Actions

Work Header

Throw Me to the Wolves

Work Text:

“You can’t come back.”

Stiles, already panic-stricken and strung out, feels like a lead ball has settled in the pit of his stomach, spreading toxic dread slowly through his bloodstream to mix with the fear that’d been pumping through him for days. “What?” he says, strangled.

Derek makes an impatient noise, a huff of breath, like Stiles is some kind of annoyance he doesn’t feel like dealing with. “You can’t think…I don’t know what you’re thinking, Stiles,” he bites out, “but you can’t come back here. Not now.”

“Okay,” Stiles says. His lips feel numb, and there’s a roaring in his ears, like every person within a three block radius is screaming at him. He’s not sure how he’s actually managing words. “I’ll just… not do that.”

There’s heavy breathing on Derek’s end, the faint rumble of a growl, and Stiles almost feels like he can hear the pounding of Derek’s heart through the crummy cell reception. Stiles doesn’t know what else to say, but he doggedly hangs on, listening.

Derek finally says, voice ragged, “If you wanted this—”

“I didn’t,” Stiles says faintly, horrified. Horrified by everything.

The ragged breathing gives way to a harsh laugh. “Right, yeah,” he says, and Stiles feels lost.

He feels the physical embodiment of devastated, his already too strung-out mind struggling to wall up all the hurt, the rejection—he takes a deep shuddering breath and looks down at the shredded skin on his arms, at the sluggish way they’re weakly healing.

There is nothing, nothing he wants more than to have Derek sweep in and make everything all better. He should have known, though, that something like that would never happen to him. He hangs up without saying goodbye.

*

Stiles let himself have ten days to freak out about it before he’d called Derek. Freak out about the club that Adam had dragged him to, the fucking dubious consent issue, when he’d trusted Adam—his roommate of two fucking years, before he moved out of the dorms—to watch out for him, to stay a true blue DD to Stiles’s turn to get trashed. To freak out about the whole surprise dance-floor scent marking thing, and the way tipsy Stiles might be able to handle himself, but drunk Stiles doesn’t have enough hands or bats to fend off a territorial alpha.

Freaking out easily gave way to terror, to three days locked in his bathroom, copious amounts of accidentally on purpose bloodletting, tasting the metallic tang of tap water, the scent of mildew and mold so deep in his nose it felt like a gag at the back of his throat. He’d crawled out just long enough to panic-dial Derek, only to hear condemnation.

There’s no excuse. Stiles let his guard down, and now apparently Derek isn’t going to ever forgive him for it.

He shows up at Cal’s apartment the day after Derek tells him to stay away, an invisible, painful hook in his chest tugging him in the correct direction.

Cal and his obnoxiously bright orange polo shirt lean against the doorjamb and smirk at him. “I’m impressed you resisted my call this long.”

Stiles shrugs, shoulders tight. He doesn’t bother to say that he hasn’t been able to feel anything over his own fear and dread, the way he couldn’t control his shift, locked up like a rabid dog tearing at its own flesh. He doesn’t bother to point out that maybe Cal should have come to him.

Behind Cal are two ladies he doesn’t recognize, and another asshole that Stiles vaguely remembers from the club—tall, lean like a scarecrow, bizarre punk hair that makes his nose look like a beak. All three flash gold eyes at Stiles and Stiles feels a burn in his own as they automatically flash back.

One of the girls hisses, like a startled cat, but the scarecrow just gives him a lazy salute of welcome.

The other girl cocks her head at him, sharp and assessing, and says, “Blue eyes here might be a problem.”

Cal claps a large, warm hand around Stiles’s nape, fingers pressing firmly in on either side of his throat, and says, “Oh, I don’t think so.”

It makes Stiles’s skin crawl, makes him want to hunch into himself, nausea pooling spit in his mouth, and he hates the way he leans into the touch.

*

Stiles, who has lasted nearly three years of college without a single panic attack, finds himself asphyxiating on his anxiety daily, eating his fears with heaping helpings of coffee in between, and is probably the only werewolf in history who’s actually managed to give himself a stomach ulcer.

That part is merely conjecture, but he figures there has to be something to all this blood he’s been throwing up.

Lainey, Trix and scarecrow Jim are not the only wolves in Cal’s pack.

There are various other douchebags in different sizes and shapes, enough to make Stiles wonder why Cal even bothered with him—it’s not like he needed the numbers.

Scarecrow Jim is perpetually high on wolfbane-laced pot, and he tells Stiles, “You smell nice,” and Cal likes to exercise his alpha bad-touch after a long day by face-planting into the crook of Stiles’s neck.

Stiles doesn’t like having an alpha he can’t trust. He doesn’t like feeling this on edge and helpless. This was only one of the myriad reasons he never wanted to be a were in the first place. He saw what kind of sway Peter had tried to exert over Scott, a far stronger werewolf than Stiles will ever be. He remembers Isaac, and the way he used to cower away from Derek when he got mad.

Stiles wants to tell Cal’s entire pack to fuck off, but he’s literally got no other options right now. He takes the cuffs to the back of the head, far harder than any playful one his dad had ever given him, and worries.

His first full moon looms closer. Cal seems sadistically pleased by watching Stiles fall apart. It’s like he’s hoping for this—for Stiles to go crazed. He offers nothing in the way of reassurances or medieval torture chains. He scruffs a hand through Stiles’s hair, calls him Scamp, and tells him to lock his bedroom door.

Stiles stops sleeping completely three days till.

He skypes Scott, finally, something he’s been putting off for weeks, and gets a grimace and a, “You look like shit,” for his troubles.

“Thanks, man,” Stiles says, forcing a grin. “Really feeling the love.”

Scott says, “Sorry,” and, “Are you okay?” and, “Derek’s on a power trip, but fuck him.”

Stiles is only faintly horrified by the curse, and mostly charmed by the clenched, belligerent jaw. He says, “Aw, Scotty, are you worried about me?” with a lightness he doesn’t feel.

“Listen, Stiles,” Scott glances cagily over his shoulder, “Derek’s being really weird about this.”

“When is Derek not weird about things?” Stiles says. He curls up a little smaller in his seat and hopes Scott can’t hear his heart going crazy. “What, did he tell you not to talk to me anymore?”

Scott looks satisfyingly scandalized. “No,” he says vehemently, but then he adds, sheepish, “He just said I can’t tell you pack stuff.”

“You… can’t,” Stiles says.

“It’s just, you know,” he shrugs, “nothing we can’t handle. You shouldn’t worry! I think you need to sleep more.”

“Right.” Sleep will help, sure. Nothing like closing your eyes and falling into constant nightmares to help alleviate the physically painful reality of the day. This conversation was a terrible idea. Stiles feels sort of detached now, though, and the constant stabbing pain in his abdomen has been numbed by tragic unhappiness, so, like, yay for that. “Right, well, I should go. I have to be at Cal’s in a half hour.”

At the name, Scott’s mouth twists. He says, “I don’t understand why.”

Stiles sighs and says, “Yeah, buddy, neither do I.”

*

Two days until the full moon, and Stiles feels like something’s eating his skin from the inside. Like all his seams will burst open, spilling a monster out all over the floor. He thinks about Jackson and how he turned wrong, turned out worse, and wonders if he’s going to even see a wolf on the other side of this.

It’s much more likely that Stiles will be an abomination, and the thought of that makes him want to shred the flesh off his bones and find out now, so it won’t be a surprise.

His blue eyes, he gets. There’s a darkness on his soul, a foul blot of unnatural death, sacrificed to save his dad. He lets Cal and Trix and Lainey think the blue is for a much more sinister reason. It’s double-edged. They leave him alone—Cal, with a thread of anticipation, Lainey, with curiosity, and Trix with wary fear—and then they leave him alone.

He’s a pack animal with a pack that isn’t a pack. He’s paranoid and lonely by turns. He knows, he knows, deep down, that Cal is delighted by this. He thinks: god, what if Cal turned him just for the perverse pleasure of putting him down.  It’s crazy in a way that isn’t crazy. As the moon starts to exert its pull over Stiles, he can even see how clearly it’ll happen.

Stiles’s loss of control. Maybe he kills someone, maybe it’s just almost, but a feral can’t survive—can’t be expected to survive. Stiles could be torn apart, and nobody could say he didn’t deserve it.

Time ticks slow, and Stiles watches the shadows stretch across his floor from midnight to morning, taking jerky, harsh breaths and digging his claws into his palms. Blood drips on the floor, pooling on the hardwood, and the dawning sun makes it gleam.

One more night to go.

*

His phone buzzes on his way out of his last class. It’s startling. It hasn’t rung in weeks—Stiles calls his dad like clockwork, with forceful cheer so he doesn’t worry, and no one in Cal’s pack ever bothered to ask for his number.

He stares at Derek’s contact for too long and blinks, like coming out of a fog, when the phone stops vibrating.

Immediately, it starts again, this time with Scott’s name.

He answers it with a low, “Hey.”

A lull, and then Derek’s voice says, “Stiles,” and Stiles’s heart tries to climb up his throat and out of his mouth.

All his words are swollen and stuck; it’s an effort just to breathe.

Derek says, “I’m sorry to bother you,” formal and polite and gruff, like Stiles is a stranger.

Stiles’s breathing sounds ragged to his own ears, and he slumps down onto a bench outside the library, curling his head in between his knees.

Derek is saying even more words, something about the preserve and death and Lydia, and Stiles thinks yes, this, they need me, and forces himself to focus on the halting way Derek says, “So can you?”

Stiles swallows hard and says, “Can I what?”

Derek sighs noisily. He says, “Did you hear anything I said?”

“Uh, yeah,” Stiles says. He slowly unfurls, straightens, ignores the curious looks of other students passing by. “Of course.”

“So you’ll send me Lydia’s notes,” Derek says flatly.

Lydia’s notes. The parts of the bestiary, he guesses, they’d been working on last month. Before this shit storm happened. They’d been delving into the fae end of the supernatural pool, exchanging long-distance research notes while she was on the east coast.

Stiles says, slowly, “I can do that.”

After another long silence, Derek says, “Are you… okay?” and Stiles almost laughs. Almost gives in to hysterics, because Alpha Derek Hale, who didn’t even have to pause and think about it before rejecting him, wants to know if he’s okay. Jesus Christ.

Stiles is pretty sure his, “Why wouldn’t I be, dude?” comes out high and strung-out, panicky, but Derek only sucks in a harsh breath and hangs up on him.

Of fucking course.

Stiles digs the corner of his phone into his cheekbone and tries not to cry.

*

In the end, his first full moon experience is kind of anticlimactic if he discounts the way his bedroom looks like the scene of a murder. A murder where someone got torn apart by a hacksaw. He’s probably never getting his security deposit back.

Honestly, he makes it through the night mostly intact by the skin of his teeth, with an anchor of pure stubbornness. A great big fuck you to Cal and to Derek Fucking Hale and to Lainey, who won’t stay in any room alone with him.

Cal seems openly disappointed, and doesn’t really take Stiles’s word for it until he scours the news for any reports of maulings. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here, but Stiles doesn’t know how to make it stop either.

He’s weak-limbed and hollow-eyed, hungry, even though he knows he’ll throw up anything he tries to choke down.

It’s okay, Stiles wants to tell him. He’s pretty sure stubbornness makes a lousy anchor—he doesn't think it’ll last.

Cal shrugs off his disappointment for another few weeks of lounging all over Stiles, though, whenever he tells him to come over.

Little things like this confuse him, make him feel like he’s slowly eroding away, and he still wakes up in the middle of the night with screaming pain in his insides, puking up black bile all over his comforter, and the thing is: Stiles still doesn’t know. He can think ‘wolf,’ but he only really knows predator. He could be an alligator for all the damage he’s done. His beta shift’s an eye flash, and even lizards have claws. He’s too weak with anxiety to even drop a fang. Who the fuck knows what actually showed up on the full moon to rip his mattress apart? He wasn’t exactly lucid enough to look in a mirror.

He thinks about texting Lydia, asking what she thinks, but in the end he doesn’t do anything at all. She’s been sending him increasingly passive-aggressive emails, and he’s been ignoring her texts. He doesn’t know what to say to her.

The second month starts out rough, but not rougher. There’s nothing that he hasn’t already faced—he feels vaguely ashamed, being shuffled to the edge of Cal’s pack with a kind of numb acceptance that he never would have stood for with Derek. It’s shock, he thinks. One month, two months… eventually he’ll snap out of it. One morning he’ll wake up with his old energy, exercise his sarcasm again, like relearning how to swing a bat.

A week in, and Scarecrow Jim pokes him in the belly, says, “Wake up, man. It hurts to look at you.”

“Huh?”

Jim has blown pupils and the angular cheeks of a starving dog. He leans in close to Stiles and says, “Your wolf is going to eat you alive.” It feels, for a long, slow, moment, like he’s looking into Stiles. Can see under his skin to whatever monster is lurking behind his heart. Jim widens his eyes and says, “Accept or it’ll kill you.”

Cal slaps the back of Jim’s head. “That’s not how it works, ass-munch.” But then he turns a scary, anticipatory grin on Stiles and says, “Accept. Or I’ll kill you.”

“Right,” Stiles says, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Cal flicks out his claws, razor sharp, and lets red bleeds into his irises. He’s a bull of a wolf, stocky and broad, thick neck and thin-lipped, toothy grin. “Oh, I think I’m much scarier than whatever internal battle you’re fighting, dude. I don’t care if you shift into a kitten.” He cocks his head, assessing.

Stiles thinks: does he know about the Beacon Hills kanima?

Cal blinks and says, “Let’s see how full moon number two goes, shall we?”

Trix says, “Meow,” with a mocking cat-scratch.

Stiles just hunches his shoulders and says, “Okay.”

*

Full moon number two falls directly before winter break. Stiles ends up mostly blissfully unconscious for it, thanks to snagging a baggie of Scarecrow Jim’s special weed, but he wakes up in a pool of blood. Assuming it’s his own, all his wounds seemed to have already healed. His throat feels like he’s been screaming all night, and there’s a note pinned on his door when he drags himself out for class—a noise complaint, a reminder of his pet-free housing agreement, and two red x’s, like he’s a contestant on Family Feud. He gets the implication. Crumpling it up in his fist, he jams it into his pocket and tries to figure out if getting evicted out would be a blessing in disguise.

Derek words—you can’t come back—play over and over in his head as he slowly makes his way to class. Derek doesn’t own Beacon Hills. Stiles is going home for break, he’s getting the fuck out of here, at least for a couple weeks, and Derek can go fuck himself if he has a problem with it.

Scott says, “Hell yeah,” later on skype, but the smile on his mouth doesn’t reach his eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Stiles says.

“No, it’s just,” Scott shakes his head, “Pack stuff. Derek being a dick. We miss you.”

Stiles’s hands feel cold then blazing hot, like frostbite. “Really?” He flexes his fingers over his knees and leans forward.

“Of course, man,” Scott says, stoic and sincere.

Stiles nods slowly, fighting off the urge to demand exactly who is we. “If Derek—”

“Not Derek,” Scott says quickly, and Stiles’s heart plummets into his stomach.

“Right,” he says. “My flight comes in at two.”

Scott sighs and says, “Good,” and, “I’ll pick you up.”

*

Restless nights are par for the course, but the thought of going home make the morning seem brighter. He ignores the bruises under his eyes—tries to avoid his reflection altogether—and shoves all of his clothes into a bag, dirty and clean, when he rolls out of bed at dawn. Coffee is a hot burn of acid to his insides, but he downs three cups anyway. After a handful of dry Captain Crunch, he stuffs his toothbrush and toothpaste into a sandwich bag and debates going to the airport now, just to wait in the lounge for five hours. He’s even thinking about filling a baggie of cereal to take with him when the door handle of his front door rattles—he listens, half-paralyzed, to the slick snick sound of a key entering a lock.

And then—

“All right, blue eyes,” Cal says, sweeping into Stiles’s apartment, door banging off the wall before he slams it shut behind him. He slaps his hands together and stares at Stiles, poised in the archway between his tiny kitchen and barebones living room.

Stiles clenches his jaw, but doesn’t move. Fuck. He’d almost made it out of there without Cal knowing—he’d have paid for it later, maybe, but in the mean time he’d have been home.  “What?” he says.

Cal’s thin lips spread into a closed-mouth smile. He takes in Stiles’s bags on the sagging, worn couch without a single change in expression and says, “Time to earn your keep.”

Earning his keep turns out to be, uh, torture. Murder? He’s not sure, but it looks bad.

“Uh.” Stiles backpedals into the doorway of Cal’s apartment, but he’s stopped from fleeing completely by Trix gripping his arm. “No way.”

Cal shows his first sign of irritation and impatience, squaring his shoulders, a furrow appearing between his eyebrows. “Listen, Stilinksi, you’ve been seriously lacking in the entertainment division—” which Stiles takes to mean he hasn’t been providing them with enough out-of-control feral wolf rampage throw-downs, “—the least you can do is take care of this guy for me.”

‘This guy’ looks like he’s about to piss himself, kneeling between two of Cal’s faceless betas.

“No,” Stiles says again. Trix twists his arm a little, digging her fingernails in hard enough to pierce through his shirt.

Cal practically pouts. “He’s been sniffing around Lainey. I don’t like his face.”

“I’m not your werewolf minion,” Stiles says. “I’m not going to kill someone for you.”

“Kill, maim,” Cal waffles his hand, like either of those things is okay. “Although we do have to maintain some secrecy here, and this little fella definitely saw your eyes flash. Really, it’s the only responsible solution.”

“You’re insane,” Stiles says. “You’re certifiable, dude.”

The jitter of irritation in Cal’s body gives way to a furious calm, and the hair on the back of Stiles’s neck stands straight up. He swallows down a reflexive whimper when Cal lifts a single, damning eyebrow at him. Stiles used to think that was sexy, when Derek did it. God.

“Well,” Cal says, “now you’re good for nothing.”

Trix snaps his arm before Stiles can even blink, a pained howl tears from his throat, and the last thing Stiles registers coherently is Scarecrow Jim’s somewhat apologetic face before he slams his fist into the side of Stiles’s head.

*

Stiles walks like an old man: cautious, with bones that hurt, a limp in his step that’s hard to completely hide. Scott takes one look at him, standing on the sidewalk outside baggage claim, and freezes. Stiles can see the careful smile on his face for what it is: a sorry attempt to cover worry, shock, confusion, and helplessness.

Stiles feels only a little gratified. See, Scott, he thinks. See what happens when you don’t take care of your toys?

He shakes it off easily, though, because he’s not Scott’s and this wasn’t his fault, anyway. It’s not anyone’s fault but his own.

He tries to say the words don’t worry, I’m not going back, but he doesn’t know if they’re true.

Scott hugs him, careful and soft.

Stiles says, “For fuck’s sake, I’m not broken,” and tugs Scott closer, arms tight around his back. He’s not sure if those words are true either, but Scott doesn’t call him out on a lie.

He says, “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Scott pulls back to raise an eyebrow, wonky smile not quite there. “Really?” he says.

Stiles pats his shoulder and says, “I just need a nap.”

Scott’s got his mom’s sensible Honda and drives like he thinks Stiles is going to fall apart on a sharp turn, but Stiles doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t say anything when Scott goes through the Sonic drive through to get milkshakes and fries, and he doesn’t say anything when Scott takes five minutes to parallel park in front of his house, and Stiles has been so used to not saying anything for months that he doesn’t realize it’s his fatal mistake.

Scott turns off the car and says, quiet and serious, “I’m not going to bug you about this. But I’m going to tell Derek.”

“Uh, no,” Stiles says, horrified. “You can’t—”

“And I’m going to tell your dad,” Scott says over him, voice flatly calm. “And we’re all going to sit down and talk about what the fuck has been happening to you since September.”

Stiles’s mouth, which had been hanging open, snaps shut with a mutinous scowl. “No,” he says.

Scott stares at him sadly, but doesn’t argue.

Stiles hunches his shoulders and tries not to think about the fact that Scott will probably tell Derek and his dad anyway. Finally, he sighs and says, “Just, uh. Give me a couple days.”

“So you can work yourself up into a panic?” Scott says.

“Man, I don’t think I could feel any worse than I do now, okay? A few days.” He holds out his hands. “And then I’ll tell my dad myself.” He doesn’t mention Derek. He doesn’t want to actually see Derek. He knows it’ll be kind of impossible with his month-long break, but he’s going to give it a try.

Stiles lets himself into the house under the watchful eye of Scott, who doesn’t drive off until Stiles flashes the porch light at him. Stiles’s dad isn’t off-shift yet, so the house is eerily empty. It’s also devoid of anything remotely food-like—what has his dad been surviving on?—so he makes a command decision, grabs the keys to his baby—he’d missed him—and heads to the grocery store.

Of course, command decisions aren’t always the best ones. He finds himself leaning heavily onto the cart as he trolls the aisles, but he’s focused enough to pick up meat, various veggies, Lucky Charms, Pop Tarts and a pineapple.

Not the greatest selection, but it’s better than the pizza his dad is probably expecting to order. He feels beat up, literally, and tired beyond all possible belief, and it’ll be a miracle if he actually manages to cook something for dinner before passing out.

Check-out is a blur, and he’s almost to the car when he hears a laugh. An Erica laugh, distinctive and vicious, and he very carefully slows his cart, automatically drawing himself into a tighter, less noticeable form.

Stiles sees Derek before Derek sees him, which would be fortunate if all of Stiles’s limbs didn’t immediately freeze in place. Derek is grinning at Erica, head ducked, sporting a soft-looking beard and an equally soft-looking Henley. Jesus. He’d forgotten how to handle the full force of Derek-in-person, and how once upon a time Stiles thought he could be in love with him. Like, for real. How stupid could he be, right?

And Stiles himself might be less noticeable, but good old Roscoe is locally famous, and it seems like Derek and Erica and Boyd have been waiting for him. Crap.

He’s still standing there in the middle of the parking lot when Derek glances up and over at him.

Derek frowns, a line forming in between his handsome brows, and Stiles somehow coaxes his feet into moving. Thank god for the cart and the way it’s basically stopping him from falling over.

Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles watches Derek jerk his head at Erica and Boyd before walking purposely toward Stiles’s jeep. He really hopes this isn’t some kind of keep out of my territory shit, like Stiles was supposed to remember his pack manners and announce his presence to the alpha in his own damn town.

Derek meets him at the back of his jeep and says, “You look sick.”

“Yeah, well, sorry we all can’t be constant dazzling displays of manly hotness,” Stiles says, half-heartedly.

Derek’s brow wrinkles even more. “What does that have to do with being sick?”

“Honestly, I have no idea.” Right now he wants to go home and lock himself in his childhood bedroom and sleep for at least a week. Maybe two. He’s not even hungry anymore.

But then his body, which has held on so desperately over the past few months, finally decides to fully betray him. He grimaces at the intense stabbing pain in his gut, hitches a breath through raw airways. “Shit,” he says, hoarse, and then he throws up blood all over Derek’s shoes.

*

At some point, embarrassingly enough, Stiles must pass out. He wakes up in his own bed, with Scott sitting up next to him, Stiles’s shoulder pressed into his hip.

Stiles groans and his entire body throbs, like one huge stubbed toe, but he feels surprisingly better than he did before.

First things first, Stiles thinks. “How did I get back here?” The last thing he remembers is the glaring fluorescent light of the grocery store and Derek’s horrified expression.

Scott says, “Derek carried you.”

Awesome. And humiliating. He covers his face with his hands and groans. Of course that happened.

“Stiles,” Scott says, placing a hand on his arm, “you don’t... smell right.”

“No,” Stiles says, voice muffled. He’s not surprised. He doesn’t feel right, either. He takes a deep, watery breath, drops his arms to his sides and says, “You can come out now, creeper wolf.”

Derek slinks into the room from the hallway. His eyes flash red and Stiles grits his teeth and absolutely does not bare his neck. Goddamnit.

Scotty scowls at Derek and then gives Stiles a strained grin. “Okay,” he says. “I need you to tell us exactly what’s going on.”

“It’s not a big deal,” Stiles says.

Derek growls. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Scott’s eyes narrow. His, “Stiles,” is full of disappointment.

Stiles shrugs against his pillow. “Apparently I’m just a super crappy werewolf. Who knew?”

“No way,” Scott says with no hesitation.

Derek looks furious.

Stiles fights off the urge to shrink back and says, “What?” defensively.

“Nothing,” Derek says. He clenches his jaw so hard Stiles thinks his teeth might crack, and then he silently stalks from the room.

“Well,” Stiles says to no one, defeated. “Okay.”

Scott says, “Stiles, tell me,” and Stiles says, weakly, “You know he’s probably still listening in, right?”

Scott just stares at him with his best puppy-dog eyes, because he knows Stiles is defenseless against them.

He deflates into the mattress and says, “Okay, so, I think I might be dying.”

Scott doesn’t believe him. It’s there in the careful nod of his head, the loosening of his grip in Stiles’s covers. He says, “Tell me what happened.”

Stiles takes a deep breath and, to his utter horror, starts crying.

It’s a good long ugly cry in between spilling out bits and pieces of Stiles’s entire craptastic semester at school, of Cal and his pack, of puking up black goo and blood and bile, of barely passing his classes—he tells Scott that he’s thinking about dropping out, but he’s got nowhere else to go.

Scott wraps his arms around him and presses his cheek into the top of his head and murmurs, “I don’t get why you even wanted this in the first place.”

Stiles snuffles and half-chokes on snot and tears and says, “What? Want what? To be bit by some random douchebag in a bar? To be kicked out of Derek’s pack? Yeah, who wouldn’t want that, right?”

Scott’s arms tighten, mashing Stiles’s face into his chest. “Stiles,” he says, voice hard. “Do you—do you mean you didn’t ask for it?”

Something crashes downstairs, like glass shattering, and Stiles tilts his head so his forehead is digging into the meat of Scott’s shoulder. “Why would I fucking ask for this? Ever?”

“I thought—” Scott relaxes his hold. “I thought maybe you’d found some, uh, people you liked better.”

Stiles snorts. He says, “I love you, Scotty, but sometimes you can be really dumb.”

*

Stiles doesn’t know if it’s his old bed, the comforting scent of his dad and Scott, or just being a couple hundred miles away from Cal, but Stiles sleeps like a rock. When he finally drags himself conscious again, he feels marginally better—less strung out and weak-limbed, and he can tell that most of his bruising is more than halfway healed. Finally. He’s hungry, but his stomach still feels raw, and he has to scrub dried blood out from around his nostrils when he showers.

Somehow, he’s unsurprised to find Derek sitting on the edge of his bed when he gets back to his room.

Derek’s implacable gaze dips to Stiles’s bare chest and then up again. He says, “We could do this one of two ways. I can give you the bite.”

Stiles hitches the towel around his waist, grits his teeth against the immediate yes, fuck, please that wants to spill out of his mouth—locks his knees against just dropping to the floor right in front of him.

Derek’s eyes narrow, like he’s able to read exactly what Stiles is thinking all over his face. Hell, he probably can.

Stiles straightens his back and ignores all his screaming muscles.

“Or,” Derek continues, red bleeding into his irises, a tiny, vicious tick to his jaw, “I can go rip out your alpha’s heart.”

Stiles doesn’t know what it is about that that has him blinking back tears, but one second he’s standing by his bedroom door and the next he’s climbing onto Derek’s lap, wrapping arms around his back and hitching uneven breaths into his neck.

Stiles says, “He’s not my alpha,” and for the first time it sounds true.

Derek slides careful hands up his sides, curls one over his nape to tuck him closer and says, hoarse, “I know.”

*

Clad in soft sweats and a worn t-shirt, Stiles cups his hands around a hot mug of coffee that he has no intention of actually drinking. He says, “Let me get this straight. You thought I wanted to be a werewolf, but not your werewolf.”

From behind him, Derek drops a weighty, comforting hand on the join of Stiles’s neck, but his voice is still gruff when he says, “You thought I’d kick you out just for being one.”

“Hey!” Stiles tries and fails to flail out of Derek’s grip, tipping his head back to glare up at him. “I was the one bleeding all over my bathroom floor and freaking out, thanks.”

Derek growls and Stiles can’t help his involuntary flinch. Derek is halfway across the room from him in an instant, flashing him wounded, worried eyes.

“Sorry,” Stiles says, slumping down in his seat.

“No,” Derek says. “No, we shouldn’t be arguing about this. I’m sorry.”

Stiles opens his mouth to say don’t worry, and it’s not your fault, but he just snaps it shut again, teeth clicking. He stares down at his coffee and thinks about how he’s never completely felt his wolf, not really. How he doesn’t remember full moons, and feels like his insides are eating their way out.

“Derek,” he says, embarrassingly small and scared, “what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing,” Derek says. He holds his hands up and out, approaching him again slowly, like Stiles could ever be legitimately afraid of him. “I already told you. We get rid of your old alpha, and you become mine.”

Stiles ignores the thrill those words send down his spine and says, “Will that fix me?”

“You don’t need to be fixed.”

“Fucking—” Stiles throws his hands up. “Stop bullshitting me, Derek. There’s something wrong. Am I…” He swallows hard. “Am I gonna be like Jackson?”

He tries. He does. He closes his eyes and pictures his possible wolf—lanky, like him, with big paws and big teeth. Reddish or brown fur, probably. It all feels so separate and foreign, though, and he’s getting a headache.

“Your body isn’t rejecting the bite, Stiles,” Derek says, and when Stiles opens his eyes again he’s hunched down in front of him, one hand on the table, the other hovering over the curve of Stiles’s cheek.

Stiles laughs, a harsh, wounded sound. “Have you seen me?”

“Yes,” Derek says, looking at Stiles like… like Stiles isn’t falling apart. “You’re just rejecting your alpha.”

The constant ache in his abdomen balloons sharply, and then fizzles out like a sparkler. “I guess I have good instincts,” Stiles says, nearly breathless with the immediate lack of pain. It’s a miracle, he thinks, and then he registers the warmth of Derek’s palm on his face and the black lines winding up his arm. Oh.

Derek says, so soft it’s almost a whisper, “Do you want me to bite you?”

“That’s a loaded question,” Stiles says, and delights at the smile that blooms across Derek’s face in response.

“We’re going to make this right,” Derek says.

Stiles hooks a hand around Derek’s wrist and says, “Yes, okay.”

*

Scott insists on taking Stiles to see Deaton.

Stiles agrees, giving Derek a tired smile. “No offense, big guy,” Stiles says, patting his arm, “but I’d rather hear that I’m not on the verge of death from a medical professional.”

“He’s a vet,” Derek says flatly.

“A werewolf vet,” Stiles says, and watches Derek’s mouth tighten when Stiles adds, “Which I am now.”

Derek says, “I’m sorry,” again, expression pinched, and Stiles says, “I know.”

Deaton squeezes him into his schedule in between a havanese and an enormous orange tabby with only a little censure. And then Stiles sits on the cold metal table in a back room, swinging his legs, and lets Deaton poke at him and shine a light up his nose and press his hand onto places all over his stomach while Stiles winces and Derek kicks up a constant mild warning growl in the background—it makes Stiles feel sort of warm and fuzzy, and makes Deaton twitch his eyebrows in amusement.

Stiles clears his throat and says, “Derek doesn’t think I’m rejecting the bite.”

“You aren’t,” Deaton says. “Or rather: you didn’t.” He peels down Stiles’s bottom eye-lids and has Stiles track his finger and Stiles is eighty percent sure Deaton is just fucking with him with half this stuff.

Deaton finally moves back with a sigh and a contemplative frown.

Stiles says, “Tell me why I can’t feel my wolf. That’s why I’m not healing fast enough, right?”

“I believe this is simple self-preservation, Mr. Stilinski,” Deaton says. He holds out his hands. “Mind accepts new alpha, heart and body do not.”

“How does that translate to my body killing itself?” Stiles says, incredulous.

“You were experiencing high levels of anxiety and panic attacks, almost certainly gave yourself an ulcer, coupled with a repressed wolf and abuse from your alpha, not—” he holds up a finger as Stiles opens his mouth to protest, “—necessarily always physical. Whatever accelerated healing you experienced was counteracted by any number of these factors.”

“You speculate,” Stiles says, nodding slowly, and Deaton shrugs, snapping off his latex gloves and tossing them into the trash can.

He says, “Safety, freedom to express yourself, and a marked lack of terror should do wonders.”

“Right,” Stiles says. He hunches in on himself a little, feeling strangely chastised, even though none of this was his fault.

Derek moves to stand in front of him, arms crossed. He says, “Are you satisfied now?”

Stiles shrugs and says, “At least I should be okay. So, uh, when does the biting commence?”

“Somewhere not here,” Derek says, which is reasonable, even though Stiles is getting more and more anxious the longer they go on without doing it.

Like Cal will show up out of nowhere and try and stop them. Not that he would. Not that he probably even expected Stiles to come back after what happened, right? He’s kind of useless.

“Hey,” Derek says, dropping heavy paw on his shoulder, voice soft and concerned. “You okay?”

“Peachy.” Stiles forces a grin, and Derek frowns down at him but doesn’t push.

Scott turns away from a hushed confab with Deaton and says, “So, like, not that I’m condoning violence, but can we also beat the shit out of this other alpha?”

“Scotty,” Stiles says, mock scandalized, a hand to his chest.

Scott smiles at him. He says, “I mean, we don’t have to, but it would probably make me feel better.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” Derek says.

Scott nods amiably. “It wouldn’t, but maybe it would make Stiles feel better.”

Stiles swallows his immediate yes and really thinks about it. Would it make him feel better to know that Derek’s pack—his pack—has broken a few dozen of Cal’s bones, maybe made him bleed internally for a few hours? Yes. Yes, it would.

Stiles gives them a thumbs-up and says, “Go for it.”

Derek narrows his eyes and loosens his arms, leaning hands onto the table on either side of Stiles’s hips, and says, “Would you like to help?”

“While that is a very fine offer,” Stiles says, “and I reserve all rights to change my mind, I don’t think I ever want to see that asshole again in my life.”

“Fair enough, bro,” Scott says, and then leans in to give Stiles’s entire head an octopus hug.

*

They go to Derek’s loft. Stiles feels a little itchy entering what is still technically another pack’s den, but he pushes through it. In another hour or whatever it won’t even matter. Sure.

Stiles’s fingers twitch nervously and he shoves them through his hair, and then the door is closing behind him and Derek is stalking toward him purposefully and Stiles freezes with one hand up, the other clutching at the front of his jacket.

“Uh…”

Derek’s eyes glow red and his fangs drop and Stiles backpedals before he can think better of it, spine hitting the back of the sofa.

Stiles says, “So we’re just doing this? No lead up, just full on—”

“Show me your eyes,” Derek says.

“I’m not so sure—”

“Stiles.”

It’s not like it’ll be a surprise. Hell, it probably won’t even be a deal breaker, given the color of Derek’s eyes before he leveled up. He still doesn’t want to do it. Not before Derek can’t change his mind.

Stiles screws up his mouth and tilts his chin and glares at Derek until Derek’s eyes melt back to hazel, softening his stance at the same time, curling his hands gently around Stiles’s arms.

Derek says, “It’s okay. It’s fine. Show me.”

Stiles stutters out an uneven breath, closes his eyes and says, “Nope.”

Hands leave his arms. One slides down to shackle his wrist, bringing it up to flatten against Derek’s chest. The other touches his face so lightly Stiles jerks back, hitches a shoulder up to rub at the ticklish tingles it leaves behind.

Derek’s grip around his wrist tightens a little, and then the fingers are heavier on his cheek, moving swiftly across his head to grip gently on his nape.

He’s quiet and steady in a way that weirdly calms all Stiles’s nerves, and his eyes flutter open without his say-so. Derek’s close, mouth pulled up in a half smile, eyes a serious gray-green.

“I don’t want to,” Stiles says. It’s a stupid show of defiance over something petty, but he’s pretty sure Derek will let him get away with it.

“Fine,” Derek says with a small dip of his head. “We’ve got plenty of time.” He relaxes his hold on his wrist to cover Stiles’s hand, threading their fingers together as he tugs it away from his chest.

Stiles swallows hard as Derek raises his arm. He says, “There?” voice embarrassingly breathy. Cal had bitten him on the ball of his shoulder, hard and painful, fangs sinking so deep it felt like he’d nicked the bone. His wrist is full of delicate muscles and tendons—he feels like there should be a less critical bite point, but all he can think of is, like, a thigh or his ass. Christ.

“Here,” Derek says, mouth losing all traces of a grin. “Ready?”

Stiles musters up some shaky bravado and says, “Sure.”

An eyebrow arch says Derek isn’t buying it, but he leans closer anyhow—he keeps his eyes on Stiles and Stiles holds his breath, watching as Derek’s sharp teeth hover over his pulse point. Shit. The waiting is slow and painful and Stiles thinks he might pass out from sheer anticipation.

He rasps out, “What the fuck are you wait—” just as Derek bites him.

It doesn’t feel like pain. There’s pressure and a buzzing white noise in his ears and the solid thump of his heart, but Derek isn’t a vampire, and he isn’t tearing into his flesh, like Cal did, and Stiles feels a sudden whoosh of euphoria through his body that grows and grows the longer Derek keeps his mouth in place, teeth careful in his skin, lips warm and damp.

“That’s… interesting,” Stiles manages, sagging against the back of the sofa. He really wishes he’d been sitting down for this.

He licks his lips and tastes salt and realizes he’s kind of crying. When the crying doesn’t really stop it gets really embarrassing. He swipes at his cheeks with his free hand and doesn’t even notice when Derek lets him go.

Derek says, “Shhh, it’s okay,” and Stiles slumps into his shoulder. Derek takes most of his weight and hugs him and the touching is truly bizarre and also wonderfully comforting.

Stiles says, “I think I need to sit down,” and Derek says, “You should stay here tonight.”

Stiles is too wiped to do anything but agree.

*

Stiles wakes up sprawled on top of a warm alpha werewolf feeling incredibly stupid. Oh god. It’s instantaneous—one minute he’s asleep, the next he’s hyperaware of all points of contact, and how his face is buried in Derek’s throat.

Derek murmurs something low, shifting underneath him, and Stiles scrambles backward in a stunningly uncoordinated movement of limbs. He falls off the side of the bed with a thump, and has to cover his burning hot face with his hands when Derek peers over the edge of the mattress at him.

“Okay?” he says.

“Yep,” Stiles says. “Yeah, sure, fine. Just gonna,” he drops his hands in favor of scuttling backward along the floor like a crab, “call Scott to give me a ride home.”

Derek’s face goes from sleepily amused to frowning to pretty much unreadable in two point four seconds. “Okay.”

“Yeah, I’m…” He takes a deep breath and forces himself up onto his feet by the doorway. “Thank you,” he says softly.

Derek sits up, dangles his hands off upraised knees. “Stiles,” he says. “You don’t need to thank me.”

Stiles chokes off a laugh. “Uh, yeah. I think I do.”

Derek opens his mouth and Stiles trips over his feet to get out of there before this ends up as some kind of conversation, god, and he throws, “See you later,” over his shoulder as he thunders barefoot down the spiral stairs. He grabs his shoes and hoodie by the door, dialing Scott before he even reaches the elevator.

He feels awkward and out of place and ignores the itch at the back of his neck, the stare of his alpha, as he begs Scott to come pick him up at—he checks his phone—six in the goddamn morning. Christ.

*

The first thing his dad says to him when he stumbles blearily into the house after Scott drops him off is, “Please tell me you’re not a vampire.”

It takes Stiles’s sluggish brain a long moment to remember he’s been home for three days and this is the first time they’ve actually seen each other.

He says, “I don’t look that bad.”

“Kid,” his dad says, hooking a hand over the back of his neck and reeling him in for a hug, “you look even worse.”

“I’m wounded,” Stiles says, voice muffled by his dad’s shirt, “that you would think anything less than incredibly handsome when seeing your only son.”

His dad sighs and says, “Are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?”

“Full moon problems,” Stiles says with as much of a shrug as he can manage. “You might need to get me a flea collar.”

“Dog jokes? At your own expense?” His dad steps back, one eyebrow arched. There’s a marked lack of surprise.

“Scott already told you,” Stiles says wearily.

He nods. “Scott already told me.”

“Are you mad?”

His dad looks sad and fond and cages Stiles’s head in his hands. “Never about something like this, kiddo.” And then he lets him go and says, “We’re going to have a serious conversation about lying by omission, though.”

Stiles groans, tries to hide his face, but ends up with his cheeks squished between his dad’s hands again.

“You realize I would’ve kicked Hale’s butt for abandoning you, right?”

Stiles nods. In retrospect, Stiles thinks Derek probably would have let him, too. “I’m okay now,” he says.

His dad shakes him a little. “For good?”

Stiles doesn’t know. Maybe? There’s still a yawning pit of emptiness when he tries to dredge up his wolf. He says, “Yeah, of course,” anyway.

“Good,” he says. “But if you still look like warm death by the end of the week, I’m siccing Melissa on you.”

*

Stiles doesn’t look like warm death by the end of the week, but it’s a close call. Struggling with decisions about college, avoiding Derek, eating his weight in pizza: all things he’s gotten well underway by the two week mark, when he’s got just about halfway to the next full moon.

“You know the only reason Derek’s letting you ignore him is because he feels bad,” Erica says, scaring the crap out of him as she swings through his open window. She cocks a head at his startled look. “Didn’t you hear me coming?”

Stiles could say of course, dude, but Erica would hear him lying. Ugh. He settles on making a face and spinning back around toward his computer.

Erica pokes him in the back of the head. She says, “You’re running with us on the full moon.” It’s not a question.

He shrugs and says, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” He was thinking about locking himself in the basement. From previous experience he’s mostly only a danger to himself, but he doesn’t feel like trashing his room either.

“It’s the only idea,” she says, this time really digging her nail into his skull. He ducks his head and glares at her, but she just smirks. “Derek may be letting you hide now, Stilinksi, but if you don’t come to him then, he’s probably going to just come to you.”

Stiles elbows her in the stomach to get her to back up, and ignores how ominous that sounds. “I’ll think about it.”

“See that you do,” she says, and then she’s slinking out the door with a breezy, “Hey, Sheriff,” for his dad.  His dad arches both his eyebrows as he peeks his head into Stiles’s room.

He says, “I didn’t see her come in.”

“She flew in like a harpy,” Stiles says, and Erica’s laughter echoes across the back yard.

*

It’s not that Stiles doesn’t feel a million times better.

He does.

He still looks pale and hollow-eyed when he looks at himself in the mirror, but he figures that’s probably just from the darkness that’s eaten away part of his soul. Blue eyes, gaunt face; it’ll just make him even more of a horror show when he finally figures out his wolf. That has to be a thing, right? Accepting, becoming one with his ragey half. There’s a part of him that thinks he should probably ask Derek for help, but he mainly never wants to embarrass himself in front of him again. The whole crying and sleeping all over him thing had been only slightly humiliating.

The smart move here would be to just nut up and stop avoiding everyone, but instead he decides to do the exact opposite—he’s on the edge of Beacon proper, just inside pack territory, filling up on gas and Cheetos, when everything goes to shit.

He hears the crunch of multiple feet on gravel, but doesn’t outwardly react. It’s a miracle he even notices, with his senses still being out of whack, but it’s stone quiet and half past midnight, and the bugs are less noisy this late in the season.

His shoulders tense up as Cal and then Trix and Scarecrow Jim come out of fog and darkness and corner him—he’s trying not to panic, but he’s on the ass end of town, avoiding pack and being stupid, and he hasn’t figured out his senses or shift yet, so this is going to be bad. Not panicking doesn’t exactly work.

“What are you doing here?” Stiles asks, trying to subtly maneuver the jeep between them.

Jim slumps against the side view mirror, blinks sloe eyes and gives Stiles a slow, toothy grin.

Trix is all manic energy and clicking claws.

Cal has his hands in his pockets, legs apart, standing the furthest away from Stiles. He gives him a shrug. “What,” he says, “you didn’t think I’d notice?”

“Frankly, dude, I didn’t think you’d care.” Stiles tries inching his phone out of his pocket, stepping around the hood.

Cal looks mock thoughtful for a moment, head cocked. Finally, he says, “It’s more about appearances. Can’t have the rest of the flock fleeing, can I?” He strolls forward, nudging in between Trix and Jim. “Examples have to be made.”

Stiles wants to run, but he doesn’t think he’d get very far. Instead, he says, “This is Hale pack territory.”

“You say that like it matters,” Cal says, scratching absently at his jaw. “The once great and mighty Hale pack, reduced to awkward teenagers and a dude with a chip on his shoulder. I don’t know, I think we could take ‘em.” He arches an eyebrow at Jim. “Jimmy?”

Trix cracks her knuckles. She lunges forward with a snap of her teeth, and Stiles flinches back and drops his phone onto the pavement as she stops short and cackles. Shit.

“Now,” Cal says, grinning, “why don’t you just—” He cuts off abruptly at an echoing howl. Scarecrow Jim slowly straightens up from his slouch.

Trix, still wearing a manic grin, says, “Are we going to rumble?”

One howl morphs into multiple ones—they’re rough and angry and worried, and Stiles feels a tingle down his spine. His gums itch and his eyes feel hot and he rolls his shoulders through a low growl, an unfamiliar rumble in his chest. Huh.

Cal’s amusement fades with each heaving breath Stiles takes. His wolf is large and angry in his head, and Cal’s eyes widen like he can see that. Can see how much Stiles wants to take him apart with blind rage.

It’s frightening. How it hits him solidly, all at once. He squeezes his eyes shut and growls through his dropped fangs, “Run.”

Cal forces a laugh and rocks into a fighting stance, Trix and Jim flanking him, and says, “You think I’m afraid of you? You think you can take me?”

“Maybe not,” Stiles says. He jerks his head toward where Derek is loping across the asphalt, sleek and vicious. “But he can.”

*

It’s almost comical, the way Cal begs Derek not to kill him and scrambles to limp out of town, tail between his legs. Trix has an exposed bone jutting out of her arm, passed out in a patch of grass where Cal up and left her, and Scarecrow Jim ghosted as soon as the rest of Stiles’s pack showed up. Satisfying, even if Erica’s miffed nobody died.

Derek says, “I didn’t kill him because Scott would have sulked all month.” He’s unabashedly naked, and Isaac throws a pair of sweatpants at his head, cackling about Stiles’s delicate sensibilities.

“Probably,” Scott says with an unconcerned shrug, but he’s got blood that isn’t his on his mouth, making him look deranged when he smiles.

Erica claps Stiles’s shoulder and says, “Look at you, all fangs and claws and no eyebrows. Ready to be a wolf yet?”

Stiles shrugs, cheeks hot, and tries to avoid looking directly at Derek. “Thanks,” he says to the night sky. “For, you know.”

Jackson kicks at Trix and says, “Man, those guys were assholes. What do we do with this one?”

Derek says, “We were assaulted. I think she needs to be in lock up.”

Stiles finally jerks his gaze to Derek and finds him staring at him intently. There’s just as much blood on Derek as there is on Scott, and Stiles doesn’t know whether to find that endearing or not.

Derek says, “You want to call your dad?”

Stiles nods and says, “Thanks,” again, this time to his face.

Derek looks worried for half a second before his expression drops to bored and bland, like he didn’t just nearly rip another alpha werewolf in half. He says, “You good?”

Stiles opens his mouth to say, yeah, sure, but ends up saying, “Not really,” instead. Fuck. Please don’t cry again.

And then motherfucking Boyd pulls him into a bear hug and Stiles gives in and buries himself in Boyd’s solid chest. Stiles has never been a recipient of a Boyd hug before—it’s both awkward and fantastic, considering Boyd has about a foot on him all the way around.

Boyd says, “If you come to the next pack meeting I’ll make lasagna,” and Stiles manages to get out, “Done,” while still nose-deep in Boyd’s admittedly sweaty t-shirt.

“Now,” Derek says from behind him, and Stiles feels a warm hand on his neck as he peels himself off Boyd, “you call your dad and I take you home.”

“I’ll call him,” Scott volunteers, and Derek nods at him, “All right.”

Stiles, suddenly exhausted, lets himself be maneuvered away from Boyd and tucked up into the passenger side of his jeep.

It only takes a minute for Stiles to realize Derek isn’t really driving him home, but he doesn’t say anything. Derek doesn’t say anything either, and while that isn’t exactly unusual, Stiles is pretty sure Derek is angry.

He amends that to possibly-furious when he leans over Stiles to pop his door open at the loft and says, “Out.”

Stiles scrambles to obey, then waits on the curb, arms hugged around his chest. He stumbles a step backward as Derek stalks toward him, but makes himself stop and straighten up and hold still. He says, “I’m—” sorry is on the tip of his tongue when Derek plasters himself up against him and shoves his face into his neck. Huh.

Derek says, breath hot and body shuddering, “Are you done hiding now?”

“I thought…” He brings tentative hands up and around Derek’s back. “Are you mad?”

God.” He squeezes Stiles until he squeaks.

“I’ll take that as a no,” Stiles says, and ignores the wetness at the corners of his eyes.

“I’m so fucking mad,” Derek says, and Stiles pats his back and says, “Right.”

“You’re a dick,” Derek says.

“Uh, well.” Stiles has had a traumatizing life experience, but okay, yeah. Regularly, he can be kind of a dick.

Derek pulls back from him and scowls and says again, “Are you done hiding?”

“Probably not,” Stiles says. He sniffs and shrugs of Derek’s grip and rubs the back of his hand under his nose. “But I guess you can always come and find me. If you want.” He feels hot all over and Derek’s chest is still super close to his chest and there are all sorts of smells he hadn’t noticed before: wet pavement, dead leaves, pine needles, sap, soap and mint. His wolf is simmering, and he can hear the front door bang shut on a house five blocks away. Cool.

Derek looks resigned and tired all over and he ushers Stiles toward the building doors with an, “Upstairs. Now,” and Stiles just nods okay.

*

Stiles stands awkwardly in the middle of the loft while Derek disappears into the kitchen nook. He toes off his shoes and thinks about how comfortable the couch looks, and how he can smell orange juice and can hear Derek’s heart beating nice and steady and it just makes him want to slump into himself and go to sleep.

Derek says, “Sit,” from the other room, and Stiles makes a face and says, “You’re being awfully bossy.”

Appearing in the doorway, Derek scowls and says, “So don’t sit. Stand there until you pass out,” and then he shoves a glass of OJ at him on his way by.

Stiles takes a sip and says, “I could sit.”

“Yeah,” Derek says, and Stiles can hear the rolls of his eyes in his voice from across the room.

And somehow all that translates into Stiles and Derek snuggled under a blanket watching reruns of NCIS. Stiles ends up with his head on Derek’s shoulder, legs curled up and knees pressing into Derek’s thigh.

Halfway through the second episode Stiles yawns, fiddles with the ends of the blanket, and says, “How did you know?”

“Hmm?” Derek is slumped all the way down, head tipped back. He rolls his head to the side to blink sleepily at Stiles.

Stiles nudges his side. “How did you know? Tonight? That I needed you?”

Derek’s face goes soft and fond. “I’ll always know,” he says.

Stiles nods slowly. “Because you’re my alpha.”

Derek’s face pinks a little. “Sure.”

“Derek Hale,” Stiles says, narrowing his eyes. “Are you lying to me?”

Derek’s face pinks even more, and a small, tired smile tugs at his mouth. “Can’t you tell?”

It’s not a lie, maybe, but it also doesn’t seem like it’s the full truth. Stiles says, “I don’t know what to do with that.”

“Nothing,” Derek says ruefully, then reaches out and squeezes Stiles’s hands. “Do you want me to take you home?”

“No,” Stiles says. He doesn’t have to even think about it.

Eventually they move from the couch to the bed, and Stiles tells himself it’s not weird unless they make it weird. Stiles strips down to this boxers and t-shirt, Derek opts for pajama pants with no shirt, and it absolutely does not make Stiles’s hands sweat, nope.

Stiles doesn’t get under the covers until Derek does first, and then he sinks into the mattress so exhausted that the awkwardness doesn’t even register anymore. He’s warm and sleepy and Stiles curls up with his face mashed into the middle of Derek’s back.

*

Stiles stares at his hands cupped around his coffee mug and watches his claws flick out and in again in fascination. He says, “This is pretty gross.”

Derek huffs, but Stiles can tell he’s amused. He slides a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon just off to the side of Stiles’s arm. “Full moon is in a little over a week.”

Stiles hunches his shoulders and says, “I hope I remember it this time.”

A heavy silence falls, and when Stiles glances up from his mug Derek has his head in his hands, deep breaths making his whole body shudder.

Derek says, soft and careful, “You don’t remember the other ones?”

Stiles forces a shrug and says, “No big deal.”

“Right.” Derek’s eyes look watery and sad and oh god, if Derek starts crying about this, Stiles is going to go lock himself in the bathroom for the rest of the day. He says, “God, Stiles, I’m sorry.”

Stiles throws up his hands and says, “Stop fucking apologizing, okay? It happened, it sucked, but I’d really like to move on.”

“I was being a jealous asshole,” Derek says, ignoring him, hands clasped in front of him like a worried little old lady. “I was hurt, and I have no excuse, and I just hope maybe someday you can forgive me.”

Stiles glares at him and says, “Derek, we’re moving on.”  It’s not forgiveness, exactly, because Stiles isn’t really in a place where he can see how this is Derek’s fault. Logically, he knows he should blame him, he’s been angry and hurt for months, but there’s sort of this numb pall over everything right now, and he’s pretty sure he has to gain some distance before they can hug it out for real.

Stiles can see the exact moment when Derek goes from over-concerned worrywart to alpha with a plan. Despite everything, it’s nice to see that confident set to his shoulders, and his wolf instantly responds—content, safe, eager.

Derek says, “All right,” and, “Today we’re going to work on your control.”

*

Apparently working on his control means running around the preserve like a madman. When they crest a hill that looks down on a narrow creek, Stiles pauses to take a breather and pull dead leaves out of his sneaks.

He slants Derek’s glistening chest a glance as he comes to a stop next to him and says, “How is this helping my control?”

Derek rolls his shoulders. “How do you feel? Tired?”

“Yeah.” Stiles shifts back and forth on his feet, muscles aching. His t-shirt’s clinging to his back and his hair is damp with sweat. He mainly feels hot and gross, even in the chilly December air.

“But not exhausted,” Derek says, almost smug.

Stiles makes a face. “Not yet.”

“Okay.” Derek does a quick series of stretches that Stiles tries to imitate, and then gives up halfway through.

He leans into a tree and swipes his forehead with his arm—a beam of sunlight cuts through the trees, falling directly across Derek’s broad back as he bends at the waist. God. He needs water.

And then Derek looks up at the sun, hand hovering over his eyes, and says, “All right, let’s head back. Another five miles and we’re done.”

Stiles groans but straightens up and shakes out all his limbs. “I’m gonna have a cheeseburger the size of my head when this is done. And fries. And at least three milkshakes. Can we order pizza?” His stomach is a cavernous pit.

Derek grins at him over his shoulder. “Maybe. If you beat me back.”

*

Stiles does not beat Derek back to the loft. Obviously. And then it becomes a thing. An exercise thing, where Derek works him until he’s dead on his feet and then lets him curl up on the loft couch in between a bunch of giant hairy wolves.

“Shouldn’t we talk about shifting?” Stiles says. “How to sprout fur 101?”

Instead, though, Derek has him describe smells, listen for bird calls, and even out his heartbeat as their miles rack up, and soon filtering out all the extra sensory input becomes second nature, as easy as breathing, and Stiles stops at the crest of the same hill he has every single damn day for the past week and says, “Son of a bitch.”

Derek is grinning at him.

“When did you get good at this shit?” Stiles says. He’s pretty sure Derek taught the other puppies how to change by just throwing them into stuff. “Can I learn how to shift now?”

Derek clasps his shoulder and says, “First let’s get you through tonight without killing anyone.”

Stiles’s body tenses; he presses his mouth together and stares at his now-ratty shoes.

“What?” Derek says.

“Just,” Stiles shrugs without looking up at him, “don’t think that was ever a problem.”

“What do you mean?” Derek says, voice low.

Stiles lets out a slow breath. “Look, I don’t remember, all right?” The full moon nights were mainly a blank, afterwards, just impressions of pain and fear. “But I never had to lock myself up with more than the flimsy chain across my apartment door, and I always woke up bloody and alone.”

He lets the implication hang—he never really liked thinking too hard about that, anyway.

After a long silence Derek clears his throat and says, hoarse, “Okay.” Very carefully, he reaches out and slides an arm around Stiles’s shoulders, drawing him in until he’s pressed up against him in a loose hug.

Stiles’s hands come up almost involuntarily to clutch at Derek’s back. “It’s—”

“If you tell me this isn’t a big deal I will rip your throat out with my teeth,” Derek says.

Stiles lets out a watery laugh. He asks, “Can I be a wolf now?”

“First lesson,” Derek says into the side of Stiles’s head, “you already are one.”

*

The afternoon and evening aren’t exactly pleasant, but Stiles is worn out from running, muscles aching instead of itching, and it’s the first full moon he’s not actively dreading. The whole pack shows up for dinner, brimming with extra energy—Erica almost breaks the coffee table wrestling with Jackson, and Stiles can see Malia and Isaac scuffling on the balcony.

Stiles sits at the kitchen counter, picking at bowl of mac and cheese and says, “Should I be locked up?”

Derek looks up from the sink and frowns. “Do you want to be?”

Stiles scratches his throat and says, “Not really? But, like, are we going to run? Am I going to rage-eat baby forest animals?”

Derek’s mouth blooms into a slow smile. “Maybe.”

“That’s not amusing, big guy.” He jabs his fork at him. “What if I eat Bambi?”

Scott drapes himself all over Stiles’s back and says, “I ate a raccoon.”

“That isn’t even a food animal, Scott!” Stiles says. He turns wide, horrified eyes on Derek again. “What if I eat a non-food animal? Like a dog?”

Derek flips a dish towel over his shoulder and leans into the counter. “I’m not gonna let you eat a dog, Stiles,” he says, smirking.

“Promise?” He holds up his hand. “Pinky promise?”

Derek eyes him like he’s crazy.

“Don’t leave me hanging, Derek.” He wiggles his fingers. “Pinky promises are sacred.”

“For five year olds,” Derek says, but he holds out his pinky and wraps it around Stiles’s. His smirk softens and his eyes are fond. “Pinky promise. Now, cats, on the other hand…”

Stiles twists their hands into a full grip and then leans forward to punch Derek’s shoulder. “Asshole,” he says, and Derek goddamn giggles. It’s bizarre and it makes Stiles’s chest warm and he clears his throat, trying not to stare too hard at Derek’s mouth. Crap.

Erica bounces up like a toddler and says, “Can we go yet? Can we?”

Derek glances toward the wall of windows; a deep purple bruise is spreading over the horizon. He arches an eyebrow at Stiles. “You ready?”

Stiles doesn’t think he’ll ever actually be ready, but he nods okay, anyhow.

They drive to the preserve, four cars in a procession, Stiles riding shotgun in Derek’s mom mobile. They drive right into the sunset, some next-level symbolic bullshit that makes Stiles’s grin, even if all his limbs are starting to feel like they’re on fire. All the zen crap he gained from daily exercise and steady breathing got left behind in the loft, and he has to pry his claws from the door handle when they finally park.

Derek says, “You’re going to be fine. You’re doing good. Trust yourself,” with one hand firm on his shoulder as he stumbles out of the car.

Stiles makes a face and says, “Stop talking. Do we have to get naked?”

Erica whoops from somewhere behind him.

“You don’t have to,” Derek says as five extremely naked bodies go streaking past them, “but you’d probably ruin your jeans.”

*

Stiles doesn’t make Derek turn around. Somehow, admitting that he’s not totally comfortable in his skin when everyone else is perfectly fine with stripping would make him feel even more exposed. It’s cold, especially without the sun for company, but he makes sure to stand up straight and tall. Derek’s gaze doesn’t dip below his collarbone, and his small smile doesn’t waver—like he’s proud of him. Stiles pretends that doesn’t make his eyes burn a little.

Full dark creeps in so slow Stiles hardly notices it. Instead, he sees the flare of red in Derek’s eyes, and hears the howls in the distance.

In the moonlight, he watches the steady rise and fall of Derek’s bare chest, sees the way his canines flash when he grins.

Derek could change in an instant. His head tilts like a curious dog, probably listening to his betas scampering deeper into the woods. Stiles knows he’s waiting for him—open stance, no pressure.

It makes something wild burst open in him, and then next thing he knows he’s eye-height with Derek’s crotch. He yips and backpedals and Derek slumps over in bright, loud laughter, hands on his knees.

He says, “Stiles, Christ,” and then wipes his eyes with his palms and straightens up and grins wide at him and says, “Look at you.”

Stiles dips his head and sees too-big paws. He cranes his neck around and sees a fluffed up tail and a haunch that needs scratching. He rubs his nose against a knee and sneezes. Awesome.

By the time he’s done inspecting every inch he can reach, a big black wolf is sitting there, watching him with an expression that can only be described as smug. He gets to his feet when the beta’s howls grow closer, watching Stiles as he backs up toward the tree line. He yips when Stiles still doesn’t move to follow.

Finally, Stiles takes a tentative step, leaves rustling under soft paws. It’s weird. He opens his mouth and licks over his nose.

Derek snorts, then tilts back his head and howls.

Stiles echoes him automatically, then cuts himself off midway through, startled. Huh.

Derek dances back again, this time giving the trees a pointed look.

Stiles sighs, sniffs the air. He smells fox, stagnant water, pine sap, and a host of other unfamiliar and familiar scents, ones he’s only known as the woods after rain. He’s going to start a log, he decides. He’s going to figure out how to distinguish every one.

When he starts paying attention with his eyes again, Derek has disappeared. He takes another big breath, telescopes his ears, and doesn’t feel afraid. He knows exactly how he can find him.

*

Stiles has never felt anything like it: pain free and exhilarated, alert yet exhausted. He shovels an enormous bite of pancake in his mouth and grins with his mouth full across the table at Jackson.

Jackson says, “Classy, Stilinski,” and Stiles salutes him with his fork, getting syrup all over his nose.

He wipes it with the back of his hand and doesn’t care that he’s basically just making even more of a mess. He feels fantastic.

“Is it always like this?” Stiles asks.

Erica grunts at him with her face flat on the table.

Isaac has a coffee mug clutched with white-knuckled fingers under his chin, eyes at half-mast.

Boyd hasn’t even made it off the pile of blankets on the couch yet.

Scott’s the only other one with just as much energy as Stiles, apparently, and they bump fists over the table in solidarity.

Derek slides another plate of fluffy pancakes on the table and says, “Eat up.” He’s shirtless in an apron, threadbare sweats hanging precariously off his hips and frankly spectacular butt.

Stiles toasts his orange juice to it as he walks away.

Jackson gives him a baleful look and says, “You’re in way too good a mood today. Did you hump a log out there in the forest?”

Stiles spends a half-second feeling self-conscious before shrugging it off.

Erica slaps a sleepy hand at Jackson’s face and says, “Don’t be an asshole. It’s baby’s first full moon.”

“Technically, it really—” Stiles clams up when Derek appears next to the table again, one eyebrow arched at him. “First full moon,” Stiles says, nodding while an approving grin spreads across Derek’s unfairly handsome face. “Got it.”

“Shut up,” Boyd groans from his couch cave. “God, just shut up. Can someone drag me to the bathroom?”

The come-down hits Stiles after he’s finished another stack of pancakes. He goes from vibrating livewire to pile of mush so quick he stumbles as he gets up from the table. He immediately goes for Boyd’s abandoned pile of blankets and snuggles in.

It’s another three or so hours before the pack starts to clear out of the loft, but Stiles doesn’t move from his position on the couch.

He says, “Let me die here,” eyes closed, blanket pulled over his head like a hood. The cushions dip beside him and Stiles glances over to find Derek staring at him. “What?”

“Nothing,” Derek says, then reaches out to squeeze Stiles’s knee. “You did good.”

“I did, didn’t I?” Stiles says, grinning tiredly.

Derek grins back and turns away, but Stiles can see the way the tips of his ears go pink. Huh. “So I guess I should….” He trails off, then starts to let go of Stiles’s leg.

Stiles stops him, grabbing onto his fingers loosely. “Wait.”

Derek arches an eyebrow at him. “What wait?”

“God, I don’t even know,” Stiles says, and then he tugs Derek’s hand up and presses Derek’s knuckles under his chin. “Do you?”

Derek’s mouth is soft and he slips his hand from Stiles’s grip only to cup a palm around his cheek. “Not really,” he murmurs, and then he leans in and kisses him.

Stiles flails and internally panics for a second or five, despite the fact that he basically initiated the face touching. It’s still a shock, maybe, to find out that Derek actually wants to put his mouth on his mouth. That that is a thing that is currently happening.

Or not, since Derek’s pulling away, brows furrowed, and Stiles has to grab onto Derek’s face to keep him close.

Stiles says, “This is a bad idea.”

“Oh.” Derek blinks, but doesn’t fight out of Stiles’s hold. “Okay?”

“This is going to end horribly,” Stiles says, but slowly brushes his nose up against Derek’s.

“I’m capable of making good decisions,” Derek says, sounding mildly affronted. The apples of his cheeks flash up, though, like he’s smiling, and Stiles focuses on the cute little crinkles at the edges of Derek’s eyes.

Derek is capable of making terrible decisions, Stiles’s situation a case in point, but there’s been enough apologizing for that. Stiles doesn’t really want to bring it up right now, when all he really wants to do is crawl into Derek’s lap and use him as a pillow.

Stiles equivocates with, “Sometimes you’re okay,” and then follows up with a soft press of mouths, Derek tensing underneath him like he didn’t actually think Stiles was going reciprocate.

And then Stiles pulls back, grinning, and Derek shakes his head on a slow smile. One second they’re staring fondly at each other like idiots, the next Derek is reaching into Stiles’s cuddle pile. He scoops Stiles up at the waist and gets up off the couch in one smooth movement, leaving Stiles to yelp and clutch onto the back of his shirt as he’s hefted over Derek’s shoulder, tangled blankets dangling from his hips.

“Crap,” Stiles says, nearly breathless.

Derek says, “I’ll show you a good decision, Stilinski.”

Stiles huffs a laugh. “That wasn’t actually a challenge, but I’m not going to complain.”

*

“C’mon, bro, you can do this!”

Stiles glares at Scott, but Scott just buries his hands in Isaac’s scruff and grins.

Everyone but Scott and Stiles has their fur coats on, sprawled out in the sun flooding through the large loft windows. Derek has his head resting over Boyd’s back, watching him.

Stiles hasn’t changed outside the full moon yet. He’s managed a beta shift, so yay progress, but the thought of consciously pushing himself into a wolf makes him tense up in anticipated pain.

Scott squeezes his arm. “It only feels weird for, like, a minute.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles says, making a face. He’s seen every single one of their bodies crack and reform; it looks both grotesque and terrifying. The only problem is that the puppy piles look amazing, and also Erica will probably make fun of him for the rest of his life if he can’t get this down.

He squares his shoulders and takes a deep breath.

Scott says, “Picture your wolf in your mind,” and cocks his head, squinting. “Kinda scrawny and scruffy, but, like, with a mean edge? Like you’d fight really dirty if you had to.”

“Gee, thanks,” Stiles says, and finds himself picturing Wile E. Coyote instead. “That really helps.”

Scott claps his back.

Stiles closes his eyes and thinks: feral dog, possible mange, big teeth.

Miraculously, it fucking works.

He’s never felt anything like it, but Scott’s right: it doesn’t actually hurt.

Bad news, he forgot to take off his pants. Man, he really liked those jeans. He kicks off the ripped remains of denim and—aw, crap, his Hulk boxers. Damn it.

Scott looks like all of his dreams came true, though, and he drops to his knees and throws his arms around Stiles’s now-furry neck. “See, easy!” he says.

Stiles huffs, but leans into the hug anyway.

And then Scott says, “Okay, me next,” and lets Stiles go to start stripping off all his clothes. Stiles gets a snout full of Scott-crotch and sneezes—so gross, dude.

Derek woofs softly to get his attention, and Stiles perks up and pads over on his stupidly big paws. He’s over twenty, shouldn’t he already be filled out? Derek licks at his muzzle when he’s close enough, then tugs on an ear and whines while Boyd, long suffering, rolls onto his side to make room for Stiles to snuggle in.

Erica bares her teeth at him from Derek’s other side and Jackson mule-kicks the side of his face with a back paw, accidentally on purpose.

Stiles snaps at him.

Scott bounds over and jumps on top of his back.

Somehow Stiles ends up underneath a huddle of wolves, the tip of his nose touching Derek’s. It’s grounding in a way he didn’t expect, the last of his anxiety slipping away. He’s sleepy and warm and not alone and he closes his eyes, content.

Wolfy kiss, he thinks, as Derek licks under his jaw, and falls asleep.