of mayo onto the top slices of bread.

“That she did,” he confirmed, “but I told her to go through Deaton and you if it was an actual emergency. It didn’t sound like one, though, it sounded like she was just trying to catch Derek offguard.”

Derek frowned down at the food, but didn’t offer any kind of protest as he scooped hummus onto each plate and divied out some mini carrots.

He was a pretty good lunch-maker, actually. Stiles approved.

Morrell made a noise of understanding. “Thank you, Stiles, I will take this into consideration during my negotiations with the Hale pack on your behalf. Is there anything else you need to discuss with me?”

Stiles glanced at Derek, who paused for a second before he shook his head.

“Nope,” Stiles chirped up. He had the fleeting thought that he was forgetting something, but lunch was ready and his stomach was rumbling.

Morrell informed him of her plan to contact them again before the solstice and Stiles hung up feeling slightly better about the whole thing.

“Lunch?” Derek asked, offering him a plate.

“Perfect,” Stiles replied, and kissed the cook for his troubles.



The thing was, Stiles knew he could be impulsive. He had always had a hard time sitting still when there was an eminent deadline looming ahead of him or when he had definitive tasks to complete. He also knew that he had a really hard time readily justifying inaction when the next step for him to take was right there in front of him.

It was just, it was a character trait of his that had landed him in hot water more than once, but then again it had also quite literally saved his ass.

Like when he managed to get himself out of Cassandra’s house before she could literally cut his heart out and eat it, even though there was actually a knife sticking out of his chest.

But for every life-saving impulse he caved into, there were always quite a few more that had landed his ass in scorching hot water.

Like the whole highjacking the Hale SUV thing.

That. That hadn’t been the best idea. Plus, the resulting kidnapping hadn’t been very much fun, but Stiles had ended up getting himself and Boyd rescued because of his impulsiveness, so it hadn’t been a total shitshow.

Not entirely, anyway.

So he knew his need to do things was a mixed bag of good and terrible, but even knowing all of that, Stiles just. He had a really hard time not doing what needed to be done.

Which was why, shortly after he’d seen a freshly showered Derek off to his meeting at the precinct, Stiles got dressed and hopped into a cab.

It was a stupid thing to do, he was very well aware, even as he rode through the murky twilight of the Chicago winter day. He should have waited for Derek to return, or he should have at least warned his mate of where he was heading.

But Stiles didn’t.

Because he was an idiot.

But more than that, Stiles was determined to get his life sorted out, and to do that he needed to act. Besides, he needed the kind of closure that would only come from his probably-ill-advised foray to the Youngblood and West office. Unfortunately, it just so happened that his mate was temporarily unable to go with him, which sucked, but that was the way life worked, sometimes.

Plus, Stiles was a grown-ass adult, so it wasn’t like he actually needed a babysitter or anything.

At least that was what he liked to tell himself, disregarding evidence from the recent past.

So he called the office on his drive over and managed to schedule a one thirty appointment with one of Youngblood’s female assistants because he needed to get it over with before his anxiety at not doing anything completely overwhelmed him.

Even though he suspected he was probably being profoundly stupid in the way he went about the whole thing.

But at the very least he had the foresight to text Derek: At YBW for contract mtg, before he pocketed his phone and walked through the main doors.

Just in case.

“Mr. Stilinski, this way,” Youngblood’s young male attendant said before Stiles could even approach the front desk. The guy showed him the way down the back hallway to the fancy elevator. And he was a selkie, apparently, but looked normal enough, if on the attractive end of the scale.

All of Youngblood’s assistants were attractive, really, which Stiles knew was the way things tended to work in life, even in the corporate world. He contemplated a theory that supernaturalness made people more attractive while on the elevator ride up and was halfway through his conclusion when they reached the office and the young man, Chuck, he suddenly remembered, pushed the doors open and motioned for Stiles to precede him into the room.

“Stiles Stilinski, come in,” Mr. Youngblood said warmly, voice booming like it did when he made speeches in the videos Stiles had watched of him attending various events.

He also seemed more animated than during their previous encounter, which was likely due to Derek’s conspicuous absence.

“Your mate could not join us today?” he asked, confirming Stiles’ suspicion as he waved away the answer before Stiles could even speak. “No matter, no matter. This negotiation is just between us, is it not? Come, have a seat. Chuck, bring us some refreshments, if you will. Does tea agree with you, Stiles?”

Stiles nodded dumbly, kind of thrown by the change in his boss’ demeanor. Youngblood was acting far more friendly, as least compared to the almost stilted way he’d behaved around Derek. It hadn’t been as noticeable, then, but the change was almost jarring, especially when paired with the man’s wide, sharp-toothed smile.

“Uh, so, Mr. Youn- I mean Lorenzo,” Stiles said at the playfully censoring look his boss gave him. “I wanted to review some of the specifics before we both sign the contract, just to make sure we’re on the same page with everything.”

Lorenzo nodded, as if he’d expected Stiles to make that kind of request. Which was probably true since it was a fairly major decision for the both of them to agree upon; Stiles’ entire future in his occupation of choice and the creation of what amounted to a new position in Youngblood and West as a policer of the auditors under his boss’ employ. It was definitely for the best that both parties be of the same understanding.

Stiles smiled in relief and took the papers out of his bag. “Okay, so most of this is pretty easy to grasp, like the hours and the travel stipend and all of that.” Stiles glanced down at the paper and tapped at one of the points that had stood out to him when he’d read over it. “But I noticed you mentioned something about heritage and I was just making sure we were on the same page with that. You were talking about the Hales, weren’t you?” he asked, but even as he said it he knew that wasn’t right.

His boss hadn’t fully known about his connection with Derek when the contract had been drafted, not until Stiles had dragged the werewolf into the office with him. Besides, the look Lorenzo was giving him spoke of an amused kind of bafflement.

So definitely no, then.

“I was not referencing the wolves, no,” Lorenzo said slowly, leaning back in his enormous leather chair, his small fingers laced together to rest on his ponderous belly, showing off the red and gold glinting of a thick ring on his right thumb, “though they certainly play a more significant role in things, now that I am aware you are mated to one of them, and due to their checkered history, as you’re likely well informed.”

Stiles frowned, trying to sort through what he meant about the Hales while struggling to piece together what else the written phrase could mean, if it wasn’t that.

“Your name is Vyacheslav, is it not?” Lorenzo asked with a flippant kind of casualness that, instead of easing Stiles’ fears, ramped up his adrenaline output because Kate had asked him the same question, and Stiles hadn’t at all liked how that had turned out. He was definitely getting a similar kind of bad-wrong feeling from his current conversation, though Stiles didn’t think it would end quite so terribly. In the whole kidnapping and blood and death scenario.

He hoped it wouldn’t, at least.

“Now, that is quite interesting,” Lorenzo continued like Stiles wasn’t on the verge of potentially freaking out across the desk from him, and maybe being a vampire meant he didn’t have elevated senses, the whole no cologne or perfume thing aside. “Vyacheslav is derived from Václav, who was a saint, believe it or not. Your name is sometimes translated as big fame, though I prefer the older, purer meaning; more glory. Your mother must have had the gift, to give you such an auspicious moniker, especially considering the rare talent you have come to manifest.”

Stiles suddenly had the feeling that Lorenzo knew exactly what kind of gift his mother had been harboring, but he was so shocked that she’d been brought up that he just sat there like a mute, helplessly watching the carefully preserved parts of his world crumble around him.

Except, no. He wasn’t and he wouldn’t.

“I prefer to go by Stiles,” he said as smoothly as he could manage with the thrumming of almost electrical energy humming through his veins.

And that, that would be his salvation, should things turn out poorly for him. Because Stiles didn’t need anyone there but himself to save him. His powers would protect him like they had several times already.

The thought gave him enough courage to swallow down the fear that had quickened his breathing and allowed him to concentrate on the conversation at hand. Because either they’d both walk out of there intact and with a signed contract for Stiles’ services, or they’d learn a great deal more of what each were capable of.

Stiles hoped it was the first scenario that played out, but he’d gone through too much already to bet on it.

“Fair enough,” Lorenzo said, like he was also prepared to drop the subject, but the glint in his eye was too hard for Stiles to ignore.

Because he wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t do stupidly impulsive things-

“What do you know about what I am?”

-like walk into a vampire’s den and ask him personal questions about himself that he may or may not want to know the answer to, or even if he was willing to pay the cost for the answers.

“I know,” Lorenzo said, glancing up at the curved glass ceiling, “that your talents are inherited, or so the stories go,” he qualified with a frown. “I know that, like with most creatures of our ilk, you have strengths and weaknesses. From the conflicting reports I’ve gathered regarding this messy Argent Unlimited business, it seems you have a talent for fire, or some similar destructive force.”

Stiles didn’t correct him. He also didn’t bring up the mess he’d made in Beacon Hills.

“It is rumored that your mother favored earth, at least from what I hear.”

Something inside of Stiles’ chest clenched as the dread he’d been suppressing came roiling to the surface in a hot flush across his skin.

“What do you know about my mother?” he demanded, knowing it was stupid to ask, to reveal his own ignorance, but Stiles couldn’t help it. Because he’d come to realize that he’d been so ignorant of her talents, of her true identity that he knew he’d do just about anything to find out the truth.

And again with the impulsiveness. Stiles very much needed to get a handle on that before it killed him.

Again.

He suddenly wasn’t at all looking forward to telling Derek about his little visit to the office, either, because Stiles knew he was going to get the wonky eyebrows of concern and outrage and the emotional cocktail of disappointment and fear that meant he’d done something profoundly stupid.

Because yeah, Stiles got that.

Going alone to meet with his vampire boss and his merry band of supernatural assistants hadn’t been a smart decision.

Like at all.

Stiles was so screwed. And that was even if he got of it unscathed.

Chapter Text

Stiles was, well, he wasn’t terribly surprised by his boss’ lack of forthrightness when it came to sharing the information he apparently knew about Stiles’ mother and the Hales. It seemed to be the way of things, particularly in the corporate world. The habit of only doling out information when it was strategically advantageous or for a certain price.

Not that Stiles couldn’t just ask Derek about his family’s apparently spotty history, but then again he knew all too well that parents often shielded their children from things, and the kind of stuff Lorenzo had alluded to? That likely wasn’t anything Derek had ever needed to know about the his family’s past. Stiles figured if all else failed he could learn it from Talia, maybe, once they got the whole pack mess sorted out.

But the knowledge about his own mother? That was harder for Stiles to justify walking away from.

But suddenly, knowledge or not, walking away was at the top of his list of priorities because Stiles was so tired of having to fight for everything, particularly things that he shouldn’t have had to struggle for to begin with, like his basic physical integrity. And the thing was, he didn’t want to be the one to produce yet another body in the odd supernatural pissing contest he’d once again stumbled into just by virtue of being himself.

Because he was a spark.

And also because he was Anya’s son, which suddenly seemed to be just as important as Stiles’ own apparently magical abilities.

“I have no interest in playing any games, here,” he said, proud of himself for somehow managing to keep his voice steady despite the quivering of his fingertips and the rapid thudding of his heart, which he really hoped Lorenzo couldn’t hear. “I’ve read the contract, I agree to the terms, but if there’s some kind of side deal or vampire game you want to play in addition to that, then we’re going to be having a completely separate conversation outside of my formal arrangement with Youngblood and West.”

A conversation that should definitely include Derek, Stiles didn’t say, though he probably should have.

Or not?

Because that would let his boss know how profoundly uncomfortable he was feeling?

Whatever.

Lorenzo inclined his head and motioned with one of his dainty hands to Chuck, who promptly brought over steaming cups of dark tea for the pair of them. Stiles started from his focused concentration on his boss, realizing he had kind of forgotten about the selkie. That prompted him to hastily glanced around to check the rest of the open space, knowing it was stupid of him not to have thought about surveying the room for other occupants when he’d initially entered it, but thankfully the work stations were empty and the two female attendants were nowhere to be seen, which was a bit of a relief, really.

But the whole not being aware of his surroundings thing? Yeah, Stiles’ dad would have smacked him upside the head without hesitation for that one. That was like personal safety 101. The sheriff would have been so embarrassed by Stiles’ inattentiveness.

Regardless of his lapse of perceptiveness, the presence of just one other person in the room meant Stiles was only just outnumbered, though it wasn’t like any of the three of them were normal humans. No, they all happened to be from the supernatural end of the creature scale, so, as Lorenzo had said, things like strengths and weaknesses were much harder to quantify given the suddenly flexible rubric of abilities.

Which shifted Stiles’ thinking to whether or not Hollywood’s mass output of B-movies had led him astray when it came to vampire lore. Was his boss even allergic to sunlight? Or silver? Or anything?

What about selkies? Stiles was pretty much ignorant about them, actually, so that didn’t help. Except he seemed to remember something about stealing their pelts to gain their compliance. Maybe?

But most importantly, Stiles needed to know if he would be forced to bring down his wrath yet again and fry the pair of them to save his own skin. Was his boss planning to eat him for his power like Cassandra had attempted?

Were any of those questions even relevant?  

It was a disturbing train of thought, to suddenly think of the people in front of him as creatures instead of people. As potential enemies instead of allies. The whole mindset was a foreign one to Stiles, but he found himself adapting to it fairly quickly, hardening his resolve to keep himself safe above all else, which was one of the gifts of his own impulsiveness. He could survive in a hostile climate, at least for as long as it took him to make his escape.

And fortunately for Stiles, if it could be called fortune, he doubted either of the pair could shield themselves against a spontaneous lightning strike, if it came to that. He hoped it wouldn’t, only partially because of the toll it seemed to take on his body, but hope was a terribly thin cover when the world went cold, as he well knew.

But thing was, he didn’t want to harm either of them, even if he was entirely capable of it. Certainly not before he got more answers, at least. Not unless if it became his only option.

Lorenzo hummed, taking a cup and sipping delicately at the steaming liquid. He gave a satisfied smile at the taste, fangs glinting faintly in the early afternoon sunlight that just barely managed to penetrate the protective coating on the glass wall and ceiling.

The layer, which looked golden from the outside, was maybe meant to protect Mr. Youngblood from being exposed to the harmful UV rays. Either that or it was what he wanted people who were in the know about his species type to think.

Were vampires another species?

Were werewolves?

Was Stiles?

And he didn’t feel all that thirsty, actually. In fact, his mouth was watering, almost like he was about to throw up, which made sense since his stomach was roiling with anxiety and tension and anger because the whole situation seemed to him like everything was poised on the brink of a precipice, and unless Stiles was three-sheets-to-the-wind drunk, he was not too keen to look over the edge at the drop.

“Stiles,” his boss said at last, setting his cup and saucer on the desk between them and Stiles copied the movement, unwilling to drink whatever it was he’d been given. Not without having seen Chuck brew it. That was one of the lessons, at least, that he’d paid attention to when his father had gone over the dangers of taking sustenance from strangers. “That name is self-created, is it not?” Lorenzo continued, “Quite clever for a spark, as you call yourself, since we both know there is a great deal of power involved in names and naming.”

Stiles was a little thrown by the abrupt shift in the conversation, but yeah, he’d figured out that whole names are special thing. Especially after the little divination ritual he’d done in Derek’s basement, the way it had only worked when he’d invoked his birth name. His mother hadn’t ever gotten around to teaching him that kind of thing, though, and it wasn’t until after her death that he’d started insisting upon being called Stiles, but he thought she would approve of his decision, especially in light of recent events; what with Cassandra and Kate and possibly even Mr. Youngblood out for who knew what from him.

Not that it had actually helped him all that much, since two of them had figured out his identity despite his insistence on being called Stiles. Besides, it hadn’t kept his ex from trying to kill him despite her not knowing.

But none of that really mattered, he decided. He wouldn’t be baited and was done being bullied. Stiles refused to be an easy target.

Not again.

“Take your mother’s name, for example,” Lorenzo said and Stiles was glad he wasn’t holding his tea cup because he was pretty certain he would have dropped it as his train of thought abruptly derailed in light of the unexpected conversational turn. “Anya Olesia Stilinski, that is what she went by, is it not?”

Stiles nodded dumbly. His skin felt cold with shock.

No one talked about his mother. At least, he hadn’t ever really met anyone who’d known enough about her to even be able to come up with her name. Except for the Hales, apparently. And his boss, apparently.

Stiles’ skin was buzzing with anxiety.

“Quite odd, really,” Lorenzo mused, eyes wandering up the arched glass above them, almost like he was looking longingly at the mostly overcast sky. “You see, Russian naming convention would dictate Anya’s middle name be derived from her father’s, not, as we can assume is this case, from her mother’s name. You did not know her family, did you?”

Stiles shook his head. He’d never even heard her or his father mention his mother’s family. It just hadn’t ever been anything that had come up, though to be fair his father’s family wasn’t close, physically or emotionally, either. Stiles had only met one great-aunt on the Stilinski side, and that had been when he was too young to remember specifics besides the fact that she smelled like sunscreen and mothballs, a combination that had made him sneeze when she’d hugged him.

“Her maiden name?” Lorenzo prompted.

He shook his head again, flushing despite the fact that as a child he couldn’t have reasonably been expected to have learned that kind of information from her, and until recently he hadn’t even known there were documents in his father’s house that could possibly reveal more of her identity.

Which reminded Stiles about where they’d disappeared to and he abruptly wondered what the Hales were planning to do with his mother’s books. He wanted to believe he’d get them back, he actually needed to believe that, but he was too far from Beacon Hills to immediately demand their return.

He sincerely hoped Talia wouldn’t use them as a kind of bargaining tool, but she was related to Peter, so the hope was probably in vain. She’d shown her hand too many times for Stiles to be confident in her willingness to play fair.

But it definitely wasn’t the time to obsess over that, Stiles knew. He’d need all of his wits to get himself through the gauntlet of his vampire boss’s continued interrogation.

“Hm,” Lorenzo said, frowning at the revelation of Stiles’ ignorance. “Anya Olesia, the woman without a true name. Anya, of course, is not her real identity, that much we may assume-”

Which was news to Stiles.

“-though I have a way of discovering the truth of such things,” he continued with a slow smile that revealed his fangs and sent a chill down Stiles’ spine. “A little bit of my magic mixed with a little of yours and we may both be able to get what we want.”

“What do you want from me?” he asked uneasily, surreptitiously wiping his hands against his slacks, mentally readying himself in case he needed to use them to summon something violent.

Only to defend, though, he wouldn’t be the first to strike, no matter how freaked out he felt.

“Chuck, you are dismissed,” Lorenzo said with a casual wave, his eyes never leaving Stiles. In fact, he was giving him a lingering once-over, like he was taking the time to actually appreciate Stiles’ form, which was creepy and not exactly office-friendly behavior.

Chuck did as instructed, slipping out the door, and they were left alone.

Stiles wasn’t sure if that was better, not being outnumbered, or worse, suddenly being alone with Lorenzo and his dark, penetrating eyes.

But whatever, he’d work with what he had because Stiles was nothing if not focused when it came to meeting a problem head-on, his latent ADHD be damned.

“What do you want?” Stiles asked again, a bit more steadily. He figured that the more information he had, the easier it would be for him to decide his own next course of action.

Fight or flight.

Or maybe even the slim possibility of them settling things amicably, which was really all Stiles wanted, but the longer they danced around the issue and delved further into Stiles’ personal life, the less likely that seemed. Their interactions had too much of a sinister air to them for him to consider that as a truly viable alternative.

And maybe it was finally the day his luck ran out and his impulsiveness really did get him killed.

He really should have waited for Derek, he knew, anxiety flaring as he felt sweat start to collect along his spine, but Stiles had at least sent that text, so in theory his mate knew where he was. Though, being in a meeting with his higher-ups, it was unlikely that Derek could extricate himself from that kind of discussion to come to Stiles’ aid.

Not that Stiles needed rescuing, he considered, tapping into the anger he’d felt since the moment Lorenzo had started acting creepy, because if Stiles could take down a psychotic hunter and two alpha werewolves on a kidnapping and killing spree he was fairly certain he could neutralize a lone vampire who hadn’t done anything really but talk at him.

But still, backup was always appreciated.

Lorenzo once again leaned back in his chair and looked up at the curved glass ceiling, which seemed to be what he did when contemplating things. “What I want,” he said after a long pause, like he was just beginning to truly consider it, “is for the two of us to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

Stiles wanted to like the sound of that, but it actually made his metaphorical hackles rise even more and he longed, suddenly and sharply, for his mate before he was able to tamp down that seriously unhelpful thought. Because Stiles had gotten himself into that mess and he could certainly get himself out of it as well.

Hopefully with minimal killing, that time.

Also, his boss still hadn’t answered the question about how he’d known about Stiles’ mother, or what he’d meant about the Hales.

But Stiles held his piece and when he didn’t comment, Lorenzo continued.

“Now you see, my kind has often kept to the shadows, both literally and figuratively, throughout the years. There are some like me, who rise to the top, but a majority of the others sink low and attempt to drag us all down with their baseness and bottom feeding-”

Which was more than Stiles had ever known about vampire culture, especially considering he hadn’t even thought that was actually a thing that had existed prior to his boss’ grand reveal, though he probably should have since he’d become intimately acquainted with a werewolf, and it followed that out supernaturals would also be out there somewhere.

“-so it is fortunate when someone comes along who can help one such as myself secure a more fortuitous position.”

“Your position looks pretty fortuitous from where I’m standing,” Stiles said despite himself. Because really? The dude was the co-owner of a well-respected, profitable company and had a bitching view of the city. There wasn’t much further up a person could go.

And his mouth had a tendency to do that, sometimes, to spout things out before his brain could filter the words for sass.

It was a problem.

Lorenzo smiled, and it actually looked genuine, despite the too-sharp teeth. “Indeed,” he allowed, “but it is a burden, at times, not being able to step out from behind these protective walls,” he gestured to the tinted glass with a heaved sigh that sounded just a touch forced, which answered Stiles’ question about the whole sunlight allergy thing. “Not even draining all of the humans and supernaturals in this entire building would grant me to ability to walk outside during daylight. Even the weak winter sun would burn my skin and sear my eyes. It would take months for me to heal from it.”

Which was beyond creepy, really, but then Stiles frowned, trying to work out the mechanics of how Lorenzo got to and from work because that was the kind of thought his brain tended to latch onto. His boss certainly didn’t live in the building because there would have been at least some rumors had that been the case, and suddenly Stiles realized just how vital the underground parking must have been for him. Besides that, all of the events Lorenzo had attended in the videos Stiles had watched seemed to have occurred at night, so that made sense as well. It must have been the case, at least, or else he would have been exposed to sunlight and been revealed for what he truly was, if his skin was as sensitive as he claimed, which Stiles didn’t think was something he would lie about.

“So what does that have to do with me?” he asked, kind of dreading the answer, but too curious to resist posing the question. His mind was swimming with the different apparently disparate parts of their fragmented conversation, and he really wasn’t sure how any of it fit together.

Lorenzo smiled slowly and toothily, and Stiles was suddenly positive he wasn’t going to like the answer.

“You, my boy, have the power to grant me my greatest wish, and I have something for you in return. Knowledge about your mother’s origins and the truth about the Hales.”

Stiles swallowed the excess of saliva in his mouth. The I’m-gonna-puke saliva he’d been battling all along. The same that had often heralded an urgent sprint to the bathroom so he could purge himself of his anxiety.

But he didn’t have anywhere to run, not with the vampire in front of him and two other supernaturals somewhere out of eyesight, along with an unaccounted-for human who looked like she could probably kick his ass. But the three absent attendants were probably within their boss’ shouting distance. And Stiles really should have asked Morrell what kinds of powers selkies and harpies possessed, along with what was up with vampires.

In hindsight, it was all seriously valuable information.

But he didn’t have the ability to leap back in time or pause his current situation, at least he didn’t think that was one of his abilities, so he just sat there and tried to think of a way to get out of the office building without getting drained or gutted or sacrificed or whatever it was Lorenzo Youngblood was planning to do to him.

“What’s your wish?” Stiles finally croaked, voice tight with the tension strumming through his body. He could have at least used a werewolf bodyguard, right about then, or a clearer understanding of what the hell was going on.

Preferably both.

“To continue my rise,” Lorenzo said easily, a wistful smile on his face that seemed at odds with his overall slightly-menacing countenance. “I wish to walk outside without fear, and to use that power to overcome the limitations my species has been chained with for millennia.”

“And you think I can make that happen for you?” Stiles asked flatly. As far as he knew, that wasn’t something that could be accomplished with magic, to change someone’s physiology so profoundly. Hell, he’d had a hard enough time summoning fire for a few candles, let alone altering someone’s body to the point that they could overcome-

Except Stiles already done that, hadn’t he?

He’d saved Peter, had rescued him from the brink of death. If Stiles was capable of doing that, he could probably aid his boss in some way, though he had no idea how. Also, he was fairly certain no one else outside of the Hale pack knew about the whole Peter thing.

At least that’s what he had assumed, though apparently Lorenzo was pretty good at finding things out - including Stiles’ mother’s true identity? - which kind of sucked for him.

But hopefully there wouldn’t be any actual blood-sucking going on.

Still, Stiles wasn’t entirely sure if it was a connections-thing or an intuition thing that led Lorenzo to believe Stiles was capable of magically curing him.

A magic thing, maybe?

“Are you getting it, now?” Lorenzo asked, smiling at him with a kind of fondness Stiles found pretty alarming coming from a relative stranger, especially given how many people had actively tried to kidnap and or kill him and his loved ones in the recent past. Stiles had found that a smiling supernatural creature, Derek excepted, was almost always a bad sign.

And he was seriously starting to reevaluate his life choices because it seemed like he’d landed himself in hot water one too many times for luck to be able to save him again. Particularly when it came to being targeted by megalomaniacs. It was like they were drawn to him or something.

“I’m starting to,” Stiles said because yeah, he got that nothing that was coming out of their non-contract-related discussion was going over well with him.

The oscillating sensations of terror and anger were not helping his stomach ache situation. Which just pissed him off even more, and that kind of emotion was probably what Stiles needed to tap into if he was going to negotiate and/or blast his way out of there.

“Being what I am, my options are somewhat limited, as I’m certain you can imagine,” Lorenzo said, and it was clear he was just starting to warm up, so Stiles kept himself and his mouth still, figuring the longer he was talked at, the more time it gave Derek to come and rescue him should Stiles stall for long enough.

Not that Stiles particularly relished the idea of being rescued, but he also wasn’t too keen on actually killing his boss in cold blood, either, not when Stiles hadn’t been overtly threatened or actually put in harm’s way. Thus far it had only been a lot of words, more of which readily spilled from Lorenzo’s fanged mouth as he expounded upon being what he called a local vampire, having been created the United States back when there were still colonies.

Stiles only half-listened as he contemplated various means of escape that didn’t involve thousands of dollars worth of property damage and mountains of paperwork, though Lorenzo’s tale was admittedly pretty fascinating in a bizarre and unreal kind of way. He figured it was worth a shot to try focusing on his connection with Derek, who was a quarter of the way across the city, probably sitting around a table at the precinct too busy to come help.

But by tapping into their newly formed bond, Stiles was just able to catch a hint of Derek’s emotions; attentiveness, something that felt like barely-restrained activity, and concern.

So maybe he was tuned in to Stiles’ predicament?

Either that or the cases he was working on weren’t altogether pleasant, which was also a possibility.

Come here, Stiles tried to convey, but he was pretty sure his message failed. Just because he really didn’t have a firm grasp on the whole magical connection thing.

Or the magic thing in general, really.

He thought about getting his phone out and just texting, but wasn’t sure what that kind of outward display of anxiousness would provoke in his boss who was rambling on about how he’d had to cross the midwest in a casket to get to Chicago, which, he said with a smug smile, was part of where that particular piece of vampire lore had come from.

“It was a practical choice,” he assured Stiles before continuing to describe the squalid conditions he’d found in the city that would become his headquarters over the centuries.

Stiles almost considered taking a sip of the tea, just to give himself something to do in an attempt to appear relaxed, but there was the whole possibility of poisoning thing so he folded his hands over his lap, instead.

But then put them back on his thighs because it felt too much like being restrained for his liking and there was his aversion to feeling things against his wrists. He hadn’t had that kind of sensory issue since shortly after the Cassandra mess.

And he really needed to get the hell out of town and away from all of the crazy.

Not that escaping to Beacon Hills had been any better, but still, at least his dad was there, along with his best friend and-

“And so we come to my proposal,” Lorenzo drawled, smiling what he probably thought was in a reassuring way, fangs tucked under his lips, but since Stiles knew they were still there it didn’t really work all that well to allay his fears or sooth his mounting anger. “You do me a tiny favor, and I tell you everything I know about your mother and the Hales, which I believe you will find most interesting.”

Because he’d probably picked up on the fact that Stiles was floundering, there, especially since it wasn’t like he had any reasonable control over his abilities, which, yeah, paired with his mother’s early death had definitely let Lorenzo get to the heart of the issue.

Issues.

Stiles was hopelessly undereducated about his family history and he’d been repeatedly used by the Hales. It was, apparently, a continuing problem in his suddenly-chaotic life.

“So,” Stiles said, struggling to keep his voice even, “you want to trade me this knowledge you may or may not actually possess for what? A magic trick?”

“Something like that,” Lorenzo said, clearly amused and relishing Stiles’ obvious ignorance.

Except that he actually was aware of some of his capabilities, and one of them was his extremely useful ability to bullshit.

“First,” Stiles said with a somewhat-forced smirk, “let’s talk about this contract, which is the first and foremost reason I’m here. Because hey, I love negotiating with supernaturals, don’t get me wrong, but this kind of thing is a bit more pressing, don’t ya think?”

Lorenzo inclined his head with an answering look of amusement, but since he was apparently willing to concede Stiles’ point, or at least play along for the time being, he took that as a good sign.

“So regardless of that heritage stuff, I’m still okay with these other terms,” Stiles said, taking the papers out of his bag and smoothing them before sliding the packet across the desk toward Lorenzo.

Who wrinkled his nose, so that answered Stiles’ question about elevated senses.

Yikes.

But there was no undoing that kind of sensory damage, so he kept talking, describing what he was thinking about in terms of how often he’d travel back for meetings, with his accompanying mate, of course.

Lorenzo smirked again at the comment, but it was a tad less gregarious. Like he was maybe not quite as smug as he had been. Which could either be attributed to him being grossed out by the obvious scent of Stiles and Derek’s spunk, or-

Or what?

Or he wasn’t sure what to do with Stiles’ apparent resurgence of confidence, however false it might be?

“Unless,” Stiles said, putting on a big, dramatic frown, “unless you think this contract should be contingent upon the new deal you’re trying to strike, in which case-”

Oh, Stiles suddenly knew exactly what to add to that.

“-I believe I have someone you need to speak to that can help us clear things right up.”

He finally brought out his phone, which he’d been wanting to do basically since the conversation had taken a turn for the strange, but instead of calling Derek, who Stiles noticed at a glance had text him numerous times, he dialed Morrell and immediately put her on speakerphone.

She picked up on the second ring.

“Mr. Youngblood, I’d like to introduce you to my emissary, Marin Morrell.”

The vampire no longer looked nearly as self-assured.

It was kind of awesome.

“Now let’s talk about this contract, shall we?”

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe I did that,” Stiles breathed, trying not to sag against the side of the elevator, which was actually pretty easy since Derek was doing his whole full body hovering thing, which hardly gave Stiles any room at all in which to do anything other than let himself be almost completely supported by the werewolf’s imposing bulk.

But that was maybe for the best because Stiles standing without assistance?

Probably not in the cards.

And at least the worst of the metaphorical dust had settled by the time Derek had come literally bursting through the office door, pieces of wood flying across the room in such a hilariously dramatic fashion that Stiles may or may not have given a startled giggled, though Morrell had taken the interruption in stride, effortlessly including Derek in the tail-end of the negotiations and had gotten all three of them to sign the contract, Stiles and Lorenzo as the acting parties, Derek as their witness, and then she’d settled the side-issue of the vampire powerplay with nary a drop of blood spilled or spell cast.

Stiles was in awe.

Also, he was so relieved he wasn’t sure if he could make his legs work properly for the foreseeable future.

Which was, of course, when the elevator doors dinged and opened.

“I’m taking you home and then you’re going to explain to me why, exactly, you felt the urge to come into a vampire’s territory without me,” Derek growled, his displeasure and relief nearly overpowering, though at least he was still holding Stiles up instead of letting him collapse, so that was a plus.

Because it would have been epically embarrassing for Stiles to faceplant onto the shiny floor of his place of business, even if they were in a little-used back hallway without anyone in sight.

And cosmic timing was a thing, apparently, because none other than Pason Manning came striding around the corner at the very moment Stiles was attempting to extricate himself from the elevator with a very clingy werewolf not yet allowing him to put any kind of distance between them.

Par-Man, as Stiles had not-so-fondly nicknamed him, skidded to a halt when he saw Stiles and Derek standing there close together, and yeah, it most probably looked like they were getting up to some hanky panky, what with the front of their bodies pressed flush, Stiles still leaning against the shiny mirrored wall.

“Hey,” Stiles said, drawing out the word and surreptitiously poking Derek in the side to get him to back off just a bit because even though Stiles likely wouldn’t have to deal with the douchebag again, he still wanted to maintain at least a modicrum of professionalism.

“Stilinski,” Par-Man said in reply, brow furrowed all the way up to where his hairline would have been had he not been mostly bald.

“You do know this man is a werecoyote, don’t you?” Derek said quietly, but apparently being that type of a supernatural meant Par-Man heard every word because his entire head flushed pink as he sputtered out a series of sounds that were probably meant to be a denial or something.

But the cat was out of the bag.

Or the werecoyote, as the case may be.

“Well, that’s different,” Stiles allowed, finally managing to get Derek to face forward and link his arm with Stiles’ in a way that wasn’t totally possively aggressive or strange-looking. “So, I’m assuming you’re heading up to the boss’s lair? Have fun with that. Oh, and don’t let him try to talk you into anything nefarious, he’s in a sucking mood today, if you catch my drift.” Stiles said by way of farewell and practically dragged Derek out of the elevator and down the hall toward the parking garage, leaving his former coworker to gape at them.

And yeah, apparently the adrenaline was still with him, or else Stiles probably wouldn’t have been able to manage the whole walking thing, so that was a plus, even if it meant he’d likely collapse into a pile by the time they got to Derek’s house.

Assuming Derek was still willing to take him there.

But judging by his mate’s reticence, Stiles had really screwed things up.

Which was all kinds of terrible, though at least Derek still saw him to the SUV without comment and even helped him into the passenger seat.

“Oh, shit, I totally interrupted your meeting,” Stiles blurted, batting away Derek’s attempt to buckle him in. His hands weren’t shaking that badly, after all, he could totally manage to secure his own seatbelt.

Though it might have taken him a few extra seconds and earned him a disgruntled look from his clearly concerned mate as he closed Stiles’ door and crossed around the front to get to his own.

“It doesn’t matter,” Derek said, as he climbed inside, holding up a hand when Stiles tried to protest. “None of that matters because the most important thing to me is your safety. Knowing that you so blatantly disregarded it makes me angry.”

Stiles bit his lip in consternation, but didn’t attempt to defend himself because Derek was absolutely right. He’d definitely fucked things up.

Again.

“I’m not angry with you,” Derek amended softly, finally focusing on driving the SUV out of the parking garage. “I’m angry that you thought you needed to deal with a potentially dangerous situation on your own. I’m angry that you seem to thing you can’t trust me enough to tell me-”

“What? No-” Stiles tried to interrupt, but Derek kept on talking.

“-about your plans. I’m upset that you intentionally made yourself vulnerable to attack. Do you want to tell me why you did that? Why you thought it was necessary to go behind my back to meet with a vampire?”

Derek finally glanced over at Stiles, but didn’t hold his gaze for long before focusing back on driving through the improperly plowed city streets.

Stiles grimaced and looked out the window. His previous excuse, his impulsiveness, no longer seemed at all adequate given the trouble he’d clearly caused. He also had no doubts his actions had messed up Derek’s discussion with his superiors.

“I just,” he began, then sighed. “I just needed it to be done. I didn’t think he’d try anything-”

“Did he attack you?” Derek demanded, his voice suddenly lisped and yep, his eyes were blazing an angry blue as his fangs peeked out from between his lips, looking much deadlier than the vampire’s had.

Stiles shook his head hastily. “No, no Der, he didn’t. He just, it’s like Morrell said. He was trying to negotiate with me. Outside of the contract. He wanted-”

What, power? Was that even what he’d been after?

“-he kind of acted like Peter, actually,” he said, trailing off with another wince when Derek let out an angry growl. “He mentioned my spark and-” Stiles swallowed thickly, finally letting the emotions he’d been repressing rise to the surface as he looked fixedly out the foggy passenger-side window. “He kept talking pretty cryptically about your family and then he mentioned that he might know more about my mother.”

Derek’s growl cut off abruptly, turning into a whine and he reached over to take Stiles’ hand in his.

“Stiles-” he began, but Stiles couldn’t really handle that, the pity.

Because he’d fucked up and he deserved Derek’s anger, not anything else.

“No,” he snapped, yanking his hand back. “No, you’re right, I’m a total mess, I fucked up and endangered myself and I spent half the time freaking out and the other half contemplating how to kill my vampire boss and who the hell does that, Derek? Who leaps to that kind of a conclusion? I didn’t even feel bad about it, either, not really. Yeah, the dude’s a vampire who may or may not have wanted to drink my blood or feast on my essence or whatever, but I’m the monster, here. I would have fried his ass without remorse. What the hell kind of a person does that make me?” and there was a definite hint of hysteria creeping into his voice, which was certainly louder than Stiles had thought it was as his words seemed to echo in the ensuing silence.

“You’re not a monster, Stiles,” Derek said quietly, and he was giving off such powerful waves of anguish and sadness that Stiles didn’t even know what to say to that.

So he settled on silent disagreement.

Neither of them spoke for the rest of the drive back to the Hale’s Chicago house, not until they’d trudged inside, divesting themselves of their winter gear before coming to a standstill in the living room. Their shared mood oddly morose.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” Derek said, tone serious, but the same stomach-roiling combination of emotions were leaking from him as before. It was almost enough to make Stiles close the distance between them, like the closer physical proximity to his mate could have served to sooth him.

But he didn’t because it was clear that Derek wouldn’t have taken the coddling well, like he really did need to get whatever it was off his chest.

“What is it?” Stiles said, reluctant to find out, but somehow knowing that it was of the utmost importance that he listen to whatever it was Derek clearly needed to tell him.

“It’s about my family and what happened in Beacon Hills. Why we left there when I was a kid.”

Stiles swallowed thickly and nodded. He had an idea of what had gone down, Chris Argent had seen to that, but he hadn’t ever really gotten a full retelling of the story. Not that he was entirely eager to find out, but the truth probably needed to be told.

And was that what Youngblood had been talking about in regards to the Hales?

“Do you want to sit down?” Stiles suggested as he moved purposefully toward the couch. He needed to sit down, and did with a sigh of relief. The absence of adrenaline wasn’t doing him any favors. His legs felt loose and achy, muscles suddenly unsupportive.

But Derek shook his head and started pacing in front of the bare fireplace, the Hale need for motion showing itself with force.

“I don’t,” he began, then huffed out a frustrated breath. It kind of reminded Stiles of Talia, which was both amusing and a bit awkward. “I don’t ever want you to feel unsafe around me,” Derek said, pausing long enough to meet Stiles’ gaze before once again resuming his pacing.

“I know that’s probably unlikely, given what I’m going to tell you, but I want you to know-”

“This is about Chris Argent’s mother, isn’t it?” Stiles interrupted, cutting to the core of the situation. He didn’t believe in tiptoeing around an issue if it could be avoided, though from the stunned look on Derek’s face a bit of delicacy probably would have been helpful.

“It’s, yeah,” Derek said, frozen there in front of Stiles, but still out of reach.

Stiles barely restrained the urge to sigh, with relief, oddly enough. He hadn’t even realized it, but he’d been waiting for Derek to bring up the feud on his own instead of having to dig it out of him like a festering splinter.

But when Derek didn’t continue Stiles settled back against the plush couch cushions and waited him out. While his reservoir of patience wasn’t the greatest, he thought he could hold his tongue for long enough to get Derek to talk. Stiles figured that getting him onto the right subject was an adequate starting point.

“When I was little,” Derek finally said, voice quiet even in the overall silence of the house, “Laura and I used to run around the woods in Beacon Hills with the rest of our pack, our mother and father and uncle. Our grandparents, too,” he said, choking on the word, but he cleared his throat and continued. “It was nice there, we all enjoyed it and as far as I knew it was safe for us.”

There was an until coming, Stiles could feel it.

“Until the Argents arrived.”

And there it was. Stiles pressed a bit more firmly against the couch and watched Derek’s expression grow pained and distant.

“At first they didn’t bother us, didn’t come into the woods or near the house, but Laura and I could tell that something was wrong because for the first time in our lives we weren’t supposed to go running alone or go out at night. It was strange, but we didn’t think anything of it, not until Uncle Peter came home one afternoon with a wound on his arm that glowed a strange purple and smelled like rot.”

Stiles swallowed thickly, unable to suppress a shudder. He didn’t want to sympathize with Peter, but it was kind of hard not to, knowing he’d probably grown up in the same idyllic environment of Derek’s early childhood. Could that have been the first time he’d ever been gravely injured?

He didn’t ask, though, and Derek continued with a distant look in his eyes, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.

“I didn’t know what was happening, and neither did Laura, but our grandparents and mother were furious. Our dad took the three of us down to the basement once Peter’s wound had been seen to by Deaton. There are tunnels there to hide in, which we’d always thought were for fun, but now I know they’re meant as a place for us to stay safe in case hunters come.

“They did, later that night, but so did Deaton and,” he paused, eyes downcast for a moment before glancing over at Stiles, “and your mother. She shouldn’t have come, though. It was dangerous for her to get mixed up in things with the Argents, especially since she was pregnant with you, but she came and together she and Deaton stopped the hunters from sealing us inside the house. The hunters had a mixture of mountain ash and wolfsbane they were using, like some kind of ritual circle, and it would have worked, but Auntie Anya was there and used some of her magic to scare them off.”

Which was-

Wow.

-totally news to Stiles. He knew she’d played a part in things, Morrell had said as much, but he hadn’t realized just how large a role she’d had in saving the Hale’s lives.

“Yeah, my mom was kind of a badass,” he managed, attempting to lighten the mood, but Derek only gave a half-hearted little smile before the sadness was back in his expression and mood, turning the air thick and heavy.

“I didn’t hear the full story until I was a teenager, just before leaving for college, but it turned out that Kate Argent had tried to seduce Peter, probably hoping to learn about our family’s defenses and weaknesses. He’d told her some of it, but managed to figure out what she’d been after before she could get all of the information. She must have realized that he’d figured her out because she’d pulled a gun from the trunk of her car, they’d been parked somewhere in the woods, and shot at him when he’d tried to run. Luckily Deaton had the same strain of wolfsbane as was in the bullet and healed him without any loss of function.”

But as horrible as that all sounded, it still didn’t touch on the deaths of the eldest Argents.

Derek sat heavily on the stone ledge of the fireplace, like his legs had suddenly given out and Stiles had to make a conscious effort not to scramble over the low coffee table to get to him, the urge to comfort his mate was so strong. Instead he focused on the commiseration he felt, on the love and affection he harbored for Derek.

Finally, after a long moment of silence, he continued. “The next day, after the smell from the powder had cleared, my parents and grandparents scoured the woods for traps. That’s how hunters get us, more times than not, they set bear traps and snares like we’re actual animals.”

Derek’s brow was furrowed and Stiles could feel his anger, but he kept on.

“Peter stayed with Laura and me. He’d healed, but the wolfsbane had made him a bit weaker than before. He’s twelve years older than me, so he was still a teenager at the time, but even then he wasn’t someone to be trifled with when his temper flared. We’d been told to stay in the house, but it was by our mother, not our alpha.” Derek paused to swallow, his tone had grown brittle as he spoke, gaze unmoving from the hardwood floor. “Our grandmother, Peter and my mother’s mother, was our alpha.”

Rebecca Hale, Stiles remembered.

“It wasn’t, it wasn’t that we wanted to disobey,” Derek said slowly, “it was just that, well, Peter and Laura didn’t like feeling helpless. I was too frightened by the sudden changes to know better, so I tagged along with them when they snuck out into the woods. I don’t even know what they thought they could accomplish, or what their plan was, but we were deep in the preserve when Laura triggered one of the traps, a wire snare that flung her up against a tree so hard it knocked her out. The Argents appeared before Peter and I could cut her down-”

An icy chill bloomed in the pit of Stiles’ stomach, but he didn’t interrupt because Derek clearly needed to get the confession off his chest.

“There were three of them. Kate and her parents. They were wearing charms or herbs or something that masked their scent, but I could still tell that they had wolfsbane with them because my eyes started watering and I began to feel dizzy. Peter yelled at me to run. He told me to get away and howl for the rest of the pack, but Laura was just beginning to regain consciousness and I couldn’t just leave her there at the mercy of hunters.”

Stiles couldn’t take it anymore, he gave into his impulse and clambered over the low wooden table and came to rest kneeling at Derek’s feet, forcing him to meet his gaze.

“Der,” he began, but his mate shook his head.

“I need to,” he said quietly, though he did take Stiles’ hands in both of his, resting them on his thighs with a gentle grip.

“I managed to jump up and claw the wire holding Laura. That’s when Peter charged the Argents, he was half-shifted and growling. Laura turned wolf before she hit the ground and I followed her lead. I didn’t know what else to do. She went to help Peter and I followed her. I don’t, I just acted out of instinct and then there was the taste of blood in my mouth and someone was screaming. I don’t remember much of what happened, after that, but I know both Laura and I were injured. One of my arms was broken and her jaw was dislocated. I did see Peter slash at Kate Argent, though,” which, if he’d hit her abdomen, explained her inability to have children, Stiles supposed, though she’d probably suffered other grievous trauma if his claws had gone that deep.

“Gerard managed to drag Kate away from us, Peter was too distracted trying to help Laura to follow him and I wouldn’t stop howling because of the pain in my arm as the bone tried to heal. My parents found us fairly quickly, but my grandparents-” Derek trailed off with a choked-off noise.

Stiles squeezed Derek’s hands in commiseration, letting him know that he was still there.

Derek nodded, either to himself or Stiles, it didn’t really matter, but the action seemed to ground him and he continued steadily despite his remembered sorrow. “My grandparents tracked Gerard and Kate to the edge of the preserve. They were just trying to chase them out, to make sure they really left, but there were more hunters there and my grandparents, they were killed. Shot beyond their ability to heal. Gerard even cut them in half, which is an old hunter tradition the Argents started back in Europe.”

And that was all kinds of terrible.

“Laura and I, we’d accidentally killed Gerard’s wife, I don’t even know her name. We didn’t mean to, it just, it just happened.”

Stiles could almost see little Derek in his wolf form, hurt and howling, terrified of what had happened and what he’d done.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he said quietly, but Derek was already shaking his head.

“I know that, now, but back then I was almost crushed by shame. By the guilt. Laura was, too, which is why our eyes turned from yellow to blue.”

Which, woah.

“Wait, that’s why you have blue eyes when you wolf-out? Is it because you- is it because you feel guilty about it?” Stiles asked. He couldn’t see Peter feeling guilty about killing anyone, so he wasn’t sure if that was the connection or if it was just because he’d ended someone’s life.

“Yes, I think so,” Derek said, shame vibrating through their bond.

Stiles moved from his position kneeling at Derek’s feet to sit beside him on the cold stone of the fireplace, their hands still linked almost tightly enough to make Stiles’ fingers ache.

“I’m sorry you had to do that. No kid should ever have to deal with that kind of situation, but you helped save Laura’s life,” Stiles pointed out. It was a cold comfort, but the only thing he could think to say.

Derek somehow managed to give Stiles a grateful smile, though.

“It was Auntie Anya and Deaton that brokered the trade of bodies, my grandparents’ for Gerard’s wife. I wasn’t there for it, though, my dad had locked us in the basement to heal while he and my mom took care of the negotiations. We buried them in the middle of the night, in the old family plot on our property, surrounded by wolfsbane flowers to ensure they’d rest in peace. We left the next morning, during the early hours when it was still dark out. I never saw your mother again, and Laura says I howled for hours as we drove away.”

Stiles leaned his head against Derek’s shoulder and closed his eyes when Derek settled against him, too.

“So that’s your big secret?” he asked softly.

He felt Derek nod.

“I understand your guilt, I’m pretty much an expert at that particular emotion, but I don’t blame you for doing what you had to do to save someone you love. No one would blame you for that, Derek. The Argents were in the wrong, not you, and as far as I’m concerned they got what they deserved.”

Derek and Laura’s fangs. Peter’s claws. Stiles’ lightning.

“At least Chris and Allison aren’t assholes,” he said, partially because it was true and also because he wasn’t sure they should dwell on the dead members of the family, anymore. What was done was done and it seemed like moving on might be for the best.

But Derek stiffened slightly at the names, like maybe the remainder of the surviving Argents wasn’t a good one.

“They’re going to be part of our lives, of our pack,” Stiles said as gently as he could. There wasn’t any way Scott would life a life without Allison and his unborn child, and Stiles wouldn’t let his friend become the bad kind of omega. If Derek had an issue with that, well, Stiles wasn’t sure how he’d handle it.

“Do you think they’ll accept us?” Derek finally asked, straightening up and trying to extract his hands from Stiles’, but he refused to loosen his grip.

He was stubborn like that.

Stiles sighed, opening his eyes and pressing his side closer to Derek. “I think we should probably talk it out with them. Chris probably heard a very different version of events, knowing how psychotic Kate and Gerard turned out to be. He and Allison weren’t at all close to them, not after Allison’s mom was killed in Kate’s company.”

Derek made a humming noise, which Stiles assumed was all the response he was going to get, so he dropped it.

“Thanks for coming to my rescue,” he said instead, which made Derek let out a soft laugh.

“You didn’t need rescue, Stiles, you had everything under control when I broke your boss’s door like a lunatic.”

Stiles chuckled. “Well, I was still an idiot for going without you, but you came anyway and I wanted to thank you and tell you I’m sorry for being such an impulsive asshole. I can’t promise that I won’t do that again, but I’ll really try not to.”

“I appreciate your candor,” Derek said dryly, but he put an arm around Stiles’ shoulder, so at the very least he wasn’t angry anymore.

It was a comforting thought and Stiles closed his eyes, settling against the warmth of his mate.



Stiles woke up to the sound of typing. He grunted and rolled over, then flailed as he nearly took a header off the edge of the bed. Which was definitely much smaller than Derek’s.

“Have a good nap?” Derek asked from somewhere past his feet and Stiles flailed again, flopping onto his back and looking hastily around the room to orient himself. It was Laura’s, apparently.

“What-”

“I needed to finish up a couple of reports and you passed out on me downstairs,” Derek said, turning from the large computer screen and glancing back at Stiles. He’d changed into more comfortable clothes at some point, and had stripped off Stiles’ outer layers, too. “I figured I’d let you sleep while I took care of things.”

Stiles yawned and stretched out his legs under the pale green covers on Laura’s surprisingly comfortable bed. It was kind of adorable that Derek had brought him into the room where he was working instead of leaving Stiles on the couch or upstairs in his bed.

“Hm, good with me. Sorry for making you lug me up the stairs,” Stiles said and smiled when Derek predictably rolled his eyes.

“It’s fine, Stiles. If you’re hungry we can make dinner, soon. I’m almost finished with this.”

This appeared to be some kind of an incident report, but Stiles made himself look away because while he knew he could be nosy, it really wasn’t any of his business what Derek was writing up.

And Stiles hadn’t ever really focused on Laura’s room before, he realized as he looked around. She had a few framed pictures of her family, a landscape painting that looked similar in style to the one downstairs, but otherwise the space was empty of any kind of childhood memorabilia. Then again, Derek’s room was similar. Of course, it wasn’t like Stiles had actually visited their main house in Wisconsin, so he had no idea whether or not they even kept stuff like that.

He yawned again and settled back on the pillow, staring upward and trying to figure out what to make for dinner. It was nice, he suddenly realized, being able to just relax and exist in the same space as his mate, the subtle tension that had existed between them finally gone.

It made Stiles’ skin tingle with relief and pleasure, knowing that they were finally safe, that there really were no more secrets between them.

“Stiles,” Derek warned, and he couldn’t help but grin because he knew he was definitely giving off some come-hither vibes.

“What?” he asked as innocently as he could manage.

Derek let out a soft growl, typing more rapidly like he was trying to rush through the ending of the report.

But Stiles wasn’t a complete ass, so he let out a soft laugh and rolled his way out from under the covers until his stockinged feet hung over the side of the bed.

“Okay, I’m gonna go make us something to eat while you do that,” he said, scratching at the back of his neck with one hand. He could be kind of slow to start when awoken from a nap, but already he felt more energized.

Derek glanced back at him, cocking one eyebrow as he took in Stiles’ undoubtedly rumpled appearance. “You don’t have to, I can-”

But Stiles waved away his answer and Derek dutifully trailed off with an amused snort.

“Naw, no worries, I’ve got it. Go on and do your civic duty thing, Officer Hale.”

Derek’s ears flushed at that, but Stiles resisted the urge to nibble on them or fit his teeth against the back of Derek’s bare neck or any of a dozen other suddenly dirty thoughts that came to mind because he knew none of that would be helpful, not when his mate had actual work still yet to do.

“I’ll be downstairs,” he called as he bounded out of the room, smiling at Derek’s obvious exasperation.

Stiles grinned as he took the steps three at a time. Things were starting to come together and he couldn’t help but feel cautiously optimistic about their future.

Chapter Text

The fridge was packed from the weekly grocery delivery and yeah, the Hales evidently went through a staggering amount of food, but he dug out some simple essentials and, with a flash of inspiration, set about getting it all prepared and set out in the dining room.

Which was where Derek found him a little while later, kneeling on a cushion beside the lone chair sitting by the table. Derek’s dark brows rose at the sight, but he didn’t comment as he walked slowly forward, taking in the carefully-laid scene.

“This looks like the meal we ate on our first date,” he pointed out, voice low with arousal.

Stiles nodded, but he was trying something new, so he didn’t let his mouth run off with him like he normally would. He figured he’d gotten himself into enough trouble already that day, that it was time to show his mate how well-behaved he could be when he tried.

Derek paused, like he caught on to the subtext, before continuing forward.

“You’re comfortable?”

Stiles nodded again.

“Do you want to start a scene like this?”

He bit his lip before nodding.

“What do you say if you want to stop?” Derek asked, and yeah, Stiles didn’t exactly want to talk, to break his silence, but safe words were definitely necessary. Especially after all of their conversations about consent and communication and all of that other stuff.

“Red,” he said quietly.

Derek reached him, then, and came to a stop. He lifted one hand and trailed his thumb along Stiles’ bottom lip.

“If you’d like to slow down and discuss what’s happening?”

“Yellow.”

Stiles could feel Derek’s contentment and pride through their bond.

“And if you’re okay with what’s happening?”

“Green,” Stiles said, holding Derek’s gaze as he licked his tongue out, tasting the natural saltiness of Derek’s skin where his thumb still pressed against Stiles’ lip.

Derek’s eyes flashed blue.

“Good pup.”

Stiles smiled, his cheeks hot with the praise.

“What have you prepared for us tonight?” Derek asked, though it was clearly a rhetorical question, as he surveyed the simple dishes, his hand rising up so he could card his fingers through Stiles’ hair in what seemed like an absent-minded gesture, but one Stiles couldn’t help but lean into.

He’d tried his best to recreate Isaac’s finger-food meal, though there wasn’t anything fancy like caviar and he hadn’t had the time to really cook anything like hard-boiled eggs or asparagus, so he’d stuck to the more easily prepped foods. Crackers with cheese, little clusters of grapes, various raw vegetables. It was actually more akin to picnic fare than what Isaac had made for them, Stiles belatedly realized, but Derek seemed content with it.

“Thank you for making us dinner,” he said, right on cue.

Stiles ducked his head and tried to hide his smile when Derek let out a soft laugh.

“Are you suddenly shy about compliments?” he teased and Stiles couldn’t help his blush as he gave a little shrug in response. He had thought about putting on another of his dress shirts, to add to the atmosphere, but he’d been distracted by the meal preparation and hadn’t gotten around to it. He figured his undershirt and boxer briefs made him look submissive enough without going all out.

Besides, he wasn’t quite willing to chance the delicate buttons being popped off should he or Derek get too exuberant. Stiles was lucky enough that his previous shirt had come out of things unscathed. Well, except for the possible stains, but it was white so it probably wasn’t ruined.

“Would you like to be blindfolded for this?” Derek asked, but Stiles shook his head. He figured he could close his eyes if he wanted to focus on his other senses. Besides, he thought watching his mate eat the food he’d prepared would be kind of erotic in itself.

Derek hummed in response, sliding his hand so Stiles’ head tilted back, exposing his unmarked throat.

“I’m going to sit down and start eating. If you’d like to eat something I choose, I want you to indicate that to me. Does that sound fair?”

Stiles nodded. He could work with that, the rules Derek set in place for them.

He felt his shoulders relax as Derek sat down beside him, Stiles bare arm brushing against the soft fabric of his pajama pants. He let Derek pick through the food uninterrupted, sampling and complementing as he tried the various combinations.

“Would you like a bite?” Derek said, and Stiles glanced up, feeling a bit dazed, but he nodded and opened his mouth for the slice of apple and honey.

He smiled at the rich flavor and Derek’s answering grin made him want to, he didn’t even know, wag his imaginary tail? Instead, since that wasn’t even a thing that was possible, Stiles nuzzled his cheek against the warmth of Derek’s thigh and let his eyes slip closed with relief when Derek’s broad hand settled on the back of his neck.

“You’re obedient tonight,” Derek commented, and Stiles opened his eyes again, accepting the proffered cracker and peanut butter. When Stiles didn’t comment, Derek continued. “Is this your way of making up for what happened today?” he asked slowly, caution leaking from him and sullying the easy mood they’d fallen into with the reality of the mess Stiles had gotten involved with earlier.

Of course things had worked out surprisingly well, but still.

Stiles glanced away and Derek seemed to understand it as a confirmation, but instead of being exasperated or upset, he just squeezed the back of Stiles’ neck, like he was trying to reassure Stiles through touch.

“You know that you don’t have to,” Derek said softly, his love shining through their bond with a warmth that went to Stiles’ core. “You don’t owe me-”

Stiles didn’t want Derek to get the wrong idea. It was like the money thing, where Derek had bought the plane tickets for them both without expecting Stiles to pay him back. It wasn’t- Stiles wasn’t comfortable with them starting off their relationship feeling indebted to each other, or feeling like they were obligated to do things they may not have, otherwise, so he did the only thing he could think of besides spout out a tangled mess of half-articulated words and instead fit his teeth as best he could around the muscle on the top of Derek’s thigh and pressed down just hard enough to make Derek pause.

“Is that your way of saying you’re done with this conversation?” Derek asked, thankfully amused and not offended by Stiles cutting him off.

Stiles released his hold and rubbed his cheek against the slightly damp patch of cloth before setting his chin down purposefully and watching as Derek huffed out a laugh and picked something else to eat.

They continued like that, in companionable silence, Derek periodically offering him food or sips of water, until they were both full and content.

Well, they were full, at least.

But when Derek didn’t make a move to take things further, Stiles carefully reached out and wrapped one hand around his ankle, trying to convey his desire for a more intimate turn of events without saying it outloud.

Ever perceptive, Derek cleared his throat and gave a curt nod. “Green,” he said without further prompting and Stiles grinned brightly at him before putting his mouth to better use, nipping along the side of Derek’s thigh like he had before, leaving little indents on the soft fabric.

Edging was one of the things Derek had marked yes to on his checklist. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure if that meant Derek liked to be edged or if he was more interested in trying it on Stiles, but he figured trying it out was worth a shot.

It was something Stiles was interested in, too, after all.

So he started off slow, working his mouth over the cloth, up the side of Derek’s thigh until Derek finally grunted and turned, lifting one leg up and over Stiles until he was bracketed between his mate’s knees.

“Whatever you want,” Derek murmured, settling back and that, Stiles was pretty okay with that. He knew both of their hard limits, he knew what Derek had marked in the yes columns on the forms, and damned if Stiles wasn’t going to try out every single thing he could.

But he started with his mouth, working his way along the inside of Derek’s thighs, nipping gently, enough to be felt, but too soft to leave any marks, the fabric soft and giving beneath his teeth.

Derek let out a groan as Stiles worked his way closer toward the hard line of his cock, but instead of pressing his lips there he sat up on his knees and kissed along the waistband of Derek’s pants, tucking his nose under the soft shirt and lifting it so he could press his cheek to the smooth skin of Derek’s taut abdomen.

“Shit,” Derek swore softly and quickly pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it somewhere out of sight as Stiles set about worshiping the newly exposed skin.

He zoned out a bit as he worked, lips and teeth and tongue, pulling breathy moans and delicate-sounding noises from Derek’s lips, and hadn’t realized his hands had wandered up to grasp Derek’s thighs until he felt the muscles tense beneath his palms.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek groaned. “Come on, you’re killing me, here.”

And it was as close to begging as Stiles could remember having heard from him, so he grinned, lips probably red and shiny from his ministrations, and finally acquiesced, hooking his fingers over the band of Derek’s pants and underwear and tugging them over the swell of Derek’s ass, enjoying the sight of his rigid cock slap against his abs.

But Stiles still had his mission in mind, so he focused on the cut of Derek’s hips and his hairy thighs, though he watched with something like awe as beads of pre-come leaked from the exposed head of Derek’s straining erection.

“Stiles,” he said again, sound almost pained, though he didn’t make any move to grab Stiles’ head and force him to take care of it, which was-

It was perfect, was what it was.

Finally, he rewarded his mate with what he needed, sealing his lips around the head of Derek’s cock and whirling his tongue, sliding it across the slit and reveling in the familiar taste.

Derek hissed out a breath, chest arching up as he clutched his own hair, tense arms showing the firm lines of his insane musculature and Stiles almost got distracted watching him, but he had a mission.

To treat Derek to the best, most erotic one-sided sexual session that he could think of. So he gradually lessened the pressure of his lips, pulling off and using his mouth instead to slick the rest of him that Stiles hadn’t gotten to. His shaft and balls, his perineum-

Which wrenched another low noise from Derek’s clenched teeth.

-along the crease of his thighs, and back to his cock, which was an angry-looking red where it lay on his slick abs. Wet from Stiles’ saliva and his own pre-come and sweat.

“Please,” Derek moaned, his emotions a high plateau composed almost exclusively of sexual desire, though there was still that thrum of love for Stiles, which was what ultimately made him relent, gently taking his mate’s cock into his mouth, working his tongue as he sank lower. He squeezed his eyes shut, relaxing his throat and carefully breathing through his nose, bobbing slowly as he worked to take all of Derek.

“You don’t,” Derek gasped, “you don’t have to-”

But a rattling growl from deep in his chest seemed to cut off whatever he’d been about to say and then his hands were gripping Stiles’ head, the tell-tale prick of his wolfish claws tickling Stiles’ scalp as he continued to wring all manner of noises from his mate.

He didn’t need Derek’s warning to know he was about to come, but Stiles did pull back enough not to choke as warm bursts of come pulsed onto his tongue, Derek’s grip loosening as he finished with a punched-out sigh.

Stiles remained there, on his knees, dick still in his mouth, until Derek pulled him off and into his lap, quickly devesting Stiles of his shirt until their chests were touching, Stiles’ knees bracketing his bare thighs.

“Amazing,” Derek said, a flush high on his cheeks, a smile on lips until they descended upon Stiles’, his tongue licking the taste of himself out of Stiles’ mouth.

Stiles let him take, relaxing against him, one of Derek’s arms wrapped firmly around his waist while the other-

Suddenly had a firm grip on Stiles’ own aching cock, pulling him out of the flap on his boxer-briefs, setting a quick pace like Derek knew he couldn’t last much longer before he felt like he’d explode.

And he did, his cries muffled by Derek’s mouth as he came between them, slicking both their chests with it.

He exhaled, finally, after what felt like ages, and sank against the warmth of his mate.

Stiles felt, he felt amazing. More amazing than he could ever remember having felt, before.

It was kind of awesome.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” Derek said and even though Stiles’ eyes were closed-

Which he didn’t remember doing.

-he knew that Derek was just as happy as he was, sated and content as he lounged back in the chair, one of his hands resting on Stiles’ head where he had his cheek pressed against the sweaty warmth of Derek’s shoulder.

Stiles hummed a non-answer in response, too blissed-out to put any kind of effort into speaking. Or moving. Or doing anything of any kind besides enjoying the contentment they were both radiating like heat.

Finally, when Stiles’ began to feel the chill of the room, the sweat on the back of his neck having cooled, Derek finally shifted and placed the smooth edge of a glass against his lips.

“Drink a few sips of this for me,” he said, voice still a bit rough from having literally been shouting up until his orgasm.

And Stiles wasn’t going to stop feeling smug about that for a long while, he was sure, but he did as he was told and drank slowly from the glass, letting Derek control the tilt of it until he was satisfied that Stiles wasn’t in danger of dehydration or whatever.

“Are you ready to go to bed, now?” he asked and Stiles nodded, mind blissfully blank of the clutter that normally filled his every waking moment.

Derek didn’t immediately move, aside from the way his fingers gently carded through Stiles’ undoubtedly rumpled hair and down his bare spine. And yeah, he could get used to the petting, the petting was nice.

“Would you like me to carry you?”

And the way Derek asked, the hesitancy in his voice, like he was afraid of Stiles’ bitter rebuke, made a whine crop up in his throat before he could silence it, so he turned his face against Derek’s skin, shutting out the dim light, and nodded because he was kind of embarrassed by his utter lack of desire to actually move more than that. He would, of course, if Derek wanted him to-

“Come on, then,” Derek said, his emotions content and soothing as he gathered Stiles up and into his arms, which wouldn’t have even been possible if he hadn’t been a werewolf with superstrength. Stiles wasn’t exactly a tiny guy, after all. Sure he was a bit on the scrawny side, at least compared to Derek, but they were pretty much the same height and it wasn’t like Stiles didn’t have at least some muscles.

He didn’t fight it, though, the soothing feeling of being carried through the house and up the stairs, all the way to Derek’s room, but instead of being placed on the bed like he’d expected, Derek kept walking and Stiles couldn’t help but blink his eyes open with a frown, though it was too dark to make much out other than vague shapes that seemed to indicate they were in the bathroom.

“Wha-”

“We need to get cleaned up before bed,” Derek whispered, holding Stiles a bit more firmly with one hand so he could do- something. Stiles wasn’t even sure what, but then he was being placed on the counter- on a towel on the counter -so that likely answered that.

He let his eyes slip shut again, leaning forward to rest his head on Derek’s shoulder as the faucet turned on with a quiet rush.

“Sleepy,” he said, lips twitching when Derek snorted out a huff of warm breath that ghosted across his back.

“I know, Stiles, I’m just waiting for the water to warm and then I’ll clean us up and take us to bed.”

“I love you,” Stiles said, admitted, really.

It was still hard to say, always had been. At least since his mother’s passing. He’d said it before, though, more frivolously than he should have to people who hadn’t earned his love or even affection, but for the first time with a partner, he actually meant it.

“I know,” Derek replied cheekily and Stiles bit gently onto his clavicle in retaliation, but soon enough he let go, licking at the skin there in apology.

The steady sound of the water was interrupted by what Stiles assumed was a towel or washcloth, and then the warm rasp of it was brushing over his stomach and up his chest and throat, cleaning around his mouth with gentle swipes.

“I love you, too,” Derek finally said, the wet warmth of the cloth gone, but from the sound of it he was scrubbing himself off a bit more vigorously than he had with Stiles.

“I know,” Stiles parroted, just to hear Derek snort out another laugh.

And that, the easy humor they’d found with each other, the care and consideration they felt, that was worth all of the angst in the world.



The next morning Stiles woke up happy, his limbs tangled with Derek’s, the dim winter sunlight filtering through the sheer curtains, giving the room a soft look. He appreciated the werewolf-warmth of his bedmate that kept the chill at bay, especially when he pressed his cold nose against the soft heat at the base of Derek’s throat and earning a grumbled noise that he gleefully ignored in favor of warming the colder bits of his body until Derek finally grunted out Stiles’ name.

“Mornin’ Der,” he whispered, grinning when Derek finally opened his eyes, gaze sleepily tracking across Stiles’ features.

“Hmm,” he replied, arms tightening around Stiles’ chest, dragging him closer until they were almost nose to nose.

And the proximity, yeah, that was beyond okay with him.

For a few minutes.

But despite his normal reticence to get up in the morning, Stiles found himself oddly wired, limbs twitching with pent-up energy. Like he was actually ready to get up and go.

It was a bit bizarre, but not enough to actually worry him. Especially since he’d had a fantastic night’s sleep.

Derek snorted. “You’re awfully eager this morning,” he commented, one hand lazily scratching up and down Stiles’ spine.

He arched into the touch and kissed Derek’s parted lips before pulling back enough to watch his contented expression in the soft morning light.

“That I am. How about some yoga? We still have, like, a hundred poses yet to try.”

Derek quirked an eyebrow. “A hundred poses? Really?”

Stiles rolled his eyes and rubbed his cheek against Derek’s, enjoying the raspy texture of his mate’s beard on his skin. He’d never been all that successful at growing facial hair, it had always come in looking patchy and lame, so Stiles shaved whenever he needed to, which turned out to be pathetically infrequently, truth be told.

“Wanna try one, now?” Stiles asked, feeling persistent and bouncy and energized, like he was set to go for a run or had been given a new project at work. And if intimacy with Derek could earn him that kind of headspace the morning after, Stiles was totally okay with making it a nightly habit. Plus, the growling had been hella hot.

Derek didn’t answer, but he stretched out, arms and legs taut as he let out a long sigh before settling back with a soft smile. “I call base,” he said, smirking when Stiles rolled his eyes again.

“Fine, fine, come on, Der, I’m growing old, here!”

Stiles clambered out from under the covers, and immediately regretted it as he shivered with the sudden change in temperature from balmy werewolf-warmth trapped under the blankets to the frigid Chicago cold. He hopped from one foot to the other as Derek extricated himself with a slow kind of grace. He’d slept without a shirt so Stiles had a lovely view of his defined muscles as he pushed himself off the bed, which was actually a pretty welcome distraction from his own shivering, equally-shirtless situation.

“Are you sure you want to do this? You already look half-frozen and we’re not even sweating, yet,” Derek said, watching Stiles spaz out with an amused smile.

Stiles would have stuck his tongue out, but wasn’t sure he could keep his teeth from chattering for long enough not to accidentally bite it, so he just scrunched his nose up, instead.

“You’re the base,” he managed to say, only stuttering a little bit, “so get to it.”

“Bossy,” Derek muttered, but dutifully sat down on the carpet, legs splayed welcomingly. “Well,” he said, watching as Stiles still flittered around trying to get his blood pumping in the cold air, “are you going to join me or should I bundle you back into bed before your lips turn blue.”

Stiles gave him a playful scowl, but plopped his butt on the floor, legs v’d out like Derek’s, Stiles’ socks pressed against the arches of his mate’s bare feet.

“I hope this warm up actually works, I’m freezing my balls off,” Stiles said, hands reaching out toward Derek’s until their palms touched and even from that simple point of contact he could feel his muscles loosen from their bird-like quivering.

“I’d hate for your balls to fall off,” Derek said with a serious tone, glancing down meaningfully at Stiles’ boxer briefs. “If that happened, what would I roll in my palm when I’m sucking you off in the shower when we’re done here?”

Stiles sputtered out a shocked laugh, delighting in Derek’s answering smile as they kept stretching, poses mirrored as they worked their way through all of the major muscle groups, loosening their tendons and relaxing into the familiarity of the movements.

“When we’re finished with this would you like to head to your old place?” Derek asked, voice quiet like he thought anything louder would be too jarring in the morning quiet.

But Stiles was already floating in some prime exercise-induced contentment, so he just shrugged easily, not letting the question bother him like he might have, otherwise.

“Sounds good. It’s better to get it over with, I guess. Hey, what kind of pose do you want to try?”

Derek seemed relieved at his easy answer, and immediately started brainstorming different ideas.

They ended up choosing one they’d both unwittingly been wanting to attempt, though for some reason neither had brought it up until then.

“So, this might be tricky without a spotter,” Stiles admitted reluctantly. He wanted to do the pose with Derek, but he didn’t relish acquiring a head injury if things went wrong. Which they definitely could, it was kind of a tricky pose.

“We could try it on the bed,” Derek proposed, but he was eyeing it warily and Stiles agreed that it wouldn’t be the best idea. A harder surface was needed for Derek to keep control.

Stiles shrugged. “Eh, let’s do it, anyway. If things go to shit you can always meet me in the dreamscape and we can try to use our mojo to fix me, right?”

Derek looked slightly dubious about the power of their so-called mojo, but didn’t argue the point.

“Right,” Stiles continued, “so you lay down,” he said, pushing at Derek’s shoulders until he complied with a laugh.

Stiles rewarded him with a kiss and stood up, his feet on either side of Derek’s hips. “So you’re going to put your feet under my left thigh at the crease of my leg and just above my right knee while I point my toes and make a circle with my arms?” he asked, even though they both knew the pose they were going for.

Even if Derek refused to call it by its name, which Stiles still found hilarious.

“Yes, Stiles,” he replied, sounding actually kind of patient as Stiles tried to work out the logistics of how they were going to get the various aspects of their movements right.

Eventually, Derek just bent his knees, pulling Stiles forward with firm hands on his upper arms, feet tucked under Stiles’ thighs and then he was being levitated upward, wobbling for a second at the unexpected turn of events before he managed to stabilize himself in Derek’s confident grip.

“Warn a guy,” Stiles said without much heat because they were halfway to their pose, Derek’s legs straightening, his fingers uncurling from Stiles’ arms until he was basically sitting on Derek’s feet, legs spread kind of suggestively, but it was yoga so that went with the territory.

“Okay,” he said, taking a calming breath and focusing on how to move. “I’m going to rotate my hips so the the top of this thigh is against your foot.”

Derek nodded and Stiles moved slowly, but deliberately until he was facing the wall where the dresser and Derek’s little wolf figurine sat. As he shifted, he drew his back leg up, turning it against the firm base of Derek’s foot until the pressure supported him just above his knee, until his legs were exactly the way they should be.

Which was amazingly cool.

“Your arms,” Derek reminded him and Stiles grinned at himself because he needed that, sometimes, a reminder of what he was supposed to do or else he got lost in his own brain.

Stiles stretched his arms out, rolling his wrists before making a circle with them, his fingertips touching as he lowered them toward his back, raised foot, his toes tickling the inside of his elbow and yeah, he couldn’t quite believe it.

“Dude, I’m doing the mermaid pose, do you know how hard this used to be for me?” he asked, glancing down at where Derek was watching him with an interested expression.

“I’m proud of you, but I’m still not calling it that.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, but he still laughed until Derek bounced his feet enough to unseat him. But of course the werewolf caught him effortlessly and then Stiles was on the receiving end of many messy kisses. And then the promised shower blowjob.

He couldn’t complain, not even about the patch of rug burn on his elbow that Derek spent minutes kissing better.



“Ready?” Derek asked, even though he could probably tell that Stiles was having some serious doubts about going back into his old apartment building.

Which was an odd way to think about it. As his old building, and not the place where he was supposedly still residing. But no, he’d mentally and pretty much physically moved out already.

And that made his task a bit easier, in all honestly, but not easy enough to grant him the courage to unlock the structure’s imposing front door, apparently.

“I’m working on it,” he said around a shiver.

Derek rolled his eyes and gently herded Stiles’ forward, taking the key from him, and soon enough he was pushing them both through the doors and into what could generously be considered a lobby, but was really just a glorified foyer, one wall composed of metal mailboxes and yeah, Stiles would have to get his mail situation sorted out, too.

Because being an adult kind of sucked, sometimes.

“Do you want to go up to the apartment first, or-” Derek trailed off, watching Stiles’ expression.

He sighed, partially because he didn’t know what else to do, the weight of the upcoming meeting heavy on his mind.

“Naw, let’s just get this over with. Shit, I hope Marco’s home,” he said, more for something to say than anything else. Stiles figured he would be. He’d never actually seen his super leave the building.

Which was kind of weird.

Not vampire-weird, though.

He was pretty sure.

And that thought wasn’t helping him drag his feet forward to the door at the end of the hall where Marco lived.

“Is there anything I can do?” Derek asked quietly as he followed along, his fingers tangling together with Stiles’.

He managed a slight smile at the reassurance he could feel from his mate, but shook his head. “I don’t think so, I just, as long as you’re here I don’t think things will go too terribly,” and Stiles really hoped he wasn’t courting fate by saying that, but before he could freak himself out even more he made himself knock on the door, shaking out his fingers afterward, like he could undo the sound.

But instead of turning tail and running away from responsibility like he very much wanted to, Stiles stepped back just enough to feel his leather jacket, which was woefully inadequate for the Chicago winter, slide against Derek’s, and even that small point of contact added to where their hands were linked served to ground him enough that he didn’t jump and flail when the door was abruptly thrown open.

Marco looked like he normally did, thin brown hair making a crazy halo around his head, thick-framed glasses perched on his hawkish nose, clothes rumpled and flip-flops on his feet. He was middle-aged, as far as Stiles could tell, heavier-set and never one for smalltalk, though he definitely could be bribed, as evidenced by the elevator key still hanging on Stiles’ keychain.

“Stilinski, you’re alive,” he said, and while Stiles was used to how blunt the man was, the statement still sent a cold shock through him.

Which was how he justified his reactionary, “Yeah, but Charlie’s not.”

Marco frowned thoughtfully. “I heard that from the police when they came to get my statement. They catch the bastards?”

Stiles nodded, not knowing what to say given the largely supernatural elements of the story. He wasn’t even sure what the official party line was, anymore. Too much had happened since then.

Derek, though, he seemed to know how to handle things, gently pushing Stiles aside and taking back his hand, offering it instead in greeting. “I’m Officer Derek Hale,” he said. It was a lie, though, since he’d already quit the force, but Stiles didn’t point that out, too intrigued by his mate’s proactive stance and decision to step in.

“Marco,” he replied, shaking Derek’s hand with what appeared to be a loose grip as he looked him up and down. “You here to take another statement? I told the other guys-”

“No, no, I’m here to help Stiles,” Derek interrupted smoothly. He had a concerned look on his face. “After the initial attempt on his life he was kidnapped and almost killed. I’m here to assist him in relocating, since life in Chicago hasn’t exactly agreed with him.”

Stiles bit his lip to keep from brushing off the experience with a flippant comment because the situation had been a harrowing one. A series of harrowing events, really, but Derek seemed only to want to mention the situations in Chicago and Wisconsin and not the clusterfuck in California, so Stiles nodded along and tried to look as solemn as the conversation warranted.

Marco just frowned, though. “So who should I bill the repairs to? The elevator still works, but those holes make it drafty. Draftier,” he corrected.

Derek took his question in stride, telling Marco where he could find the proper paperwork, how to send it in, and by the end of his explanation Stiles’ super had a dazed kind of look on his face. Though at least he didn’t look mad or even all that annoyed.

“So I’m not gonna have to pay for the damage?” Marco asked and Stiles had to keep himself from snorting out a shocked laugh because it wasn’t funny, his super’s apparent disregard for his tenant’s lives, but he knew from experience that the shock of being confronted with death did strange things to people.

“That’s not a question I can answer,” Derek replied smoothly, reaching out a hand to grip Stiles’ shoulder. “I’m tasked with protecting Stiles, which I can’t do if he’s living here. His father is back in California, so I’m under strict orders to deliver him and his belongings there unscathed. I trust you can help me with that?”

Marco blinked, first at Derek, then at Stiles, and back. “California?”

“That’s where I’m from, originally,” Stiles said, though he was pretty sure he’d told Marco that, before. A number of times, actually. Plus, his accent definitely gave him away.

Whatever, it didn’t matter, the guy was quite obviously scatterbrained about anything that didn’t involve money. And that was fine, but it didn’t immediately help Stiles get out of his lease, nor did it win him back his security deposit.

“And Charlie’s dead,” Marco repeated.

Stiles felt his patience start to wear thin. At least with his negotiations with Youngblood he’d been able to pull the supernatural card to force his boss into a compromise of sorts, but as far as he could tell Marco was just a normal, older human guy who didn’t give two shits about whether or not Stiles had been the victim of several violent crimes. He just wanted his paycheck and if the conversation continued the way it was going it didn’t seem like breaking his lease was even going to be feasible.

Chicago, indeed.

“Yes, Charles Ward is deceased, killed by the same people who kidnapped and made an attempt on Stiles’ life,” Derek said, voice harder than before. “Which is why I will be taking him away from here. I trust there won’t be any need for me to explain to you the delicacy of the ongoing police investigation into the matter, nor do I need to remind you of the ease with which your building’s security was breached.”

And Derek was definitely making things up on the fly. Stiles was pretty impressed with his ability to bullshit. Also, he was exuding some actual anger, which had the desired affect of making Marco kind of shrink back into the open doorway of his apartment.

Stiles couldn’t see too far into the darkness of the space, but from the blue light of the tv he could make out a beaten-up reclining chair, discarded wrappers on the threadbare rug, a few toppled beer bottles.

Not exactly a life of luxury.

And that, the knowledge that he wasn’t overtly swimming in wealth, helped Stiles calm his irritation enough that he leaned closer to Derek and forced a self-deprecating smile when he looked back at his super.

“I mean, I know you’re going to miss my baking skills, and I hate to leave, but I’ve gotta follow what the lawman says.”

Marco scratched his too-long fingernails against the stained fabric stretched taut across his protruding belly and nodded, like Stiles had made a fair point.

“So,” he said, “you breaking your lease?”

Stiles opened his mouth, but Derek answered smoothly, “Stiles is being placed in protective custody due to the circumstances of the attacks. This building is located in a vibrant part of town and it’s winter break for a lot of students. I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding leasees for the upcoming semester.”

Which was a lot more diplomatic than Stiles would have been, so he kept his mouth shut and waited to see what his super had to say to that.

Marco seemed to mull it over, a frown on his face, but eventually he shrugged. “You may be right, that unit is furnished and doesn’t require much heat in the winter. You’re leaving soon?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at Stiles who nodded quickly.

“Uh, yeah, I just came back to see if there was anything else I need to take. All of the stuff left is Charlie’s, and-”

And he didn’t know what they were supposed to do with that, but Marco waved a hand.

“Eh, it’s not the first time a tenant has died on me, I’ll take care of all that.”

Stiles nodded, not sure what else to do, and before he knew it he had a check in the amount of his security deposit in hand and had promised to leave his keys on the apartment’s kitchen counter.

“I trust your officer friend will tell me if anything’s broken, right?” Marco said as Stiles turned to go, still feeling a bit dazed.

Derek nodded, “I’ll make sure everything is in order, thank you for your time.”

They parted ways at that, Stiles reaching for Derek’s hand when he heard the click of the door closing behind them.

“That wasn’t completely terrible,” he admitted quietly as they took the stairs.

Derek snorted and squeezed his hand. “See, everything works out in the end.”

And for once, Stiles believed it.

Chapter Text

It only took Stiles a few minutes, roughly quick one round of the apartment, to finish clearing out his belongings. He took the clock radio he’d had since he was a kid and hadn’t ever broken, no matter how many times he’d bashed at it with a tired fist; his toiletries, most of which he figured he wouldn’t bring with him on the plane, anyway, but it seemed wasteful to leave them in the apartment; and finally, the small camera Isaac had tucked into the box of cereal on the kitchen counter.

“I believe this belongs to you,” he said, holding out the small plastic and metal cylinder to Derek, who winced, but took it, turning it over in his hands with a frown. It was nice seeing him there, in what had once been Stiles’ space, even if the object of their discussion wasn’t a particularly pleasant one.

“I am sorry about that, about spying on you,” he said and Stiles shrugged, though when he’d found out it had been quite a devastating breach of his privacy, as he’d already gone over with Derek.

Several times.

And he knew he could either get pissed about it again, or he could help them both move on, so he dredged up a shrug.

“You know, I’m not against voyeurism or exhibitionism, just as long as it’s not in public and only if both of us know what’s up, okay?”

Derek was still studying the camera, but he nodded and Stiles took a deep breath, letting his residual anger out with his exhale.

“Okay, cool,” he said, glancing around into the living room, which he wanted no part of. “Do we want to check out my room one more time? I keep feeling like I’m forgetting something, but it’s probably just, I don’t know, the instant noodles in the cabinets or whatever.” He gestured behind him at where he kept his food, and Derek finally glanced up from the camera in his hands.

“Whatever you want to do,” he said quietly and his reticence was killing Stiles.

“Come on, Der.” Stiles said lightly, instead of getting into things further. They’d hashed it out already, they’d talked about their boundaries and consent and the situations they weren’t comfortable with, so as far as Stiles was concerned the topic was as good as put to rest.

“What are we going to do?” Derek asked, hopefully willing to let the whole thing go, too, either that or he was burying the camera incident down where the rest of his guilt lived.

Which, yeah, Stiles could relate to that, but he was done thinking about it so he shrugged.

“I mean, we can look through the drawers one more time,” he said, leading the way to the room, but as soon as he crossed the threshold Derek was pressed against his back, warm arms wrapping around Stiles’ chest and waist, the scruff of Derek’s beard tickling his cheek.

Stiles let out a surprised laugh. “Oh, so this is how it’s gonna be, huh? You’re just going to ambush me whenever we’re alone?”

Derek loosened his grip, but instead of letting him pull away, Stiles twisted in his arms and wrapped his own around Derek’s chest, effectively trapping him in the embrace.

“Nuh, uh, you’re not going anywhere. This is happening. How many times are we going to get to have sex in my old apartment? The answer is one. Right now. Today. So come here and let’s do this.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but dutifully kissed Stiles, his previous play of aggression melting into a sweetness Stiles couldn’t help but smile at.

“Der, you’re-” he began, but bit his lip as Derek went to work on his neck, kissing and nipping the tendon there, making Stiles tilt his chin up to give him more room.

“I’m what?” Derek growled playfully, but even knowing that the rumbling wasn’t serious Stiles couldn’t help but shiver at the sound.

“You gonna wolf out on me?” Stiles asked, trying to keep the hopefulness from his voice, but knowing he’d kind of failed when Derek pulled back, eyes flashing blue.

“Do you want me to?”

Stiles considered it, tilting his head and surveying his mate with an assessing gaze.

“I wouldn’t be opposed,” he decided, then frowned, “but I’ve already packed the lube, it’s at your place, and there’s no way I’m going into Charlie’s room to check to see if he has anyth-”

Derek went back to work on Stiles’ neck and whatever he’d been saying died off, his concentration consumed by the hot suction of Derek’s mouth.

Until he felt the tell-tale sting of too-sharp teeth and he gasped.

“Yes,” he whispered, pulling Derek’s head closer even as he seemed to be trying to back away with a muttered apology. “No, come back, I like that, I like your wolfiness.”

Stiles finally let him go, though, Derek’s shoulders stiff against his hands, an embarrassed look on his face.

“Hey, no, we’re okay,” Stiles said, petting Derek’s chest like he really was an animal that needed soothing. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, you know that. I’m calling yellow on this situation,” he finished holding his hands up and taking a step backward toward his bed.

He didn’t need the anxiety cocktail leaking from Derek to know he wasn’t totally game for any kind of intimacy at that moment. His face, twisted into a kind of embarrassed constipation did enough to warn Stiles off.

“I don’t, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable,” Derek said, and from the sound of it the words were practically being pulled from him like teeth.

Stiles didn’t actually understand what all the fuss was about, the first time they’d had sex Derek had been in his beta-form, though then again that situation had been tainted by Stiles’ realization of Derek’s whole spying thing, which had then led to all kinds of other trouble, but Stiles had largely gotten over that.

So when he said, “I’m not uncomfortable,” he truly meant it. Nothing about Derek’s shift put him ill-at-ease. Stiles liked the way his mate’s body changed, he enjoyed cataloguing the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in his form and appearance. But if Derek didn’t feel the same way? Well, then Stiles was determined not to push it.

“We could try something else,” Stiles proposed, walking back until his calves hit the side of the bed and he sat heavily onto the mattress, stretching his fists out behind him to brace himself, legs spread in what he hoped was an enticing manner.

“You’re not going to make me talk about what just happened?” Derek asked, tilting his head in question. His features were all normal.

Well.

They were un-beta-fied.

Stiles was loathe to claim one look or another was Derek’s norm. The implication being that any of his other forms weren’t normal, which was bullshit because Derek was himself, no matter how he looked.

“You gonna sing to me this time?” Stiles asked, just to watch Derek’s expression change into a smirk, the last of his angst fading when it became clear that Stiles really wasn’t going to push him to use his words. Not until Derek was comfortable bringing it up on his own.

“I think it’s your turn,” he said, but he stalked slowly forward, anyway.

Stiles smiled and shook his head. “Naw, you’ve got a much better singing voice than me, you can do the honors.”

Derek reached him, then, standing between his legs, his gaze sweeping up and down Stiles’ stretched-out form.

“How about a duet,” he proposed, lifting one eyebrow, his expression playful despite the heat in his gaze.

Stiles laughed, tilting his head back and delighting in the hungry look Derek gave him in response. “Okay, fine, let it never be said that I’m unreasonable.”

Derek scoffed. “I would never,” he said, and it was so clearly a lie that Stiles fixed him with a disbelieving look.

“Uh, huh,” he said flately, but the mood quickly turned hot again as Derek lifted a hand to run the backs of his fingers lightly across the side of Stiles’ face, his touch feather-soft and conveying a stomach-tightening degree of want.

Stiles’ eyes slipped closed and he hummed in approval.

“Fine,” Derek said, but instead of actually telling Stiles the name of the song or anything else, Derek pushed him until he was lying flat on the bed, his shoes off and the werewolf warmth of his mate holding him down, Derek’s cheek pressed against his shoulder.

“Am I really here in your arms,” he sang quietly, chest vibrating against Stiles’ side, one of Derek’s arms flung over his stomach, hand tucked around his waist. “It's just like I dreamed it would be.”

Stiles didn’t recognize the song, but he brought one of his hands up so he could card his fingers through Derek’s soft hair, enjoying the easy intimacy between them.

“I feel like we're frozen in time,” Derek continued. “And you're the only one I can see.”

And the song was kind of sweet, actually.

Until Derek burst into the chorus, loud and passionate and completely over-the-top.

“Hey, I've lived all my life for you! Now you're here. Hey, I'll spend all my life with you! All my life.”

Stiles couldn’t keep from laughing because Derek was so obviously messing with him.

“Okay, okay,” he interrupted when his mate started to sing the next verse. “Okay, I get it! Alright, it’s my turn, you dork.”

Derek grinned up at him, probably thinking he’d won, but if he wanted to get into a silly sing-off with Stiles, he was definitely going to lose. Because if there was one thing Stiles was good at, or at least something he’d grown completely used to, it was humiliating himself in the name of entertaining others.

He just had to come up with something even better to sing. Stiles wracked his brain, taking the opportunity to pull up the back of Derek’s shirt so he could get a hand on the smooth skin there, and abruptly remembered one of the songs he’d heard his mom singing along with when he’d been a little kid. He couldn’t quite remember all of the lyrics, but figured that didn’t really matter.

It was kind of fitting, regardless.

“And even as I wander, I'm keeping you in sight,” he sang, keeping his voice soft like Derek had at the start. “You're a candle in the window, on a cold, dark winter's night.” Stiles could feel Derek relax against him, which was perfect. “And I'm getting closer than I ever thought I might.”

Derek’s brow furrowed, eyes distant like he was trying to remember the song Stiles was singing.

He didn’t have to think for long, though, because Stiles started drumming his fingers on the muscles of Derek’s back as he belted out, “And I can't fight this feeling anymore! I've forgotten what I started fighting for. It's time to bring this ship into the shore-”

Derek cut him off, surging up to silence him with a kiss, his lips curled up in a smiled as he nipped at Stiles’ lips.

“Very funny,” he said, but he deepened the kiss and let Stiles pull his shirt up and off, then helped with his as well.

Stiles rolled on top of Derek, their bare torsos pressed together, the cool air of the apartment juxtaposed to the heat of his mate’s skin making the touch seem even more enticing.

“We could keep singing, or you could let me take care of you,” Stiles said quietly, leaning down to kiss along the contours of Derek’s beautifully-cut torso.

Derek hummed in response, folding his hands behind his head and flexing his pecs.

Stiles grinned up at him and bit the bulge of muscle, delighting in the blue flash of his mate’s eyes.

“Is that a yes?” he asked, kissing the reddened skin and moving lower, to attend to Derek’s abs, which he dutifully tensed as well because he was an adorable show off that secretly liked the attention, no matter how many times he rolled his eyes at Stiles’ oogling.

Derek nodded, though. “Green,” he said, and spread his legs so Stiles could kneel between them and work his belt loose.

“You know, I wouldn’t be opposed to you getting me a collar, one day,” Stiles said as he snaked the leather from Derek’s belt loops, though he was too nervous about his admission to look him in the eyes as he cast the belt aside.

Beneath him, Derek hummed. “Is that right?” he asked lightly, but Stiles knew he was taking the conversation seriously.

But he nodded dutifully and opened the button and zipper on Derek’s pants, tugging the denim and cotton of his boxer briefs over the bulge of his hardened cock and the swell of his toned ass until he was bared, quickly discarding onto the floor like the rest of his clothes.

Stiles knelt there, his bottom half still fully clothed, and relished in the juxtaposition. His own erection aching at the constriction of his own tight pants, but he was determined to get Derek off, even if it meant he had to wait.

“You, too,” Derek said before he could even decide where he wanted his mouth first, but Stiles shook his head with a smirk.

“Naw, I wanna make you come without you getting distracted by anything as magnificent as my dick.”

Derek snorted, but he had a soft smile on his face.

“If you don’t want me to be distracted it’s too late, you look beautiful.”

Stiles could feel his cheeks and chest flush. At least the parts of his chest not covered by gruesome scar tissue, but for once that didn’t dampen his arousal.

He rewarded Derek’s sweet words with his mouth, licking and sucking against Derek’s hard shaft, lathing the skin and tasting the familiar spice of his mate. Warm and firm, skin silky and giving beneath his tongue.

“Stiles,” Derek hissed, neck arching back as Stiles brought his hands up, running his nails firmly down Derek’s chest, catching on his nipples and drawing out even more almost wolf-like noises from him.

Finally, when beads of pre-come were leaking from the slit, Stiles took Derek’s cock into his mouth, licking at the concentrated flavor of him and echoing Derek’s breathy moan.

Stiles pulled off just as Derek’s hips began to rock and was almost sorry when his mate let out a cut-off whine.

“Wha-” Derek began to ask, his eyes glowing blue, fingers clutching at his own dark hair like he was trying to keep himself from grabbing Stiles’ head.

And that was a fantastic mental image, Derek’s firm grip on Stiles, controlling the bob of his head the the rhythm of his-

“Do you want me to swallow, or do you want to mark me?” Stiles said, interrupting both Derek’s question and his own mental ramblings. He knew he had to look like quite a sight, his lips swollen and probably as red as his blushing cheeks, his pants tenting obscenely with his achingly hard erection.

Derek’s pupils dilated at that, almost drowning the blue of his wolfish eyes.

Instead of answering he effortlessly flipped them so he was straddling Stiles’ hips, one hand working on Stiles’ jeans while the other wrapped around his own erection, pumping the slick flesh in a punishing grip.

Stiles reached up to help him out when Derek finally got a fist around his cock and he moaned at the sheer relief of it, of Derek’s hot hand, somehow already wet, maybe even from Stiles’ own pre-come that had been wetting his underwear.

“Gonna mark you,” Derek growled out and Stiles couldn’t help but moan again at how hot and wild his mate looked, pumping both of them in a quick rhythm, a growl rattling in his heaving chest as he came in long strips across Stiles’ bare chest.

It only took a few more tugs, Derek switching to use his come-slicked dominant hand, to get him off as well and Stiles sighed in relief and exaltation at the sensation of his orgasm rippling through him. He really didn’t even care about the mess Derek was-

“Are you rubbing that on me?” Stiles asked, more curious than annoyed as he somehow managed to lift his head up enough to glance down at what his mate was doing.

Derek nodded, clearly concentrating on the task at hand, smearing the combination of their come across Stiles’ torso, massaging it into his skin like it was lotion.

Stiles frowned, but didn’t object.

“Okay, then. You do know we’re going to have to get this cleaned up-”

“I know,” Derek said softly, leaning forward to kiss Stiles’ quiet. “Just let me?”

Stiles grinned and let him be until Derek finally decided it was acceptable for them to move things along.

Well, he’d come to that conclusion pretty quickly when Stiles shivered for the first time, not even his proximity to the werewolf was enough to ward off the chill of winter.

“Shower?” Derek proposed, glancing at the plastic bag Stiles had already packed, but he nodded quickly in response.

“Yeah, there are still clean towels in the bathroom. I didn’t think bringing them would really be that great of an idea. It’s not like there’s room in my luggage to lug them back to Beacon Hills.”

Derek nodded quickly and practically dragged Stiles into the bathroom, hardly letting his bare feet touch the cold wood or tiled floors.

Stiles grinned the entire time.

When they’d both toweled off and dressed, then repacked Stiles’ toiletries, Derek led the way back through the living room to the front door, glancing around as they walked across the creaky floorboards.

“Are you finished here? Is there anything else you need to do?”

Stiles shrugged, swinging the grocery bag containing the last of his belongings with one hand, the other clutching the strap of his messenger bag. “I don’t know, I think I’m good. Hey, do you wanna grab lunch, swing by your place for our bags, and then get the hell out of here? Out of Chicago, I mean? I know we’re supposed to be back in Beacon Hills by tomorrow at sunset-”

“Yeah, let’s do it,” Derek said quickly, his emotions smooth and content as he glanced back at Stiles.

He smiled in response and gave his mate a kiss on the cheek, then led the way out of the apartment for the last time.



“Have you ever tried parkour?” Stiles asked idly as they walked through the long hallway leading from the car rental place to the airport check-in area. He swung their joined hands for something to do and was amused that Derek allowed it with only the slightest hint of exasperation.

Derek didn’t answer, though and Stiles was prepared to shrug it off, but he could swear he saw a hint of pink along the shell of Derek’s ear. That paired with the low-grade feeling of embarrassment he was exuding made Stiles grin reflexively.

“Oh, come on, you totally have,” he accused with a gleeful laugh. “You’ve gotta tell me, now!”

Derek let out a put-upon sigh and glanced at Stiles. “Fine, yes, I’ve tried it. We all did a few years ago. Erica was obsessed with this French guy’s videos online and she got my mom to organize a kind of tournament where we could try out our skills-”

“Oh my god, like werewolf olympics?” Stiles whispered with a huge grin on his face.

Derek rolled his eyes and let out a huff of breath that was probably supposed to sound frustrated, but Stiles could tell he was amused by the whole thing, too.

“So, wait,” Stiles continued, thinking through what could possibly have happened with the competition- he made a mental note to ask Laura about it since he figured she’d be the most willing to spill the beans about the more hilarious aspects of it- “What kind of events did you have? Did you win any of them? What were the prizes?”

Derek snorted, but they were at their airline’s check-in kiosk, so he didn’t answer immediately. Stiles let him be-

Momentarily.

-and idly flipped the luggage tag on his suitcase, glancing around at the largely empty space. Derek had thankfully booked them a late flight instead of a morning one, so even though they’d be traveling in the middle of the night Stiles wasn’t nearly as grumpy or stressed as he’d been coming to Chicago.

Though his change in mood was also at least partially attributed to him having sorted out the messes with Youngblood and his super, so that was nice. He and Derek had also gained an emissary to argue on their behalf with Talia, and even a vampire ally of sorts, so things were looking up for once since the whole spark fiasco had begun.

“I’m happy, too,” Derek said as he handed Stiles his ticket and directed them to where they could drop off their luggage.

Stiles smiled at him and waited until they were clear of other people and walking leisurely toward the security checkpoint to speak again. “You know, I didn’t expect my life to turn out like this, but I’m glad we found each other.”

He wasn’t totally convinced it was fate, not like Derek seemed to be, anyway, but he was still grateful to have found his mate just at the right time in his life.

Derek hummed and bumped shoulders with him. “It’s a good thing Laura and Erica roped us both into that couples class, isn’t it?”

Stiles scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, right, that was such an act of humanitarianism on their part. I’m sure they just thought we’d make a cute couple or something.”

“Eye candy for the rest of the class,” Derek proposed and Stiles cracked up, listing against his mate until Derek wrapped a warm arm over his shoulders and Stiles tucked his hand around Derek’s waist, below his backpack.

Derek hadn’t packed much at the house, which hadn’t been all that surprising. At Stiles’ insistence he’d tucked the carved wolf figurine into Stiles’ messenger bag and after only a little prompting had stuffed a worn backpack with some soft-looking clothes, but Stiles’ bags were the only ones they’d checked. Derek claimed not to have been attached to anything else in his closet, which Stiles believed. Derek didn’t exactly strike him as the sentimental type when it came to his belongings.

They made it through the line and the full body scanners without incident, and Stiles had to tamp down the almost overwhelming urge to kiss Derek full on the mouth as a reward for his easy compliance with the security protocols. Though it had probably helped that Derek hadn’t been selected for additional screening.

“Not in public,” Derek teased, apparently reading his mind, but he did pull Stiles close enough to plant a chaste kiss on his temple.

“Hypocrite,” Stiles retorted, though he didn’t even care if people gave them a second glance, which a few did, but it didn’t really matter to him. They could look all they wanted as long as they didn’t try to mess with him or his mate. “So, wanna tell me more about your family’s olympic games?”

Derek groaned. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

Stiles shook his head happily. “Not a chance, so come on. We have like an hour before our flight boards, keep me entertained or I might have to come up with some hilarious and borderline illegal ways to occupy myself in the largely-deserted airport.”

That earned him a put-upon sigh, but Derek finally relented and launched into the story of the Werewolf Winter Games of Aught Eight, as Laura had dubbed them. Stiles listened raptly, all the way through the boarding process and long into their flight.

Chapter Text

It wasn’t until they’d landed and collected their luggage-

Stiles was pleased to see that his duffle bag still contained his little shoebox of adult toys with their kink lists tucked inside.

-that they realized neither had actually made plans about where they were going to stay once they got back to Beacon Hills.

It was in the early hours of the morning and Stiles pouted tiredly as they stood in the cool night air, helping Derek load up the trunk and rear seat of his jeep with their bags.

“Did you want to go back to your house?” he asked quietly, breath foggy, but despite instinctively shrugging his shoulders forward to ward off the chill it still wasn’t nearly as frigid as Chicago had been.

Derek glanced at him as he latched the trunk. “Wouldn’t you rather stay at your father’s house? I know my mother-”

Stiles was too tired to argue so he did the only other thing he could think of besides actually whining and walked bodily into Derek, tucking his face against the side of his mate’s neck and sighed out a weary breath.

“Don’t care,” me muttered, digging the keys out of his jacket pocket and pushing them into Derek’s warm hand. “Please just take us somewhere so we can sleep.”

Derek huffed out a laugh and dragged Stiles to the passenger-side door. “As my mate commands,” he said easily.

Stiles rolled his eyes, but didn’t comment.

At least not until after Derek had climbed into the driver’s seat and proceeded to fail to get the jeep to start.

“Betty’s finicky,” Stiles said, reaching over to wiggle the gearshift for him. “Try easing up a bit on the clutch when you turn the key. Oh, and she sticks in second, so be careful of that.”

Derek glanced at him, but did as he was told, and was rewarded with the purr of the engine.

“I always thought you worshiped this thing, the way you’ve talked about it,” Derek said, easily navigating through the mostly empty streets, heading north.

Stiles smiled, “Yeah, I’m rather fond of her. Betty got me through some tough times, and it looks like she’s going to get us through some more.”

“You mean the situation with my mother,” Derek said, the smile on his face fading with the sudden heaviness of their mood.

It hadn’t been his intention to stir things up, but Stiles nodded, anyway. His past philosophy of ignoring a problem until it went away no longer seemed applicable given the delicacy of their situation, not with Talia on one side and the seemingly constant threat of mystery assailants on the other. Stiles was fairly certain his independence was in the mix there, somewhere, but it was hard to figure out just how to balance his and his mate’s safety with their ability to make their own choices outside of Talia’s influence.

“Among other things,” he said, attempting diplomacy, but Derek barked out a slightly hysterical-sounding laugh, so he’d apparently failed.

“Anyway, where are we sleeping?” Stiles persisted. “Do you want to go back to my dad’s with me? I text him before we left Chicago to ask if that was a possibility and he was okay with it-”

“Yes, let’s do that,” Derek agreed readily.

They drove the rest of the way in relative silence except for a few random observations and directions as Stiles instructed Derek on which backroads were best to take in order to avoid the improbably long traffic lights on the main drag of town.

“Well, we’re here,” Derek said at last, turning off the jeep and handing Stiles the keys. The engine clicked as it cooled, sounding overloud compared to the general quiet of the night.

Stiles looked sleepily up at the house where he’d been born. It hadn’t changed all that much, aside from the expected wear and tear of years, and he felt something settle inside of him.

“You’re happy to be back?” Derek hazarded, watching him as he stared at the house.

Stiles blinked and glanced at his mate. “Um, yeah, it’s where I grew up. I have a lot of good memories associated with this place.”

Memories of his mother, largely, though he and his dad had had plenty of good times, too. Over the years Scott had also been over almost often enough to be considered a Stilinski himself, especially during the tumultuous year of his parents’ divorce-

“Shall we go in?” Derek asked, snapping Stiles out of his exhaustion-induced reminiscence.

Stiles nodded slowly. “Shower, then bed? Unless you’re hungry-”

“A shower sounds good.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, but didn’t make any move to get out of the jeep, not until Derek slipped out of his own side and came around to Stiles’, opening his door and unbuckling his belt.

“I’m not an invalid,” he complained, but let Derek pull him out and prop him up against the cool metal while he reached into the back seat to grab his backpack and Stiles’ duffel bag.

“Come on, Stiles,” Derek said with a soft smile. “Let’s go.”

Stiles yawned, but complied easily enough, his mate’s arm warm across his shoulders as they trudged up the stairs and onto the porch.

They showered as quietly as they could, but the sheriff still met them in the hallway when they were done and Stiles was incredibly thankful Derek had thought to grab them both pajamas before they’d gone in or things would have been pretty awkward for the three of them.

“Stiles,” was all his dad said before wrapping him in a tight hug, which he returned with enthusiasm.

“I’m back,” Stiles said superfluously, but whatever. He was tired and home.

His dad finally pulled back and clapped a hand onto Derek’s shoulder. “I’m happy to see you both. Now get to bed, you two, you look like crap.”

Stiles stuck his tongue out at the sheriff, but let Derek drag him into his room while his dad chuckled and went back to bed, muttering something about crazy kids.

They kept the light off, since Derek didn’t need it with his glowing blue eyes and Stiles knew the place by heart, quickly crawling into the slightly cramped bed.

“Are you seriously making me sleep away from the door so you can protect me from burglars?” Stiles teased, wiggling to get more comfortable.

Derek sighed, but tightened his hold around Stiles’ waist, dragging him closer even though there hadn’t been much space between them to begin with.

“I don’t like taking chances,” he replied with a slightly grumpy-sounding sigh.

Stiles grinned in the dark and nudged his face forward until his nose grazed the familiar prickling of Derek’s beard.

“Hey, thanks for going on that little adventure to Chicago with me,” he said, tilting his head so his lips brushed against Derek’s chin until Derek finally leaned in to give Stiles a light kiss.

“It’s fine.”

But for some reason, Stiles found that he wasn’t quite ready to sleep. In fact, he was kind of amped up, probably from the invigorating warmth of the shower and then seeing his dad, along with the impending ritual that would determine his and Derek’s entire future-

“Stiles,” Derek whined, nuzzling his cheek against Stiles’ like that would make him behave.

He tried to.

Really.

But Stiles being Stiles, he found it almost impossible to calm down when he was focused on something. That thing being the winter solstice ritual and the negotiations with the Hale pack-

Derek made a rumbling noise in his chest that was more of a sigh than an actual growl and Stiles felt his body still.

“Why don’t you close your eyes and try meeting me in the dream, that way we can at least get some rest,” Derek said, words slow and kind of slurred together from tiredness.

Taking pity on his clearly exhausted mate, Stiles dutifully closed his eyes and felt himself sink into the dreamscape.



The sky was a clear, pale blue, the wind gentle against his bare skin. Stiles breathed in deeply, savoring the warm air, even if he couldn’t really smell anything besides his mate’s familiar, earthy scent.

Derek was sprawled out beside him in the grass, eyes closed, his brow slightly furrowed with worry.

“Hey, Grumpy Gus, what’s eating you?” Stiles asked, poking Derek’s naked thigh.

That was actually one of his favorite parts of the dreamscape, the fact that they were both shamelessly nude.

Derek grunted in response, but opened his eyes and turned his head to face Stiles.

“We’re going to want to get all the sleep we can,” he reminded Stiles.

Again.

And suddenly the anxiety coming from Derek made a bit more sense, and it didn’t have anything to do with being well-rested. He was worrying about the actual events of that evening.

“Der, we’re going to be okay,” Stiles said, but in all honesty he was kind of nonplussed that he was the one who needed to sooth his mate and not the other way around.

Though it made a certain kind of sense. It wasn’t like Stiles was the only one faced with such an indeterminate future. But no matter the outcome, Stiles knew his family, his dad and Scott and Allison, would still be by his side.

Derek’s family, though? His pack? That was more up in the air, largely in the hands of Talia and the the emissaries, since Stiles had already argued their stance with Morrell. The only thing left for them to do was hope for the best and wait to see how things shook out.

Derek made a noncommittal noise, but his expression and mood were still anxiety-laden, so Stiles rolled over onto his stomach, chin propped up on one hand while he pressed the other to Derek’s chest, just over his heart.

“Hey,” he said, then waited until Derek actually looked at him to continue. “I love you, and yeah, I’m kinda worried about what’s going to happen tonight, too, but we have each other and we have my dad and Scott and Allison and probably both of their parents, as well. We did that divination ritual thing back in Chicago, which I think helped us sort out our priorities, right? And Morrell is going to negotiate for us-”

“But what if my mother won’t agree to our terms?” Derek asked, mood much more tumultuous than his expression led on.

Stiles swallowed and dropped his gaze to where his hand was idly petting the soft hair on Derek’s chest. “Then we’re going to keep working on a solution until we’re all as satisfied as we can be with the outcome.”

He didn’t actually want to get into things again, though. They’d already had the same discussion with each other and Morrell and Scott. As far as he was concerned there wasn’t any use in obsessing over it, not since the pieces were already in play. All they could really do was wait to see how Talia would respond to their proposal. Stiles tried to think of another topic to distract them both when he remembered Derek’s weird reticence from the previous day when they’d been getting hot and heavy in Stiles’ apartment.

It wasn’t exactly the happiest topic, either, but it was certainly something that needed to be discussed.

“Um, did you want to talk about the wolfing out thing?” Stiles hazarded, fairly certain that Derek didn’t want to do anything of the kind, but he needed to know what had been going on with his mate so as not to trigger any bad memories or whatever it was that had happened to make him so reluctant to talk about it in the first place.

Because, as they’d both seemed to have figured out, communication was an essential component of keeping their relationship healthy.

Derek, predictably, shook his head, but Stiles could feel his conflicting emotions, so he just waited Derek out.

It took a few minutes, which Stiles spent tracing his fingertips around the muscles of Derek’s chest and arms, pressing along the veins and admiring power of his mate’s form without verbally pushing him to answer.

“I,” Derek began, but shook his head before continuing. “I’ve been thinking about something that my mother said to me. About us.”

Stiles raised his eyebrows and stilled his hand where it was resting against Derek’s bicep.

“She mentioned the danger of us getting lost in each other,” Derek continued when Stiles didn’t interrupt.

That kind of situation had also been something Deaton had shared with him as well and Stiles was curious to know what else Talia had told her son.

“She said that it was a risk, since we’ve been sharing dreams and with everything else that’s happened. If we become too entwined mentally, she implied that we might lose the parts of ourselves that make us different, that we could lose control of our abilities, and I don’t, I didn’t want to risk accidentally hurting you when I shifted. I don’t know-”

Stiles pushed himself up to kneel beside Derek and placed his hands on his mate’s shoulders, pressing down like he could physically anchor him there. “Der, I don’t think you’d ever do anything to physically endanger me. No, hear me out. We’ve gone through some crazy stuff together, right? We’ve both done stupid shit, we’ve taken insane risks, but never during any of that did I ever feel out of control of my own body. You know, except for the magic stuff, but that’s different and I don’t think of it as me getting lost or whatever. If anything, I think this,” he gestured to the calm field and the clear sky around them, “is just about the most peaceful and grounded I’ve felt in the company of another person. It doesn’t seem like I’m, what, drifting away from myself?”

Derek nodded reluctantly.

“Okay. So, maybe that can happen to people, sometimes. The whole getting lost thing, but it won’t happen to us. Do you know how I know that? Because I am one hundred percent convinced that you’d never put me in harm’s way if you could help it.” Stiles cleared his throat and glanced away. “You wouldn’t hurt me intentionally, at least not unless I asked for it-”

They both blushed at that, the yes checkmark next to the spanking portion of Stiles’ kink list vivid in his mind and probably Derek’s as well because how could it not be?

“-but anyway,” Stiles continued, fingers flexing against Derek’s silky skin, “I thought we were doing a pretty good job, here. Right? I mean, Deaton mentioned that kind of thing, too, but we’re each other’s anchors and mates. Which definitely has to count for something. He actually seemed really relieved when I told him that part, so I don’t think we have anything to worry about. Your mom might have just been playing on your fears,” which wasn’t something Stiles felt very good about bringing up, but Talia had definitely not been altogether subtle in her tactics. “I mean, I know she loves you and is trying to look out for you, but she’s done this kind of thing before, right?”

Derek shrugged, the muscles hardening beneath Stiles’ palms with the movement before relaxing again, but he could feel Derek’s anxiety begin to dissipate.

“So we’re not going to freak out about this?”

That earned him an almost imperceptible nod, but Derek’s mood was definitely improving. Relieved and letting himself feel the peace that seemed to pervade the field, Stiles smiled down at him and leaned in for a kiss.

“That’s more like it,” he said, and let himself be pulled overtop his mate in a reassuring embrace.



They didn’t wake up until the early afternoon, and even then Stiles was reluctant to do anything other than sprawl out on Derek and relax against his calming warmth.

Which hadn’t been the position in which he’d fallen asleep in the real world, but whatever. Stiles didn’t really care because it was entirely too comfortable for him to want to think about it.

Or move.

“We should probably get up,” Derek said. He was looking over at Stiles’ bookcase, maybe even reading the titles of the various comics, graphic novels, and books Stiles had collected over the years, but it was too far away for Stiles to make out the words even if he recognized what most of them were by shape and color.

“Or we could just stay here,” he countered, knowing it was fruitless, but feeling the need to make the suggestion, anyway.

Derek shorted and slipped a hand under the back of Stiles’ shirt, scratching blunt nails along his spine. “On any other day, I wouldn’t be opposed-”

“Oh, bullshit,” he exclaimed with a laugh, planting a fist on the bed beside Derek’s neck and pushing himself up so he could see his mate’s smirk. “That’s such a lie, Hale, I know you’re normally a morning person. I can’t actually believe you’ve stayed in bed this long. It must be a record.”

“It’s not morning,” Derek pointed out with a smirk and Stiles rolled his eyes.

“You’re such a-” he began, but Derek’s hand had slid lower, under the hem of his boxer briefs and the rest of Stiles’ sentence was lost with a breathy noise.

“I’m a what?” Derek asked, he demeanor relaxed despite his teasing touch, fingers ghosting along Stiles’ smooth skin. His emotions so much lighter than they’d been in the dream that Stiles kissed him for it, using his free hand to slide into Derek’s hair and tilt his head back until the angle was better for him to delve his tongue into his mate’s mouth, silencing his witty remarks.

He was rewarded with a tightening of Derek’s grip on his ass, pushing his hips down until their hardening cocks pressed together, making them both groan at the sensation.

“I didn’t hear that,” Stiles’ dad called from the hallway and then Stiles was groaning for an entirely different reason, pushing his flushed face against the front of Derek’s shirt in mortification.

It was almost as bad as the lotion incident. And of course Stiles had company to witness his shame.

“Hi, Dad,” he eventually managed to say, “Give us a minute and we’ll be down.”

His father’s laughter continued down the hall until Stiles heard the familiar sound of his boots descending the stairs.

Thankfully, Derek moved his hand back to more neutral territory and stroked a soothing line up and down Stiles’ back until he no longer felt in danger of actually dying of embarrassment.

“So, that was terrible,” Stiles muttered, still not willing to meet Derek’s gaze, aware of his mate’s amusement, the brief flash of his embarrassment long since gone. Which, yeah, he’d probably grown up used to having his privacy invaded by his werewolf family.

But Stiles? He was not okay with any of that. He didn’t have any kind of shame kink, nor did he get off on being humiliated or embarrassed or anything of the kind.

“Also,” he continued just a bit more steadily, “that seems to keep happening to us and I don’t know if I can handle that being a common occurrence in my life.”

“I can ask Laura where she’s at with the apartment search when we see her tonight,” Derek suggested.

And that-

That was actually pretty helpful and mollifying.

Stiles finally looked up and nodded. “Yeah, that would be nice. I mean, I love my dad-”

“But you’d like some privacy?” Derek hazarded. He looked well-rested and content, lounging there beneath Stiles, like the weight of him wasn’t a bother at all.

“I’d like privacy for both of us,” Stiles countered, leaning in for a brief kiss. He had told his dad he’d be downstairs, after all, so there wasn’t any point in starting something with Derek that he couldn’t readily finish.

Not unless they discussed it in advance and were both okay with the teasing, which was certainly something Stiles planning on bringing up at a later date. But it wasn’t the time for that. It was time for them to begin preparing for the solstice ceremony and their formal negotiations with the Hale pack.

Stiles tried to keep his nervousness in check, but it was difficult with their future in the balance.

“We’ll be okay,” Derek said, but before Stiles could list all the ways things could turn out for the worst, he continued with a smile. “After all, we have each other.”

And Stiles-

Well.

He couldn’t actually argue with that.



“So today’s the big day?” his dad asked, sipping at something that was probably coffee even though it was too late in the day for it. But Stiles didn’t comment since he supposed if the sheriff was going to be participating in that evening’s ritual, even for just part of it, he’d need any extra energy he could get.

It was times like that when he really envied other people’s ability to get amped up from caffeine.

And he had to wonder, when Derek reached for a mug, how the chemicals interacted with werewolfism.

Stiles didn’t ask, though, too concerned with wrapping his dad in another tight hug. And yeah, he was never too old enough for that.

“You’re looking good, kid.”

He rolled his eyes, but stepped back and wrapped an arm around Derek’s waist, who was sipping at his black coffee like it actually tasted palatable that way.

Which, ew.

“What can I say, our mini vacay to Chicago did us wonders, huh, Der?” he asked, partially to draw his mate into the conversation, but also to hopefully distract his dad from their spontaneous flight across the country.

It was, of course, a fruitless endeavor because Derek just shrugged and the sheriff fixed Stiles with a long-suffering look he knew only too well.

“I ate the cookies you’d stashed in the cupboard,” he said, “and I don’t even feel bad about it.”

Stiles gaped at him, but Derek was chuckling and then his dad joined in and he could only roll his eyes and untangle his arm from his mate, not-quite stomping to the fridge to pull out sandwich ingredients for a late lunch.

“You guys are the worst,” he said, but fixed them all food, anyway. Derek sat beside him at the table, their ankles hooked around each other as they ate in relative silence.

“So you’re okay with this thing tonight?” Stiles’ dad finally asked him when their plates were mostly cleared. He’d been partially lying about the cookies and produced a plate of them, much to Derek’s delight.

Though from the looks of it the sheriff had certainly put a dent in what Stiles had left behind, but he shrugged it off and indulged as well, figuring that it wouldn’t do to let them go to waste. Not that he thought Derek and his dad would allow that to happen. They seemed to quite enjoy Stiles’ cooking.

He chewed thoughtfully, then swallowed and shrugged. “Yeah, we’ve prepared as best we could,” he said. “I mean, it’s kind of up to just Talia, now, since she doesn’t have an omega at the moment to help her come to a conclusion. I guess Deaton and Rollin will help her-”

Derek nodded.

“-so at this point we’re just hoping for the best, I guess. Morrell’s acting as our emissary, and Deaton’s theirs-”

“They’re siblings, right?” his dad interrupted.

“That’s what I hear,” Stiles said, dusting off his fingers while Derek and his dad kept going at it. Stiles hadn’t ever had a voracious sweet tooth, but the two of them were a bit unstoppable, which was good to know for future possibly bribery-related reasons.

“So what happens if Talia doesn’t agree to your terms?” the sheriff asked, tone casual, but Stiles could practically feel the tension behind the question, immediately echoed in Derek’s mood.

Stiles sighed and leaned back in his chair, scratching the back of his head with both hands. “I guess if that happens we try to make our own pack? I don’t know if that’s even possible-”

“It is,” Derek said quietly. It was kind of unexpected, him adding to the conversation when Stiles knew the topic made him uncomfortable, but it was also illuminating.

“Huh, but yeah, that’s a kind of worst case scenario possibility. I don’t want to take Derek away from his family.”

“And the best case scenario?” his dad prompted.

Stiles stretched his arms back with a yawn. “Best case, Derek stays in his parents’ pack, Scott and Allison are allowed in, Scott becomes Talia’s omega to keep the power balanced while he retains control of his new werewolfy powers, and I become a kind of honorary member of the pack, but without all of the weird power-imbalance issues from last time. Part of the reason the alpha pack targeted me was because of that. Well, me being inducted into the Hale pack along with Gerard Argent’s freaky transformation and his underlying hatred for the Hales. Besides, Kate had been trying to recruit me even before that, but I think that was more related to her wanting to suck out my powers and dump them into her future niece or nephew than because of Hale business, oddly enough.”

“And how is this evening going to be any different, with Talia’s pack?” his dad asked, clearly skeptical of the whole thing, though more likely because of Talia’s past behavior and not because of the magical element Stiles brought into things. He seemed pretty cool about the latter.

Derek reached over and took Stiles’ hands in both of his, resting them on the table in plain view like the display of affection in front of Stiles’ dad didn’t freak him out.

Even though it totally did.

But Derek was pretty good at keeping his expression calm even when he actually wasn’t feeling nearly as put-together.

“Tonight’s ritual is to induct the two new betas, formerly alphas, and to honor the season,” he said, studying where their fingers were linked. “Traditionally, it’s also when individuals air their grievances and make amends for past indiscretions.”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah, that’s why the Hales are gathering, and if Talia agrees, we’ll become part of the pack, too. Well, you all will be part of her pack and I’ll sort of be more like a consultant? I guess. Like mom was. Hey, that’s kind of like what I do for Youngblood and West, now.”

Which of course served to remind Stiles’ dad of his recent trip to Chicago and the ensuing partial chaos with his employer.

The conversation that followed wasn’t entirely pleasant, but Derek was by his side and Stiles had largely gotten over the angst of his boss’ identity.

“I still can’t believe you’re mixed up with a vampire, for crying out loud,” the sheriff said, not for the first time.

Stiles shrugged easily. “What can I say, I’m a popular guy. Witches and werewolves and vampires, oh my!”

Derek stared at him with an incredulous look, which, Stiles checked, was pretty much the exact face his dad was making at him.

“So now you’re okay with joking about all of this?” the sheriff asked, somehow managing to sound both cautious and exasperated at the same time. It was an interesting mix, though certainly one Stiles had heard from him before.

“Isn’t it better to laugh it off rather than obsess about how crazy my life’s gotten over the past year?” he countered.

His dad sighed, long and loud. “I’ll tell you what, kid, your mom would have had a field day with all of this. Anya lived for adventure, which certainly came in handy after you were born.”

Stiles grinned at him, his ever present sadness over his mother’s death overshadowed by the new information his dad was sharing with them. It hadn’t ever been easy for them to talk about her, but things had slowly started changing since Stiles’ whole magical fiasco and ensuing werewolf shenanigans had come to light.

Derek cleared his throat and when Stiles glanced at him he was blushing, mood cautious but also bordering on tentative excitement.

“What’s up?” he asked, leaning forward to snag another cookie.

“I just remembered something about your mom from when I was a kid. I mean, it doesn’t directly relate, but she was always so calm, even when things were chaotic, that-” he trailed off, cheeks pink as he averted his gaze.

Stiles raised his eyebrows and nodded, reaching over to grab Derek’s hand. “I definitely wanna hear it, if you’re willing to share,” he said gently, trying to convey his interest with his emotions as well as his touch.

His dad nodded, too.

And that seemed to be all the encouragement Derek needed, much to Stiles’ delight.

“When I was little I hated bath time,” Derek said, sounding like he was confessing something embarrassing, which, yeah, that was certainly one of his emotions.

The sheriff crossed his arms over his chest with a pleased-looking smile as Derek continued.

“Laura and I would get filthy during the day, especially when Auntie Anya came over, since that normally meant Uncle Peter or our dad would take us running in the woods while she and my mom discussed whatever it was they talked about. After she left and we’d had supper, my parents would have to wrangle the two of us into the bathroom to clean off the dirt and debris from when we’d been outside. Well, I thought it was completely terrible, having the scents washed off of me, so one day after we’d cleaned off the table I shifted into my wolf form and it shocked everyone so much that I managed to evade them for a lot longer than I ever had before that.”

Stiles snorted and looked at his dad, who was giving Derek a contemplative look.

“You can turn into an actual wolf?” he asked skeptically.

Derek nodded, looking a bit sheepish. “Yeah, my coat is this reddish orange. At the time I was still young enough that I looked more like a puppy-”

Which was a mental image that nearly made Stiles coo in its adorableness.

“-and I was quick. At least quick enough to wriggle out of most everyone’s hold. Only our grandmother, who was our alpha back then, could corral me when I really got going, but she normally wouldn’t step in until after all of the other adults had given up chasing me. Laura never tried to get away, though, she actually liked having the grit cleaned off of her, but I just, I didn’t.”

“That sounds pretty adorable, dude,” Stiles said. Derek hadn’t often opened up about himself. Not with anecdotes from his childhood, at least. It was nice. Also, Stiles was always willing to hear any stories about his own mom.

Derek blushed at the compliment and continued talking.

“That’s not all. This kept happening, always after Anya had left and it drove my mom to distraction. She tried bribing me and then punishing me, but nothing she did made a difference. I just really didn’t want to get into the bathtub. They even attempted to bathe me when I was still in my wolf form, but my howling was so loud an officer was sent over to see what was wrong.”

Stiles’ dad chuckled. “I remember those calls,” he said with a smile. “Never could figure out what was going on at the Hale house, since no one ever saw any evidence of your family owning dogs.”

Derek shook his head. “We weren’t ever allowed to shift when humans were around. But looking back I’m sure my mom must have told yours about what was happening because one day Anya stayed for supper, and then it was bath time and I knew I wasn’t supposed to, so I didn’t change forms. It was a lot easier for my dad to haul me upstairs and into the bath that way, as a kid instead of a cub, and my parents thought they’d won.”

“Oh, boy,” Stiles said. He’d tried similar things when he was younger. Not that he’d been magical back then or anything, but Stiles had done more than his part to give his dad gray hairs.

“That worked for a few nights. Anya stayed, I got my bath, everything was working out. But then one day I’d found this awesome patch of flowers in the woods that smelled completely amazing. I’d rolled around in it all afternoon and I hated the thought of losing that scent. So, once again, Anya stayed, and we had supper, but then it was bath time and I knew I wasn’t supposed to shift, but I couldn’t stand the thought of smelling like the lemongrass soap we’d always used, so I didn’t even wait, I stood up in my chair there at the table, stripped out of my clothes and shifted into my wolf form.

“Everyone was so shocked that I got a pretty good head start, but Uncle Peter had taken the initiative to lock all of the doors leading outside, including the hidden dog doors we had installed for when we shifted and wanted to go out, so I raced around the house with him and my dad and mother chasing after me. Anya, of course, probably knew about us, already, but I was afraid of what kind of punishment I’d earn for having broken one of our most important pack rules. It wasn’t even about the scent, anymore, I was hiding because I was so terrified of the consequences of my actions.”

Stiles couldn’t help but feel for his mate, imagining how small and fluffy he must have looked as a puppy scampering around, petrified of getting caught.

“So I finally managed to wedge myself underneath one of the heavier bookcases in my grandparents’ study,” Derek continued. “Peter was on the verge of shifting into his beta form, he was so mad. He’d gotten down on the floor and was reaching for me with this angry look on his face when Auntie Anya stepped in and asked if she could give it a shot. All of the other adults were so tired of dealing with me at that point that my grandmother agreed and they all just left the room to clean up the mess I’d made of the rest of the house when they’d been chasing me.

“Anya sat on the floor beside the bookcase. She didn’t try to coax me out from underneath it or anything, she just started to sing. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying at the time, but now I recognize that she was probably singing in Russian. It was hypnotic, listening to her voice, and I finally crawled out from underneath the bookcase. I was covered in dust and probably all kinds of other things, but she let me curl up in her lap, anyway while she sang and worked her fingers through my fur to get the worst of the gunk out of it. I think it was just at the beginning of her pregnancy with you,” he said, looking up at Stiles. “It was almost like curling up with my alpha, the sensation of contentment I felt was so profound. When I’d finally calmed down enough and shifted back into my human form she took me up to the bathroom and handed me over to my dad, who was so relieved that the drama was over with that he didn’t even punish me, though my mom and alpha gave me an earful about it the next day.

“After that I didn’t shift in front of Anya again, but she’d always let me sit on her lap at the table and she’d run her fingers through my hair as she read with Laura or talked with me about the preserve. That’s one of my favorite memories about her. She was so calm and collected despite being a house full of pissed off werewolves chasing after a crazy cub.”

The sheriff cleared his throat with a noise that meant he was trying to hold back strong emotions, but Stiles didn’t let him hide it, not that time. He got up and quickly wrapped his dad in a tight hug, using his bond with Derek to call him over as well.

And apparently it worked because Stiles could immediately feel the warmth of Derek’s body heat as he draped himself over Stiles’ back, an arm wrapped firmly around his waist.

“She’d have wanted to be here,” the sheriff said, voice choked.

Stiles closed his eyes, feeling his own tears streak down his cheeks, but he was smiling when he said, “Yeah, can you imagine how she’d react to all of this?”

“I’m sure she’d be thrilled about your talents,” his dad assured him, one hand around the back of Stiles’ neck, “but I don’t think she’d be so happy about how you came about discovering them.”

Stiles pulled back, wiping his tears away unselfconsciously, and leaned into Derek’s familiar embrace. “Yeah, can’t argue with you there. Some crazy stuff’s been happening, lately, but we’re all in this together and I’ve got Ginger Bear on my side,” he grinned over his shoulder at Derek, who rolled his eyes.

“Ginger- is that what you’re called when you’re,” the sheriff made a hand gesture, that seemed to indicate something fluffy, and Stiles laughed.

“Yes, that’s what Laura and Erica and everyone else call him when he turns wolfy,” Stiles said, not letting Derek untangle his arm from around his waist. “Nuh uh, you’re staying here, buddy. We’re having some quality Stilinski family bonding time, no getting out of it. Tonight’s going to be pretty chaotic, so we’re all chilling out while we still can.”

His dad stood up while Stiles was talking and enveloped both of them in a hug.

“Hell yeah, this is more like-” Stiles continued.

“Welcome to the family,” his dad interrupted, and that was just fine with Stiles, especially when he felt Derek relax against him and return the embrace.

Chapter Text

“I just, this seems silly,” Stiles finally admitted before hissing and sticking his thumb in his mouth once again. The thin dried branches in his hands were no joke. He’d already gotten two splinters and had cut himself at least four times.

Derek gave him a censuring look. His own creation was already taking shape with a lot more success than Stiles’ wonky-looking bundle.

“You have to concentrate while you’re-”

“Dude,” Stiles interrupted, “I am concentrating! Look at me, making a flower crown. I’m doing the thing, I just suck at it, is all.” And yeah, he was starting to lose his patience. Which he maintained wasn’t his fault because he was sitting on his bare ass in the forest in the middle of winter, trying to weave together dead sticks into an impossible shape-

“It’s one of our traditions,” Derek said quietly, not quite successful in hiding his hurt feelings, and Stiles immediately felt bad for snapping. “The creation of the flora crown is a tangible representation of our connection to nature. By crafting it out of things that have died in the winter or of living plants in summer, we’re showing that we recognize and appreciate the circle of life and understand the way the cycle of seasons blesses us with abundance, along with sharing knowledge with us of the inevitability of death.”

Stiles frowned down at his lopsided circle. “The inevitability of death?” he couldn’t help but ask.

That was probably the last thing he wanted to focus on. It reminded him too much of his mother, or the awful events of the previous month, which, in hindsight, seemed to be one narrow escape after another, along with the actual string of casualties that had taken place.

“I’m not explaining it right,” Derek said, sounding frustrated with himself. “The way my dad tells it is better. He says, it isn’t something dark. Well, it is.” He made a noise that seemed like something between a growl and a whine.

“Hey, take your time,” Stiles said, setting the sticks on his lap and shaking out his fingers. It was delicate work, plus the air was growing colder as the sun began to sink toward the horizon.

Also, the whole being naked thing didn’t really help him out too much, though at the very least Derek had found a patch of soft dried moss for them to sit on, so it wasn’t too uncomfortable as long as Stiles didn’t think about what kinds of bugs could be crawling around in the moss.

Derek nodded, but he was still studying his own work in progress. “There’s a natural order to things. Birth, growth, decline, and death. Each of these aspects of life is echoed in a season. We’ve assigned emotions to some of these, happiness with birth, sadness with death, and while that’s certainly true, the season itself represents a deeper, more complex combination of things. There can’t be growth without decay, for instance. What would nourish the spring flowers if there hadn’t been a layer of dead leaves from the previous season to help create the soil? How would we have the beauty of fall colors without previously having experienced the rich scent of the apple blossoms?”

Stiles stared, transfixed as Derek continued to wax poetic about the glory of the seasons, about the sensations associated with freshly turned earth between his fingers and the sharp bite of the winter wind, some of which Stiles was feeling along his bare spine, but he kept his mouth shut and listened to his mate talk, eventually picking up his own flora crown and twisting the thin sticks and dried vines into something at least vaguely shaped like a circle.

“I just,” Derek said, then let out a sigh. “I just want you to understand why this means so much to me. It’s okay if you think it’s stupid-”

“Hey, no,” Stiles said, he would have flailed his hands out to touch Derek, to physically soothe him, but he was finally getting the hang of the weaving thing and didn’t want to mess it up. “I just didn’t understand, was all. Thank you for telling me more about it, though. I promise to be more openminded about stuff like this in the future, I was just being a dick because of the crown thing. But look!”

He held up his creation and grinned when Derek have it an assessing look.

“That’s well-done,” he commented, “the thicker pieces are anchored nicely with the thinner ones. It should survive the night, I think, though if it doesn’t-”

“I promise not to be obnoxious about it,” Stiles said with a wry smile.

Derek nodded and held up his own, which was basically a piece of art. He’d used mostly light-colored pieces of wood and vine, the tendrils wrapping around each other in a tight mesh, but he’d added a few shoots of dried-out pale flowers he must have found when Stiles wasn’t looking.

It was incredible.

Stiles told him so and enjoyed the pinking of Derek’s cheeks at the compliment.

“I’m glad you like it,” Derek said, “because you’re the one who’s going to be wearing it.”

It took him a few seconds to understand what it was Derek had said and Stiles very nearly broke his own crown in the process of attempting to contain his shock.

“Wait, what? Does that mean you’re wearing mine? But, but-”

Derek smiled at him and held his out for Stiles to take, which he did automatically, but Derek had to gently pry his fingers from the slightly warped pale and dark wood creation he’d been working on.

Stiles watched at Derek turned it over in his hands, fingers tracing the spots that Stiles had no doubt bled on as he’d worked.

“During the mating ceremony, each person creates a crown for the other. It’s said that if neither of them break their union is blessed by the gods. If one breaks, that person is likely to die first, and if both break it’s seen as an omen of ill times ahead. Those are just legends, though, and that isn’t the purpose of our ritual tonight.”

“What is the purpose?” Stiles asked, his fingers tracing along the delicate lines of the crown in his hands. It felt sturdy, despite the lightness of the wood. “I mean, I know what you told my dad, but is that it?”

Derek glanced up at him and smiled. “We’re celebrating the longest night of the year and the expansion of the Hale pack. If everyone agrees to the same terms we’ll be one of the strongest in the States.”

“And if we don’t?”

Derek shrugged. “Then we’ll figure something else out.”

Stiles wasn’t sure what kind of a solution they’d be able to come up with if Talia refused to negotiate, but he figured they’d cross that bridge if they came to it.

“What other surprises do you have for me?” he asked, watching as Derek glanced up at the trees, toward where the sun was starting to set.

He turned back to face Stiles and grinned, eyes flashing beta-blue, mood suddenly peaked with excitement. “Come with me and find out,” he said, leaping to his feet and bounding off into the forest.

Stiles grinned and chased after him.



The Hale’s expansive backyard had been cleared more thoroughly than when Stiles had last seen it, back during his own ill-informed initiation into the pack. The earth was largely bare except for dry sprigs of grass, most of which was already trampled under the bare feet of the naked, though still human-shaped werewolves chasing each other around.

And yeah, Stiles could feel himself blush, both because of his own nudity and everyone elses’, but he pushed aside the embarrassment and let himself enjoy the energy of the Hale pack, the way they darted and feigned to keep from getting tagged by each other, the smiles on their faces and barks of laughter they let out when someone was caught.

Talia and Rollin stood off to one side outside of the wide circle that had been dug into the earth, but clearly wasn’t yet sealed since the betas were running around almost to the treeline. They both wore pale-colored robes, arms folded across their chests as they surveyed the antics of their pack.

Derek slowed to a stop and bowed to Talia, panting out a, “Mother, Father,” which they acknowledged with nods.

Stiles followed suit, not knowing what else to do, though it took him a few extra breaths to be able to wheeze out, “Alpha Hale, Mr. Hale.”

Because despite running quite a bit during his free time, keeping up with a werewolf in the woods wasn’t quite the same thing, he’d discovered.

They acknowledged him in turn, but whatever else they’d been about to say was lost as Laura and the rest of the pack, including the twin alphas-turned-betas, howled their enthusiastic greetings. Thankfully they didn’t make a move to tackle either of them like Stiles suspected they would have, had he and Derek been anywhere other than right in front of their alpha and her mate.

Derek, surprisingly, gave an answering howl as Stiles smiled and waved with the hand not holding onto the crown his mate had made for him. He noticed a small collection of similar-looking crowns lined up together by the circle.

Before Stiles could ask if he and Derek supposed to put theirs there, too, Derek leaned close to whisper, “Scott and Allison just arrived,” then took hold of his hand and gave it a squeeze.

Stiles bounced on the balls of his feet and glanced around, but couldn’t immediately see any cars, which meant Derek had probably heard them pull up and park up front along the circular driveway. Erica waved at him and Derek as they began to walk toward the side of the house. She was promptly tackled by Isaac, who then ran off to hide behind Boyd and one of the twins. Stiles shook his head with a smile as he let himself be led away, watching over his shoulder as Erica gave chase with a playful growl.

And that wasn’t something Derek had mentioned, the giddy playfulness that seemed to come with the winter solstice ritual, but Stiles was glad to see it wasn’t a somber event like he’d initially expected it to turn out to be. Granted, things hadn’t actually gotten started, nor had all of the participants arrived, so he wasn’t sure if the night would mellow out or get more intense or what.

Which reminded him that he hadn’t actually told Scott all that much about the ritual, leaving it up to Allison to fill him in on it. Stiles wasn’t sure if that had been the best idea, really. Mostly because of the whole nudity thing.

After the whole Cassandra incident he’d become a lot more modest. The scars on his chest made him feel self-conscious like he’d never been before, especially considering he’d often had no problem going shirtless in the summers when when was around his close friends. Stiles had definitely gone through a couple of phases when it had nearly been impossible to get clothes onto him, when he’d been younger.

But things had changed and he found himself feeling pretty uncomfortable with the idea of being nude around his best friend and his wife. The further Derek led them from the cacophonous celebration in the backyard, the closer Stiles clung to him, inexplicably dreading the reunion with the McCalls.

When they finally cleared the side of the house and came face to face with Allison and Scott, however, Stiles found his own embarrassment immediately start to dissipate. They looked so awkward despite still wearing clothes that he momentarily forgot his own discomfort and dragged Derek the rest of the way toward them, stopping just short of the pair.

“Hey, Scott, Alli,” he said in greeting, trying not to dwell on the oddness of his own nudity. Neither of them brought it up, either, but he saw them both glance at his chest before hastily looking away, cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He was a little bummed out that giving them each a huge hug would make things even weirder, but he tamped down his disappointment.

“Eh, so yeah,” Stiles continued, kind of having to force some joviality into his voice. Derek gave his hand a gentle squeeze of encouragement, and his underlying happiness was actually kind of infectious. “So you’re both here! And we’re here! All together and whatnot. We’re totally going to have to get together later to catch up after all of this because, woah, things have been ultra-crazy up in here. But that’s for later when I get a chance to bake something delicious and we don’t have impending future dilemmas hanging over our heads. So yeah, as you know there’s going to be a whole naked, or partially naked,” he amended, “ritual thing to herald the longest night of the year. It’s kind of a turning point, I guess, since from now on the days will get longer.”

Derek smiled at him and nodded minutely in encouragement.

“So, yeah,” Stiles repeated, glancing from Scott to Allison and back. “That’s part of it. Also, this is Derek. Scott, you already formally met him, but you haven’t, Alli. Except for that time in the Hale’s basement, but I don’t think that really counts because of reasons. So. Derek, this is Alli, er, Allison. Allison, this is my mate, Derek.”

She held out her hand and Derek untangled his grip from Stiles to return the gesture, but instead of shaking it Derek brought her wrist up to his nose and drew in a long breath.

Which was entirely strange, Stiles thought, and apparently Scott did as well because he was kind of gaping at the two of them.

But then, even stranger, when Derek seemed to be done Allison brought his hand up to her nose and smelled him as well.

“Wha-” Stiles began, but they both stepped back like the whole exchange hadn’t been completely bizarre and Derek draped his arm around Stiles’ shoulders, drawing him against the heat of his super-humanly-warm body, which really was appreciated because being naked outdoors in December wasn’t one of Stiles’ favorite activities.

“It’s the traditional way for two people to greet each other for the first time, especially when one is a werewolf,” Allison explained, putting one of her arms around Scott’s waist.

Stiles definitely recognized the mutual possessiveness and found it kind of silly since he wasn’t at all interested in either Allison or Scott, and he knew Derek felt the same way, especially since he was throwing off some my mate vibes of his own.

“Both of our families are very old, and we tend to keep to tradition,” Derek agreed.

“Plus, now he knows I haven't handled any poisons recently, and I know he’s not entered into his beta shift,” Allison said lightly.

Like either of those were a possibility.

Though since she apparently came from a family that had traditionally hunted werewolves, Stiles figured that probably had been the case at some point. The risk of poisoning and the retaliatory wolfing out.

He narrowed his eyes and glanced between them, but that really seemed to be all either of them were going to say on the matter, so he shrugged. “Um, okay, cool, I guess. Oh, did you both make flower crowns, too?” he asked, holding up the one Derek had crafted for him. Kind of insanely proud of the fact that he’d be wearing it later that evening.

“Flora crowns,” Derek corrected with an indulgent smile, and Stiles just grinned back at him.

“Yeah, sure. Flower, flora, whatever.”

Allison nodded, eyes drifting behind them to where the werewolves were starting to howl again, probably shifting between their human and beta forms, though when Stiles looked back to check he couldn’t see anything but shadows. He knew they’d probably get completely furry by the end of the night, especially when midnight struck and they all raced through the preserve as per tradition.

“Yeah, dude, they’re right here,” Scott said, ignoring all of the commotion and holding out a pair of simple woven crowns. It was getting darker, but from what Stiles could see they looked almost as well put-together as Derek’s.

Because of course Stiles was the only one who struggled with the arts and crafts portion of that evening’s events.

Whatever.

“It’s awesome that you both came,” Stiles said, almost choking with the sudden feeling of profound relief he felt, but Derek gave his shoulder an encouraging squeeze and he managed to pull himself together with a laugh. “So what’s it gonna be? I mean, you don’t have to, but are you both okay with stripping down or-”

“Try and stop me,” Allison said and Stiles was abruptly reminded of her almost insanely competitive streak.

“Okay,” he said, slowly turning to Derek with a smile. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Scott whispering to his wife, but she was shaking her head sharply, already starting to pull her shirt up. “So this one time Allison and I may or may not have dared each other to sneak into the high school after hours to see who could pull the biggest prank on our mean chemistry teacher, and that’s how I learned never to challenge her at all ever.”

Derek raised both eyebrows.

“Alli filled his desk with burnt popcorn and I managed to encase a majority of his office supplies in styrofoam. Yeah, it’s kind of a miracle we weren’t both suspended, but they couldn’t ever prove who’d done what, or even that either of us had been involved so nothing ever came of it.”

That seemed to amuse Derek, but he didn’t comment on Stiles’ slightly illegal activities.

Or actually illegal, since they definitely hadn’t been granted permission to enter the school after hours.

Oh well.

“When’s Morrell coming?” Allison asked and Stiles hazarded a glance over at her. She was shamelessly nude, feet shoulder-width apart, fists on her hips in a standard power stance. Even nude and presumably unarmed she was certainly a force to be reckoned with, and he could just start to make out a hint of a curve to her otherwise toned abdomen. Which really did nothing to undermine the overall effect. Beside her, Scott was shifting from foot to foot, looking pretty uncomfortable in just his socks, but he and Stiles had changed in front of each other since they’d been kids, so it certainly wasn’t the first time they’d seen each other naked.

“Probably around the same time Deaton comes?” Stiles guessed. “I think? Oh, and my dad’s going to be here, later. What about-”

“My mom and Chris are coming, too,” Scott answered before Stiles could finish asking.

Which was what he’d hoped would happen, that they’d put in an appearance, but he was still glad to hear it.

“That’s awesome,” he said with undisguised relief, slumping a bit against Derek, who of course held him up easily. “So do you two want to join in the shenanigans they have going on?” he hooked a thumb over his shoulder to where he could hear what sounded like barking coming from the backyard. The sky was nearly black and he figured they’d probably get the bonfire started fairly soon to help illuminate the area and to ward off the mild winter chill.

Not that the werewolves seemed at all troubled by it, but he and Allison were very human. Plus, she was pregnant, not that Stiles would bring it up in any way that implied she was inhibited by that fact. Because he knew her well enough to know that definitely wasn’t the case.

Allison shrugged, looking to Scott, who still seemed kind of uncomfortable being nude out in the open. His eyes kept jerking away from Derek’s body and Stiles’ chest, and that wouldn’t do at all.

Because if there was any way for Stiles to make his best friend feel better, he knew himself well enough to know he’d do it.

“Hey, you guys want to see a magic trick?” he asked, and could practically feel his mate roll his eyes.

“Stiles-” Derek began, but Scott had perked up, so yeah, he was totally going to do it.

“Be prepared for some awesome,” Stiles said with a smirk, and dragged Derek back the way they’d come and over toward the huge woodpile stacked up in the center of the circle.

Stiles figured that even though he might not be an official member of the Hale pack, he could still make his own kind of contribution to that evening’s ritual. With permission, of course.

“Alpha Hale,” Stiles called out as they approached. Talia turned to him with a nod and he couldn’t help the nervous flutter of his heart, but continued, anyway. “I know I’m not really part of things or whatever, but is it okay if I light the bonfire? Like I did the last time?”

She glanced at Rollin, who was smiling at him, then at Derek, who was frowning, but she nodded easily.

“We gladly accept your generous offer, Spark Stilinski” she said, and apparently they were supposed to be formal? Or something? Either that or she was a big fan of alliteration.

Stiles wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that, so he gave them both a tentative smile and squeezed Derek’s hand.

“Uh, okay, so we can do that, now?” he asked her, gesturing toward where the rest of the pack had stopped playing around and were watching the exchange with interest.

Talia inclined her head and Derek gave a little exasperated huff before leading Stiles over, stepping carefully over the ritual line carved into the ground. Laura and Erica immediately backed up to make room for them, elbowing the other bets and clearing a path for Derek and Stiles, along with Scott and Allison, who followed at their heels.

“Um, okay,” Stiles said, suddenly the center of the pack’s attention and not knowing quite how to handle it. “So, everyone might want to step back and probably cover your ears? I’ve only done this a couple of times, but so far my aim’s been pretty good.”

Derek squeezed his hand again, reassurance flowing from him like he completely trusted Stiles’ ability to control his magic enough not to fry them all.

Which was reassuring, but also just a touch intimidating, that someone had that amount of faith in him and his fledgeling abilities. And yeah, he really needed to start reading up on magical theory if he was going to keep his track record clear of mishaps.

But he knew what to do to make a lightning bolt. At least he hoped he knew what to do.

Stiles closed his eyes, letting the point of contact he had with his mate ground him. He breathed in and focused on the goal he wanted to accomplish and on the steady beat of Derek’s pulse against his fingers. On the sound of his breathing and the warmth of his skin. Derek’s emotions were as steady as his heart and Stiles knew it wouldn’t take much effort at all to cast.

He let his mind go blissfully blank save for the anchoring presence at his side and believed.

Like before, Stiles saw the brilliant flash of red behind his eyelids, a tremendous boom of thunder reverberating through the clearing, but unlike with his previous experiences, the only sensation that followed was elation, both his and Derek’s as he opened his eyes to see that the fire was roaring brilliantly in the deepening darkness.

“You’re not doing that anywhere near the house,” his dad called wryly and Stiles whirled around to watch as the sheriff walked up to the edge of the ritual circle, a smile on his face despite his warning and all of the public nudity going on around him.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Stiles lied and Derek didn’t even try to conceal his chuckle.

“Stiles did that?” Melissa asked, coming up behind him. They were both clothed, which probably should have made Stiles feel even more awkward with his own situation, but something about the warmth of the fire at his back and his mate at his side seemed to create a kind of buffer against embarrassment.

Besides, both his dad and Melissa had helped him with his sponge baths after he’d been attacked by Cassandra, so there really there wasn’t much of him that they hadn’t already seen.

“Welcome to the show!” Stiles announced with a grin, deciding to go for broke with the whole thing.

The Hale pack betas were once again chasing each other around, mindful of the fire, but still skirting closer to it than they maybe should have, which was either due to their excitement over the impending ritual or just general carelessness because of their quick-healing werewolf natures, Stiles wasn’t sure. Derek, Allison, and Scott, however, stayed close by him, each of them still clutching their crowns, but something about being there together or the warmth of the fire or whatever it was seemed to start loosening them up in spite of their lack of clothing.

“Some show,” Melissa and his dad said at the same time, which was pretty much hilarious.

The two of them had only grown closer over the years and it showed. While Melissa definitely wasn’t Stiles mother, and never would be, she was still a wonderful person and a great compliment to his father’s at-times-ornery nature. She could certainly hold her own when she felt she was right, as both Stiles and Scott could attest, which made him love and respect her even more.

Derek seemed to like her, too, because he chuckled at their exchange and Stiles beamed at him. And it was really hard to hold onto his discomfort over being nude when his mate was so pleasantly content beside him.

Talia spoke up, then, greeting the two newcomers and welcoming them to the ritual. She and Rollin both still had their robes on, and invited the pair to join them up on the porch.

Predictably, neither Melissa nor Stiles’ dad accepted the invitation to defrock, but they did settle onto the rocking chairs the Hales must have kept in storage somewhere because Stiles couldn’t remember having seen them when he’d opened up the house.

“So, what’s next?” Stiles asked Derek, who was watching his sister and packmates with a soft smile.

He turned to look at Stiles, expression so pleasantly open that Stiles couldn’t resist the temptation to kiss him, which of course earned them several catcalls. Surprisingly, one was from Allison, but whatever, Derek was his mate, he could kiss him if he wanted.

“We’ll wait until everyone arrives,” Derek finally answered when Stiles pulled back. His eyes were glowing blue in the firelight. “Once they’re here we’ll begin the ritual by sealing the circle and the rest is yet to be determined.”

Meaning it depended on Talia’s acceptance or rejection of the terms Stiles and Derek had given to Morrell.

Stiles thought he should probably be more concerned about that than he was, but they’d done everything they could to protect themselves and their best interests. The only thing left was to wait it out and see what happened.

He leaned in for another kiss.

For luck, he told himself. 

Chapter Text

“Welcome, family, friends, and allies, to our winter solstice ritual,” Talia called out, her voice seeming to echo in the clearing, plainly audible even over the steady crackling of the huge bonfire. Beside him, Stiles could feel Derek shift his weight from foot to foot in anticipation. The rest of the pack, all of them standing within the sealed circle, seemed restless as well, but their attention was fixed on their alpha. The only ones still clothed were Stiles’ dad, Melissa, Chris, Deaton and Morrell, but none of them seemed at all phased by the general nudity going on around them. Or the fact that most of the people stuck in the circle with them were werewolves.

The nudity, though. Stiles was kind of surprised it didn’t seem more awkward than it did. After the first few minutes of it, he actually found the sensation to be kind of freeing, actually. Having his scars on display still made Stiles a bit uncomfortable, but everyone seemed to be following locker room rules. Don’t let your gaze linger and don’t comment on what you see.

“This event is a celebration of the year we’ve had together,” Talia continued, “as well as the alliances we’ve made,” she nodded to the twins and then inclined her head to Stiles, who was a bit taken aback, but nevertheless responded in kind.

“It has been a tumultuous year, all told, but our pack has emerged triumphant despite the setbacks and dangers we’ve faced.”

Which, yeah. Understatement.

At least in Stiles’ opinion.

Multiple terrifying near-death experiences sounded more accurate to him, but he wisely refrained from adding his commentary.

“I would like to begin this evening’s ritual with a traditional airing of grievances. This aspect of the winter solstice ceremony began hundreds of years ago, back when the Hales still lived in the old country under the watchful eye of the Argents.” She glanced to Chris and Allison, who looked an odd mix of proud and chagrined. “It only seems appropriate that our guests start us off, should they feel the inclination to speak.”

That was something Derek had mentioned to Stiles, that not everyone necessarily spoke up during the rituals, but Chris immediately began to say his piece.

“Thank you, Alpha Hale, for extending this invitation to my family. I know we’ve not always been on the best of terms, but I hope we can use this opportunity,” he glanced meaningfully at Stiles and Derek, “to make things right.”

Allison took up the thread as her father quieted. “You might also be interested to hear that the Argents now follow a different code.” The wolves, especially the Hales, seemed to perk up in interest. “We’ve long operated under the phrase we hunt those who hunt us, but given the ruin that’s come from that, we decided a change was necessary. From now on, our family follows the motto we protect those who can’t protect themselves.”

Stiles felt a swell of pride well up in his chest and he nearly laughed at the sensation of astonishment that Derek felt upon hearing those words.

“That’s,” Talia began, but she seemed just as dumbfounded as the rest of them, judging by their expressions.

Rollin put a hand on his mate’s bare shoulder. “We’re overwhelmed, thank you for sharing such a momentous announcement with us,” he said with a wide smile that reminded Stiles of Derek during the rare instances he felt truly joyful. “The Hales and Argents have always been connected to each other, and it is an honor to be a included in this new chapter of your family’s identity.”

Mood apparently lightened by that announcement, Scott went next and basically just expressed his love for his wife and family, including Stiles, which was certainly a very Scott-like thing to do. He had always been the kind of person to see the best in others and to maintain a positive outlook regardless of how dire things seemed.

“Okay, I’ll go,” Laura said when no one else spoke up. “I’d like to tell Derek that he’s a total dumbass for having tapped Stiles’ phone and for spying on him when we first met back in Chicago. You, too, Isaac,” she said, pointing a claw at each of the werewolves in question, “but I’m glad things worked out after all of that crazy shit we’ve had to go through, even if you two made it temporarily worse because you’re both idiots.”

Derek felt chastened at the reprimand, but thanked Laura for her forgiveness. Stiles actively avoided looking at his dad, afraid to see his reaction to the confession.

Isaac went next, apologizing to Stiles for his part in tapping his phone and for having planted the camera in his Chicago kitchen, which Stiles had suspected had been the case, but it was still a bit jarring to get confirmation of it from Isaac.

“I’m sorry as well,” Derek said before Stiles could cut in. “I’m sorry for violating your privacy and for handcuffing you-”

Stiles’ dad made what sounded like an involuntary noise of protest, but Derek continued.

“I’m sorry for not showing that trusted you, and I’m glad to have you in my life.”

Before the sheriff could jump in to demand to know what the hell Derek had meant by all of that, Stiles turned to Laura and smiled. “I’ve gotta say, I have to agree with your sister on this one, you and Isaac were kind of dumbasses there for a little while, but I’ve forgiven you both and I love you, Derek.”

He was pretty sure Scott made a weird noise at that, but Derek was wrapping Stiles in a tight hug and kissing him senseless, so whatever his friend may or may not have said was lost in the sensation of elation he and Derek felt at the confession and embrace.

Until Stiles’ dad pointedly cleared his throat and they pulled away from each other, flushed and smiling and still very much naked, so yeah, it probably was best that they keep the intimate contact to a minimum.

“This is all pretty weird, I’m not gonna lie,” the sheriff said, which was a classic kind of opener for him, and Stiles grinned at the familiarity of it. “In the past year my son’s been nearly killed by his ex-girlfriend, afterwhich he was in the hospital for weeks recovering from his injuries, then he moved to Chicago where some thugs tried to kidnap him and then he was kidnapped. He got struck by lightning, which he apparently summoned because he inherited his mother’s talent for magic, and I can barely keep up with what all happened after that, including this phone tapping business,” he gave Derek and Isaac an unimpressed look. “What I’m saying is, this has been one of the most stressful years of my life, and I’ve had some hard times before this-”

Stiles had to blink rapidly to keep the sudden blur of tears from falling down his cheeks at the subtle reference to his mother’s prolonged illness.

“-but despite all of the anguish we’ve both experienced, I’m glad he’s been in good hands. For the most part,” he amended, giving Derek a look that said there was probably an uncomfortable discussion in his future about him having spied on and handcuffed Stiles. “I wish Anya could be here,” he said with a tired-sounding sigh, and he didn’t even try to keep the emotion from his voice as Stiles lost the fight to keep from crying, too. “She would have been thrilled to see what has become of our children, all grown up and helping each other out.”

Stiles glanced from his dad, who had wrapped an arm around Melissa, over at Talia and noticed she and Rollin were holding hands, their eyes glistening with unshed tears.

“I know she was a free spirit, that she didn’t fall in line any easier than Stiles does,” the sheriff continued, “but I hope for all of our sakes that he and Derek are able to be in a place where they can each grow and develop the way Anya would have wanted. Free of undue influence and allowed to explore their own hopes and meet their needs in a healthy environment.”

Derek wrapped an arm around Stiles’ waist and pulled him closer, the woven crowns on their heads bumping as Stiles leaned against him.

“Well, that’s what she said in her letter to me, anyway,” Stiles’ dad said with a tired-sounding sigh. “I just want my boy to be happy. And preferably not maimed,” he added, fixing Derek with a stern look.

Stiles could feel Derek flinch under the power of it, and he tightened his hold on his mate’s waist in solidarity.

“Roger that, Sheriff,” Stiles said with a smirk, in an attempt to lighten the mood.

“And don’t you think I’m letting you off the hook, either, kid,” his dad continued, pointing at him. “I know how you get into trouble, don’t think I’ve forgotten about this vampire nonsense you’re wrapped up in.”

“Vampire?” Scott asked with a bewildered look. “Dude, there are vampires, now?”

But the sheriff waved away the question and murmurs starting to come from the others, who apparently were also unaware that vampires were a thing, or that Stiles’ boss was one.

Or quite possibly both, really.

“I love you kid, I just want what every parent wants, which is for you to have a long, happy, and productive life surrounded by the people you love.”

Stiles smiled at him and gripped Derek just a little tighter because he was well on his way to achieving at least the happiness aspect of things.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“Sure thing, Stiles,” he replied, then turned to Melissa, who was already smiling at him. “Also, the two of us got married at the city hall when you were gone. So, surprise.”

And honestly? Stiles knew the two of them were closer than just friends, and had anticipated their union since he and Scott had been in high school so he really wasn’t all that surprised.

What the heck?”

But apparently Scott was.



After the remainder of the pack aired their grievances, which didn’t amount to much more than the alphas-turned-betas apologizing for their part in how things went down with the alpha pack, some playful ribbing from Rollin, and Boyd’s apology for something Stiles’ didn’t quite catch, but made Erica bust out laughing, Talia once again took control of the proceedings.

“Now we will commence with the season’s ritual, after which we will begin the negotiations between our pack and Spark Stilinski’s,” she said.

And woah.

Stiles hadn’t considered Derek and Scott and the rest of them as being part of his pack, but from a werewolf standpoint he supposed it kind of made sense.

“Thank you, Alpha Hale,” Deaton said, stepping forward between where she and Rollin were standing and where Derek had at some point herded Stiles closer to the crackling warmth of the fire.

The night actually seemed warmer than when he’d participated in the previous ritual. There didn’t seem to be any threat of snowfall, at least, and the sky held a wide arch of stars. Still, the gesture was appreciated and Stiles leaned back against Derek’s chest, content to have his mate’s arms wrapped around him.

“Traditionally, it is a pack’s omega who assists the emissary in performing this kind of ritual,” he said, turning his head to make eye contact with everyone standing around the bonfire. “But seeing as that topic has yet to be settled, I’d like to enlist the aid of Boyd, who has served this role in the past.”

Boyd immediately broke away from where Erica had been practically hanging off his bare arm and walked around to Deaton. His crown was pale, like the one Derek had crafted, but thicker and more robust-looking. Not that Stiles felt the crown he wore was inferior by any means, but it was certainly more delicate.

“Emissary,” Boyd stated in greeting, offering his hand, palm up.

Deaton placed his hand over Boyd’s and after a moment of contact they broke away and moved together to the edge of the ritual circle where Deaton had placed a leather bag upon first entering and sealing the lot of them inside.

Derek didn’t seem altogether interested in what was going on with the two of them, probably because he’d seen the same kind of thing his entire life, but Stiles watched with rapt attention as Boyd’s heavily muscled body moved, plucking things out of the bag and standing where Deaton indicated, back towards the bright flames.

It took him a moment, but Stiles finally realized Boyd had a pomegranate at the crook of each elbow. There was a large loaf of what looked to be multigrain bread in one hand and a few apples balanced on his other palm.

Stiles had no idea what was going on.

“This season is one of decay and death,” Deaton intoned, his soothing voice at odds with his message.

In Boyd’s hand it kind of looked like the apples weren’t as glossy and ripe as Stiles had initially thought. They actually seemed to have a few spots on them, but he assumed it just a trick of the light.

“The winter wind cuts through time and memory, delivering its cold caress and stealing the warmth from whatever it encounters.”

That time Stiles knew it wasn’t just a trick of the light when one of the pomegranates seemed to suddenly have a layer of frost on it.

“But with the cold and the darkness comes the warmth of companionship,” Deaton continued. “Historically, the winter months are marked with camaraderie and closeness amongst family and pack. It is a time to build alliances and mutually beneficial relationships that wouldn’t otherwise come to fruition. Winter serves as a great equalizer amongst all species.”

The apples had regained their sheen, both pomegranates were as red as ever, and even the bread seemed more appetizing than it had before.

“We congregate on this night, the longest of the year, with the knowledge that even in the darkness of winter there is still the warmth of friendship and love available to us. Let us celebrate the solstice together.”

He held something up and Stiles couldn’t help but grin when he saw it was an unlabeled bottle, which he suspected contained wine of some kind.

Around the fire the Hale pack began to howl, and Stiles was startled to see Scott join in, but once he felt Derek’s chest expand against his back he lifted his chin as well and added to the cacophony.

“So this is why we would get calls at the station,” Stiles heard his dad say, but he sounded amused, so Stiles didn’t stop. None of them did, not for a long while.



After the howling and the breaking of bread was complete, Stiles and the rest settled down to sit on blankets Erica and Isaac passed around while Morrell and Deaton remained standing, facing each other like they were in some kind of a duel.

Stiles had only hesitated a moment before accepting Derek’s offer of using his lap as a seat because while he was a strong human who didn’t expect any kind of special treatment most of the time, putting his naked ass on the ground, even on a blanket, in the middle of winter was pushing his limits.

Of course Derek had had to grab onto his hips to still him after Stiles’ several seconds of settling wiggles, but neither of them were feeling particularly aroused despite their lack of attire, so it didn’t get awkward.

Well, it didn’t get more awkward than the situation had already warranted.

And while Stiles was okay with the whole being naked around everyone who was near and dear to his heart on a temporary, ritual-based situation, he was very much not an exhibitionist, as he’d once told Derek.

That was just.

No.

When Stiles glanced up again he realized the rest of the group had shifted to their respective sides. Their packs, as Talia had said. Stiles’ dad and Melissa, Scott, Allison, and Chris were all sitting near him and Derek, while the Hale pack, including their newest initiates, were all behind where Deaton was standing. None of them were wolfed out, either. They weren’t even shifted into their beta forms, just human-shaped and calm. Looking eager to hear what was to come.

He wondered if that was part of the negotiations, too, the division, but didn’t ask because Morrell and Deaton were still locked in what looked like a stare-off or something.

But really, Derek’s comforting grip and attentiveness were pretty much the only things that kept him from speaking up to ask what the hell was going on.

Patient, Stiles was not.

Finally, Morrell spread her hands, the long sleeves of her cream-colored linen shirt transparent against the flames.

“We come to you as free agents, unbound by formal pack or coven. Why should we compromise our agency,” words Stiles had requested she use, “to join you and yours in light of the manipulations,” another of his additions, “and damages wrought by the members of your pack upon members of mine?”

Deaton studied her, his expression as placid as it had always been, before turning his head to meet Talia’s gaze. Her eyes flashed red for an instant and he turned back to Morrell, apparently having received his answer or secret code or whatever.

“The pack would like it noted that one member of your group is a born Hale,” he said.

Beneath Stiles, Derek’s muscles stiffened, his mood suddenly spiked with anxiety, but Stiles just wrapped his fingers around Derek’s wrists where they were pressed against his chest and squeezed in support, imagining he was pouring his comfort and steadiness into his mate. And it must have worked or Derek had mentally talked himself out of his freakout because his muscles loosened fractionally.

Which seemed about as relaxed as Derek ever got when they were around his family.

Morrell tilted her head, slightly, like she was giving Deaton an evaluating look, but from that angle Stiles couldn’t make out much more than her silhouette.

“The wolf in question is mated and anchored to a spark,” she said, like it was that simple.

Deaton, for all of his seemingly mystic ways, spread his hands as if she had a point.

Which.

Huh.

“The wolf and the spark have furthermore found a choice candidate for the Hale pack’s omega, and bring with them local law enforcement, a health professional, an arms expert with ties to hunters around the world, a nationally-ranked archer, and a vampire. Why should they accept your offer of potential subjugation, as is an accusation that has been leveled against you?”

Stiles hadn’t actually known that Allison was nationally ranked, but he thought that was pretty awesome. He glanced over his and Derek’s shoulders to give her the thumb’s up. She was sitting with her legs tucked to one side beside Scott, between him and the fire, idly playing with his fingers like she didn’t care about the outcome of the negotiations one way or the other, though she was definitely watching the exchange between the emissaries.

She’d always been really good at playing it cool.

Which was probably why she was such a highly ranked crossbowman. Crossbowwoman. Bowoman?

Whatever.

Anyway, Allison was exceptionally calm under pressure, as Stiles could attest since they’d taken several AP classes and tests together. She’d always had her game face on while some of their classmates had literally broken down in tears. Not Stiles, of course, since he didn’t normally emote like that in public or around other people if he could avoid it, but yeah. Alli was amazing.

Deaton remained silent for a long moment before he answered.

“Amongst your pack is a newly turned wolf,” he began, but Morrell was shaking her head.

“He may be newly turned, but he has already found his anchor and has demonstrated remarkable control. Scott has also begun to show mastery over his full shift,” she said and while that was news to Stiles, it also seemed to be a startling revelation for the rest of the werewolves. Even Derek shifted beneath him, his shock palpable.

“That,” Deaton began, then turned to look at Talia, who had gotten control over her expression, but beside her Rollin was grinning widely at Scott. “That is, indeed, a remarkable fact,” he said, and even he sounded proud. Though that could have been because he and Scott had been working closely together for several years.

“We ask again,” Morrell said with her same seemingly unflappable calm, “what does your pack, which has not behaved admirably in the past, have to offer us?”

Stiles could totally tell that the two of them were siblings, from the way they went about negotiating paired with their almost eerily serene expressions.

He suddenly wondered how they’d acted as kids and figured their disagreements had involved way more reasonable-sounding arguments than the few times he and Scott had gotten into it about stupid stuff like whose action figure had the best superpowers.

Deaton paused, looking first at Morrell, then to where Stiles and the rest were sitting. Unexpectedly, he shrugged.

“You know we’re nothing more than a family of wolves,” he said. “The Hales have nothing but their traditions and their pride. It has become clear that those things are no longer enough.”

Stiles could feel Derek suck in a breath and hold it.

He continued with the same moderate tone, his voice just loud enough to be heard over the flames. “You’re correct in your evaluation of the circumstances that have brought us here, to these negotiations. We were so focused on keeping what we’d acquired that we did not think about the cost of the acquisition, or how so many radical shifts and changes must have affected you,” Deaton was looking at Stiles when he said that and it sent a wash of adrenaline through Stiles’ body as he pressed his spine back against Derek’s chest. “The Hales are a proud pack, but it is not without some irony that once again a spark has brought us to our knees.”

Talia rose, then, her bare figure proud as she walked forward, past Deaton and Morrell until she was directly in front of Stiles. Derek’s arms tightened around his ribcage, but Stiles didn’t know what else to do but stare up at her, waiting for the other shoe to drop. All of that stuff Deaton had said was pretty awesome, and all, but as far as he was concerned none of it solved the underlying problems of Stiles’ potential lack of free agency, Derek’s potential future as a pawn or go-between , and Scott’s potential for falling into the bad-omega category should he not be part of a pack.

So it was with trepidation that he looked up and met Talia’s gaze, afraid of what he’d see in her expression. Of what he’d hear was her decree as alpha of the territory in which his father lived. Because while Stiles had magical powers of influence, hers were not only physical, but political.

“The Hale pack would like to formally request a partnership with you. We would like to form an alliance with your pack,” she said.

And he really didn’t have a reply to that.

She continued when he didn’t immediately answer. “Not every alpha is a wolf, Stiles. You killed two of them to protect my pack, and as such have gained the right to call yourself alpha.”

Stiles’ mind was swimming with the information, and holy shit he had killed two alphas. Not directly, at least not in any kind of hand-to-hand combat, which he figured was the typical way of doing that kind of a thing, but he’d still managed to fry them to ash with his last-ditch-effort magical lightning strike combo kill. Both Deucalion and Gerard were dead because of him, and apparently his recklessness was paying off in a completely unexpected way.

“But wait, how does that work?” he asked, slightly dubious because he’d never heard anything like that. Granted, he wasn’t as well versed in the supernatural aspect of life as he would like to be, but still. If that had actually been an option he would have thought Derek or someone would have brought it up at some point prior to that.

Talia knelt in front of him, which made Derek, and several others, from what Stiles could hear, suck in their breath. She looked slightly unreal, her bare skin tinged orange as the shadows and firelight illuminated her muscular body.

“Stiles, I know my past behavior hasn’t always been particularly admirable, not when it comes to how my choices have impacted you, but your father was right when he said he just wanted what was best for you and Derek. For all of our children. Even though Anya and I were dear friends, I don’t think she would have wanted you to be a subordinate in anyone’s pack. She would have wanted you in one of your own making.”

Stiles felt the warmth of Derek’s breath against the back of his neck as he exhaled like he’d been punched, but it was Talia’s open, honest expression that told him she was absolutely telling the truth. There was no hidden agenda, that time, which made his decision all that much easier to make.

“I don’t want Derek and Scott to be used as pawns,” he told her because that needed to be said. He figured it would be hardest for the two of them because of their werewolfiness. Whereas none of the rest of Stiles’ apparent pack had that kind of biological imperative to be part of a werewolf collective.

But apparently they were already part of his pack?

Talia glanced just over Stiles’ shoulder, at her son, and Derek’s fingers pressed just a bit more firmly against Stiles’ skin.

“I understand your concerns,” she said, but Stiles kind of doubted that she truly grasped just how angry her machinations had made him. Hopefully they wouldn’t ever have to revisit that kind of a situation. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to keep his magical lightning powers to himself if that became the case.

The whole two-pack thing, though, that still didn’t make complete sense to him.

“How do you think this would work?” he asked cautiously, not wanting to appear as in the dark as he really was, but also to see how far she would push it.

Talia watched his expression, probably picking up on at least some of his doubts because her lips twisted into something like a sad smile and her eyes grew distant as she turned toward her face toward the fire.

“I would have things the way they’d been, back when Anya was with us,” she said, voice wistful like he hadn’t heard from her before. “Your mother was a powerful woman who escaped her motherland in search of a calmer, safer place where she could have a family and surround herself with the things she loved. When my mother discovered such a strong spark so close to us, she attempted to court Anya and win her over to our cause, to our pack. Of course Anya wouldn’t be swayed, too aware of the cost that came with exposure. She would have been exposed, too, as ours is one of the oldest and most notable examples of a strongly matriarchal pack. There are always eyes on us, no matter how much we try to keep out of the politics of our culture.”

None of which Stiles had known, except that his mom had turned down Rebecca Hale’s invitation back in the day. He spared a glance at Laura, who looked proud and a bit sad, actually.

Talia continued, turning once again to face Stiles and Derek the the rest of them. “Anya knew the dangers and risks and chose not to commit herself to our pack, though she was always a dear and loyal friend. What I’m asking of you is to renew the alliance we forged with her. Your packmates, those that need wolf companionship and guidance, are welcome to join us for any and all trainings and moonlit runs. We, I,” she amended, “will not use their werewolf natures against them,” which was probably an alpha ability, Stiles assumed.

“And in return?” Stiles asked because that’s normally the way negotiations went, he knew from watching too much television as a kid.

“And in return we ask for your guidance and aid should we need it.”

Stiles frowned and glanced back at Scott and Allison. His friends were watching him, their expressions showing a kind of trust he wasn’t entirely sure he’d earned. His dad and Melissa seemed confident in him as well, as did Chris, for whatever reason.

But it was Derek’s opinion he really wanted.

“We’ve heard what you’ve had to say,” Stiles said, hesitating for a few seconds longer before he shrugged. “I appreciate your candor, Talia, but this decision isn’t just mine to make. You say I’m the alpha of my own pack, but I never asked for that kind of responsibility. The only thing I want is for everyone I love to be safe and happy. I’m leaving the final decisions up to each person involved.”

And that was another shocker, apparently, because even Deaton couldn’t seem to keep his expression neutral when Stiles said it.

Behind him, Stiles could feel Derek’s chest twitch and it took him a moment to realize that the complicated mix of emotions coming from his mate were a combination of shock and mirth.

“Only you, Stiles,” Derek whispered against the shell of his ear, a smile evident in his voice, though there was a sensation of palpable relief there, too.

Stiles didn’t know what else to do but shrug.

“I’ll let them speak for themselves,” he said, meeting the Hale pack alpha’s gaze with a steadiness he knew he wouldn’t have been able to dredge up when he’d first met her. When he’d met any of the Hales, really.

Talia’s eyes were glowing red, but she nodded.

Chapter Text

Stiles figured he probably should have been more surprised with the outcome than he actually was. After all, he’d done everything he could to advocate for himself and his loved ones. But despite that he was still stunned that it had actually worked out for them all the way it had.

No blood, no magic, not even some half-hearted growling.

Just words and vows and declarations. Maybe a few flashes of werewolf-colored eyes, but that had apparently been permissible given the circumstances.

Around him his friends had mostly shifted into their fluffy wolf forms and were frolicking around the fire and off into the woods. Deaton and Morrell were on the porch talking to Stiles’ dad and Melissa while Chris and Talia were deep in discussion on the other side of the fire from where Stiles and Allison were sitting ensconced in the discarded blankets. It still felt weird to be naked underneath them, but he was pleasantly warm despite the winter chill in the air.

“Well, this evening’s been pretty dramatic,” Stiles commented. In the distance he swore he could hear Derek’s wolfish snort of amusement or agreement or both and he smiled.

Allison rolled her eyes, pushing on his shoulder with her fist. Or, rather, where she probably assumed his shoulder was because Stiles had definitely turned himself into a bit of a burrito with the blankets she hadn’t taken.

And either it was a pride thing or a badass huntress thing or something else altogether, but Allison had wanted way fewer blankets than he did.

But Stiles figured, whatever. It had been her choice. Besides, he was down with giving a few up if she seemed cold. Not that he’d volunteer them or anything, her pride being what it was. Stiles, on the other hand, basically had no pride. Not after what he’d gone through.

Nope.

He was pride-free, really. Pride-free and proud.

Or something.

It was his turn to snort, at his stupid pun and even though Allison didn’t know what he found so amusing, she started quietly laughing as well and before he knew it they were practically cackling, probably both at different things, but it didn’t matter because he had his pack, all of them having chosen to stay with him as their alpha even though he had no clue what he was doing, and they had Talia and her pack’s word that none of them would be assholes about the whole thing and they each had their emissaries on retainer or whatever the mystical magical equivalent of that was. Beacon Hills would be considered shared territory, protected by both alphas, and that was that.

All in all, things were pretty awesome.

“So,” Stiles said after he’d calmed down, “you start thinking of names for my amazingly awesome future niece and/or nephew, yet?”

Allison’s expression immediately morphed into what he’d previously known as her I-see-a-cute-animal face and yeah, those dimples were precious and hopefully hereditary.

Stiles completely convinced the McCall-Argent baby was going to be an uncommonly adorable one.

But then he had a sudden jarring thought and failed his hands out of the protective warmth of the blankets because the thought was a super important one and Allison abruptly closed her mouth, leaning back a bit so she wouldn’t be in the path of his mania because she knew him and his tendency to not have complete control over his limbs when he was startled by something.

“Holy shit! Sorry, but holy shit. When do you guys find out if it’s going to be a werewolf or not? I mean, that’s a thing. Wait. Is that a thing? Am I making a big deal out of nothing right now? Shit, you were totally pregnant before Scott was bitten. So it’s not a thing? Is it still a thing?”

He glanced from her over to where Talia was standing and found she was watching him with an amused expression.

Allison actually punched him in the shoulder, that time, and his exposed skin stung with it. “Stiles, stop freaking out,” she said and suddenly there was something wet on his hand and he gave one last flail before he realized it was Scott’s tongue.

Because apparently Scott could shift into a full wolf. His fur was dark like Peter’s had been, but he had white marks on his forepaws that made it look like he was wearing socks and were too adorable not to mess with, so Stiles poked first one paw, and then the other, grinning when Scott danced away from him with what had to be a smile on his toothy face.

“I totally freaked out for nothing, didn’t I?” Stiles asked with a chagrined grimace, glancing back at Allison who had a hand clapped over her mouth, crinkles around her eyes as she was clearly trying to hold in a belly laugh. “I did,” Stiles said with a mock-sigh. “Okay, fine, fine, yuck it up. I get it. Not that I wouldn’t have been thrilled for you guys either way! Because I totally would have-”

“Oh my god, Stiles, stop while you’re ahead,” Allison said, laughing so hard she was on the verge of snorting, something he’d only heard her do a handful of times, each of which had been a positive gift of potential blackmail material.

Derek found them there a few minutes later, the two of them laughing and mocking each other relentlessly while Scott looked on with obvious amusement.

Derek tilted his furry head as he approached, his ginger-orange fur seeming to glow in the weakening firelight, his brilliant blue eyes inquisitive as he looked at first him, then at Allison and Scott, and back.

“Hey, dude,” Stiles greeted when he finally had his breath back. “Wanna come chill out with us humans? Looks like,” he checked, and yep, “the rest of the non-transformers have officially left the party.”

All of the real adults had gone at some point, which just left him and Allison and the wolves left to celebrate the winter solstice their own way.

He and Alli, at least, still had their crowns on, while the others had placed them off to one side so they wouldn’t accidentally be trampled or added to the fire or whatever.

Stiles would have felt a bit silly about still wearing his, but he’d liked the story Derek had told about the meaning behind it despite them not actually participating in a mating ritual quite yet, so he kept it on, grinning when Derek’s dark nose lifted to give it a sniff.

“Yeah, dude, I’ve still got your crown,” Stiles said quietly. “No worries, I’m in this for the long term, you know that,” and apparently Derek really liked hearing Stiles talk about commitment because his tail actually wagged.

Erica took the opportunity to completely ruin the moment by attempting to tackle Derek, which, given their size difference, didn’t quite work out in her favor, though it did get Derek’s attention and he immediately chased after her and Boyd, with Isaac and Laura at his heels as they darted off into the woods.

Scott stayed with him and Allison, sitting between them and gazing off toward where the other wolves had gone, his ears twitching as he listened to the distant sounds of what Stiles thought of as happy barking. The twins were around there somewhere as well, but Stiles had lost track of them sometime after the ritual circle had first been broken.

Not that he was worried about it or anything. Actually, he hadn’t seen them shift into wolves at all, which was what he would have been interested in, if he bothered to give it any thought.

“We haven’t really talked about names,” Allison said, her voice surprisingly soft. Both Stiles and Scott glanced over at her. She was watching the fire, a contemplative smile on her face and Stiles felt his shoulders relax.

“You don’t have to tell me, or anyone else, not until you’re ready-” he began, but she cut him off with a laugh.

“Stiles, have you ever known Scott to be able to keep a secret from you?” she asked and that was a very valid point.

Secrecy was decidedly against Scott’s nature, which made it fortunate that he was able to tell everyone he loved and cared for about his new status as werewolf because otherwise they would have just found out, anyway.

He was a bit of a blurter, was the thing.

Stiles shook his head and smiled fondly at his best friend, who looked a bit contrite, his ears pulled back against his head as he looked down at the dirt.

“Dude, no judgement,” Stiles said easily. “I like that about you, you know that. Remember when we were in third grade and you told Jackson that he was a no-good poop head? That was awesome, dude, you totally became my hero that day.”

Scott seemed at least slightly mollified at that and leaned his furry shoulder against the blankets Stiles had once again pulled up until he was firmly ensconced in them.

“Yeah, buddy, I get it. But seriously, this is your decision, Alli, and I don’t want to rush you or pressure you or anything. No one should.”

She smiled, dimples and all, and Stiles couldn’t help but smile back at her. He’d been just a touch resentful back in high school when she’d first captured Scott’s complete attention. The three of them had worked things out eventually and had all reached a happy equilibrium. College had helped with that, a lot, and Stiles knew he couldn’t have asked for better friends.

Though apparently the Hales were suddenly being added his his short list of besties, so that was an unexpected bonus to having a werewolf partner slash lover slash mate from an established pack.

And Stiles was pretty sure he was never going to get over the fact that he was suddenly an alpha, too. With the best moral compass slash omega he could have ever asked for. Not that dissuading Stiles from doing stupidly destructive things was Scott’s only selling point, but he’d had that role in Stiles’ life for a long time. Way before it became his official werewolfy job.

But he was going to do the same thing for Talia and her pack, too?

Maybe?

Stiles let out a long breath, shaking his head as it misted in the chill night air. He knew there would be many long discussions about that kind of thing with Derek and Scott and eventually Talia in the future, but that wasn’t something he wanted to focus on when he would much rather just exist in the moment.

“So you’re okay with talking about names?” he asked Allison as Scott settled down between them, head on his paws as he watched the fire with a mesmerized expression.

Allison nodded. “Sure, it’s not like it’s really going to be a secret. Also? It’s super hard to keep werewolves from hearing things if they’re trying to spy on you,” she said as easily as that. Like she just knew those kinds of things.

And holy shit, she probably did, having grown up in a family of hunters, even though Chris seemed to have distanced her from the more destructive and bigoted aspects of that culture pretty early on.

“We’re not going to go with a family name, we’ve already decided,” she continued, freeing a hand from the blanket wrapped around her shoulders so she could put it on Scott’s furry back between the jut of his shoulderblades. He closed his golden yellow eyes like it was the single greatest sensation in the world.

Stiles grinned at his friends and looked up at the orange flames. “That’s cool, I can support that,” he said easily.

“It’s kind of a family thing,” Allison admitted. “The Argents don’t repeat names. They say it’s because everyone deserves to have their own legacy, which is nice in theory, but my family members have done some pretty shitty things. Historically and more recently.” When Stiles glanced over her nose was scrunched up, like she smelled something bad.

“Yeah,” he said, keeping his tone light, “I’d maybe discourage you from going with any kind of variant of Kate. Just sayin.”

Allison laughed, thankfully, bright and loud because she was kind of an asshole like Stiles was, which had helped a lot in cementing their friendship. Scott just wasn’t that kind of a person, to being able to joke about sensitive things like that, which was totally fine by Stiles, but he still liked being able to feel the adrenaline rush of telling a joke that just skirted the line of acceptability like he could with her.

Scott wiggled a bit where he lay between them, but didn’t otherwise react, long used to their slightly inappropriate type of humor.

“So no family names, that’s cool. What else?” Stiles asked.

“We’re focusing more on girls’ names right now, actually,” Allison admitted. “I’m not sure why, but those seem easier to come up with.”

Stiles made a considering noise.

They talked a bit more about that, then about Stiles’ whole vampire experience, which had Scott sitting upright, his intense golden eyes fixed on his best friend’s face the entire time like he was afraid Stiles would spontaneously combust or start crying or something.

And Scott’s worried noises must have alerted Derek because he was suddenly there, his giant furry body crowding in behind Stiles as he hooked his massive head over his shoulder like he not only had his back, but his front as well and Stiles laughed because it was so totally ridiculous.

He told them both that, but neither wolf seemed inclined to let it go quite so easily.

“Stiles, they have a point, that was a pretty stupid thing to do,” Allison said and he made a noise of betrayal.

“Et tu, Allison?” he asked with a mock wounded look that made Scott roll his glowing eyes while Derek snorted out an amused breath.

She looked like she wanted to punch him for that, but wisely refrained since there were a couple of overprotective wolves in the way. Not that they would have done anything to her, but still. Stiles was feeling just a bit crowded by all the attention.

“So, did you get a chance to talk to your sister?” Stiles asked, rubbing his cheek against Derek’s.

The wolf woofed quietly in reply, but Stiles got it. She unsurprisingly hadn’t yet found then a suitable dwelling place.

“I know, we haven’t been in town for very long and she was probably too busy scaring off the local wildlife or checking the border or whatever to have a lot of time to look for us. We can ask her more about it tomorrow, maybe?”

Derek bobbed his head agreeably in confirmation.

“Cool,” he said, gathering up the nerve to expose one of his hands to the cold air and immediately buried it in the plush fur by Derek’s throat. Stiles leaned a bit more firmly against his mate and closed his eyes with a contented smile.

“Are you guys going to stay out here all night?” Allison asked, hiding a yawn behind her hand.

Stiles yawned in response, turning his head so it was muffled by Derek’s cheek, which the wolf didn’t seem to entirely appreciate, but whatever, he’d have to get used to Stiles’ sleepy breath eventually.

“I don’t know what the protocol is for things like this,” he admitted when he was done rubbing his cheek against his mate’s, “but I think there was something about staying up all night?”

Derek nodded, a quick dip of his head.

“So that’s a yes,” Stiles interpreted to his friend, who was watching the two of them with a soft smile.

“Okay, I was just wondering. Hey, do you remember that one place you and Scott wouldn’t shut up about back when we were still in high school? Some kind of cliff or something?” she asked, sounding innocent, but Stiles knew she had an angle. But since he didn’t know what it was he answered honestly.

“You mean Lookout Point?”

“Yeah,” she replied with a suspicious amount of enthusiasm, face lighting up in a way that boded ill for Stiles’ future. It was the same look she’d gotten when she’d bet him he couldn’t stand still while she shot an apple off his head with her crossbow. He’d done it, of course, and she’d fired with flawless accuracy, but the familiarity of the expression was still disconcerting. “You two promised to take me there after you ditched me the last time,” she reminded him with a smug smile. “I’m officially cashing in on it. Tonight. Right now.”

And when she said it like that-

“Fine,” Stiles said, trying to put as much reluctance into his voice as he could manage. Which wasn’t actually all that much. He’d already run through the woods buck naked, after all, what was a little more galavanting for the sake of fulfilling a promise?

He found out quickly enough, though, when he stood up and stepped off of the blanket he’d been sitting on and immediately hissed at how cold the bare earth had gotten in the interim. Stiles was also utterly disinterested in divesting himself of any of the numerous blankets he’d wrapped himself in, which he knew would make the trek through the woods an exercise in frustration as they inevitably got caught on every single branch and barb.

But he’d made a promise to Allison, so he started walking toward the woods despite the fact that he didn’t have on any shoes and that as soon as he got outside the faint glowing circle cast by the fire he was basically blind in the darkness of the night.

Derek kept pace with him as Scott walked beside Allison, but it was clear the wolves were worried about the two of them, edging even closer to them as they neared the treeline.

The first time Stiles stepped on something sharp, he assumed a rock, Derek barked like he’d been goosed, whirling around in front of Stiles and refusing to let him move forward another step while Scott gave a low whine in his throat.

“Oh my god, you guys, we’ll be fine,” Stiles said, but he didn’t even sound convincing to himself.

“Fine,” he sighed when it became clear Derek wasn’t going to budge. “We can go to the house and maybe find shoes?” Stiles tried to glance at Allison to get her opinion, but he couldn’t make out her expression in the dark.

“Or-” he started, but then Derek was pressing against his side kind of insistently. It felt different, his mood was different, from the other times he’d done something similar and he couldn’t be-

“Do you seriously want me to-” Stiles began, but cut himself off because Derek’s proposal wasn’t one Stiles had even ever considered before. It was too improbable, but there Derek was, putting himself out there and Stiles just shut up and acted, bunching up the blankets so he could swing one leg over Derek’s broad back, the impossibly soft fur warm against the inside of his thighs and underneath him as he straddled his mate in a way he’d never known was even a possibility.

Stiles freed his hands, making sure to tuck the blankets firmly around his chest, and leaned forward so he could grab onto the thick ruff of fur on the back of Derek’s neck.

“Okay, so we’re doing this,” he muttered, listening as Allison and Scott moved around beside them, but he couldn’t really tell what they were up to.

The same thing, he supposed.

“Do you know where we’re going?” Stiles asked and smiled at Derek’s offended-sounding huff.

Because Derek had grown up running around the woods. He probably knew the land better than anyone outside his immediate family.

“Sorry, sorry,” Stiles whispered in apology, pressing his forehead down on the soft fur between his hands, breathing in the familiar scent of his mate. “Lead on, Der.”



The run was exhilarating in the darkness. The trees and underbrush nothing more than vague shadows of deepening shades of gray. Overhead the stars blazed brilliantly through the sparse canopy of the winter-bare branches, but they didn’t give enough light to truly illuminate the forest floor, nor did the sliver of the sickle moon.

So Stiles clung onto his mate, trusting in his strength and senses as they flew down unseen paths toward their destination.

He could hear Scott somewhere behind them, but he seemed to be keeping pace pretty well, and then there were more noises that could have only been the other wolves, joining in their run.

By the time they got to the Lookout Point, or Makeout Point, as it had been unofficially dubbed, Stiles’ face felt windburned and oddly hot despite him knowing it was likely bitter cold, instead. His legs were wobbly, too, as he slid off Derek’s back and onto one of the flat rocks that made pretty good places to sit, when the temperature wasn’t in the teens or twenties or however cold it had gotten since the sun had set.

Derek immediately crowded next to him, rubbing his soft cheeks against the exposed skin of Stiles’ face like he was trying to warm him up manually. It worked, after a fashion, but eventually Stiles just tucked his cheek against Derek’s throat and sighed against the thick fur, there.

When he felt like he could actually feel his face again, Stiles leaned back enough to glance around. The lights of Beacon Hills were visible in the valley below them, looking like yellow stars in the darkness. Around them he could just make out the vague shapes of his companions. He thought he recognized Boyd, Erica and Isaac, who were curled up together on Scott’s other side, though he was pretty sure Laura was sitting next to her brother, looking out at the view.

Stiles bumped shoulders with Allison, grinning despite not being able to see her expression in the dark.

“So, was it everything you were imagining?” he asked, smiling.

He could hear her breathe out a laugh. “Well, none of us are shitface-drunk, so it’s lacking a bit in that regard, but overall I’d say, yeah. This is a pretty nice place, thanks for finally taking me here.”

And he detected a definite hint of attitude, there, but laughed, anyway. “Well, I do keep my promises,” he said, leaning his head against Derek. “At least I try.”

Derek made an agreeing kind of a noise and Scott echoed him, much to Stiles’ and Allison’s amusement.

“Well, that’s always good to hear,” Stiles said, his chest warm with the love he held for both his brother and his mate. “I’m glad everything seems to have worked out with the pack. Our packs,” he amended. “I still am not quite sure about the whole alpha thing-”

But Derek cut him off with a nudge that clearly meant he had absolutely no doubts about Stiles’ ability to get his alpha on, or whatever. Stiles appreciated the sentiment, even if he wasn’t nearly as confident in himself.

Allison cut in before Stiles could give any further explanation about his worries, though. “Stiles, I know this is probably as weird for you as it is for me, but I think you’re going to do a good job. No, let me finish,” she said when he started to interrupt. “I know you don’t like having power over other people, that it makes you uncomfortable, but that’s what’s going to make you a good leader. You know what it’s like to feel powerless and you hate it, so you’re not going to do anything to make anyone else in your pack feel that way. Talia’s a good alpha, but she’s a born wolf who probably always knew she was destined for power-”

Laura made an agreeing sort of noise at that, the first time one of the other wolves had acknowledged their conversation.

“Either one of those things can go to someone’s head, but both?”

Derek let out a soft whine, but refused to look at Stiles when he glanced over, squinting in the dark, which only served to support Allison’s thesis.

Allison sighed, a noise echoed by several of the wolves, though Stiles’ couldn’t tell who. “I’m not saying she’s a bad alpha, but you and Talia are about as different from each other as it is possible to be. I don’t know that it’ll be easy, being allied with her, but I know it will benefit everyone in both packs. Maybe she’ll stop trying to manipulate people and situations like she does. And maybe you’ll be a bit more assertive when you need to be,” she finished and he knew she was absolutely right.

“Hey,” Stiles said, but he wasn’t offended by her analysis of his alpha-ing abilities. He shook his head with a faint smile, thankful to have such an honest and trustworthy friend at his side.

Beside him, Derek let out a long breath, but he sounded content, and that was something else Stiles had needed to hear without having realized it before.

And maybe the alliance with the Hale pack really would be beneficial to everyone involved instead of turning into an unmitigated disaster of supernatural proportions.

Stiles could hope. 

Chapter Text

Stiles asked again when they were both human-shaped and actually able to talk about it, but Derek’s answer was the same as it had been the night of the solstice. Laura hadn’t yet managed to find them a place to live in town, but she was still looking because, as Derek reported, she figured that if left to themselves, they’d end up in a shack somewhere in the preserve.

The two of them made due, though, and of course temporarily ended up back at the sheriff’s house, settling into a generally companionable domestic routine.

Derek made breakfast for the three of them, the pair prepared something quick and healthy to eat with Stiles’ dad at the station for lunch, then Stiles made dinner. Whoever hadn’t been responsible for cooking cleaned and it all worked out.

For the most part.

Except for when it didn’t.

“No, dude, I told you we were going to bring something to the station, just like we did yesterday,” Stiles said, arms crossed where he stood just inside the kitchen doorway, glaring as Derek leaned casually against the sink. “You know my dad’s just gonna eat diner fare if left to his own devices, and that,” he pointed to the oven where a frozen pizza was baking, “is pretty much the same thing.”

It also wasn’t nearly enough food for three grown adults, but that was beside the point.

The point was that Derek seemed okay with enabling the sheriff and Stiles was very much not okay with that.

“Stiles, he’s fine,” Derek said, not for the first time.

Which was bullshit.

“Dude. Derek, no. He’s not fine, his test results-”

“Are over a year old,” Derek interrupted calmly. “You were the one who told me that. For more than a year the man has been following your strict diet, and I know he’s been going for walks with Melissa at the park. The least you can do is let him go to the diner once a month-”

“It’s almost Christmas! He’s going to be eating crap for a week!” Stiles argued.

Shouted, maybe.

Whatever.

Derek scratched the blunt nails of one hand through his beard, which was what he tended to do when he was about at the end of his rope with Stiles. And even after only having known each other for a few short months, Stiles was already getting pretty good at identifying his tells.

Well, that and the whole magical emotional connection they had going on.

But instead of telling Stiles how much of a shithead his was, as Sampson would have done, or trying to distract him with a kiss, which had been Bethany's signature move, Derek just shook his head.

“I don’t want to argue with you,” he said honestly, voice quiet.

Stiles felt himself deflate slightly, his own reactionary combativeness fading because it wasn’t any fun to essentially yell at a brick wall, which was what he’d learned fairly quickly was the case when Derek was finished having a discussion. Besides, they’d had a variation of that same conversation a few times, already, and neither of them ever came out of it victorious.

“So what do you think we should get for your dad and Melissa as a wedding gift?” Derek asked, clearly trying to change the subject.

Stiles blinked at him, then at the oven when it beeped, and he realized he didn’t actually have an answer to that question, which was alarming.

“Uh-”

“You haven’t thought about it, have you?” Derek teased, using an oven mitt to take the pizza out and set it on the stovetop. That had been another topic of conversation they’d beaten into the ground. The fact that Stiles would absolutely not tolerate Derek hurting himself on purpose, even taking into account his quickened healing factor. Especially not when food was involved because Stiles did not enjoy having to rush to the toilet to puke every time Derek thought he could scald his hands on burning hot kitchenware because he didn’t care enough to pull out a hot-pad.

But Derek must have sensed Stiles’ growing unease about the alarming lack of thought he’d given to his father’s new marriage because he continued talking in a soothing tone. “That’s fine, Stiles, you don’t need to know right this second, but I thought it would be good to start talking about it, since everyone just found out and it might be nice to host a reception for them or something.”

Stiles opened his mouth to respond when he abruptly remembered something else and his voice came out as more of a squeak when he sputtered, “Dude, presents! Like, Christmasy-type presents. We need to go shopping for ingredients and to the dollars store for tins and-”

And Derek moved across the kitchen in a blur, warm hands capturing Stiles’ face in a surprisingly gentle grip.

“Calm down, please, we have plenty of time,” he soothed, kissing Stiles’ still-parted lips, but he wasn’t doing it as a commandment or to distract Stiles as much as to sooth him and keep him from totally freaking out.

But he really wasn’t that easily derailed.

Well, sometimes he was, but when Stiles had a deadline he became almost obsessively task-oriented. Which probably wasn’t something Derek knew about him, actually.

“Okay, so here’s what we’re going to do,” Stiles said before his mate could try to get control of the situation, “we’re going to-”

“Eat,” Derek said decisively, gently pulling Stiles toward the dining room table. “First, we’re going to eat, and then we can make lists or charts or however it is you want to get us organized. Does that sound like a fair compromise?”

Stiles would have protested, but his stomach rumbled, so instead he rolled his eyes and plopped down on one of the chairs, letting Derek serve them pizza and salad.

Amazingly, Stiles managed to keep quiet for almost the entire meal before the pressure to speak overwhelmed him and he began blurting out his plans, again, which actually seemed to amuse Derek instead of piss him off, so that was something unexpected and new when it came to Stiles’ history with relationships. None of his previous partners had found his more neurotic tendencies anywhere near as enchanting as Derek seemed to.

When he finally began to wind down they’d already washed their plates and put everything away. It seemed kind of like Stiles had regained control over himself, too. He no longer felt in danger of coming out of his skin or bolting for the door in a rush to get everything done right that second.

Which.

Huh.

“So we’re going to the store?” Derek asked, turning to take Stiles into his arms, pressing their cheeks together and Stiles couldn’t help but kind of melt into the embrace, seeking his equilibrium in the warmth of Derek’s hug.

“Yeah,” he finally muttered against the worn cloth of the t-shirt beneath his lips. It looked well-loved and smelled intoxicatingly like his mate. And that almost persuaded Stiles into temporarily postponing their outing so they could have some quality time together, but even the slightly lessened pressure to get things done eventually won the little internal battle he had going on.

“Yeah,” Stiles sighed out, a little louder that time. “Come on, Der, let’s get a move-on. I’ll let you choose which cookie flavors we’re going to whip up, since I’m assuming these batches are going to be from both of us? I mean, unless-”

Derek grinned at him and leaned in for a kiss. “I’ll happily help you bake, Stiles. Come upstairs with me? You need at least another two layers before we head out.”

Stiles scoffed at that, but dutifully followed Derek up to his old bedroom, which, even after only a few days of occupation, was already starting to look like theirs instead of just his.

He liked it.

“How long does it take for a space to smell like someone?” Stiles asked idly as he sidled up next to where Derek was pawing through the drawer containing his hoodies. Well, those that weren’t hung up in his closet.

Stiles had a lot of hoodies.

Derek hummed, pulling one out a maroon one that proudly announced his school and sport of choice, Beacon Hills Lacrosse, on the front and his jersey number, twenty four, on the back.

“This,” he said, handing it to Stiles, “and typically about a week, though certain things can make smells linger or leave more quickly.”

Stiles pulled on the hoodie, it was tighter across the chest and shoulders than it had been back when he’d played in high school, before tilting his head and watching as Derek moved around the room collected their phones and wallets.

“Linger how?” he asked, but kind of thought he might know.

His suspicions were confirmed when he saw Derek’s ears tinge pink even as his mood took on a slightly embarrassed feel.

“How, Der?” Stiles asked again, attempting coyness, but probably falling short as he came up behind his mate, sliding his hands around Derek’s sides to rest just above the waist of his jeans.

Beneath his hands, Stiles could feel the muscles of Derek’s abs constrict, his breath catching, and he couldn’t just walk away from that, not when the previously impending deadline seemed to stretch further into the distance as he felt the warmth of his mate beneath his palms.

“Does it smell like us in here?” Stiles pressed, both verbally and physically, his fingers drifting just a little lower. “You know, one day we’re going to have a place of our own and we’re going to have a fantastic time christening every-”

Stiles slipped his fingertips just under the band of Derek’s jeans, sliding along the band of his boxer briefs.

“-single-”

He pushed closer, his hardening cock at a perfect angle against his mate’s ass as he rolled his hips forward.

“-room.”

Stiles opened his mouth and fit his teeth against the back of Derek’s neck, pressing down just firmly enough to feel the sudden rush of arousal punch through first his mate, and then himself, his hands moving instinctively lower as he pulled Derek back against his growing erection, his own palm cupping Derek’s, hand trapped between the roughness of his jeans and the smooth fabric of his underwear.

“Color?” he asked quietly.

“Green. Keep talking,” Derek said, sounding breathless and feeling profoundly turned on.

“Mmm,” Stiles hummed, licking the reddened skin on the back of Derek’s neck. It felt different, instigating that kind of intimacy when they were both dressed, but something about it made Stiles feel even hotter as he rolled his hips again, palm pressing along the bulge of his mate’s hot cock through his boxer briefs. “What should I talk about, do you think?” Stiles asked, lips grazing the shell of Derek’s ear and he moaned in response, tilting his head back as he pressed into Stiles’ touch.

“Should I talk about how one day I’m going to let you hoist me up onto the counter in our kitchen? I’ll be wearing a skirt, of course. Just that and nothing else and you’re going to slide your fingers underneath the hem until you find my hole still wet and stretched from where you’d fucked me earlier that day.”

Derek’s head fell forward, the bumps of his spine too tempting for Stiles to resist and he gave in, mouthing at the hot skin as Derek let out a broken-sounding noise, his cock pulsing under Stiles’ palm.

When he finally managed to regain a modicrum of control, though he couldn’t seem to stop himself from rolling his hips against the firm perfection of Derek’s ass, Stiles continued.

“What you rather I talk about the privacy fence we’ll have around our back yard, or the acres of land if we don’t live within the city limits? How I’ll practice yoga with you there in the morning, my skin probably blindingly pale in the morning sunlight. Because of course we’re going to be naked while we do it. You’ll be the base and you’ll have to work hard on it because as I’m suspended over you I’m going to lean down and blow you right there in the warm summer air.”

Derek let out a whine at that, an unmistakable smear of precome slicking Stiles wrist as he continued to tease his mate’s erection without making contact with his skin.

“I could talk about how our new place is going to smell like us,” Stiles whispered against the red marks he’d bitten onto Derek’s throat. “I could tell you all the ways I want to take and be taken by you,” he tightened his grip so it was no longer just a tease of fingertips. “I could talk for hours about my dreams for our future.” Stiles nearly choked on his words when Derek pushed back more firmly against him, but he continued, sounding almost as wrecked as his panting mate. “I could tell you all of that, but I think you know the truth, Derek. It doesn’t matter what our destination is as a couple because I love you and we’re going to be together no matter what obstacles we face, or where we end up.”

Derek let out a broken-sounding moan and they both came in their pants, the overwhelmingly erotic feedback loop prolonging their pleasure almost to the point of pain, until they were both kneeling on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around each other, struggling to catch their breath.

“I like your version of our future,” Derek finally managed to grunt, voice raspy.

Stiles grinned happily at his mate and let himself be kissed.



“Shopping is done!” Stiles said raising his fists in triumph.

Derek, predictably, rolled his eyes and closed the back hatch of the jeep. “The shopping might be done, but we still have to actually make all of these cookies, Stiles. That’s going to take hours-”

“Hey, no,” Stiles interrupted, pointing his finger at Derek as they both moved around the vehicle and climbed in. “You don’t get to be grumpy, these are Christmas cookies. Well, as much as any of us are partakers in that kind of religiousness. My dad and I never really got into that kind of thing, but still, it’s the principle of the matter. Good will toward men and women and werewolves and all that, right?”

Derek snorted, but didn’t argue as they climbed into the jeep and Stiles drove them back to his father’s house, humming a holiday-worthy song and plotting which batches would need to be baked first.

“You’re not going to make me go caroling, are you?” Derek asked as they started to unload.

Stiles smirked. “I mean, Scott and Melissa have definitely dragged me around the neighborhood, before, so it could happen.”

Derek shook his head as they both grabbed what they could, but even with his superhuman strength and Stiles’ normal human strength, it was impossible for them to get all of the bags in one go. Especially since there were several cartons of eggs in the mix.

They were making an insane number of cookies.

“I thought you wanted to keep my voice to yourself?” Derek teased as they began sorting out the ingredients. Stiles indicated for the dry ones to go on the table while he set the wet ones on the counter.

“Yeah, well, you try saying no to Melissa,” he said absently as he mentally plotted out how many batches of peanut butter cookies he needed to make.

“Why are we saying no to Melissa?” the sheriff asked as he entered the kitchen, glancing between the two of them as he made his way to the fridge.

Stiles shook his head with a wry smile. “No one’s saying no to your new bride, father dearest. We were just talking about caroling-”

“Oh, good, so you two are coming to the hospital this year to join us?” his dad interrupted smoothly, a pleased grin on his face.

Stiles groaned, but Derek readily agreed for them both, clearly trying to get on his future father-in-law’s good side. The thing was, it seemed to work because Stiles’ dad clapped him on the shoulder as he walked back out of the kitchen empty-handed.

“Dinner’s in an hour,” Stiles called after him and he heard a muffled okay before his dad shut himself up in his office.

Which gave Stiles just enough time to get that first set of cookies baked and set out to cool before he needed to start preparing the meal.

“Hey,” Derek said, pressing up behind him in a way that mirrored Stiles’ near-frantic rutting earlier that morning. “What should I do?”

Stiles smiled at the offer, once again amazed at how lucky he was to have found Derek amongst the two million some odd people in Chicago.

“Hm, you can clean out the tins?”

Derek chuckled and kissed the back of Stiles’ neck. “Was that a question or a suggestion?”

In retaliation for the teasing, Stiles rolled his hips back and bit his lip as he looked over his shoulder.

“What do you think, Hale?”

Derek growled, a playful-sounding noise, before untangling himself from Stiles and moving toward where the bags of tins had been discarded on the floor.

“Alright, time to get baking,” Stiles said, rubbing his hands together.



Their evening routine was probably Stiles’ favorite.

“You still smell like cookies,” Derek said into the quiet darkness of the bedroom.

Stiles grinned, knowing his mate could see him even if he couldn’t quite make out Derek’s expression, as he leaned forward to grab onto his shins, just above his ankles. Erica’s instructions, though at times creepy, had definitely yielded observable improvements in his flexibility.

“Are you mad that I don’t smell more like you?” Stiles teased, standing up slowly, arms stretched out at his sides.

That time, Derek’s growl was less friendly and more-

“Oh,” Stiles said, finally starting to get it.

“Yes, oh,” Derek said curtly. The shadow of his form closed in on Stiles and before he could even complete the cool-down pose he’d been trying for Stiles was lifted up and set down onto his bed, the warm weight of his mate pressing against him. “You smell delicious, but too much like other things. I want to- I want-”

“Say it,” Stiles whispered in encouragement, sliding a hand up Derek’s bare chest because of course he liked to do yoga shirtless, even during the middle of winter.

“I want to mark you,” Derek replied quietly, like he was afraid to speak up.

Which, actually-

“Shit, you know my dad’s home, right?” Stiles groaned, letting his head thud back against the mattress.

Derek hummed in response, kissing the newly exposed lines of Stiles’ throat, the texture of his beard sending pleasant tingles throughout Stiles’ body.

“I mean, you know I want you, but if we get caught-”

“We won’t get caught,” Derek assured him, clearly smiling. “I can hear everything that’s going on in the house, remember?”

Which was a pretty good argument, Stiles had to admit.

And it was almost like wearing a blindfold, his bedroom was so dim. Stiles shuddered at the comparison and obligingly tilted his chin back just a bit more, drawing another growl from his mate.

“Do you want to continue?” Derek asked, voice gone raspy with arousal, but even so, he pulled back enough for Stiles to answer without feeling pressured.

He smiled into the dark, looking for the vague outline of his mate hovering over him. “I trust you not to get me in too much trouble, Hale,” he teased, hooking a leg over Derek’s and pulling him closer. “Green,” he added, for good measure.

“Careful, pup,” Derek replied, nipping playfully at Stiles’ chin with blunt human teeth.

“Naw,” Stiles retorted with a grin. “How about you be careful and I be reckless?”

Derek’s answer was to fit his mouth over Stiles’, kissing him soundly until they both had to break apart to gasp for breath.

“That’s not being quiet,” Stiles accused, poking at Derek’s bare abs, but he quickly seized Stiles’ hands in one of his, lacing their fingers together and pressing them firmly against the mattress above Stiles’ head.

“Color?” he asked, breath whispering against Stiles’ still-damp lips.

He swallowed back what would have almost certainly been a thoughtless kind of agreement, instead making himself focus on the sensation of being contained, on the pressure of Derek’s hand against his, but he didn’t feel any of the warning signs of having a panic attack or anything at all like that. In fact, he felt pretty warm and safe and loved.

“Green,” Stiles said, arching his neck, seeking his mate’s mouth and was once more rewarded with a kiss.

It was quick, yet thorough.

“Tonight we’re going to see if you can keep quiet, no matter what I do to you,” Derek whispered against his lips, but even that didn’t alarm Stiles.

Instead it sent a shiver of pleasure through his body and he couldn’t help but grin at Derek’s answering chuckle.

“Do you like the sound of that, pup?” he asked teasingly.

“Green,” Stiles readily agreed.

“Good,” Derek whispered before putting his mouth to better use, kissing his way from Stiles’ lips down his cheeks to his neck, using his free hand to pull aside the collar of Stiles’ shirt so he could fit his mouth over Stiles’ clavicle and throat, nipping stinging little marks across his tender skin.

“Up,” Derek commanded, next, pulling him upright by his hands before untangling their fingers and quickly pulling off Stiles’ t-shirt. Derek was exuding waves of contentment as he carefully pressed Stiles back down onto the bed, peppering his chest and abs with more delicate kisses his hot palms pressing firmly against Stiles’ shoulders to keep him still.

“Mmm, feels good,” Stiles said, voice hushed as Derek’s single-minded regard for him flowed through their bond.

Derek let out another rumbling growl, a contented-sounding one, and moved lower, kissing the trail of hair starting at Stiles’ navel and leading down.

The angle made it so he finally had to drag his palms downward as well, but Derek used the freedom to strip off the sweatpants Stiles had been wearing, along with his boxer briefs.

“Even better,” Stiles couldn’t help but comment. The darkness made him speak a bit more boldly than he’d sometimes cared to in that kind of a situation, though he was careful to keep his voice quiet because he did not relish getting caught in the act by his father.

“I can give you something more,” Derek murmured, lips against the jut of Stiles’ hipbone. “Something like what you gave me this morning.”

Stiles grinned. “You mean you’ll put my underwear back on and make me come in them again?” he teased and was rewarded with a soft nip to the tender skin on his inner thigh.

“I’ll help you give up control,” Derek corrected, then soothed the bite with his tongue. “I liked that, having you take over, but I know you like that, too. So if you want-”

“I want,” Stiles said quietly. “I want you to be in charge, tonight. I mean, obviously I enjoyed myself, earlier-”

“Yeah, you did,” Derek agreed and Stiles could feel his smile where it was pressed against his hip.

“Shut up, Hale,” he snarked and, predictably, he was rewarded with another soft bite.

“Hm, I think that’s something you’ll need to work on,” Derek snarked back, the rasp of his trimmed beard tingly against Stiles’ skin. “You’re going to have to try to keep all of the delicious noises you make to yourself as I take you apart. Do you think you’re going to be able to do that, pup?”

Stiles stifled a groan with his fist and yeah, he clearly had his work cut out for him.

Derek huffed a laugh against Stiles’ stomach. “Let me know if it becomes too much and I’ll see if I can come up with a way to keep your mouth otherwise occupied so it doesn’t get us in trouble.”

“Fucker,” Stiles hissed, arousal shooting through him at the proposal.

“That’s the idea,” Derek said, kissing his way down Stiles’ body once again.

The heat of Derek’s mouth finally sealed around the head of Stiles’ cock and he arched off the bed with a quiet gasp, but somehow managed not to moan outright even as Derek’s tongue traced around the slit and yeah, Stiles figured they’d need to invest in some kind of a gag if they had any close neighbors in the future because it was torturous trying to keep quiet under the unrelenting pressure of his mate’s hot mouth.

“Der,” he gasped, as quietly as he could, but the sound still seemed to echo in the stillness of the room.

Derek pulled off with an obscene-sounding pop, his cheek resting on Stiles’ quivering thigh.

“Yes?” he asked, not sounding nearly as wrecked as he should have, given what he’d just been doing paired with his own throbbing arousal.

“I don’t think I can keep quiet,” Stiles confessed, knowing his face was flushing with embarrassment.

Derek hummed in response, hands running soothingly up and down Stiles’ thighs before he seemed to nod to himself.

“Roll over onto your side,” Derek instructed, his warmth lifting up off of Stiles’ bare skin.

He frowned, but did as he was told, shifting onto his side and listening as Derek got up and rifled around with something behind him. It sounded like he was undressing, actually, and then there was the unmistakable rasp of the bedside stand drawer being pulled open.

And oh, that was definitely where Derek had stashed the lube. The box of toys, on the other hand, had once again found its way under Stiles’ bed.

“Are you seriously going to fuck me?” Stiles asked, incredulous, though he managed to keep his voice quiet. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love feeling you inside of me, but-”

“I’m not going to fuck you tonight, but I will take care of you, if you’ll let me,” Derek answered easily, one of his palms smoothing over Stiles’ back.

Stiles trusted him, of course, but he couldn’t quite let go of the anxiety he felt.

“I’ll make sure we don’t get caught,” Derek continued. “I’ve locked the door, your dad’s sound asleep at the other end of the hall, and your mouth is going to be too busy for you to get us into trouble.”

Which.

“Okay,” Stiles whispered, hearing his own reluctance, but he did trust his mate. “Green.”

Derek crawled onto the bed behind him, wrapping his arms tightly around Stiles and pulling him back against his werewolf warmth.

“You’re amazing,” Derek said against the back of his neck, breath hot on his chilled skin. “I’m so proud of you,” he continued, one arm moving up so it was under Stiles’ neck, the other hand pressing against his tense abdomen. “The way you stood up to my mother, the way you protected your pack.” Derek kissed the back of Stiles’ neck, his hand sliding lower, palming Stiles’ erection, his own pressed against Stiles’ ass in a way that almost mirrored their morning sex, though they were very much unclothed and the entire atmosphere was different in the stillness of the night.

Derek’s hand lifted off of him and Stiles’ eyes widened when he heard the snap of the lube being opened, but Derek kept talking.

“You are already an amazing alpha,” he said, breath tickling the small hairs on the back of Stiles’ neck. Which was totally why he shuddered, he lied to himself as Derek pressed his lube-slicked fingers between Stiles’ thighs, generously coating his skin.

“Wha-”

“I’m going to take care of you, Stiles,” Derek repeated. The bicep under Stiles’ neck flexed and suddenly Derek’s fingers were ghosting across his cheek and lips in a gentle caress. “If you need something to keep your mouth occupied you can-”

He cut off with a quiet gasp as Stiles’ teeth closed gently around two of Derek’s fingers, his tongue sliding across the soft skin.

“Like that,” Derek finally grunted out, his hips studdering against Stiles ass before he seemed to regain control, his free hand lifting Stiles thigh just enough for him to slide his hard cock snugly under Stiles’ balls, and oh.

Had his mouth not been occupied, Stiles would definitely have groaned at the sensation of Derek’s erection sliding between his lube-slicked thighs, but instead he sucked the fingers further into his mouth, working them with his tongue as Derek gasped out a curse against the back of his neck.

“Fuck, Stiles,” he whispered, already sounding like he was reaching the end of his self-control, but Derek somehow managed to set a relatively slow pace as he rolled his hips firmly against Stiles’ ass.

Stiles rewarded him with extra suction against his fingertips and moved one of his own hands to his wet thighs, closing his eyes tight when he felt the exposed head of Derek’s cock steadily leaking precome against his skin.

Derek let out a soft growl against the back of Stiles’ shoulder where he’d tucked his face, and then his hot hand was teasing Stiles’ own cock, stroking it just the way he liked before slipping down to squeeze his balls.

Stiles tried to say something, but Derek’s fingers were pressing against his tongue and his body was flush against Stiles’ back, their skin sweaty-warm despite the chill of the room, Derek’s hips quickening against him and he arched into it, pulling another low growl from his mate.

“So fucking gorgeous,” Derek murmured, voice lisping in a way that only happened when fangs were involved and Stiles’ answering moan was thankfully muffled by the makeshift gag of Derek’s fingers, the pressure perfect as he sucked harder.

Derek moved his hand from Stiles’ balls back to his cock, gripping it firmly with his lube-slicked fingers. The pace of his thrusts quickened and Stiles rode his rhythm, his fingertips slipping around the exposed head of Derek’s cock, thumb pressing the slit just so and suddenly Derek was shuddering, hot come shooting out against Stiles’ hand and the underside of his own erection, but instead of slowing down, Derek continued to jack Stiles off, using his come to help slick the way and then Stiles was overcome as well, trying not to bite down on Derek’s fingers as he was eased through the shock of his orgasm and the trembling aftermath.

Stiles finally whined quietly, feeling overstimulated and Derek’s fingers slipped out of his mouth and off of his tender cock. He was rolled over onto his back, still unable to see in the dark, but Stiles brought his hands up, anyway, cupping Derek’s cheeks and drawing him down for a filthy kiss, neither of them particularly caring about the drying come smeared between their stomachs or on Derek’s cheek as he settled his warm weight down against him.

“You really think I’ll make a good alpha,” Stiles said and felt Derek’s lips quirk in a smile because they both knew it hadn’t been a question.

“You’re my alpha,” Derek answered, anyway. “And I’m your mate. We’re going into this together, with our eyes open, and it’s going to be amazing.”

Stiles couldn’t help but believe him as he gave Derek one last kiss goodnight.

Chapter Text

Stiles and his dad hadn’t ever been big on holiday traditions or even present-giving, for that matter. His mom had been more into it, though looking back Stiles was pretty sure she’d actually been celebrating the solstice and not the birth of any kind of religious figure. And really, the more he thought about it the clearer that became. After all, she’d only ever taught him nature-related stories and carols. Certainly nothing about angels or wise men, let alone mythical babies in mangers.

The Stilinskis had also never cut down an actual living tree to be dragged into their house. That had been one bit of holiday tradition Stiles’ mother had always been vehemently opposed to, even when it came to the library. And somehow she’d managed to convince the powers that be that wreaths and garlands were acceptable substitutes to a dead pine tree, a tradition which the library had upheld even after the long years since Anya’s death.

Stiles appreciated that, and had spent several winters of his youth assisting them in the assembly and hanging of the wreaths, though of course it hadn’t ever felt the same without his mother’s ecstatic contribution as she sang carols with him and tried to teach Stiles the songs of her own youth, though he’d never been very good at speaking Russian, let alone singing it.

Which made it all the more bittersweet when he finally got up the gumption to haul their holiday decorations up from the basement. Six dusty tote bins full of winter-appropriate nicknacks and the remnants of their garland and wreath-making supplies. All of them marked in fading black ink, indicating what each bin contained. Stiles’ fingers lingered on the odd angles and sharp curves of his mothers writing, like touching it would do anything other than make the longing ache in his heart pulse harder.

At Stiles’ insistence, Derek had left him alone there to go out in the preserve with Isaac, Boyd and the twins. He was showing them how far the Hale territory extended, while Stiles’ dad was working extra hours to cover the gaps in the schedule. He’d given his few deputies the time off to be with their own families.

Alone, Stiles actually savored the opportunity to have a bit of space from the people he loved. On occasions such as that he liked being left with his thoughts and occasional bouts of melancholy. There was always a bit of mixed emotions when he was reminded of his mother, but the bitterness he’d once felt at her passing had slowly shifted into a tender kind of regard, more often than not. She had been a great mom, and he knew he’d probably always miss her, but he was also aware that he couldn’t just dwell on her absence when her presence still lingered all around him.

She'd been mostly responsible for how the house was decorated and the furniture arranged, after all. She’d been the one who’d taught Stiles how to read and write and play video games. She’d listened to his rambling without interruption. She’d made him laugh and had whirled around with him, both of them wearing dresses or skirts of her own design, and that was the thought that made Stiles abruptly drop the strand of lights he’d been digging through and bounded up the stairs, three at a time.

He came back down a few minutes later, wearing the dress Laura had gotten for him and a pair of Derek’s boxer briefs underneath. Definitely more in memory of his mother than because he wanted to engage in any kind of sexual act. Especially considering he was all alone in the house, which, once upon a time, would have been reason enough for him to want to get off, but the thought of solo exploration just didn’t appeal to him nearly as much since he’d become involved with Derek.

Stiles stood in the living room, surveying the boxes of stuff, a bit overwhelmed about where to even start, when he suddenly remembered another vital part of his mother’s holiday decorating routine.

Music.

He hesitated before once again descending into the basement, hyper-aware of the cool air on his legs and shoulders as he walked barefooted down the creaky wooden stairs.

Besides halfheartedly fishing around for the decorations every year, Stiles hadn’t often spent time into the unfinished basement. He wasn’t sure why, really, since it wasn’t like there were too many memories of his mom down there to ward him off. Though the place had always seemed kind of creepy, he supposed, just by nature of being what it was, with its concrete floors and the wooden lode-bearing supports spaced every so often around the cobwebby expanse.

Nothing of his mother’s was stored there except for a single wooden box and a few crates stacked up in one corner, mostly hidden from where he normally ventured to get the holiday decorations. The only thing that had even reminded him of it had been his and Derek’s little singing competition they had going on.

His mother had always loved her music.



Sorting through the decorations seemed a bit less daunting with the big band classics playing in the background. Stiles was surprised he even remembered how to work the old record player, but as a child he’d watched his mother use it so often he supposed the ease with which he managed to set it up made a certain amount of sense, even if he hadn’t exactly been permitted to fiddle around with it back then.

But with the soothing sounds of the music playing, the task of cleaning off surfaces and rearranging the furniture into the classic Stilinski holiday set-up seemed a bit more fun as he danced around, recreating the festive atmosphere his mother had so painstakingly crafted, once upon a time.

It wasn’t until early afternoon that Stiles realized he had neglected to eat lunch, his stomach started audibly growling just as there was a knock at the door. He got to his feet from where he’d been arranging wintery woodland figurines on one of the end tables and wiped his hands on the apron he’d donned shortly after changing into the dress. As he approached the front door he resigned to the fact that whichever of his neighbors was there would find out about his little clothing-related secret.

Not that he’d ever been all that subtle about wearing skirts as a child.

But instead of the judgemental Mrs. Hinkley, it was Laura and Erica at the door, looking kind of sheepish as they said their hellos.

“Um, hi?” Stiles responded, kind of just staring at them before remembering that he was very much blocking the doorway and he hastily backed up, waving a hand for the pair to come into the house. “I mean, good to see you both. I didn’t really expect company-”

“Yeah, we probably should have called-” Laura began before trailing off, wincing in a way that made Stiles frown because that didn’t seem like a very Laura-like way for her to behave. She was all sarcastic smirks and brazen good humor, not nervous and-

“Wait, is this like an alpha thing?” he guessed, “I mean, you guys being weird around me and all?” he continued because Stiles never really had learned how to stop himself from questioning things. Not even ones that inevitably led to embarrassment for everyone involved. His hormonal teenage years had been kind of a series of unfortunate conversations between him and his dad. Conversations which neither of them had brought up ever again because it had all been pretty comically terrible, really. Though at least they’d established his bisexuality fairly early on. It was a small consolation for the amount of awkward they’d had to wade through with Stiles’ almost compulsive questioning of all things.

Erica rolled her eyes, though, and gave him a friendly punch to the shoulder before almost immediately blanching at Laura’s panicked look and Stiles couldn’t help it, he burst out with a laugh.

Which seemed to serve to break the tension they had going on because Laura finally rolled her eyes and brushed past him into the living room, stopping short like what she saw was a shock.

And it probably was, Stiles surmised as he followed along behind her, nuding Erica with his elbow until she came along, too.

“Yeah, so I’ve been decorating,” he said even though they could all clearly see the decor. “You know, what with the holiday season and all.”

“It looks,” Laura began before swallowing. “It looks like it did when Auntie Anya invited us over for hot chocolate one year. Derek was three or four at the time, so he might not remember, but-” she trailed off into silence and Erica pressed up against her side, slipping a hand around Laura’s waist.

Stiles swallowed thickly and went to her other side, but didn’t move to touch her or interrupt their moment of silence.

It was Erica that finally broke them out of it with a pointed clearing of her throat. “Well, it looks good, Stiles. We just came to check up on you and to apologize-”

“You don’t-” he began.

“No, we do,” Laura cut in before he could go further. “We might not have been as big of assholes as Derek and Isaac and my mom and, well, Uncle Peter’s a whole other issue, but we still came to apologize.”

Stiles frowned, looking back and forth between the two of them. “Why do you two need to apologize?” he asked. As far as he knew they hadn’t even known about the Argent thing, at least not until after Derek and Isaac had begun spying on him.

Laura shook her head while Erica looked pointedly elsewhere.

“What-” Stiles began but Laura finally let out an explosive breath of air.

“We’re the ones who made you take that class with Derek in the first place,” she explained in a rush, like it had been building up inside of her for a while. “We just wanted him to do something for himself for a change. You didn’t know Derek before. You didn’t see the way he’d brood-”

Which, yeah, Stiles had certainly caught glimpses of that, but he didn’t interrupt.

“-and how he’d obsess over his work on the force. He never willingly took a vacation day, he never called in sick or did anything fun. We’d practically have to drag him away from Chicago for family events-”

And that was actually news to Stiles. Derek had made it seem like he’d enjoyed going north to stay at his parents’ Wisconsin houses.

“-and even then he’d just be a total grump the whole time, especially if he had a case he was working on-”

“Which was always,” Erica added.

“So,” Laura continued, “when we saw this totally cute, single guy come in to take classes we couldn’t not pair you two up. I mean, now we know it was fate-”

Stiles still wasn’t entirely convinced of that.

“-but at the time we just wanted him to have some real human interaction with someone who wasn’t working for Argent.”

Ironically enough, since Stiles had started on that account the same day he’d met Derek.

Laura must have realized that, too because she winced and threw up her hands in a very Stiles-like way. “I just wanted my baby brother to be happy-”

“Which he is,” Erica hastily said, a grin on her face, but there was something a bit off about her smile. Almost like it was forced.

Stiles stepped around the coffee table and slumped onto the couch, not liking where the conversation was headed. “What is this really about?” he asked, gesturing absently for the two of them to sit as well.

Erica took him up on his offer, sitting gingerly on the arm of his father’s chair, but Laura just began pacing across the floor and he was reminded of the Hale’s penchant for not being able to stay still when they were agitated.

“Laura?” he asked, and she finally turned to him, her expression abruptly softening into one he hadn’t seen from her before. Almost like a tender kind of regard.

“Derek loves you,” she said. “He’s always loved you, even when you weren’t even-”

“Born?” Stiles guessed. He’d heard the stories, but it was still weird to him, the mate bond connection that seemed to keep coming up.

Laura nodded slowly, then grimaced. “Ugh, I know how that sounds, trust me. I don’t want this to come across as creepy as it seems.” She abruptly stopped pacing, turning fully to face him and he only then realized that she and Erica must have run there through the preserve because there were leaves in their hair and grass stains on their shoes.

“What Laura’s trying to say is that it’s nice to see Derek happy for a change,” Erica continued smoothly, absently picking a stick out from her blonde hair. She fiddled with it afterward, twisting it between her fingers.

Stiles frowned, still confused about the whole thing. “I like that Derek’s happy, too-”

“No,” Laura interrupted quickly, shaking her head. “That’s not- uh, why is this so difficult?” she asked. Probably rhetorically, so Stiles didn’t answer. “Okay, so yes. When we were little, after the incident with the Argents we moved to Wisconsin. You know that. But what you probably don’t know is that Derek lost it for a while. He freaked out and turned wolf and refused to change back.”

Which, no, Stiles hadn’t known.

“Why are you-” he began to ask, but she cut him off again with a sharp gesture.

“Let me finish,” she said, quieter than he’d expected so he just nodded. “Derek losing you, or even just the thought of you, I guess, it really messed him up. When mom finally got him to change back he was different. He was moody and quiet. He’d cry, sometimes, but never let any of us comfort him. It took him a while to snap out of it, and it isn’t until seeing him with you, now, that I realized he never really did. At least not until you two found each other. I, we,” she amended, glancing at Erica, who was watching her with a soft smile, “wanted to come by and tell you thanks.”

Stiles was confused, and it must have shown because Erica laughed.

“What Laura means is that Derek’s finally acting like a real person and not a leather-clad angst-bomb. I never knew him before,” she cut herself off with an abrupt shake of her head, “I’ve only known the moody broody Derek. But this guy? The one with stars in his eyes and a grin on his face whenever you’re around? He seems like way more fun to be around. So, this is us thanking you for, I don’t know, being yourself? It’s kinda like a fairy tale if you think about it,” she trailed off, eyes unfocused as she seemed to consider her own observation.

“You mean like I’m some kind of prince charming?” Stiles asked, but he couldn’t keep from smiling because it was nice to hear from someone else what he’d already figured out on his own. Derek really was happy with him. Just like having Derek at his side made Stiles want to squee with happiness, sometimes.

Laura rolled her eyes so hard Stiles thought it must have hurt. “Yeah, right, Stiles. If anything you’re the little woodland creature that annoys the protagonist into action.”

Stiles made a noise of protest, but he was grinning along with them and didn’t even protest when Erica dragged him into the kitchen so he could make them all a late lunch.



Derek came in through the front door a few minutes after Laura and Erica left, his hair windswept and his workout shorts slung low across his bare hips.

Because of course he’d run through the preserve wearing next to nothing, assuming he hadn’t just fully shifted into his wolf form. Though that was definitely a possibility, Stiles supposed.

“Uh, hi,” he said from where he was standing on top of a chair, in the middle of hanging up a strand of lights across the top of one of the curtain rods. He was nearly done with decorating. Laura and Erica had offered to him out, but he’d declined, explaining briefly about how it had always been the kind of thing he’d done with his mother. They’d seemed to understand, though, and hadn’t pressed. Though they had helped him polish off the cookies his dad hadn’t entirely demolished in his absence. But Stiles definitely had had to shoo them away from the tins packed with more treats.

Derek tilted his head, gaze sweeping up Stiles bared legs, across the poof of his skirt, and over his exposed back before finally meeting his eyes.

“Hi,” Derek answered softly, stepping fully inside and closing the door behind him.

“Dad’s at the station until late,” Stiles said for something to say. He knew he could be awkward about things and their conversation was apparently no exception. Especially in light of what he’d learned about Derek’s past.

Stiles was just, he wasn’t sure what to say to Derek, sometimes. Especially considering the way their whole dynamic had apparently shifted with Stiles being his mate’s alpha, of all things. Stiles had tried not to focus on it, but being faced with Derek in the light of day, it was kind of hard not to remember.

Derek, either unaware of Stiles’ struggle or willing to ignore it for the time being, finally glanced around the room, apparently only then noticing what it was Stiles was in the midst of accomplishing. The bags of dried herbs his mother had crafted were hung at the corners of each wall, holiday-centric nicknacks peaked out from between the pictures on the sofa and end tables, strands of white lights hanging from tiny hooks screwed into the moulding around the perimeter of the room.

Which abruptly reminded Stiles of what he was in the process of doing.

“Um, okay, then,” he said, turning back to his task and stringing the last bit of plastic around the hook.

“You had visitors,” Derek said from much closer than he’d been before.

Stiles startled, but Derek’s hands were suddenly wrapped around his waist to steady him.

“It looks great,” he continued, apparently not needing Stiles to elaborate about what he, Erica and Laura had discussed. Stiles could feel himself blush, turning slowly in his mate’s hand until they were facing each other again.

The angle was odd, with Stiles standing over a foot higher than Derek, but he leaned down, anyway, pressing his abdomen against Derek’s hands and grinning when Derek tilted his head up in response. The kiss was quick, cut short by Stiles’ wobbling, but then he was floating gently off the chair and into Derek’s arms. He immediately wrapped his legs around his mate as they embraced, his bare arms slung over Derek’s warm shoulders as they held each other close.

“You okay?” Derek asked against his lips because he had to know that Stiles’ eyes weren’t red-rimmed just from the amount of dust he’d disturbed.

Stiles hummed and pulled back, only to press his lips to the side of Derek’s throat. “I will be, but you know, it’s a holiday.”

Derek nodded in response and walked them to the couch, setting Stiles down gently before untangling himself and sitting next to him, twining their fingers together.

“Is there anything  you’d like help with?” Derek asked, studying their joined hands.

Stiles shrugged. “I mean, I just need to hang up the garland, next. Mom always wrapped it around the bottom of the stair rail and the legs of each table. Sometimes she’d do the chair legs, too. I think because it made me laugh so much.” He smiled at the memory. “Mom always made me laugh,” he said quietly, voice catching on the words.

Derek moved like a flash, pulling Stiles into his lap and wrapping him in another tight hug, his head resting on the exposed skin of Stiles’ shoulder.

“Auntie Anya was always good at telling stories,” Derek said. “Once I’d shifted in front of her she made sure to tell ones about wolves almost every time she came over. They were good wolves, though, not like the ones in other fairy tales.”

Stiles breathed out a laugh and pressed a kiss to the crown of Derek’s head, settling into his warm embrace.

“Well, the wolves I know are pretty amazing,” he said with a soft smile, “Hey, speaking of wolves, how did the run go? You get the boys all sorted out with boundary lines and whatnot?”

Derek snorted as he pulled away just enough for them to see each other. “I showed them, but I don’t know how well they listened. Ethan and Aiden were too busy asking me about possible eligible singles in the area, so-” he trailed off with a shrug.

Stiles assumed Ethan and Aiden were the twin ex-alphas.

“That sounds productive,” he joked, poking at Derek’s sides just to feel him twitch.

“They were pretty obnoxious,” Derek agreed, “I don’t know how my mother’s going to fit them into the pack structure, but then again even my uncle was made useful.”

Stiles snorted because yeah, from what he’d seen Peter hadn’t ever really made an effort to be particularly kind or helpful. Not unless he was helping himself, at least.

“Peter’s actually working pretty hard on making amends with Megan,” Derek reported as he breathed warm air across Stiles’ bared clavicle. “She might even take him back, though I’m not sure how things will end up. She’s pretty pissed off, according to Laura. She might not be a wolf, but she’s plenty scary when provoked.”

Stiles nodded as Derek sighed with palpable contentment.

“So they’re definitely staying in Wisconsin for the holidays?” Stiles asked. He assumed as much since they hadn’t showed up for the solstice, though since Megan was human he figured she might have different holiday traditions from the Hales.

Derek shook his head, beard scratchy against Stiles’ skin. “Yes, they’re still working things out between themselves. Megan has some family in Madison they like to visit, so I assume she’ll take the kids there for Christmas. What about you? What are your traditions?”

Stiles shrugged. “We’ve always worked around Melissa’s schedule, actually. She and Scott normally go to midnight mass and recently Chris and Allison have joined them. Dad and I typically do our own thing. He tends to work on Christmas Eve and half of Christmas Day, which I anticipate will happen for sure this year because the station is short-staffed as it is. We don’t do anything religious or anything like that, though. Sometimes we make a big breakfast together if he’s not too tired. Otherwise Scott used to see his dad that day, but lately we’ve exchanged gifts whenever everyone’s off. Sometimes it isn’t until a few days later, when things have calmed down a bit.”

Derek made a noise of understanding. “Megan and Peter used to always take the kids to her parents’ place, and the rest of us normally shifted and went for a run in the snow, but otherwise we don’t have many traditions, either,” he said.

Stiles smiled softly. “Guess we’ll just have to make our own traditions,” he proposed.

Derek grinned back at him.

“I guess you’re right,” he replied, closing in for a kiss.



By the time the sheriff returned from his shift, Stiles and Derek had managed to practically transform the downstairs and clean up the remainder of their cookie mess from the previous day. Stiles made sure the tins were all marked with who they were supposed to go to so his dad would feel guilty stealing cookies from them. He was kind of surprised he’d been able to stop Laura and Erica from taking some before the labeling was finished, actually, but whatever, they were apparently susceptible to his whining, so that worked, too.

At least Stiles hoped his dad wouldn’t become a cookie thief, but he suddenly wasn't too concerned about it when he got a good look at the slump of the sheriff’s shoulders and the sad state of his wrinkled uniform.

"Woah, you look exhausted," Stiles said, pulling back his normal kitchen chair, into which his dad immediately collapsed with a tired sigh.

"Just typical holiday stuff,” he replied with an unconcerned wave of his hand. “Plus Evan's kid is sick with the flu, so he's taking care of that. Harper's on maternity leave and Chen's still recovering from his broken ankle. Margie’s also trying to organize a retirement party for Montgomery, Gronsky and Eckles, but is having a hell of a time finding a place to cater last minute."

Stiles gave a low whistle. The Beacon County Sheriff's Department wasn't exactly overflowing with deputies, not after having five retirements over the past year, the latest three apparently ending their service to the community just before the new year.

"So you're going back in early tomorrow?" Stiles guessed, no longer feeling quite as offended about that kind of thing as he once had. Even though they didn't celebrate the holiday like other people, it didn't mean it still didn't hold a special place in Stiles' heart.

His dad gave another tired-sounding sigh and nodded, then thanked Derek for the beer he popped open and handed to him. Stiles glared at his mate, but allowed it. His dad really looked beat and it wasn’t like he was an alcoholic or anything. There had been a few rough years right after Stiles’ mother’s death, but they’d worked through it together.

"Anything else wrong?" Stiles asked, caving in and popping open one of the extra tins he'd thought about taking to the station, anyway.

The gesture earned him a suspicious look from his dad, but it didn't stop him from reaching in and grabbing two cookies. Derek waited a beat before himself as well.

The pair of them had a serious sweet tooth situation going on, but Stiles kept his commentary about it to himself.

"Nothing too odd," the sheriff said after a few bites. "Just your routine holiday issues. A bit of suspected fraud, some shoplifting, a couple of domestic arguments, but it's just a lot of work for too few people."

Stiles nodded in commiseration. The issue wasn't exactly an uncommon one for Beacon county.

"Are you at least going to be able to hire again, soon?" he asked, taking a bite of Derek's cookie when he offered it. And that was a pretty awesome show of affection, one Stiles hadn't seen from any of his previous partners. Derek's selflessness was a pretty amazing defining trait, actually.

His dad shrugged. "We'll see how the budget looks, but I'm hoping for at least a few more hires, though the pickings have been a bit slim the last few go-rounds."

Stiles began to nod when he abruptly realized that there was a very real solution to his dad’s problem standing right there in the dining room with them.

He smiled, slow and wide, a rush of elation tingling through his limbs.

“You know,” he said, earning a quirk of eyebrow from his dad. It meant he was willing to listen, but knew he probably wouldn’t like whatever it was Stiles had to say. And for once the sheriff was probably wrong. “I think I might have a solution to your little staffing dilemma.”

Beside him, Stiles could feel Derek still with the shock of his own realization, but he seemed intrigued rather than upset.

“Is that so?” his dad asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, and yeah, he totally knew where Stiles was going with that.

“Yeah,” Stiles continued brazenly, happiness buzzing through him and his mate and things were going to work out for them, he just knew it. “I happen to have it on good authority that there are three highly qualified, yet currently unemployed former police officers who might be looking for work.”

The sheriff grinned and bit into his cookie.

Chapter Text

That night after his dad had trudged upstairs to bed, Derek lay with Stiles on the couch while they listened to the familiar music of his mom’s old records under the gentle glow of the white lights strung around the room.

“This is very romantic,” Stiles commented as the saxophones from the Glenn Miller Orchestra played in the background. He grinned at the feel of Derek’s smile against the back of his bare shoulder. Derek tightened his hold around Stiles’ waist, drawing him more firmly against the warmth of his superhumanly hot body.

Not that Stiles was interested in wriggling away or in being anywhere else but right there in his mate’s arms. Though the poof of the dress kind of impeded his ability to cuddle back.

“Wanna unzip me?” Stiles proposed, then chuckled at the slight sputtering noise Derek made in response. “I mean so it’s easier to, you know what? I’m not even going to finish that sentence,” Stiles decided because he couldn’t figure out a way to say it that didn’t sound like a total insinuation.

Not that insinuations were bad, or anything, but he really hadn’t meant it like that.

At the time.

But he was kind of changing his mind as an aroused flush worked its way from his cheeks down his neck.

All of which Derek apparently picked up on because he slowly slid a hand from where it had been pressed to Stiles’ stomach and brushed it gently around his side and then to his back where he slowly began to unzip the dress.

“Like this?” Derek breathed against Stiles’ shoulder, causing him to shiver at the sensation.

“Pretty sure this is the best Christmas present ever,” Stiles admitted, arching his spine to made it a bit easier for Derek to drag his hand lower.

It had the added benefit of making Derek’s breath catch in his throat, which Stiles also enjoyed.

“This isn’t your gift, Stiles,” Derek chided quietly when he finished with the zipper, his fingers stroking up Stiles’ bared spine to the satin ribbon tied around the back of his neck.

“Then what is this?” Stiles teased, glancing over his shoulder as Derek pulled, achingly slow, at the bow.

Derek hummed in response, the silky texture of the ribbon sending a chill through Stiles as his mate teasingly ghosted the fabric across his bare shoulders.

Finally, when Stiles was just on the verge of asking again, Derek sighed out a long, contented breath that warmed the back of Stiles’ neck.

“This is our life,” Derek said with a pleasant sort of finality. “This is the way we are. It isn’t a reward or a special occasion. Well, no more special than any other time we have the opportunity to be intimate.”

And Stiles certainly couldn’t argue with that.

“Do we want to take this up to my room or risk getting caught down here like teenagers?” Stiles asked. Either location presented its own risks, really, but he was determined not to fall asleep that night without them each having at least one orgasm.

Derek hummed, fingers tracing down Stiles’ back to the parted cloth between the open zipper, dragging his fingers tauntingly lower. “I like the atmosphere you’ve created for us down here,” he said. “Besides, it will give us a chance to sing along with your mother’s music if there’s a song we recognize.”

Stiles snorted. Most of what he’d been playing was strictly instrumental, though a few were familiar enough tunes that they certainly could sing if a suitable one came on.

“Is that so?” Stiles asked for the sake of asking. He wasn’t too worried about his dad catching them, not since he’d just worked the entirety of Christmas Eve and would need to get up early the next morning to work again. The Christmas shift had never been the sheriff’s favorite, but since Stiles wasn’t a little kid anymore he always seemed to feel obligated to cover for his deputies so they could spend quality time with their own families, particularly the ones who had young children.

“Indeed,” Derek replied, then leaned forward, his beard tickling Stiles’ skin before he felt the press of lips against his spine and the familiar heat of Derek’s hands slipping under the front of his dress, pressing against his abdomen.

“Merry Christmas Eve, Derek,” Stiles whispered, eyes closing under the confident touch of his mate.

“Merry Christmas Eve, Stiles. Now, are you going to let me take the lead, or do you have some suggestions?”

Stiles smiled.

“I think we both know that I always have sexytime suggestions,” he said, twisting his head so he could look over his shoulder at his mate. Stiles was just fast enough to catch Derek roll his eyes and he snorted in response, arching his spine to grind tantalizingly against his mate’s erection.

Which Stiles couldn’t really feel all that well through the yards of tulle, but he could hear the catch in Derek’s breath and feel the spike in his arousal at the movement before he clamped firm hands against Stiles’ hips.

“How about you keep an ear out for my dad, just in case he wakes up,” Stiles proposed, bringing his own hands to rest on top of Derek’s. “I really don’t want anyone to come out of his with nightmares.”

Derek chuckled and pressed his mouth against the back of Stiles’ neck again, his grip finally loosening.

“Agreed,” he said, lips warm on the exposed skin.

Stiles shivered at the sensation and used Derek’s distraction to wriggle his hips, pushing down on the fabric of his dress until he managed to slide it down his legs and off onto the floor. He hadn’t thought much about it, but the room had definitely grown cooler as the evening progressed. It wasn’t quite uncomfortable, but Stiles could feel the pebbling of gooseflesh along his arms as he twisted around to face Derek, enjoying the heat radiating off of him.

The two of them barely fit on the couch together, forcing them to keep their bodies pressed close. Which, that really wasn’t a problem for Stiles. For Derek, either, if his arousal was anything to go by.

Stiles gave his mate’s obvious erection a pointed look. “Would you like to take off your jeans or do you want to come in your pants again?” he asked, smirking when Derek snorted, then leaned in for a quick kiss.

“What I want is for you to ride me until you come, but since I don’t think you’d manage to keep quiet if we tried that, I suppose we could do something else,” Derek said casually, like his proposal hadn’t made Stiles choke on a startled laugh. It never ceased to amaze him when Derek expressed his sexual desires with such candor.

“No, I think,” Stiles started, feeling a blush creep up his bare chest, all the way to his cheeks. “I think we could try that. The riding thing. I can keep quiet.”

He was pretty sure.

Derek raised an eyebrow, one hand drifting lazily across the outside of Stiles’ thigh and up his ribcage, the touch just shy of ticklish.

“Is that so, pet?” Derek asked, his voice huskier than it had been.

Stiles grinned, feeling Derek’s interest. “I mean, you could think of it as your Christmas Eve gift. That’s a tradition for some people, you know? They exchange one gift on the night before Chri-”

Derek cut him off with a searing kiss, which Stiles readily responded to since he figured his mate had gotten the point of his rambling. Also, Derek’s jeans really couldn’t have been comfortable, not with the way his hard cock was very clearly straining against the zipper.

Stiles decided to take matters into his own hands and slipped his fingers down to undo the button, but just as he managed to slip the metal free, Derek’s hands captured his and he slowed their kissing to a stop.

“We’re not doing anything without lube, pet,” Derek said, though he was grinning so Stiles really couldn’t get too upset about their temporary timeout. “And I’m going to ask you one more time. Are you really okay with having sex right here in the living room when your father is asleep upstairs? You can say no-”

“I’m okay with it if you’re okay with it,” Stiles interrupted, watching Derek’s expression soften in response to his earnestness. Stiles had always wanted to mess around with a lover on the couch. Probably because of all the fantasies he’d harbored in high school, but hadn’t ever been able to play out in real life. He hadn’t actually dated dated anyone until college, and bringing his partners home hadn’t really happened, except for that time with Cassandra, but Stiles had been too nervous to do anything more than kiss her under his father’s roof.

With Derek, though? Stiles felt none of that anxiety, just a delicious kind of anticipation paired with some small amount of caution. Not enough to keep him from indulging in slightly public sex with his mate, though.

“If you’re sure,” Derek said, then kissed Stiles again because he had to have picked up on the certainty Stiles was exuding.

“Lube?” Stiles said a few minutes later, breath coming out of him in pants because Derek was a phenomenal kisser who apparently didn’t need to breathe quite as much as Stiles did.

Though at the very least he sounded a bit short of breath, too, when he grumbled out an, “Of course, just let me-”

But Stiles cut him off, pressing a hand firmly against Derek’s chest, pushing him back against the cushions. “No, no, I’ve got it. Just give me a sec, I’ll be right back,” he said, rolling gracelessly off the couch and gathering up the awkward layers of his dress before darting quietly up the stairs. He’d long ago figured out which of them squeaked and made sure to avoid those. The last thing he wanted was to be caught by his father in any kind of compromising position. And being mostly naked with his arms full of fabric certainly counted as such.

Stiles took a quick second to hang up the dress before practically throwing himself at his night stand, wrenching out a bottle of lube. He also made a quick pitstop in the bathroom, where he grabbed a robe and a towel off the back of the door, just in case they needed to hastily cover up with something other than the afghan they kept on the back of the couch.

When he finally got back to the living room, Derek was sitting back, wearing nothing but his boxer briefs and looking more causally confident than Stiles had ever managed to. The rest of his clothes were folded in a neat pile on the floor at his bare feet.

All of which made Stiles gave a hum of appreciation as he took in his mate’s relaxed position under the gentle glow of the lights.

“This is a tradition I can get behind,” Stiles said with a smirk.

Derek lifted an eyebrow, spreading his hands as he said, “Would you like to literally be behind me, tonight? I could ride you if you’d prefer. Christmas Eve gift-giving goes both ways, after all.”

And it suddenly struck Stiles, as he sputtered to respond, that they were oddly more versatile in their sexual preferences than they were in their yoga poses, since they tended to switch up who bottomed pretty regularly, but Derek almost always acted as the base, but then Stiles finally got himself under control enough to shake his head.

“No, I think I’d prefer to ride you, like you said. I mean, if that’s okay-”

“I’d like that,” Derek answered with a wide smile before his focus shifted to what Stiles was carrying and he tilted his head slightly. “What is it you’ve brought for us, pet?”

Stiles showed him, stepping forward slowly to place the robe on the coffee table before offering Derek the lube and towel.

“Hm, good thinking,” Derek praised quietly, placing the towel beside him on the couch and holding out his freed hand to Stiles, who couldn’t help but blush as he moved closer, bracketed between the hot press of Derek’s knees.

“I’m going to take those,” he gestured to Stiles’ boxer briefs, “off of you, then you’ll straddle my thighs while I prep you with the lube until I’m able to press three fingers inside the hot clench of your hole. Once that happens you’ll have my permission to pull out my cock and sink down onto it. You will then ride me until one of us comes. What do you think of that?”

Stiles thought that sounded like the best thing ever, and hastily nodded in agreement. His body felt suddenly hotter than it had a right to be given the cool temperature of the room, but he attributed that to arousal and the proximity to Derek, whose fingertips were slowly sliding around the waistband of his boxer briefs, like he was still waiting for something.

Derek raised a questioning eyebrow and Stiles abruptly realized that he actually was waiting on Stiles. He stuttered out a quick, “Gr-green,” and reveled in the sensation of Derek’s approval as he slowly slipped the fabric over the straining curve of Stiles’ achingly hard cock and letting it fall to the floor, pooling around Stiles’ ankles.

“Up you go,” Derek instructed, holding out a hand for Stiles to take, though he hardly needed the assistance as he only sort of stumbled forward out of his boxer briefs to straddle Derek’s thick thighs, his knees sinking into the cushions on either side of Derek’s hips.

Derek wasted no time in popping open the lube and slipping the tip of a finger into Stiles.

Which was appreciated, really. Stiles wasn’t sure how long he’d last, not with the pulsing sensation of their mutual arousal and the edge of tension they both felt at being so exposed.

“Remember to, ah, keep an, oh right there, an ear out,” Stiles reminded his mate before giving up on speech altogether, bending forward to press his lips against the side of Derek’s neck in order to hopefully keep himself from outright moaning at the sensation of slowly being filled by his mate’s fingers. Two of them, already, and Stiles definitely was not the only one feeling the pressure to get things moving quickly.

Derek let out a little rumble in response, his chest vibrating against Stiles’ and yeah, the whole werewolf thing was never not awesome.

“Almost ready,” Derek said, his free hand running soothingly up and down Stiles’ bare back, the gentle touch a startling counterpoint to the pleasure Derek was practically dragging out of him with every twitch of his fingers.

“Ready,” Stiles echoed or agreed or whatever. He really just wanted Derek to fuck him.

Beneath him his mate let out a slightly louder growl and yeah, Stiles had probably said all of that out loud, but he didn’t bother feeling awkward about it because yeah, he really did want to be fucked.

And he might have babbled that as well because there was suddenly another fingertip working the rim of his hole, the third finger Derek had warned him about and Stiles leaned his torso back, hands clenched firmly onto Derek’s shoulders as he closed his eyes and tried to will himself to relax enough to allow the intrusion.

Derek’s fingers sank slowly into him and Stiles let out a breathy sigh, thighs involuntary twitching with the urge to ride his mate to completion.

But Stiles managed to refrain from doing so, knowing he needed to behave at least until he could get Derek’s cock into him. Which served to remind Stiles of their next step. His eyes snapped open and he looked down at where his mate was hard and leaking, erection still trapped under the swell of his boxer briefs.

“I’m ready,” Stiles said, fingers scratching down Derek’s chest and abs until he could grab onto the offending waistband. “I’m ready, Der, I’m so ready,” he repeated, pulling until he could hook the elastic under the hard swell of Derek’s balls.

Stiles crashed their lips together, his kiss more teeth than finesse, but Derek responded in kind, fingers curling hard against his prostate before slipping free. Instead of whining at the loss, which Stiles would have done had his mouth not been preoccupied, he canted his hips, one hand wrapped firmly around Derek’s leaking cock, and guided him inside.

They both moaned, hips stuttering for a moment as Stiles sank down fully, the girth of his mate stretching him wide.

“Yes,” Stiles whispered against Derek’s lips, smiling as Derek echoed him with a breathy kind of reverence.

It didn’t take long for their mutual stillness to give way to almost frantic movement, Stiles riding his mate with enthusiasm as Derek planted his feet firmly against the floor and bucked up in kind, their rhythm as sloppy as their kisses, the sound of their coupling thankfully covered up by the music still playing in the background.

“Yes, yes, fuck,” Stiles murmured as he pulled back just far enough for them to both gasp for breath. “Derek, come on, come inside of me,” he said, pleaded, and Derek did, just as Stiles felt the crest of his own orgasm building his mate stilled beneath him, hips pressed firmly against the underside of his thighs as Derek ground up against him with a punched out whine. Stiles had barely a moment to marvel at the way Derek’s eyes were wide with wonder, mouth slack, before his mate wrapped a hot hand, still slick with lube, around his cock and gave just a few tugs, and then Stiles was coming as well, pleasure rolling through his body as he shuddered with his own climax.

Long moments later Stiles slumped forward with a tired sigh, grinning as he felt Derek breathe out as well, like they’d both been waiting anxiously for that particular finale.

“New traditions are amazing,” Stiles said, his lips ghosting against the side of Derek’s neck. He gave in and gently grasped onto the skin with his teeth, feeling Derek still beneath him for a tense moment before relaxing with a familiar contented chest-rumble. Stiles knew there was something there about wolves and necks, but he didn’t care to dwell on it as he lazily sucked a mark against his mate’s bare throat before licking the red skin contentedly.

“New traditions are amazing,” Derek repeated and Stiles smiled softly, letting himself relax into sleep.



With everyone’s schedules being what they were, the Stilinski-McCall-Argent-Hale-etc gift giving shindig didn’t take place until two days after Christmas. Plus, since the Hale house was the biggest, they all ended up meeting there, sprawled across the improbably huge couches and curled up with their backs against the warm stone of the hearth as a cheerful fire crackled within, giving the air a woodsy scent.

Stiles was a little anxious about the whole thing, not quite sure how to act around Talia since they were apparently both alphas, but then Aiden and Ethan, which were apparently the names of the twins, began handing out cups of hot cocoa and Boyd was laughing at something Erica whispered to him and Melissa and his dad were sitting together on the loveseat, so Stiles gradually began to let go of his angst and just enjoy the palpable feeling of happiness they had going on in the room.

“Okay, presents,” Laura called from the doorway. Her arms were burdened by a pile of gifts all wrapped in obnoxiously bright paper, streams of ribbon cascading off of them from all sides. Isaac followed behind her, equally encumbered. Derek snorted at the scene, wrapping an arm around Stiles shoulders absently, like the gesture was so completely natural he needn’t give it any thought at all.

Stiles grinned and leaned against him.

It was Rollin who really got things going, enlisting the help of Erica and Boyd to assist him in passing out the gifts, including the ones Stiles and Derek had brought and left in the foyer as instructed.

Laura got a wicked grin on her face when she received her tin, eyes glinting blue for an instant as she sniffed the edge of the seal, but she behaved, after a warning glance from her mother, and didn’t break it open quite yet though it was clear that she wanted to.

Around the room, Stiles watched as each person received their parcels with grateful smiles. Allison and Scott were curled up together on the biggest couch, her feet in his lap. They both wore the ugliest holiday sweaters they could find, which was a tradition they’d started when they’d first begun dating in high school. Stiles hadn’t ever gotten into that, never having had anyone to dress up with, but the wrapped gift he placed in Derek’s lap might just begin a similar tradition of their own. He’d given Derek his actual gift on Christmas Day, a handwritten letter detailing all of the traits he loved about his mate. It had been simple, especially compared to the ridiculously nice leather coat Derek had gotten him, but Stiles liked to think it was the thought that counted.

Or something.

He was kind of floundering on what else to do or get for Derek since the letter and the contents of the box on his mate’s lap in no way even approached the awesome that was the slick black leather that was currently hanging in the Hale’s front closet. He was just beginning to head down the obsession spiral when a large square box was placed on the floor in front of him.

“Stiles, this is for you, from our pack,” Isaac said quietly. The box was decorated garishly, which he suspected was Laura’s doing, and was kind of at a loss for what it could possibly contain.

“Hey, thanks,” he said automatically, making Isaac outright grin at him before he handed Derek something small and DVD-case shaped.

Derek, however, was fixated on Stiles’ box, his brow wrinkling in concentration, almost like he was focusing his senses-

“No cheating,” Stiles whispered, purposefully leaning against Derek until he received his mate’s full attention.

“She coated the paper with something cinnamon-scented,” Derek reported, like that had anything to do with anything.

“Last year she used bergamot and I thought I was going to throw up,” Erica cheerfully added, taking her own gift and giving it a deep sniff. The scent didn’t seem to offend her, though, because she just shrugged and set it on top of the tin already on her lap. “That way we can’t cheat by using our sense of smell to figure out what we’re getting.”

Rollin grinned, nudging Talia playfully. “Remember the year we used patchouli to scent the wrapping paper? Some carolers came by later that night and were convinced we’d been smoking marijuana.”

She rolled her eyes, but had an indulgent little smile on her face as she nodded. “Of course, how could I forget? The children’s art teacher-”

“Mr. Manos,” Erica piped up with a grin.

“Yes, Mr. Manos. He kept giving us significant glances during the PTA meetings. I assume because of the local rumor mill.”

“Or he wanted to sleep with us, you never know,” Rollin said casually and Stiles could swear Scott almost choked on his hot cocoa, but Allison thumped him helpfully on the back until he waved off the attention with a grateful smile.

Talia gave her mate a considering look, as if the possibility hadn’t previously crossed her mind. “Hm, that may be, though I know he indulged in some recreational drug use. He wasn’t exactly subtle about it and air fresheners only do so much.”

Stiles didn’t really know what to say to that, though it did serve to convince him even further that werewolves had the potential to be pretty amazing police officers. If what he’d gathered was accurate, they could probably sniff out drugs even without the use of trained K9 units.

Not that Stiles thought his friends and mate were dogs or anything.

Just that they could be used in much the same capacity.

Which he wasn’t going to be the first to point out.

“Stop it,” Derek said, though he was exuding too much amusement for him not to know what Stiles was obsessing over.

And as if reading his mind, Derek followed up with. “And you’re right, we’re excellent at detecting banned substances.”

“Peter could always guess what we got him,” Laura piped up from where she was shaking one of her presents. Scott had gotten up at some point and was helping Isaac pass even more gifts out they’d produced from somewhere. Stiles couldn’t tell where they were all coming from, but everyone had a steadily growing stack, even Chris Argent and Melissa.

“That’s because my dear brother would always cheat,” Talia replied, taking a bright red package from Scott with a small smile.

Rollin threw back his head and laughed, the sound booming in the small room, adding even more levity to the cheerful atmosphere.

“What do you mean, he’d cheat?” Derek asked. He hadn’t been too engaged with any of the conversations since they’d gotten there, but Stiles took his slightly less angsty emotions as a good sign. That and him speaking up amongst his family.

Talia smirked as she looked at her son, her gaze then sweeping over her other children, betas, and guests. “Peter would always poke through the mail in search of invoices, or he’d see if you’d left your computers unattended. Phones, too, more recently. He’s also been known to sneak into unlocked rooms when the opportunity presented itself.”

“That explains so much,” Isaac said with a blush. “He always knew when we were trying to keep something embarrassing to ourselves.”

Erica rolled her eyes. “He also listened at keyholes and gaps in the soundproofing, the enormous creeper. Still, it’s kind of sad not to have him here. I mean,” she added hastily, cutting a glance at where Stiles was firmly ensconced in his mate’s arms, “I totally get why we didn’t issue him an invite, but it’s still weird to be missing a core member of the pack.”

“The kids, too,” Laura piped up.

“And Megan,” Boyd added.

Stiles was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable. He knew what had happened between him and Peter had messed things up for the Hale pack, but he felt his actions, especially since he’d ultimately saved Peter, were completely justifiable. But if the others were resentful about it-

“I miss him, too,” Derek confessed and it sent a jolt through Stiles like an electrical shock.

He hadn’t thought they were that shitty at communicating with each other, though he suddenly realized that he and Derek actually hadn’t taken much time to discuss the whole Peter issue. Or even pack things, for that matter. They’d been too wrapped up in celebrating their own survival and in the foundation of their fledgeling pack to rehash even the recent past. Which, in hindsight, was a glaring omission on Stiles’ part.

“Wait, you’re talking about Peter Hale, right? Wasn’t this the guy who nearly killed my son?” the sheriff cut in before Stiles could really work himself up into a panic attack or in summoning a spontaneous bolt of lightning or any other catastrophic event. “I mean, he was one of the guys who tried to kill Stiles because there seems to be a pretty long list of suspects from what I’ve gathered. Most of them having some kind of connection to this werewolf business he’s found himself wrapped up in through no fault of his own.”

Beside him Melissa covered her mouth, but failed to completely hide her smirk.

And Stiles was struck by just how much he loved his dad, who had always had his back no matter what stupid shit he’d gotten himself into. Though he was absolutely correct. For once Stiles hadn’t brought disaster down upon himself.

Derek finally seemed to have rebooted his systems or whatever because his grip on Stiles’ shoulder tightened and his emotions abruptly turned defensive.

“The Sheriff is right,” he said, echoing Stiles’ own internal opinion before any of his family members could pipe up with their take on things. “Peter knew what the potential fallout could be when he partnered up with the alpha pack and while I’ll miss him as I would any family member who strayed, I’d much rather spend today celebrating with the people who I love and that are right here with me then in rehashing what I’ve lost.”

It was Rollin, oddly enough, who immediately raised his cup of cocoa with a hearty, “Here, here!” which was immediately echoed by the rest of the crowd, some, like Scott, were a bit more enthusiastic than others.

Which was to be expected, really, since he was actually, officially, Stiles’ brother.

Step-brother.

Whatever.

It was definitely their childhood dream come true.

Stiles raised his cup as well, smiling when Allison caught his gaze and winked at him like she knew exactly what he’d been thinking.

Stiles laughed, he loved creating new holiday traditions.

Chapter Text

“You can’t possibly expect for me to wear this,” Derek said flatly, though Stiles could feel the buzz of his, admittedly startled, amusement through their magical mate bond thingy he still didn’t know enough about.

But Stiles nodded quickly, trying to keep his own grin at bay as he idly fiddled with the wooden lid of the boxed tea set Erica had given him, claiming it would assist with his flexibility as well as his virility. It was, of course, a callback to their early interactions with each other at the yoga studio, when she’d supplied him with some loose leaf varieties meant to help promote the same kinds of things. Because she was kind of a brat.

Not that Stiles wasn’t as evinced by his latest gift to his mate.

“I mean,” Stiles said with a grin, “you seriously need more color in your life, dude, I’m doing you a favor, here,” he said with as much sincerity as he could muster.

The sweater he’d asked Allison and Scott to pick up for Derek during their usual ugly sweater shopping trip really was a garish conglomeration of colors which absolutely should not have been combined on the same garment the way they were. It was an almost painfully bright combination of oranges and blues that clashed in an almost eye-straining way.

“This is terrible,” Derek whispered, but he was actually chuckling, so Stiles didn’t feel too bad about it. Besides, it was pretty hilarious.

Erica certainly seemed to think so, too, because it looked like she was going to burst something if she didn’t let out the laugh she was clearly struggling to hold in as she leaned against an equally amused Laura.

“Open yours, Stiles,” Scott prompted and the gleeful grin on his face definitely wasn’t a good sign. Neither was Allison’s wide-eyed look of faux innocence. Stiles knew when his friends were setting him up and the package in his hands looked and felt way too similar to Derek’s to offer him any kind of comfort.

“You didn’t,” Stiles said, but he was already tearing off the wrapping paper, eager to see what kind of horror his friends had bestowed upon him.

It was similar to Derek’s ugly striped sweater, but in jarring shades of yellow and purple.

Erica apparently couldn’t hold it in any longer and started belly laughing so hard it sounded like it had to be painful. Rollin and Laura weren’t far behind, and then Boyd, unexpectedly, began to crack up, too. Scott and Allison had long-since lost it, giggling helplessly against each other’s shoulders.

Stiles, being Stiles, immediately slipped it on over the dark red henley Derek had handed to him that morning and smiled for the picture Melissa obligingly took of him and his probably broody-looking mate.

“Just so you know, I’m keeping this on even though it’s itchy. Is this wool? It feels like wool.”

He was pretty sure he heard his dad mutter something about crazy kids, but he opted to ignore it as Talia once again regained control of the proceedings.

“Isaac, I believe it’s your turn,” she said. And that was apparently a Hale family tradition, the opening of presents one at a time so everyone got a chance to be in the spotlight. Or to be put on the spot, as was the case with the sweaters.

Stiles leaned against Derek again and tangled their fingers together.

“I’m not wearing this,” Derek whispered against his temple, gesturing to the sad pile of too-bright wool in his lap.

Stiles shrugged. “I’m not going to make you, but Allison and Scott have been doing this kind of thing for years and I always thought it was pretty funny. We don’t have to do it, but I just thought-”

Derek nuzzled his slightly scratchy beard against Stiles’ cheek. “It is pretty funny,” he admitted.

Begrudgingly.

Stiles grinned, taking the admission for the acceptance that it was and focused back on the proceedings. Isaac’s gift was a book on criminal theory from Boyd, who smiled as Isaac flung his arms around him in a hug. Melissa gave Scott and Allison some of his childhood mementos, most of which Stiles recognized from playing at the McCall’s house when he was younger. The stuffed blue and white mouse had always been a particular favorite of Scott’s growing up.

Stiles got his friends an experience, rather than a gift, which was something they’d decided on when they were all in college. The pregnancy thing had eliminated his previous idea to get them skydiving instructions, but he’d quickly settled on a year’s pass to any national or state park, since they were the hiking-est people he knew.

In turn, they’d given him not only the ugliest sweater to ever sweater-

Well, besides Derek’s.

-but also two tickets to see his favorite band. He wondered if Derek could handle the heavy use of synthesizer or if he’d have to take someone else, instead. Still, he gave his best friends a dual bear-hug because they were pretty much the best.

The twins got each other video games, which Stiles could totally get behind, and then Chris gave Stiles a small leatherbound book.

He ran his fingers across the embossed crest on the cover. it looked like a shield with an angry-looking wolf and crossed arrows on it. Beside him Derek let out a low rumbling growl that was very much not related to any of his sexy noises.

Stiles glanced briefly at him before focusing on where Chris was sitting stiffly on the couch beside Melissa and his own dad. The guy didn’t ever really seem to relax, at least not when Stiles was around. But then again he’d clearly known about werewolves for a lot longer than Stiles had, so that maybe made sense? or something?

“I know the Argents hasn’t always treated werewolves or other supernatural creatures fairly,” Chris said, apparently willing to ignore the flashing of yellow and blue eyes going on around the suddenly still room, “but I thought if nothing else, the knowledge my family has collected over the years can finally be put to good use. I’m giving you a copy of our family’s bestiary.”

Scott and Allison both made choked noises at the word and Stiles couldn’t help but roll his eyes at their lack of maturity.

“I think you mean-” Allison began, but Stiles quickly cut in, knowing where the conversation was going and not wanting to have to deal with the aftermath of what was most definitely a huge misunderstanding between his friends and the room at large.

“A bestiary is like an encyclopedia of magical creatures,” he said, then frowned as the implications of what exactly that meant. If the little he knew about that kind of thing, mostly from video games, was true, the little leatherbound book in his hands was valuable almost beyond measure, especially since Stiles was fully aware of the truth about at least two species that were likely to be highlighted in it.

Which meant there were almost certainly others.

“You’re willingly sharing your family’s records?” Talia asked before Stiles could start asking questions about it. And unlike her pack, she’d managed to refrain from any overtly werewolfy reactions to Chris’ gift, but her shock was still evident in the way Rollin’s hand squeezed her knee like he was physically keeping her from making any kind of movement forward. The powerful-looking muscles on his forearm visibly contracted with the effort.

“We help those who can’t help themselves,” Allison said easily, like it was as simple as that, and she apparently picked up on the suddenly somber mood because she wasn’t grinning any longer. Neither was Scott.

Chris nodded at his daughter before turning to look first at Stiles, then at Talia. “Part of helping people is knowing who they are and what we might possibly need to do in order to keep them safe. That’s why we’re sharing this kind of information with Stiles, and with you,” he nodded to the still-wrapped package on Talia’s lap. “Doing so will allow us to make our family motto mean something for our pack and for yours.”

Stiles nodded absently, then flipped through a couple of pages and gaped at what he saw. There were detailed, hand-drawn images of creatures he hadn’t even known existed along with notes in neat cursive along the sides which listed the names and defining characteristics of each supernatural being.

It was totally cool and way too much to digest all at the same time.

“Thanks, this is,” Stiles began before trailing off as he got distracted by the detailed depiction of something called a kanima. The thing looked like some kind of a humanoid lizard, but apparently highly venomous and its final form also had wings.

“This is extraordinary,” Derek finished for him, unexpectedly. “Thank you, Chris.”

His admission was unexpected not because Derek was normally ungrateful or anything like that, but because he rarely seemed to speak so candidly in front of his family.

All of whom were glancing back and forth between Stiles, Chris and Talia like they were seeing the three of them for the first time, or weren’t entirely sure of the outcome of that particular gift.

Which was what made Stiles realize that there really was an interesting dynamic going on between everyone. He knew he had to get in the mindset of there being two distinct packs, but he still hadn’t quite gotten there.

Though he knew that thinking of them as two different families instead of the werewolf equivalent would probably be easier for him to wrap his mind around. At the very least it was a solid place for him to start.

“Thanks, Chris,” Stiles repeated. He made a mental note to head to the range to go shooting with the man at some point in the near future. He and Chris had a lot to talk about, apparently. Though only some of those topics involved the beautiful little book in his hands.

“My turn,” Erica announced as she impatiently tore through the purple wrapping paper covering her gift. The Hales certainly seemed to enjoy a plethora of non holiday-related decorative choices. They didn’t have a tree, either, or anything really to commemorate the season, but the warmth of the fire crackling in the hearth and the steaming mugs of cocoa still served to imbue the place with a festive spirit.

Her gift was a fancy-looking eye shadow set from Laura with a set of delicate makeup brushes courtesy of Boyd and Isaac. Erica celebrated by launching herself across all three of their laps and forcing them to cuddle with her, which they did amidst laughter from the room at large. Derek, surprisingly, got Stiles’ dad four season tickets to a semi-pro baseball team in the area that Stiles knew he’d always wanted to check out.

That definitely earned him Stilinski bonus points.

More gifts were exchanged and Stiles was relieved to see that everyone seemed to be enjoying their tins of cookies. Rollin, especially, seemed to have a sweet tooth and had to be batted away from his mate’s stash a few times.

Eventually, things wound down until Stiles only had a small, oddly bulging envelope and the large box left to open. Everyone else was lounging lazily, full of sugar and good cheer.

“You should open the envelope, first,” Laura said where she was casually braiding strands of Erica’s hair.

Stiles looked down at it and couldn’t help but frown at what was clearly his father’s handwriting on the envelope proclaiming his legal name.

Which was odd.

“Um, okay,” he said slowly, glancing at Derek, who seemed equally puzzled about the whole thing. He seemed to sniff the air, but immediately made a face.

“Laura must have coated the paper in lemon so I can’t catch a scent,” he told Stiles quietly.

Across the room Laura cackled unrepentantly, confirming Derek’s suspicions.

Stiles shrugged and tore the side of the envelope, holding his hand out as he dumped the contents onto his palm.

It was a set of keys.

A very familiar set.

“Wha-” he began, looking up at his dad, startled. Stiles didn’t want to jump to conclusions, not about that.

But his dad had an arm around Melissa, both of them seemingly pleased by his reaction, though that certainly didn’t make any sense.

“Are those house keys?” Derek asked, clearly as baffled as Stiles.

“Melissa and I are married, now,” the sheriff said in his calm explaining things to the confused witness tone. It was one Stiles was familiar with from having overheard many such conversations over the years from his standard perch right outside his dad’s office door at the station. “We’ve decided to live together in her house since it will make the commute to work easier for both of us. If you want, we are giving you two the opportunity to take over the mortgage on our house. You don’t need to answer right away, but think about, okay?”

Stiles still didn’t know what to say to that.

“That’s why I didn’t try very hard when you asked me to find you guys a place,” Laura exclaimed, looking way too pleased with herself. The rest of the Hale pack seemed equally amused by her confession, while Scott, Allison and Chris didn’t look surprised at all.

Stiles was still at a loss for words, hung up on the fact that he was apparently being offered his childhood home.

To live in.

Forever.

Maybe forever?

Whatever.

“This is an incredible offer,” Derek said, once again speaking up for Stiles because it was apparently the day hell froze over. At least that’s what his dad had always claimed had to have happened in order to render Stiles speechless.

“Dad, are you. Are you sure?” he finally managed, voice sounding suddenly thicker than it had been.

Stiles’ entire life, at least a majority of the good things, had happened in that house. He’d been born there, after all. He’d lived there with his mother and father for several wonderful years before her death, but even that didn’t taint the fond memories he had of growing up there.

But things changed, as Stiles well knew. His dad was apparently moving in with Melissa, into a home that held almost as many pleasant childhood experiences as his own and Stiles felt himself choking up because while she wasn’t, and never would be, his mother, she’d been a damn awesome surrogate over the years.

He was completely happy for them, he realized.

“I’m serious, Stiles,” his dad said quietly, “if you want it, it’s yours. As long as you pay the mortgage,” he cautioned with a smile. “We can sort out the paperwork later, but most of my stuff is already at Melissa’s. I’ve been staying with her for a few months-”

“And you didn’t tell me?” Stiles asked, smiling widely at Scott’s little noise of protest. He still found it hilarious that his best friend hadn’t picked up on their parents’ relationship sooner. After all, Scott was the one who had actually been living in Beacon Hills during their probably-not-too-subtle courtship. Though he had always been kind of slow on the uptake with some things.

The sheriff rolled his eyes. “What, did you expect an engraved invitation?”

“To the wedding ceremony?” Stiles asked, quickly finding his snark again. “Uh, yeah, Dad, that would have been great. But since you didn’t deem it necessary to invite us along, I guess the New Years Eve party Derek and I are hosting at our new house,” which was an awesome thing to be able to say, “will have to double as your wedding reception slash marriage celebration. Everyone’s invited, of course,” he finished and grinned as Derek beamed happily beside him.

The party, surprisingly enough, had been Derek’s idea. Everyone certainly seemed okay with it, especially Erica, who threw up her fists with a shout.

“She loves parties,” Derek informed him quietly.

“And weddings,” she replied with a wink that Stiles tried really hard not to read into.

While he and Derek had certainly seemed to have settled what it was they were as a couple. Mated and engaged, they hadn’t exactly said it outloud to anyone else besides Scott and Allison. Not yet, anyway.

“What about your last gift?” Isaac prompted, nodding to the box still at Stiles’ feet.

He’d actually kind of forgotten about that one, too caught up in the revelry. Also, Stiles felt a little self-conscious since it seemed like he’d received a greater number of presents than anyone else. Though Laura and Erica had been gifted a new yoga studio location from the elder Hales, so at least he and Derek hadn’t been the only ones to get property.

Still.

It was all a bit much.

“This is from the Hale pack,” Rollin said, smiling gently like he knew Stiles was feeling kind of conflicted about it.

The announcement didn’t exactly ease his worries, but Derek’s hand was on his knee and he was surrounded by family and friends and hopefully allies, so Stiles took a deep breath and began tearing off the paper.

He had the box halfway uncovered when he abruptly stopped, recognizing the writing on the side and realizing what it was that had at one point been stored inside.

“You-” he began, only to click his teeth shut because he knew it was impossible. No one could have translated his mother’s books in such a short amount of time.

“I did,” Rollin said, “with Boyd’s help. I dictated the translations and he typed them up. Isaac numbered the pages of each journal to correspond with the bound copies of the English versions Erica and Laura put together. Aiden and Ethan recreated the drawings from the original texts. Talia, with the help of Deaton, put an alpha’s blessing on all of the writings.”

Stiles didn’t know what the blessing things was, but he recognized an apology when he heard one.

“This is extraordinary,” he said, tearing off the rest of the wrapping paper and opening the box. It smelled like his mother, of sage and safety. Her books were stacked neatly along one side, the other held neat spiral-bound sheafs of papers he assumed were the translations.

If his father’s words about how severely his own safety had been compromised by the Hales, et al hadn’t been so fresh in his mind he would have considered the gift as being too much. Or he would have at least looked at it with suspicion, but Stiles knew that wasn’t actually the case.

It really was an apology. It was an olive branch extended from the Hale pack to his via the one person both he and the Hales knew could bridge that gap.

Stiles’ mother.

There were tears in his eyes when he looked up at Rollin and Talia. Something finally seemed to settle within him, like the last piece of the puzzle finally slotting into place.

He reached blindly for Derek’s warm hand and squeezed.

“Thank you,” Stiles said, voice rich with honesty. “I think our packs are going to have a beautiful future together.”

 

 

Derek and Stiles declined the invitation to run with the Hales around the preserve that night, as was their tradition.

“I told you we needed to start our own,” Stiles said against Derek’s lips as he pushed his mate against the closed front door. The house was quiet around them, the sheriff having given up any subtlety at all about going home with Melisa after he’d handed over the house keys.

“Family or traditions?” Derek asked, hands sliding down Stiles’ back to squeeze his ass though his pants.

“Hm,” Stiles hummed, kissing him with fervor. They hadn’t really talked about kids, for all their openness about other things, but he didn’t want to derail their sexytimes in order to get into that. After all, they had the rest of their lives to decide what they wanted out of it.

He couldn’t help but grin as Derek followed his lead and kissed his way down Stiles’ neck, growling faintly as he reached the soft leather of the jacket, nosing it aside and encountering the scratchy collar of Stiles’ ugly sweater.

“This thing is terrible,” Derek grumbled, tugging roughly at the edge so he could gain further access to Stiles’ skin.

“Not as terrible as yours,” Stiles retorted. Which wasn’t the greatest comeback, but his dick was hard where he was rutting against Derek’s hip and he kind of really wanted to get off, but not before giving Derek one last gift.

“Okay, wait,” he said, pulling back far enough to see his mate’s startled expression. “I said wait, dude, not stop,” he felt inclined to specify as he took a step backward, fingers trailing along Derek’s chest. “I have another surprise for you, but I didn’t want to give it until I was sure about some things, and since you told me on the drive over that you’d be happy to live here-”

“I’d love to,” Derek clarified with a smirk.

“-that you’d love to live here, in this house, with me,” Stiles repeated. “Since that’s the case I think it’s the perfect time for me to give you this thing that I’ve been planning for a while. What do you say? Do you want it?”

Derek narrowed his eyes in contemplation, like he was trying to read Stiles’ mood to figure out what it was Stiles could possibly be giving him. Finally, apparently content with whatever he picked up on, Derek nodded.

“Okay, what do you want me to do?”

Stiles bit his lip and glanced behind them at the living room.

“Why don’t you pick some music, something sexy, and I’ll go get the thing.”

Derek nodded, pulling him in for one more kiss before reluctantly letting him go.

“Hurry?”

Stiles grinned. “You can’t rush greatness, dude, but yeah, maybe this once.”

He received an eye-roll for that comment, but Stiles was seriously okay with that if the rest of his plan actually worked out the way he wanted it to. He was actually a tiny bit nervous as he ran up the stairs and into his room to get ready for Derek’s surprise.

The whole wearing dresses and skirts thing wasn’t exactly a new phenomena for Stiles. He’d been doing it since he’d been a kid, after all, but very few people knew that about him, and he hadn’t ever really advertised his alternative clothing choices. Which basically meant he hadn’t kept a very large variety of options, never having had much of a chance to bring them out after having left home for college and then his slight disaster of a life in Chicago.

He did, however, have a skirt tucked in the back of his closet from a thrift store shopping trip his senior year of high school during a bout of teenaged angst fueled by the emotions associated with the anniversary of his mother’s death. Stiles had gone to the store purely for something to do while Scott and Allison had been on a date and he’d stumbled upon a silky-soft skirt Stiles just knew his mother would have loved. It had been a little too big on him back then, but he’d filled in a bit more over the years.

It fit perfectly over his bare skin, and the brown fabric even looked pretty good paired with the henley Stiles had on. He shucked off the leather jacket and awful sweater, though, in deference to Derek’s clear dislike of the offensive article of clothing.

He did vow to himself not to let his mate throw it away. At least not until they’d acquired a pair of matching sweaters that weren’t garishly colored.

Stiles smoothed the fabric of the skirt over his thighs, shivering at the delicate texture against his legs, which he still wanted to wax at some point. But it wasn’t the time for that, especially since he could hear the familiar sound of the Bee Gees coming from the living room.

He couldn’t help but laugh as he made his way downstairs, delighting in the look his mate gave him under the soft glow of the lights he’d turned on.

“Kitchen,” Stiles said, not letting the sudden spike in Derek’s arousal get the better of him as he backed up into the other room.

Derek stalked forward quickly, following him until Stiles bumped up against the counter and came to a halt.

“I didn’t have time to prep myself,” he said before Derek could comment, “but I brought the lube with me.”

He held it up and reveled in Derek’s low growl of interest.

“You’ll be the death of me,” he said, eyes flashing blue.

Stiles tilted his head back and laughed, not missing the way Derek couldn’t seem to help grinding forward, their mutual erections hard and hot despite the layers of clothing between them. “I uh, I hope you mean the little death because if that’s the case then yes, I agree that we’ll most certainly cause each other many, many orgasms.”

“You look beautiful,” Derek replied, sliding his hands from Stiles’ hips down his thighs, grabbing just under his ass and effortlessly hoisting Stiles up onto the counter.

Which, really, was exactly where Stiles had been going with that whole setup.

Kitchen sex had been on his list for a long time, and since it was suddenly his-

Their.

-kitchen, Stiles couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate their sudden home-ownership than with a christening round in the metaphorical heart of the house.

“You make me feel beautiful,” he said, blushing because it sounded corny but it was definitely how he felt.

“Baby I just wanna get closer than close to you,” Derek murmured against his lips in time with the song playing in the background and Stiles giggled, which turned into a moan as Derek’s fingers worked under the edge of his skirt and across the bare skin of his thigh.

They really needed to get him some appropriate underwear for his skirt-wearing occasions.

Not that Derek seemed to mind when he discovered Stiles was once again going commando.

“Fuck,” he groaned against Stiles’ shoulder, shuddering with pleasure.

“That’s the idea,” Stiles snarked back with a victorious grin, carding his fingers through Derek’s hair and using his grip to tilt his mate’s head back enough to kiss his forehead and the bridge of his nose, over his closed eyes and the softness of his cheeks. He was peppering Derek’s beard with featherlight kisses when his mate finally growled and backed up, snatching the lube from Stiles’ other hand.

Stiles didn’t protest, leaning back on his hands and spreading his legs, the skirt going taut all the way down to his knees.

Derek’s eyes were vibrant wolf blue as he clicked open the lube, gaze roving Stiles’ form. “Do you want me to fuck you right here on the counter, pup?”

“Green,” he replied quickly.

His mate’s smirk said he might have spoken a little too quickly, but Stiles hadn’t ever been all that great at being coy. Not when he knew exactly what he wanted and didn’t see a reason why he couldn’t have it.

And in that instance, he wanted Derek’s cock inside of him while he held onto the edge of the countertop.

The dilation of Derek’s pupils told Stiles he’d maybe said that last part out loud, but whatever. It was certainly the truth.

“Pull your skirt up a bit,” Derek instructed, voice low.

Stiles shivered, doing what he was told in slow movements, teasingly dragging the fabric up to bunch over the hard curve of his erection, leaving his knees and much of his upper thighs bare.

“Spread your legs a bit more.”

He did, gulping at the hungry look Derek gave him.

“Good pup.”

Which, yeah, Stiles shouldn’t have such a visceral reaction to that nickname, but he couldn’t help the groan he let out, one hand pressed against his aching cock, the silky fabric feeling much more erotic than he’d thought it would against his skin.

“No touching,” Derek said and Stiles jerked his hand off with a blush. “Good,” he murmured immediately, moving between the spread of Stiles’ legs and brushing their lips together. One hand closed around his hip and suddenly the warm-slick feeling of a finger was pressing against his rim, teasing.

“Der,” Stiles’ whined, trying to roll his hips forward to feel it slide inside, but Derek’s firm grip kept him where he was.

“Do you want something, pup? You’re going to have to tell me.”

And damn if he wasn’t smirking like he’d won something.

But really?

They were both the winners, as far as Stiles was concerned, so he played along, tilting his head back to show off his neck, which probably had marks from Derek’s enthusiastic teeth and lips.

Not that Stiles minded. He could see his own mark on his mate’s neck, just above the collar of his henley and it made him feel hot all over.

“I want you to mount me right here in our kitchen,” Stiles said. His voice was husky, his cheeks probably flushed with arousal.

Derek squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, his grip on Stiles’ hip spasming before he got himself under control.

“You want that, Stiles? You want me to fuck you right here in the open like we did last night on the couch?”

“I want you,” Stiles confirmed. “Everywhere, all the time. But right now I’d really like it if you prepped me with your big, strong fingers, and then fucked me on this counter until I have bruises on my hips from your grip on me. What do you say?”

Derek didn’t really seem to have anything to say to that, but his actions certainly spoke pretty loudly as he pressed the teasing finger all the way inside of Stiles, drawing out a relieved groan from him. He quickly moved on to two, and then three fingers, only barely ghosting over Stiles’ prostate as he prepped him for more.

“Okay, okay, okay,” Stiles babbled, making aborted little thrusts, unable to stop himself even though Derek was probably definitely holding him hard enough to bruise his hip, just like Stiles had asked.

“Ready for me?” Derek gasped, he’d buried his face against the side of Stiles’ throat somewhere around the second finger and hadn’t looked up since, his breath and tongue hot against Stiles’ skin.

“Yes, yes, please fuck me, Derek,” Stiles said, unafraid to beg for it because he knew he was safe in Derek’s arms. Safe to ask for what he wanted because Derek wouldn’t ever use that knowledge against him.

Finally, Derek’s fingers slipped free, immediately replaced by the hot press of his cock.

They both moaned at the sensation, the sound echoing in the small room, but Stiles just smiled. He was exactly where he wanted to be, arms wrapped around his mate, riding the steady rolling of his hips as sparks of pleasure arched up their spines.

Neither of them spoke as they grunted with the shared sensation, not until they were both on the cusp of orgasm.

“I love you,” Stiles whispered against Derek’s lips, grinning as the admission seemed to push his mate over the edge and he followed a half-beat behind.

“Love you,” Derek gasped in reply, his deep affection settling into Stiles, all the way to his bones.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe you didn’t ask me to help you organize this party,” Erica whispered-hissed behind the rim of her cup of wolfsbane-infused beer. It was her third. Stiles knew because he’d spent a majority of the evening minding the batch he’d brewed using a large dose of magic and a recipe from one of his mom’s freshly-translated books. It hadn’t been able to ferment for very long, but none of the werewolves had complained about the outcome.

Rollin certainly seemed to be enjoying the second-hand fruit of his translation labors. Stiles was pretty sure he’d never seen the man as happy as when he’d first caught a whiff of the brew, declaring it classic Anya and thumping a warm hand onto Stiles’ shoulder in gratitude.

Stiles glanced over and yeah, Rollin was still lounging on the couch like he had been for the past hour or so, casually holding a pint of the special drink, his head resting against Boyd’s thick arm as they talked quietly about whatever kind of father-son stuff they tended to discuss when they had the chance to just hang out together. On Boyd’s other side sat Chris Argent, who was conversing with Isaac, both of them with beers in hand as well, though of course Chris had a more traditional glass bottle of human-friendly alcohol. The instructions on the recipe for werewolf beer had been explicit in one thing, it was definitely not for human consumption.

Stiles surveyed the rest of the crowd. The twins, he still couldn’t tell them apart, were talking to Allison and Melissa, while Erica had drifted over to harass Laura and his dad. He thought it was pretty awesome, actually, that his family, his pack, was able to just exist amongst the Hales without Stiles having to worry about them trying to manipulate the situation or whatever.

Well, besides Erica and her desire to make him do stuff, but she’d always been a bit of an exception, ever since they’d first met at yoga class. Even Talia seemed at peace with what was happening. She’d apparently taken a liking to Scott at some point since their present exchange at the Hale house and had begun teaching him some of the finer points of being a werewolf during his free time, though as far as Stiles knew she hadn’t made any kind of overtures about bringing him into her pack.

Which was appreciated.

Stiles found himself still kind of reeling from the whole negotiation thing they’d finally managed to sort out with the help of their emissaries. But whatever, he knew he couldn’t let himself get distracted by Erica or Rollin or thoughts of Talia’s intentions toward his best bro because he still had to get out some of the cookies he’d hidden in tins on the back porch and then he had to take one last pasta salad out of the fridge after which-

“Allison’s got it covered,” Derek whispered against his ear, arms wrapping around Stiles from behind. Despite the sweet gesture, Stiles couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Allison was pretty awesome at most things, but kitchen-related tasks were not quite her forte.

Which Stiles had definitely already mentioned to Derek, but before he could protest his mate was using his yoga skills and a bit of his werewolf strength to walk them through the living room and foyer, then outside onto the porch, the front door closing behind them with a soft click.

“What, why did you kick us out of our own house?” Stiles asked, equal parts curious and peeved. He had stuff to do, after all. Hosting stuff that involved him being inside the house and subtly monitoring Erica’s alcohol intake. He wasn’t sure what kind of a drunk she was, but he thought it might be best if someone sober was nearby in case she tried to do anything impulsive like attempt to climb the walls with her claws or something. By her own admission, she’d never actually been drunk before and Stiles had gone to college so he knew how it tended to shake out for first-timers in a party-like setting.

Derek spun him around easily, taking ahold of Stiles by the shoulders and studying his features with a look that echoed the sudden seriousness of his attitude.

“I want to tell everyone about us, if that’s okay with you,” he said quietly.

They’d discussed it in passing, the whole spilling the beans of their own engagement thing, but up to that point Stiles had steadfastly resisted Derek’s attempts to convince him it was the right time to tell their families.

Packs.

Whatever.

Even if some of them already knew about it.

“This isn’t about us, Derek,” Stiles reminded him quietly, not for the first time. “It’s a wedding shower reception get-together thing for my dad and Melissa. And, you know, also a New Years Eve celebration.”

Which was all one hundred percent true.

Even if it wasn’t the only reason Stiles didn’t want to tell everyone.

He was just, he liked how things were between everyone. There was a kind of peaceful lull going on after the absolute shitshow of their introduction to each other and their families. If Stiles didn’t sleep with a hulking werewolf every night he was pretty sure he’d have had nightmares about some of the things he’d been through over the course of the few short months he’d known Derek. And even though he did love his mate and was absolutely okay with marrying him, Stiles just wasn’t sure how everyone else would react to the news.

That was what scared him more than anything else.

The night was getting colder and Stiles wrapped his arms around himself, giving Derek  an unimpressed look. They could have just as easily taken their conversation upstairs into their nice warm bedroom, or even his parents’ old room that they’d converted into an exercise slash yoga space, but apparently dimly-lit porches were the place to have important conversations on frigid evenings in December.

Derek frowned, lifting a hand to scratch the back of his head, looking and feeling abashed. “I understand that,” he said quietly, “but I thought that since we’re celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another-”

“That we should start things off with good news?” Stiles asked, trying to follow his train of thought to its logical conclusion.

Which he apparently had done successfully, judging by Derek’s bright answering smile.

Stiles sighed, rubbing his arms in a vain attempt to create some friction-warmth and nodded curtly. “Okay, maybe. But only after the ball drops, okay?”

Derek grinned, his mood lifting to almost climactic heights as he swooped in and wrapped Stiles in a firm hug, his naturally higher body temperature sinking into Stiles like magic as it relaxed the lingering tension he’d been feeling since the beginning of their shindig.

So maybe it wasn’t actually that he was worried about anyone’s reaction to the engagement, exactly, just that the whole thing had been kind of stressful. Stiles hadn’t ever hosted an actual party before, never having had the space or time or friends, and he really hadn’t quite known what to expect when he’d invited both packs over.

To their house.

Because he and Derek were actual homeowners.

Almost.

Rollin had even volunteered to help them navigate the legal side of the whole buying process, which was an awesome offer, but Stiles and Derek hadn’t yet come to an agreement about that, either. Not that they’d had much time between preparing for the party and moving the rest of the sheriff’s stuff out of the house and into Melissa’s and the few things Derek owned into theirs.

He and Derek hadn’t actually had that many conversations about anything important, really. Stiles thought they were still doing pretty well despite that, especially since it was the first serious relationship either of them had ever been in.

Well, put a ring on it serious, anyway.

But he knew that communication was the key to keeping everything working between them. It was just kind of hard to find the time, was all.

Stiles let himself relax against Derek, his own hands fisting the back of the not-garish sweater he’d reluctantly donned at Stiles’ insistence.

It looked good on him, and the v-neck made it easier for Stiles to give the side of his throat a quick nip, which earned him a rumbling growl.

“Don’t start something you’re not prepared to finish,” Derek cautioned, but he leaned into the touch for a moment longer before pulling back. “I won’t say anything if you don’t want me to,” he continued, “but I want everyone to know how much I love you, and that we’re going to be together for the rest of our lives. You’re my mate, Stiles.”

Stiles wanted to roll his eyes in response to how corny that sounded, but he was all too aware of how he felt the exact same way about Derek. They were it for each other, the perfect pair. There was no backing out or taking it back.

He didn’t want to take it back.

So, logically, the only way left to go was forward.

“Fine, fine, okay,” Stiles said with a dramatic sigh. “Do it whenever you want, but try not to impinge upon my dad and Melissa’s thing, if at all possible. I’m just, it’s a big deal. Both of them moving on. My dad never even dated when I was growing up, after my mom-” Stiles cut himself off because he knew how much his dad had loved her, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t ever love again. A part of him knew he’d always feel conflicted about that, but Melissa was a good person and a great match for the sheriff, so he let himself be hugged by his mate until he finally felt his heart begin to calm its frantic rhythm.

Derek slowly untangled himself from Stiles’ firm grip and brought his arm up around his shoulders, drawing him close to his side as they walked back toward the door. “If you think our announcement will do anything other than thrill your father and Melissa then you’re completely delusional,” Derek cheerfully predicted.

He was right, of course.

The moment the word engaged left Derek’s mouth, an hour yet before the ball dropped but shortly after the sheriff and Melissa had opened their wedding gifts, the packed room erupted into cheers and howls. Stiles thought his dad had even wiped a few tears from his eyes, but before he could be sure he found himself wrapped up in hug after hug from his friends and Derek’s family, all of them seemingly thrilled about the upcoming nuptials that really couldn’t have been a surprise to anyone.

Erica immediately launched into a breakdown of what needed to happen before the wedding could occur-

Which, Stiles hadn’t even really wanted a wedding, but he could roll with it if he got out of having to deal with all the details.

-when Scott, of all people, interrupted to say that as best man-

Because of course he was.

-he should have a share in planning things, too.

At which point Laura began to interject her own ideas, since it was her brother’s big day, as well.

Derek, much to the obvious amusement of his slightly inebriated father, finally managed to gain control over the room. Well, mostly. Stiles could still hear Laura and Scott whisper-hissing at each other about table centerpieces.

“We’re engaged,” Derek repeated, “but we still haven’t decided how it is we will seal our vows.”

Stiles only vaguely knew about the wolfish way, the mating ritual Talia had casually mentioned once upon a time. He noticed that she’d stayed pointedly out of the conversation, looking fondly over at her daughters as they squabbled with Scott.

The only thing Stiles really knew about the mating ceremony, other than the assumption that it would likely be done under the full moon and in the nude, was that there were crowns involved. His and Derek’s were still upstairs in their bedroom, propped side-by-side on top of the book case by the door. Every time they left the room Stiles saw them sitting there like a promise. He liked the idea of using them for another event, at some point, either as part of the mating ritual or during a more traditional exchanging of vows, he wasn’t too picky.

The others were, apparently, as another argument broke out between Laura and Scott about what type of ceremony would be best.

“Moving pretty fast, aren’t ya, kid?” his dad said from directly behind him.

Stiles spun around with a flail the sheriff easily dodged, then half-tackled him with a hug.

“Oh, I’m just making up for the wasted years you spent not making a move on Melissa,” he cheerfully retorted, practically feeling the way his dad rolled his eyes as they squeezed each other tightly around the ribs.

“Yeah, yeah, well not all of us like to leap before we look, not,” his dad said, finally drawing back so Stiles could see his gentle expression, “that I think you’re rushing into this without thinking about it. I’m just saying, you’re a lot like your mother.”

“Impulsive?”

Stiles saw him roll his eyes that time. “She always went with her gut. Well, with her magic, I suppose. She would have loved seeing you two together. Anya always had a soft spot for the Hales, particularly the little ones. I guess I know why, now.”

“It’s because we’re amazing,” Laura said, sidling up beside Stiles and throwing an arm around his shoulders, leaning heavily against him. “But seriously, congratulations, Sheriff. I can tell you and Melissa are happy together. You complement each other.”

“She’s very compliment-able,” Stiles added with a grin.

Laura punched him lightly in the side. “You’re a dork, I can’t believe my brother’s going to marry you.”

“What can I say? I’m a catch,” Stiles said, grinning.

Laura rolled her eyes. “Yes, sure, you’re something, alright,” she said dryly before narrowing her eyes at him, considering. “Though I will say that you’re getting pretty good at yoga. Now that you’re not stiff as a board like you were in the beginning, you and Derek have been tackling some pretty awesome poses.”

Stiles knew exactly where she was going with that even before her wicked smirk came out, teeth almost too sharp-looking to be entirely human.

“Oh, really,” his dad said, playing along because he was way too amused by Stiles’ suffering. Though to be fair Stiles had maybe put him in awkward situations once or twice over the years.

But, still, Stiles held up his hands as if to ward off the inevitable turn the conversation was taking. “I know what you’re going to ask-” he began, when Derek’s warm hand wrapped around his waist, pulling Stiles sideways against his body and away from his sister.

“What are they asking?” he inquired, his ignorance not actually feigned. Derek genuinely didn’t seem to know what it was Laura was trying to bully them into.

The adorable dork.

Which also explained a lot about Derek’s upbringing and how it had been possible for her to make him take the couples yoga class to begin with.

Stiles sighed and wrapped an arm around Derek’s waist in turn. He knew he’d better just get it over with, rather than let Laura practice her coercion techniques on him, too. “It appears we’re going to be doing a little demonstration of our awesome yoga talents. In fact,” he continued, eying Laura’s smug grin. And yeah, she totally deserved it, so he continued with a smirk. “I think we should have a yoga-off. Derek and I will only participate if Laura and Erica are paired with other people. Right, Der?” he asked, belatedly realizing he probably should have cleared it with his mate before committing them to that kind of a competition, but he could feel the thrum of Derek’s excitement as he nodded with an air of casual disregard that betrayed nothing of his true feelings.

“Laura with Isaac, and Erica with Boyd,” he said, then glanced across the room at where Talia and Scott were still deep in conversation. “Allison and Scott can join us as well, since they’re the reason you began taking yoga in the first place.” Because Derek was a great listener and had clearly paid attention to everything Stiles had said, even his tireless rambling when they’d first met. “Ethan and Aiden are also welcome to join us, though I don’t think my parents or your father and Melissa want to participate.”

“We’ll need judges,” Stiles said, glancing at Laura. “You know, since this is going to be a competition.”

“Oh, it’s on,” she replied, eyes flashing blue

It reminded Stiles of the story Derek had told him about the Werewolf Olympics or whatever he’d called it. They were so going to win.



Or not.

Stiles watched, slack-jawed, as Boyd lifted Erica one-handed, his palm against her waist as her arms and legs starfished out.

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” he muttered. “How is that even a yoga pose? I don’t remember seeing that on any of the posters at the studio.”

Derek grinned, his arms were crossed over his chest as he watched his slightly inebriated sort-of-sister giggle her way back into Boyd’s arms. From the couch, which had been shoved back against a wall, Rollin clapped loudly and let out a whoop of delight.

“I’m pretty sure that if you can do it, the pose counts,” Derek replied, not seeming to see the problem, which was their inevitable defeat if his werewolf siblings kept up their physics-defying yoga moves. Well, that was if the two of them didn’t think of something equally difficult they could do in retaliation.

Stiles was maybe stupid enough to try anything, at that point.

He wasn’t normally very competitive, but it was Erica. He couldn’t lose to Erica. Or Laura. Or the twins.

So yeah, he was prepared to take it to the next level.

Whatever that was.

Scott and Allison went next, which was fun and distracting because Stiles hadn’t actually seen them do any moves. They’d only talked about it over the phone and computer, which had really been the catalyst that began Stiles’ whole introduction to the Hales, so that was cool.

Then terrible.

But then cool, again.

“Um, yeah, baby on board, so we won’t be doing anything like that,” Allison said, tucking a strand of dark, curly hair behind her ear with a dimpled smile.

From the couch, Chris Argent gave an answering nod of approval.

Not that Allison needed her dad’s approval or anything, but Rollin thumped a hand onto his back in support, anyway.

Stiles grinned because Derek’s dad was obviously pretty drunk and also hilarious.

“We’ve just started trying more advanced moves, since you know, I have super strength now,” Scott added, then dropped to his hands and knees. “This is one we like to do.”

Stiles willed himself not to think about how part of Scott’s yoga-related enthusiasm came from the bedroom applications such flexibility could bring, but then Allison knelt in front of her husband and they breathed together until they both seemed calm and collected. She then crawled forward, draping her chest across Scott’s back, wrapping her arms firmly around his middle.

Slowly, they both began to straighten their legs, working to counter balance each other’s weight, Scott’s palms pressing firmly against the floor until that was the only point of contact keeping them upright.

Stiles’ dad gave a low whistle while Melissa took out her phone, presumably to take a picture to document the amazing pose.

Yeah, Stiles was pretty confident he and Derek were going to lose.

“That’s amazing,” he muttered, “what the hell are we going to do?”

Derek unfolded his arms and reached over to take Stiles’ hand.

“We’re going to wait,” he said.

They did, watching as Ethan and Aiden conversed for a brief moment, then moved to the makeshift stage in the center of the room.

“We’ve never done stuff like this before,” one of them said, then sank onto his hands and knees like Scott had.

But instead of facing him, the other moved around behind him and leaned forward, pressing his palms against the swell of his brother’s shoulderblades.

Stiles felt his jaw drop as the two of them gradually leaned forward, picking their feet up until they were both crouched, one supporting the other.

It was some serious bullshit. He was pretty sure he and Derek wouldn’t have been able to do that one. Not without at least a pair of spotters.

“It’s looking grim, kid,” his dad whispered beside him and Stiles missed the dismount as he glared at the sheriff.

“I might not control your diet anymore, but I can always tell Melissa where you like to stash secret sweets,” he threatened, but his dad just laughed at him.

So did Derek, but whatever, Laura and Isaac were up next.

“I’m going to be the base, since Isaac’s new to this,” she announced, then stood with her feet shoulder-width apart and motioned him to come toward her. Isaac did so, looking only slightly reluctant as he turned away, back to Laura. She adjusted his pose a bit before grabbing one of his feet and placing it on her thigh.

Stiles cocked his head to the side, watching as Laura braced him, bending her knee to support the weight of his foot, instructing him with quiet confidence to balance his weight there until he slowly lifted the other foot, placing it back against her corresponding thigh. In the end, her hands gripped just above his knees, his chest pressed forward into the open air, his arms stretched up and back, while Laura leaned backward as a counterbalance.

“That’s impressive,” Stiles heard his dad murmur and he felt compelled to nod in agreement. Laura was hella strong, and also amazing.

“I’ve got an idea,” Derek whispered in Stiles’ ear, he was buzzing with energy, which usually meant arousal, in Stiles’ experience, but Derek pulled him forward as Isaac dismounted. “I’ll be the base,” Derek announced to the room at large, then turned Stiles to face him.

They shared a long look, Stiles automatically slowing his breathing to match Derek’s, before he nodded.

“We’re going to start with you standing on my thighs, both of us upright,” Derek said. It was familiar, the way they gave instructions to each other during their yoga practice, so Stiles didn’t even hesitate to comply, balancing like Isaac had, first with one foot on Derek’s thigh, then both feet.

They breathed again, clutching each others’ forearms as they settled.

“I want you to bring one of your feet up and hook it around the back of my neck,” Derek said and it took Stiles a few seconds to process that order, but he trusted his mate so he did as he was told, slowly balancing back onto one foot as he raised the other, sliding it up until he could feel the tense muscles of Derek’s neck, the way he leaned back to more evenly distribute their weight.

“Now we’re going to let go,” Derek said, glancing at where their arms were linked.

Stiles hesitated maybe a little longer before complying, that time, but he did let go eventually, pleased that Derek let him be the one to decide when to do so.

They both spread their arms as their hands left each other, twitching movements to keep them both steady.

“Okay, now that’s cool,” Scott stage whispered because he really hadn’t ever captured the essence of secrecy.

Not that Stiles minded. No, he totally agreed, actually. He and Derek were awesome and amazing and wobbling a little bit?

Before they were even in serious danger of falling, they were suddenly surrounded by both packs, who instantly lifted Stiles off of Derek, but kept him elevated until suddenly Derek was at his level, too, and apparently they were crowdsurfing their family members, who whooped and cheered and howled beneath and around them while Melissa took pictures or video from off to one side, a huge grin on her face.

“That was fun,” Stiles said, breathless with laughter.

Derek smiled back at him, face flushed with joy.

“Does that mean we won?” Stiles asked, but was cut off by Laura’s sudden chanting of ten, nine, eight-

It was the best way to end the year, he decided, shouting along with her and the rest of their packs, one hand clasping Derek’s as they were lowered into the throng to bring in the new year with a kiss, just as the ball finally dropped on the muted tv screen.



“I have a special treat for you,” Stiles whispered into the darkness. It was nice, not being able to see, sometimes. It made him feel closer to Derek, able to just focus on his emotions instead of whatever his unfairly gorgeous body was doing. Not that Stiles was complaining about Derek’s body or anything, it was just that the mate bond they had going on was pretty amazing, too.

“A treat?” Derek asked from somewhere near Stiles’ dresser. He sounded relaxed as he unzipped his pants and, from the sound of it, shrugged out of his sweater, too.

From what Stiles could tell he felt relaxed, too, but Stiles wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep, even though it was sometime in the early hours of the morning and they’d pretty well exhausted themselves with the revelry of the night.

“Yeah, but I’ll only give it to you if you’re good,” Stiles teased, grinning when he saw his mate’s eyes flash blue in the darkness.

The growl that emanated from Derek’s chest, throaty and deep, made the hair stand up on Stiles’ arms, but he could tell it wasn’t a serious threat.

More like a sexy one.

Finally, Derek’s glowing eyes drew closer as he moved, silent as a shadow, across the room. “What, exactly, do you mean by good?” he asked and Stiles had to bite his lip at the lisp in his mate’s voice because that meant he had his fangs out and Stiles really, really liked it when Derek shifted into his beta form.

And unsurprisingly, Stiles found that his definition of good was evolving as he pressed the heel of his palm against the front of his boxer briefs where his dick was beginning to throb with hardness.

“Tonight,” he whispered, knowing Derek could still hear him clearly, “good means you on your back, looking up at me with those stunning blue wolf eyes while I fuck you nice and slow.”

Derek’s eyes blinked shut for a long beat before he opened them again and let out a breathy moan.

“It’s up to you whether you want to keep your shift, but you know I love it when you’re like that, right?”

“I know,” Derek replied quietly, waited a moment, then, “I’ll think about it.”

Stiles smiled, knowing Derek could see him even if his own human eyes weren’t designed to see in such low light. “Okay, then, why don’t you strip and get comfortable while I fetch the lube. That wasn’t,” he added, trying to hold in a grin as he pointed at Derek, “a dog joke. I’m just bad with words, sometimes. But yeah, think about the thing and I’ll get the stuff-”

“So we can do the do?” Derek snarked popping his hand firmly against Stiles’ rump with a crack that sounded way worse than it felt.

Still, Stiles squawked even as his laughter bubbled up because he hadn’t pegged Derek as being all that computer literate, especially not when it came to meme humor, but hey, they had the rest of their lives to delve into each other’s quirks.

“Whatever you’re thinking, I like it,” Derek said, voice low and happy.

Stiles grinned, stretching to reach their bedside table. Maybe eventually they’d get a bigger bed, but he kind of liked how they had to squeeze together to fit into his.

The lube was right where they’d left it, tucked just inside the drawer and by the time Stiles turned back to Derek he was blissfully nude and slowly jacking his hard cock, from the sound of it.

Stiles bit his lip, quickly clicking the cap open and pouring a generous amount onto his hand.

“I want us to finish together,” he said, bracing one hand on the bed as he moved the other to prep his mate.

Derek grunted in acknowledgement as Stiles’ finger breached him, but he didn’t slow his strokes on his cock, using his free hand to pull Stiles down for a kiss.

Stiles kissed back continuing his prep until was easing a second finger in, then a third, Derek’s kissing grew sloppy as he gasped and whined.

Stiles liked hearing the noises he made, enjoyed the sparks of pleasure and thrum of affection that filtered through their bond, but he also loved seeing the blissed-out look on his mate’s face when they were intimate.

“I’m going to do something about the light situation in here and I don’t want you to freak out,” Stiles warned, slowing his steady fingering until the only movement was Derek clenching around him. “I like you in every form, you know that, but I think it would be cool if you wolfed out a little during this next bit.”

That was the only hint he gave before he closed his eyes and focused on his magic. His anchor, who happened to be pressed down on the bed beneath him, one warm hand gripping the back of Stiles’ neck, his own fingers still buried in the warm clutch of Derek’s body, helped him focus on what he wanted to accomplish.

Stiles felt, more than heard, Derek’s reaction to his casting, the jolt of tension that shivered through him before points of pressure pricked his scalp where Derek’s fingers were pressed. Stiles slowly opened his eyes and grinned down at where Derek was watching the room around them with wonder, his brow heavy with the shift, fangs peaking out from between his parted lips.

“What do you think?” Stiles asked, watching as Derek’s brilliant beta-blue eyes tracked the shimmering little jolts of light that danced in the open air.

He was good with lightning, he knew, and had practiced that trick whenever he’d gotten a chance, perfecting it so he could create these localized little bursts of energy without there being any kind of danger.

“It’s amazing,” Derek lisped, then finally focused on Stiles, his expression dower only because of his lack of eyebrows and the permanent scowl his shift wrought. His emotions, however, were far more pleasant. “You’re amazing.”

Stiles grinned, then pressed the three fingers deep into his mate, who gasped and arched so beautifully beneath him.

“Are you ready, Der?” Stiles asked, then moaned as Derek moved the hand not clutching his head down to his boxer briefs.

“Hope you’re not attached to these,” Derek grunted before shredding them with one quick slice, claws only barely grazing Stiles’ skin.

He shivered, hips canting forward before he could regain control over himself. Derek smirked in response and yeah, they could play that kind of a game all day, but Stiles couldn’t hold onto his fun lightshow forever and he didn’t want to come before he was sheathed inside of the phenomenally hot half-shifted werewolf beneath him.

“I’m sure I’ll live,” he replied, compelled to snark back.

Derek’s fangs glinted in the erratic light which alternated between a warm orange to bright yellow and back again, sending patterns of color across their skin.

Stiles moved closer, Derek’s legs falling open automatically to make room for him in the hollow of his hips.

Slowly, he withdrew his fingers, wincing in sympathy when Derek made a tiny noise of discomfort. Stiles leaned forward immediately, his cock pressing against the loosened ring as his lips brushed the sharp lengths of Derek’s teeth, careful not to accidentally catch his skin on the dangerously pointed tips.

“Stiles,” Derek moaned, arching as if to take him in faster, but Stiles kept his steady entry slow and careful, not wanting to cause Derek an ounce of discomfort.

When he bottomed out Derek’s features had shifted back to human, eyes their familiar mix of colors that Stiles found so endlessly fascinating.

“Hey, love, you ready?” Stiles asked, ignoring how strained his voice sounded as he somehow managed to keep himself still despite the urge to press and take.

Derek nodded quickly, hands grasping and tugging as he tried to fuck himself on Stiles’ cock, so they were definitely feeling the same emotions, there.

“Okay, okay,” he said, sliding both hands down to grip Derek’s hips, pinning him while he built his own rhythm, steady and methodical.

Derek’s chin tilted up as he clutched the sheets in tight fists. “Fuck, Stiles,” he groaned, already sounding strung out.

Around them the lights began to flicker, their pulsing erratic.

Much like Stiles’ own pulse, actually, as he began to pick up the pace, no longer pulling out as much before he thrust back in, his fingers quivering against Derek’s warm skin.

“You’re perfect for me,” Stiles said, voice sounding thready as sweat ran down the back of his neck. “You’re gorgeous. You smell divine. You’re gentle and attentive and I can’t imagine how I could be so lucky to have found you.”

Beneath him, Derek mewled, mouth open as he gasped for breath, the muscles on his chest and abdomen clenching when Stiles brushed his prostate with every stroke.

“I love you, Derek, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you-”

He was cut off by the sudden pull of Derek’s hands, by the press of their lips as his mate’s legs wrapped tight around him, pulling Stiles down in a vice as Derek’s inner walls clenched and convulsed around his cock with perfect pressure and heat, pulling the orgasm out of him. His entire body tingled with it, from his toes to the top of his head and he whined against Derek’s mouth as they both shuddered with pleasure.

Around them the magic lights exploded silently before fading into darkness.