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The One with the Bros

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Stiles figured it was about time he took a serious look at his life choices.

Douchebag witches were trying to suck the life out of his friends, more douchebag witches were chasing him through the preserve to stop him from stopping that happening, it was only Monday, and he had work in the morning.

And these witches weren’t just douchebags like his phone was a douchebag when it froze up and he had to pull the battery, they were actual douchebags. They were frat boys from UCLA. Stiles had heard their two lookouts seriously debating beer pong vs. flip cup right before they saw him sneaking through the woods, and one of them was wearing a UCLA tank top in November.

Stiles had never seen a wild Great American Bro this far north in California; it was a little exciting when he took a step back from the fact that they were trying to kill Scott and Derek for power.

But as exciting as douchebags in the wild were, there he was, poor life choices and all, running through the preserve with two hulking bros tearing after him down an overgrown path. They were strong and had too many muscles for what they probably used them for—keg stands and Facebook during class—but he knew these woods and he knew how to run from a fight.

It’d taken a few years for his fight or flight reflex to factor supernatural strength into the equation, but by now he could pretty accurately scope out when staying to fight would be beneficial and when it would just end up with his leg in traction. Again.

This fight in particular: a limb in traction, possibly a concussion, and a serious hit to his self-respect.

Besides, he realized as he burst into a clearing, he had enough on his plate with the crowd of bros all staring at him in shock like he’d just busted into their frat house in their rival school’s colors and loudly insulted their masculinity.

Which, to be fair, he kind of did. They’d set up their ritual in a clearing far from the road in the middle of the preserve, somewhat near the nemeton and far away from anywhere a misguided nature enthusiast could wander through, and then some guy in a Berkeley shirt they’ve never seen before skidded in on damp leaves. He could understand their momentary confusion and anger, and took the frozen beat of silence to take in the situation.

Scott and Derek were sprawled on the forest floor, pale and unmoving, enclosed in a circle of mountain ash. Chanting off to the side somewhere resumed, the frat bro witches actually performing the life-and-power-sucking ritual, and somehow they managed to make Latin sound like the douchiest language in existence. Stiles ignored them for the moment. He was entirely focused on getting to that fucking mountain ash circle and getting his boyfriend and best friend the fuck out of it.

He didn't make it, unfortunately, because right then the bro arguing in favor of flip cup launched himself at the back of Stiles' knees in a running tackle, bringing him down hard and knocking the wind out of him, followed quickly by Beer Pong throwing himself down on Stiles' back like a pro wrestler, elbow first. The only thought Stiles had upon impact with his ribs was: beer pong does not require this kind of muscle.

Purely on instinct, Stiles threw his free elbow back, catching the guy in the side of the face in a lucky hit, and wow, that felt like cracked ribs.

The bro responded by wrapping his arm around Stiles' throat and pulling him back in a solid chokehold. For some reason, the main thing his mind zeroed in on in that moment was the fact that there was still a stamp on the back of his meaty hand from whatever club he'd been partying at the night before. Huh, he was under 21. Stiles threw his head back with as much force as he could get in such an awkward position and heard the crunch of a broken nose, but the bro didn't let go. Jesus, his forearm was huge.

Breathing was getting a little difficult and wheezy; the bro's arm was like solid rock, and with one of his own arms trapped under his body and his body trapped under the bro, Stiles couldn't do a damn thing to make it budge. He could feel blood from the bro’s nose oozing down the back of his neck. His shirt was officially ruined.

Fuck, he was actually going to get killed by a fucking bro—a bro Liam’s age for fuck’s sake—and all he could do was stare at Derek's unconscious body through his encroaching oxygen deprivation and wonder why the fuck he'd hesitated just too long when Derek asked him to move in with him.

It wouldn't even be a big change in his life, moving in with Derek, he was already there six out of seven nights a week. There was more space, Derek had the nice refurbished old house in the woods and not a crappy apartment that probably had a black mold problem. Constant access to Derek was a plus, as was the better mattress. He had excellent water pressure, all of his electrical outlets worked consistently and hadn’t shocked Stiles once (which was more than he could say about his own). Plus there was the whole living with Derek who he was kind of crazy about thing.

Which was also part of the problem, the whole living with Derek who he was kind of crazy about thing. If that didn’t work out for some reason, if some deeply held, horrible habit of Stiles’ suddenly was revealed and everything fell apart, what the fuck would happen then? Their lives were pretty solidly entwined by that point, and potentially losing that was—well, it was fucking terrifying in a way that getting crushed in a chokehold by a bro wasn’t. It wasn’t just his life, it was their life and their possible future. It was unpredictable, unplannable, and for a guy who liked to plan…

Okay, a guy who liked to overplan to an unhealthy extent, he could admit it—though he would never admit to the entire wall of pros and cons he’d written out and obsessed over for days before taking any kind of first step with Derek. The only reason he hadn’t dragged it out for a week of terrified procrastination was Scott coming over and threatening bodily harm if he didn’t take a shower, get out of his apartment, and give Derek an answer (apparently Derek had been just as much of a nervous wreck about the whole thing, and it was setting all the other werewolves on edge). So this whole next step thing, cohabitation/a step further in permanently (hopefully) tying their lives together, suddenly being sprung on him with no room to plan? No possible escape routes? Fucking terrifying.

Yeah, so they’d unofficially been living together for a while now, slowly creeping up to it without ever mentioning it happening, but then his lease was coming to an end in his crappy apartment and Derek had to go and officially ask him to move in, and the last week had really just been Anxiety City.

Ignoring that constant fear of taking the next step had been a lot easier when the next step had just kind of slipped in underneath them without them noticing. If it became official, then it was—well, official. And official had the potential to fall apart in a much more spectacular and much more permanent manner than unofficial.

This was what Stiles meant with the questionable life choices thing. Frat bro witches were a thing that existed, one was choking him out, his ribs were probably broken, Scott and Derek were seconds from death, and his mind decided that listing the pros and con's of his future living arrangements should he not die within the next few minutes was the top concern at that moment. That was a pretty poor choice concerning his life.

He didn’t have time to pick apart his cliched commitment issues, he had to save Scott and Derek or his commitment issues wouldn’t really be an issue anymore. There wasn’t anyone else coming to help them, no one knew where they all were; the girls were all off camping together, Liam was still away at school since it was the middle of the semester, and Stiles stupidly hadn’t bothered to tell his dad because who the fuck had ever heard of frat bro witches.

Also, Stiles had already done his undergrad! He’d done his time—he was supposed to be done with frat bros, not pinned underneath one having his windpipe slowly crushed! He called absolute bullshit on this entire situation.

The bro that had tackled his legs finally got off, assuming his bro could handle one guy in a chokehold, so Stiles did what he did best and flailed. He wasn’t trying to break out of the hold, there was no way he could get enough leverage at this angle, but he managed to shift the dude’s weight just enough to get his other arm out from under his body. He flung it out towards the circle of mountain ash, focused everything he had left on one point, and flicked out his fingers as a burst of something raced through his veins.

He’d never been able to accurately describe how it felt; it was somewhere between the tingle of a chill through his body and the shooting pain of hitting his funny bone on the edge of a table top. He also hadn’t gotten around to deciding whether he enjoyed it or not, but he was pack emissary, so it didn’t really matter because it would be happening either way.

The circle broke with an anticlimactic puff of ash directly in his face, followed by a significantly less anticlimactic rushing change in pressure as the spell fell from its confines.

There was a moment of stillness during which the douchebag brigade realized how screwed they were right then, and then they all started yelling and running around, probably trying to salvage their operation. The bro on Stiles’ back tightened his hold further and yanked him back in a direction his back really wasn’t supposed to go, and shouted out a warning as the now-free Scott and Derek blinked awake.

They were recovering quickly with the circle broken and the douchebag witches panicking instead of chanting—with good reason, there were two pissed off werewolves no longer restrained by magic, and one was an alpha with a reputation for not losing (Derek’s reputation...well, it was a good thing he was so pretty).

Said alpha stood up with gleaming red eyes and an aura of power that turned even Stiles on a little bit, and someone off to the side yelled, "fuck this, bro, I'm out!"

Smart bro.

Meanwhile, Stiles was slowly being choked out by a douchebag twice his size and things were looking a little too black and fuzzy. Any kind of black and fuzzy was too black and fuzzy, but now it was becoming an issue. There hadn’t been enough pressure to really restrict his breathing before, the bro had mostly just been holding him there, but it was getting hard to focus on Derek’s calves right in front of him, and they were really nice calves, so that wasn’t reassuring.

It was a cruel twist that as emissary he could defend himself against all kinds of supernatural horrorfests without so much as a bruise, but the average human meathead could still punch him in the face no problem. As soon as this was over and his definitely broken ribs healed, he was finally going to take up some kind of fitness regimen that extended beyond binge eating for days and then running for his life.

He should at least throw in a few lunges. Fitness included lunges, right?

"A little help, guys!" He finally gasped out. The words barely made it past the forearm firmly lodged in his throat, but Derek’s furious blue eyes snapped over like Stiles knew they would. He really just had to blink and the forearm was wrenched back around the way it had come and the weight on his back rolled off with the sickening crunch of broken bones and dislocated joints.

He collapsed forward onto the ground, sucking in lungfuls of beautiful oxygen between harsh coughs and then regretting not being dead when his ribs made their discomfort known in the worst way possible all along his left side. Death sounded like a pretty good alternative now that he wasn’t legitimately on the verge of it. He pushed himself over onto his right side, then gave up and let himself flop the rest of the way onto his back. It hurt—a lot, he had to shut his eyes because looking at things made it hurt more, or that’s what his pain-riddled not-logic told him—but it felt better than lying directly on his ribs.

A bro screamed a very high pitched Shia Labeouf scream and Derek snarled above him—he had a very distinctive snarl—before taking off after someone. Farther away, Scott roared, his deafening alpha roar that always made Stiles’ teeth rattle, and another someone peaced out with a “motherfucking fuck this!”

“Fuck you, Donny, you piece of shit motherfucker!” A bro yelled after him. “You’re out of the house, bro!”

It was really kind of funny and a dream come true, witnessing a douchey frat house fall apart around him. He wished he could stand back and truly take it all in, take notes, or maybe a few pictures as it happened, but there was the whole brawl going on around him, which he should probably participate in at least a little to say he tried.

In a second.

In just a minute.

Wow, the ground was comfortable. He was probably better off just staying where he was. The bros were technically human and twice his size; emissary tricks wouldn’t do much to them besides maybe give them a bad headache an hour later, and they would still be able to beat him into the ground until that time. Scott and Derek could handle them no problem. They were strong and attractive, they were fine.

Footsteps pounded past his head and continued right on into the woods, away from the action. Another bro deserting his douche platoon. What a shame.

More footsteps came towards him and he braced himself for another bro to run past. This was getting amazingly entertaining. He could probably make a game out of it since he didn’t actually plan to move any time soon.

“Stiles? Stiles!”

“Whoa,” Stiles blinked in shock a few times when instead Derek’s face suddenly appeared right above him, eyebrows worried and bro blood on his neck. He wasn’t wolfed out anymore though—hence eyebrows—so something must’ve started going right.

“Are you alright?”

Stiles took a breath with every intention of answering, but that just set off a round of loud and painful coughs because right, crazy strong chokehold. Derek’s amazingly warm hands gripped his face—god, that felt nice in the chilly November weather—moving down to his throat with a careful and light touch as more coughs ripped through him. His ribs were actually on fire. It was just a blazing inferno of pain all up his left side. This was the end.

He eased his eyes open when it finally calmed down (so, not the end), staring up into Derek’s fantastic eyes and blinking stupidly.

“Hey, you okay?” He asked again, biting back a worried smile.

“I don’t know, are my ribs still in my body?” Stiles croaked out. He wasn’t one hundred percent sure of the answer, so he kept his gaze firmly fixed on Derek’s fantastic face until he found out.

“For all intents and purposes. Can you stand?”

“I’d rather not.” How did his voice still sound that terrible?

Derek just grinned and easily levered him up before he could tell him just how bad of an idea that was. Surprisingly, it ended up being a pretty good idea; Derek took most of his weight and kept his torso as straight as possible. It wasn’t completely painless, but it wasn’t a raging inferno of death either. Just a small brush fire. Small favors.

Derek laid his warm hand gently just under Stiles’ jaw and tilted his head back to look closer at his throat. If there was any kind of bruising coming in, it wouldn’t be visible for a while, but that didn’t stop him from checking. Once he was satisfied that Stiles wasn't about to drop dead, he nodded to himself and pulled him in to press his lips to his temple. Neither of them were all that keen on PDA, their intimate moments were for them alone and they were both still pretty awkward about it, but every once in a while it was something that really just needed to happen. Like right then.

Derek raised his eyebrows, silently asking if he was really okay, and Stiles nodded before stepping away to stand with Scott. The bros all crowded together across from them, busted and bloody and thoroughly roughed up, some staring at them bitterly and two in the back were punching each other's injuries.

A bro in a Lakers jersey spit blood onto the ground, wiped his mouth, and fixed Stiles with the nastiest look he’d received this side of the Gorgon encounter.

“Let’s just take care of these fucking fags, finish the ritual, and get back to LA! I’m sick of this bullshit!”

Really? Breaking his ribs and trying to sacrifice his boyfriend wasn’t enough, now they had to take disappointingly cheap shots at their relationship too?

“Whoa, bro, not cool.” Beer Pong cut in before Stiles had even begun to come up with a snide comment. He held up the hand of his non-dislocated arm and sniffed up a glob of blood that was oozing out of his nose. His tank top was ruined. His fellow douchebags stilled, all looking various shades of disappointed at Lakers Jersey.

The lead bro in the Obey hat came up behind him and slapped him hard upside the back of his head.

“So not cool, bro.” He jabbed his slightly broken finger into Lakers Jersey’s chest, eyebrow raised to show just how serious he was. “We judge people not by who they love, but by the contents of their character and their Solo cup.”

Well that was heartwarmingly deep. Stiles felt oddly touched considering one of them had him in a chokehold not ten minutes ago.

“Unless the person they love is a fucking jack-off.” Flip Cup added, giving a guy next to him a significant look. The guy rolled his eyes. “Then we can judge them.”

“Yeah, bro, Ashley sucks!” Someone piped up from the back.

“Ha, nice!” Another laughed, and they high fived. A few others ooooh-ed and an empty red cup bounced off the burned bro’s shoulder. Where had that even come from?

Stiles was having trouble scraping together a reaction to what he was seeing; all he could really do was hold his side, blink at the crowd of college bros, and try to verify that this was, in fact, happening. Derek looked just as confused, so it was probably safe to say this wasn’t some kind of hypoxia hallucination. Scott also looked hesitant to act, his jaw hanging open and to the side; usually when someone was trying to kill them, they weren’t so...harmlessly douchey.

These guys weren’t Deucalion or Jennifer Blake or even Matt, they weren’t unstable and fueled by revenge, burning down everything in their path. They were the bros hanging out on the lawn of their frat house on game day, playing beer pong and trying to deep fry an entire animal carcass, and then passing out in a sea of red cups next to a kiddy pool of beer.

Except they had just tried to suck the life out of Scott and Derek and broken at least a couple of Stiles’ ribs, so they should be stopped like any other threat to their lives and territory...right?

It was hard to think about potentially killing a guy when he was currently psyching himself up to go clubbing in the city for his 21st the next night. Surprisingly hard. Stiles never thought he would have so much empathy for a dude in Shutter Shades.

Also, who wore Shutter Shades to a life-sucking ritual?

“What just happened?” Stiles whispered out of the corner of his mouth, and Scott turned to shrug at him. His bewildered expression was just that much funnier when he was still wolfed out with an underbite.

But seriously, what just happened. One second the crew of the USS Douchecanoe was intent on killing them all for power and the next they were all arguing over where they wanted to pregame for Schmidty’s birthday and hating on Ashley, whoever the fuck she was. Stiles knew bros could be easily distracted, but this was just ridiculous—maybe they would agree to take part in a study of some kind.

“Are we...done?” Derek’s eyes flashed blue, still on guard and not trusting what he was seeing at all. Stiles was right there with him. There was no way they were just stopping after all the trouble they’d gone to to kidnap two werewolves, one an alpha, and perform a complex ritual. They had to have a larger plan for all of this, witches didn’t just shrug off something like this, call it a day, and go home.

“There’s no way.” Scott turned back to the bros, who still showed no sign of even attempting to finish what they’d started. It was so casual and unsuspicious that it was suspicious. “Hey, are we going to…” He trailed off and gestured between them vaguely to signify either an altercation or sex. It was that vague.

Obey turned and just waved the gesture away with a stupid cocky grin.

“Yeah, I think we’re just gonna take off.”

Scott shifted like he’d been preparing to leap forward but stopped abruptly when the bro’s words sunk in. Derek just squinted at the crowd of bros like he took personal offense at the very idea. Stiles still just didn’t believe it.

“What...seriously?”

“Yeah, we gotta get back to LA.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the opposite direction of LA.

“So you guys are just leaving.” Stiles clarified. “Without what you came for or starting a small war to get it.” There was no way this was just ending this easily. He refused to believe it. “No murder or mayhem. Just…leaving.”

“Yeah, calm down, bro,” when none of them calmed down he sobered up a bit. “Honestly, you guys were the smallest pack near us and the most convenient.” He shrugged. “We all have to get back for class tomorrow, otherwise we would’ve gone for this totally weak-ass pack up in Portland—they’re fucking pathetic and total dicks.”

“No way, the Walton pack?” Stiles was intimately familiar with those dicks up in Portland. They could have those dicks up in Portland.

“You know ‘em? They’ve been totally shafting us with every agreement we’ve made and ignoring the terms. One of our bros almost got killed over the summer because they didn’t follow through on their protection agreement.”

“Yeah, those fucks can’t keep a deal to save their lives. Or yours. Help yourself. I could even give you their address if you need it, 7436 Evergr—” Derek clapped his hand firmly over his mouth

“What are you going to do to them, exactly?” Scott asked as he stepped forward, bringing their attention back to him and away from Stiles licking Derek’s palm like a five year old.

“It’s just a temporary power drain,” Obey explained douche-ily through his pursed lips, “just leaves them human for like a few days. Nothing permanent or life-threatening.”

Perfect. The Waltons were a fistful of hipster douchebags who only accepted and respected born wolves. They were dicks to Scott for being a bitten alpha and dicks to Stiles for being an emissary/human with too much sway within the pack, and dicks to Derek for dating a human. He would have to ask when the bros planned to do this; it would be really satisfying to go watch and then punch every one of those wolves in the face while they were technically weaker than he was. Petty as shit, but whatever. Stiles was far from above petty and he wasn’t even ashamed of it.

“Sounds good to me!” Stiles interjected as he pried Derek’s hand away from his face. “Have at it, tell ‘em I say hi. Actually, take a picture of my middle finger, and make sure to show it to them when you do it. Really make it clear who it’s from, too.”

“Stiles,” Scott interrupted quietly, “I think they get it.”

“We totally get it, bro.” He nodded towards the road where their two SUVs and the jeep were parked somewhat haphazardly and hopefully not ticketed, and the rest of the bros started trailing in that direction. A couple limped, there was a satisfying amount of blood visible, and three red Solo cups were left in their wake. Those cups were like the fairy dust of bros.

Scott fell into step with Obey, talking about leader-y things and probably trying to keep the hard feelings to a minimum. Scott was good at that, talking issues out quickly even if he was still secretly enraged about them. He would probably be BFFs with Obey before they parted ways. Stiles honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the pack got dragged down to Los Angeles at some point for some kind of frat party. He’d hate it with every fiber of his being, but he wouldn’t be surprised.

Stiles and Derek followed behind lazily, not really in all that much of a hurry to be back in the presence of bros anytime soon. Maybe if he dragged his feet enough, Stiles could make them so late that the bros would be gone by the time they reached the jeep. But that also meant leaving Scott alone with ten bros and no immediate backup, which was kind of a dick move, not to mention incredibly stupid, so Stiles kept moving as fast as he could without irritating his side too badly.

Derek raised his head just as someone came up from behind them, and it took a moment for Stiles to register that it was Beer Pong.

“Hey, uh, sorry about Marcus.” He said sincerely, the front of his tank top gathered up against his nose and shoulder at a funky angle. Stiles assumed Marcus was the bro who called them fags and then got shut down by all his friends. “He’s kind of a tool, we try not to let him out of the house much.”

“Try harder.” Stiles advised. The bro gave him an evaluating look; his pecs twitched as he thought. Stiles could feel Derek tense behind him, preparing for any form of attack, but Beer Pong just nodded.

“I like you.” He decided. “Sorry I tried to kill your boyfriend.” He clapped Stiles’ shoulder firmly, Stiles whimpered when it jarred his ribs straight into next week, and Beer Pong apologized again when Derek pointedly growled.

Stiles made it until he was out of earshot and back at one of his SUVs just in sight before he let out a not-at-all exaggerated dry sob and fell into Derek.

“That hurt more than anything in the world.” He complained into his shoulder.

“How about being shot?” Derek wondered mildly, and Stiles punched him in the side with no force behind it at all, mostly because that would’ve hurt him more than Derek.

“You don’t get to belittle my pain when you heal instantly. You can fuck right off.” Stiles’ grip on the back of Derek’s shirt ensured that wasn’t possible.

“Come on,” Derek guided him towards the jeep with a quiet smile, “let’s get you to the hospital before you puncture a lung or something.”

“Oh yeah, it’s going to be so much fun explaining this one to the ER staff. They already think I’m in some kind of Fight Club.” They’d also made Derek leave the room once to ask some uncomfortable questions about domestic abuse, and he looked like a kicked puppy for the rest of the day.

“Pick up football game got rough.” Beer Pong suggested from his perch in their SUV, shrugging his good shoulder. His tank top was now a glorified kleenex, balled up against his nose and completely stained forever. Stiles couldn’t help his lingering gaze; dude was ripped.

And was he...offering to give them an out? Help them?

Even Scott looked thrown, and he was the king of quickly burying the hatchet if it would keep everyone alive and not fighting.

“Hey, my arm is broken and I’m not popping this back into its socket. I’m not letting any of them, either.” He turned back towards his bros. “No offense, bros.”

“None taken, bro.” Obey nodded, eyebrow raised with gravitas.

“We also don’t know where the hospital is.” Beer Pong continued, head bobbing to the side with his confession. “My phone’s the only one that gets reception up here and it kind of broke in half when your boyfriend kicked my ass, so we don’t have GPS.”

Yeah, that sounded about right.

“Make it lacrosse and we’ve got a deal.” Scott agreed easily. Obey’s eyebrow dropped and the other took its place. That was literally the only visual cue to his confusion. “Between werewolves and witches duking it out in the woods and Stiles and I playing football, they would actually find the latter to be more unbelievable.”

“I don’t get you people,” the bro shook his head, then held up a crooked and swollen finger, “and by that I mean northern Californians.”

“If it makes you feel any better, we don’t understand you douchebags down south either.” Stiles rasped through a forced smile that was all teeth. God, even opening his own car door hurt.

Obey just turned his broken finger on Stiles in a jaunty point. “You’re funny. I like you, bro.”

Stiles just returned the point with absolutely zero sincerity then eased himself into the passenger seat, muttering bitterly, “Not even kidding, you’re all douchebags.”

He slumped over against the door, easing the pressure on his ribs and waiting for Scott to finish up talking to the bros in charge. He should probably have stuck around, made sure the bros weren’t kidding with all this and planning to jump Derek and Scott again the second they had an opening, but he was really sick of bros. It was a good thing he was done with college because if he even so much as heard someone mention flip cup or beer pong ever again, he was going to fucking lose it and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

It wasn’t long before Scott climbed into the backseat and Derek slid in behind the wheel. They idled for a minute while the bros arranged themselves in their SUVs, then all three vehicles pulled back onto the road towards the hospital.

They drove in relative silence aside from Scott on the phone with his mom to give her a head’s up, Derek keeping an eye on the cars behind them and Stiles trying to figure out what the fuck just happened.

Scott and Derek somehow got jumped by a roving gang of bros—okay, embarrassing, but believable to an extent. Stiles ran in to save their furry and well-toned asses—it happened more than most would assume—chaos ensued, and then abruptly stopped because a douche made a crack about Stiles and Derek being together, they realized they all hated the same pack...and now they were all in a caravan to the emergency room together.

“Okay, question, and I swear I don’t have a concussion this time—did the magic of our love and hatred of hipsters just avert all out warfare?”

“In a way, yes?” Scott’s entire answer was an upward inflection.

“Just checking.” Stiles closed his eyes and settled against the window, fully intending to check out until they got to the ER. But then he heard the quiet vibrations of Scott texting someone, which he normally wouldn’t be doing since he’d just gotten off the phone with his mom.

“Scott?”

“Yeah?”

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Yeah, nothing wouldn’t happen to be warning the Waltons about the bros, would it?”

“I’m just giving them a heads up, we’re not getting involved beyond that.”

“Scott, if your Steve Rogers righteousness costs me my one chance to get rid of those douchebag hipsters once and for all, I will—”

“They’re not going to kill them,” Derek interrupted mildly, “you’ll still have to deal with them eventually.”

“True, but let’s see how smug they are after living as puny, inferior humans for a few days. I hope they all get mugged.” He muttered bitterly, letting his head fall back against the window and closing his eyes. His adrenaline crash was hitting him hard and he was fucking tired. The very thought of sitting through an ER visit and x-rays sounded like an inner circle of hell, and he was reaching the point of preferring a potentially punctured lung to living through it.

He cracked an eye back open.

“You know, my ribs are probably fine, let’s just go home.”

Derek shot him an unimpressed look that clearly said fat chance, buddy, but Stiles was too tired and sore to come up with any kind of retort.

He just wanted to take a hell of a lot of painkillers, wash all of the dirt and blood off himself, curl up under Derek in their super scientific and comfortable bed, and completely check out of the world for at least a week. It was totally doable too; there was no way his dad would put him on duty with his ribs in their current state, so that took care of his next two days of work, and Derek worked from home anyway. They had those blinds that could block out a nuclear explosion, and if he whined enough, Derek would probably let him bring his laptop into their bedroom.

He didn’t know if Derek had gone grocery shopping in the last few days—they’d kept a cautious distance after Stiles hadn’t immediately jumped to move all of his crap in—but the owner of Thai, Robot totally owed them a massive favor so delivery was an option even though the house was basically in the middle of the woods, and Stiles had survived on a lot worse than Thai food during college.

“Hospital first, then we’ll get you settled at your place.”

Holy shit, his apartment. Well that was something of a revelation, realizing he’d become so comfortable and accustomed to staying at Derek’s that his mind had already decided it was the place to go when he felt all around shitty. He didn’t want to go to his crappy, cold, and probably infested apartment, he wanted to go home.

“No, home.”

“No, hospital, then home.”

Stiles really should’ve articulated that better, it was kind of a monumental moment in their relationship and his half-assed grunt had gone straight past Derek. So much for romantic brevity and swelling music and silent understanding eye contact.

“No, I mean—”

“Stiles, you had two hundred and fifty pounds of douchebag on top of you and that guy had you in a chokehold; we’re getting you checked out. A broken rib can easily turn into something more serious, and there’s no way you’re going to—”

“Derek!” He finally yelled, and Scott snickered in the back seat. The bastard knew exactly what was going on. “I’m trying to tell you I want to move in, asshole!”

Derek just stared for a long moment, glanced back to the road, then back at Stiles. There was no change in his expression and Stiles was starting to get nervous sweats.

“Like, permanently.” He clarified, because that hadn’t been the reaction he was going for and he really needed to break the sudden and heavy silence in the jeep. “I mean, if you haven’t changed your mind. You almost got the life sucked out of you by douchebags, I’m sure that could lead to a number of epiphanies about your life choices so I’d totally understand if you needed to move to like, Venice or something, I’ve heard it’s very relaxing and relatively bro-less.”

Derek just looked at him between glancing at the road, eyebrows drawn and studying Stiles' face with an uncomfortable amount of scrutiny. He probably didn't look like all that great a life commitment, slumped against the door and covered in a douchebag's bloody nose, probably with a number of chins given the weird angle his neck was at. He really thought they'd moved past the silent staring portion of their relationship.

"If you're going to Venice I could always renew the lease on my apartment..." He continued awkwardly and let it trail off in an opening for what he hoped would be Derek telling him he was an idiot for even suggesting it. Instead:

"Why would I go to Venice?" Great, he just flat out wasn't listening. “Do you want to go to Venice?”

"What? No—I mean, yeah, sure, it’s made out of tiny islands, who wouldn’t want to go, but that’s not the point, Derek, it doesn't have to be Venice, it could be like—Amsterdam. The point was leaving the country to escape the Great American Bro."

“What?” Scott whispered to himself. Fair enough, that really hadn’t been the point. He was kind of panicking now that his relationship seemed to be falling apart and the point got away from him.

"Stiles, I don't want to leave the country, I want you to be sure about this. I don’t want you to make this decision because you just almost died half an hour ago."

Hey, Stiles had gotten way better about his post-near-death-experience adrenaline rushes and poor decisions made during. That bro hadn’t even rated a two on the scale of near-death experiences. He had been completely chill and lucid before this trainwreck of a conversation started.

“I am sure! Something about staring into the face of death from a chokehold really makes you sort out your priorities.” Derek didn't laugh, but Scott did. Damn it, he would have to be sincere.

"Look,” he pushed himself up a little farther—this wasn’t something to be said crumpled in a corner with multiple chins. He sucked in a breath as his ribs gave him a giant middle finger and didn’t miss Derek’s hand twitching towards him to help. “This isn't one of my panicked word vomit decisions. I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself thinking that I just wanted to go home and go to bed and tell the world to fuck off for a week, and I realized that I didn't want to do that anywhere but your house with you, okay? And you know I'm very particular about where I build my fortress of solitude and self-pity, so I'm taking that as a pretty good indication that this moving in together thing is a good idea."

“He is very particular about where he puts his fortress.” Scott nodded earnestly, leaning forward between the seats and firmly lodged in the conversation now.

Derek rolled to a stop at a red light and turned to give Scott a flat look. Scott just blinked innocently, eyebrows raised and pressuring for a response. There were times to be the alpha and times to be an overprotective best friend, and Scott nailed it every time.

“That’s not even an innuendo.” Stiles clarified. “I have put my fortress exactly three places in my life, and they are my bed, my dad’s bed, and Scott’s closet briefly in middle school, and I would really like the fourth to be with you.”

Derek turned towards the stoplight, nodded once, then looked back, a hint of a smile buried under his manly stubble.

“Scott’s closet?”

“It was a rough week!”

“A really rough week.” Scott agreed, his voice accurately conveying the horror of that particular meltdown. He couldn’t complain after the two weeks of moping and pity party marathons after he and Allison broke up the first time.

“So you’re absolutely sure about this.”

“Did you not just hear me say I want to build a fortress of solitude and self-pity with you? I hope you’re sure about this, because once we’ve reached fortress building, you’re in it for life, big guy.”

The light turned green and the bros’ SUV behind them immediately honked when they didn’t take off fast enough. Scott caught Stiles’ arm on his way up to a giant middle finger back at them. They were having a moment here, a very important relationship-defining moment, and he so didn’t appreciate the interruption.

“Fucking douche waffles,” he muttered, opting for a nasty stinkeye in lieu of the finger, “with a side of douche sausage and toast with douche jelly, and a glass of fresh squeezed douche juice.”

“Dude, that’s disgusting.”

“They’re disgusting!”

Stiles turned back around in his seat, wincing at his ribs’ formal protest, and paused when he noticed Derek watching him with a bemused smile. Crap, where the hell had they even been in their important relationship-defining moment?

“What’s that look?”

Derek just turned his gaze back to the road and answered cryptically,

“I’m sure.”

*

Once they finally finished at the ER and parted ways with the bros with promises never to make contact again, they threw Scott out of the jeep at his place, then fell into their house, exhausted and, in Stiles’ case, achy as hell. They showered quickly and climbed into their bed at 6 p.m. with frozen waffles and a Costco supply of ibuprofen, Derek tucked up against Stiles’ right side and occasionally drawing away whatever pain the drugs missed. Stiles didn’t just get his laptop in bed—never again, Stiles—but control over what they watched as well, and shamelessly announced they would be watching Friends until one of them unironically said, how you doin’?

He made it through three episodes before he fell asleep.