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Of all the scents Derek imagined being innately in tune with, applecinnamonoatmeal was not at the top of list. Not the kind that comes from instant packets of oatmeal with dehydrated bits of apple that only need a cup of milk and a minute and a half in the microwave to be ready. Not the floral infused candy apple scent of body mists or oatmeal soaps that Erica favors. The pure, unadulterated scent of fresh baked goods made with pureed apple, steel-cut oats, cinnamon, and just a pinch of allspice.

Stiles is the first and last person Derek has ever wanted to associate with that scent.

In all honesty, it’s not just Stiles that smells like applecinnamonoatmeal. It’s the entire pet bakery he works in. Derek doesn’t know how his co-owner Scott, a werewolf of all things, can stand being in the bakery all day surrounded by that scent. To Derek, it’s equivalent to heaven because it means he gets to see Stiles.

Well, he goes under the pretense of wanting to buy his dog treats because Linus, his constantly growing six month old Old English sheepdog, loves the place. Lots of fun scents and free treats to try according to Isaac; he's the one who suggested Derek go there in the first place. He met Scott while running through Central Park one full moon over a year ago and the two have been close since then.

Stiles is in the know, has been since some negligent alpha bit Scott when they were just sixteen. Derek hadn’t known that the first time he’d wandered into The Barkery; he’d only gone because Isaac brought Linus a treat from there and the then two month old pup had whined when Derek couldn’t produce another apple cinnamon oatmeal bone shaped biscuit.

Derek had been browsing, fingers wrapped tightly around Linus’ leash when he heard the squeak he’s come to associate with seeing Stiles. To this day, Derek maintains that he did not growl at Stiles when he had started to put his hand out before asking permission to pet Linus. Stiles maintains that he totally did growl and it had been enough of a tell that the words “oh, you’re a were” came tumbling out of his mouth before he could help it.

The existence of werewolves has been public knowledge for nearly fifty years but approaching an unfamiliar so brusquely is still considered taboo. Stiles had just grinned though, cheeks going pink as he pointed back at the guy Derek would come to know as Stiles’ brother behind the counter.

“Scotty’s a werewolf too,” he’d said, beaming. “But I’m just a human so sometimes I forget about your touching rules when it comes to your betas.”

“Linus is not my beta,” Derek had replied, not missing the way Stiles’ grin grew wider. “And you should know better than to pet strange dogs. He could have attacked you.”

And then Stiles had done what Derek can only describe as a full body spasm of laughter. “Dude,” he had choked, sucking in huge gulps of air as he waved a hand at Linus, “that fluffy beast couldn’t harm me if he tried. Now, why don’t you tell me all about him and if you let me, I’ll give him one of the carob bars I just pulled out of the oven.”

After that, walking the twelve blocks to The Barkery became routine. The walk was good for Linus, still rambunctious even when Derek flashed red eyes at him. Stiles never seemed to help in that regard either, liked to feed Derek’s dog treats when he didn’t think Derek was looking. Scott scolded him without a hint of malice, often shooting Derek empathetic looks.

Which is why today is the day, the day Derek is finally going to ask Stiles out. They’ve been toeing an unspoken line for two months, Derek thinks. Isaac is tired of listening to him wax poetic about his friend, Erica and Cora keep giving him crap about it even though Derek keeps discussion about his love life to a minimum where it concerns them, and Boyd thinks it will do him good from an alpha standpoint to make friends with another pack. Laura, despite living upstate near their parents on a three hundred head dairy, makes sure to ask about his not so secret crush every time they talk on the phone.

Point is, everyone knows. Or at least everyone worth counting knows.

At least that’s what he thinks when he walks into The Barkery half past noon the first Saturday in October, Linus at his heels. The bell above the door chimes and like always, Derek’s eyes immediately search out Stiles. He’s assisting a woman by the packaged cat treats, hands flicking around as he speaks. When he notices Derek, he winks then returns to whatever he is describing to the customer.

“Derek!” comes a voice from behind the counter.

Derek turns to see Scott waving a hand at him, arms covered in flour. There’s a smudge of it across his chin, ending at the right hinge of his jaw. Linus tugs on his leash, tail thumping against Derek’s leg as he whines. Derek rolls his eyes and approaches the counter, cuing Linus with hand gestures to sit.

Whatever Scott is making has sweet potatoes in it, the scent spilling out of the oven as he lowers the door to check something. It would be overwhelming if Derek wasn’t used to the scent in the shop already. Linus has his nose in the air, turning every which way he can manage while remaining seated.

Derek catches the applecinnamonoatmeal scent that always seems to permeate from Stiles before he sees him. “Don’t,” he says when two hands come into the edge of his peripheral vision. Stiles huffs, complaining to the woman that had been browsing the cat treats.

“Never lets me have any fun, this one,” he pouts at Derek then turns back to the customer. “Do you belong to our rewards program? We have a monthly newsletter, offer weekly discounts, and give your pets a free birthday treat every year. Isn’t that right, Linus?”

Linus’ tail thwaps against Derek’s leg and he whines longingly as Stiles grins. The woman glances between Stiles and the sheepdog, laughingly lightly. She forgoes the rewards program, stating that she’s just cat sitting for a friend and doesn’t have pets of her own, pays and thanks Stiles for all his help. Stiles nods and waves as she leaves, turning his attention to Derek and Linus the moment the door shuts.

“And what can I do for you two today, hmmm? I don’t think we have any of those cupcakes I had last week.” Stiles frowns, crouches to scan through the refrigerated display case, and hauls himself up again. “Yeah, no cupcakes. Oh! But I do have the oatmeal bars.”

“I made them this morning!” Scott shouts from the sink, just out of eyesight and hidden behind one of the ovens. “Made peanut butter biscuits too!”

“And I know how much you love those, don’t you buddy?” Stiles directs at Linus, leaning over the counter.

Derek watches Stiles grin, how the muscles in his arms flex as he rests his chin on his palms, elbows bent against the counter. He inhales a long whiff of applecinnamonoatmeal and barely restrains from flashing red eyes.

Go time.

“Would you like to have lunch with me?” he asks, somehow managing to pace himself.

Stiles doesn’t gasp, doesn’t flinch or anything of the sort. He just rolls his shoulders back, beaming at Linus. “Sure,” he replies, chuckling. “I’m starving.”

Derek is about to ask if Stiles likes Thai when the kid starts yelling at Scott.

“Scotty! Derek wants to get lunch, wanna come?”

“Sure!” Scott answers, walking back towards the counter. He’s all smiles, crooked chin and dimples, when he catches Derek’s eyes. Derek waits for the implied ‘I am asking him out on a date’ to set in, but Scott just hops onto the stool behind the register. “Where are we going?”

Sometimes Derek wonders about Scott. He knows that the kid learned most of the ins and out of being a werewolf from poorly handled first hand experiences and flying by the seat of his pants; that much Isaac has told him. He also knows that while Scott is an alpha by pack, he is a beta by bite designation. Add to that the fact that his pack is comprised of more humans that anything else and you’re left with a werewolf who never had proper instruction on how to actually be a werewolf.

Derek knows that, but really? He should know how to decipher scents at this point. He should know what it means when Derek accidentally flashes red eyes or scents the air when Stiles brushes past him. He should know that all of Isaac’s inane chatter about his alpha being love-struck over his human second isn’t just to fill the air.

But clearly Scott does not understand any of that because he starts swinging his legs against the stool.

“Derek?” Stiles asks, jolting Derek out of his sure to be glower at Scott. “Would you mind waiting like ten minutes until our friend shows up?”

Derek sighs and scratches his fingers through his beard. “Yeah, that’s, that’s fine.”

Stiles beams again, only this time it is directed at Derek and not his dog. “Awesome possum. Linus buddy, you’re dying over there for attention, huh? May I give him a treat?”

“Sure.”

Stiles nods, turns to open the case sitting on the back counter, and reaches in for a treat. The applecinnamonoatmeal scent plumes then dissipates. Derek can feel his nostrils flare, though he tries to tamp it down in the presence of another werewolf. Scott’s busy texting someone, a silly grin on his lips.

“D’you mind if I invite my girlfriend?” he asks, waving his phone in the air. “She has a lunch break soon.”

“Ally’s super nice,” Stiles reassures Derek, hand on the swinging door that separates the main portion of the shop from the kitchen and counter that the register sits at. He sinks to his knees, leaning back on his heels in front of Linus. Derek tries not to think about what Stiles would look like if he shifted two feet closer, right into Derek’s space. “Also super hormonal since Scott here accidentally knocked her up. Howdy there, Linus.”

Linus lolls his tongue out of his mouth and twists his body, eager for Stiles’ attention but not wanting to disobey Derek by yanking on his leash. Derek loosens his grip, sees Stiles grin, and mumbles a quiet “be good” to the sheepdog. Stiles uses hand cues to ask for his paw, then for him to lie down. When Linus barks on command Stiles coos at him, offers the treat, and waits with open arms for puppy kisses.

Derek rolls his eyes and looks to Scott, seeking some sort of agreement that Stiles is ridiculous but the kid is staring starry eyed at his phone. The scent wafting off him is sweet, like honey and brown sugar; it’s the scent he’s long since grown to associate with love because Erica and Boyd reek of it whenever they’re in the same room. For all of Scott’s inherent werewolf instincts, he just grins and set his phone down.

“Ally wants to come. Did you have a specific place in mind? The only places I can think of with outdoor seating that also allow dogs are a pizzeria south of here and that burger place close to the park.”

“Burgers!” Stiles chirps between laughter; Linus has lost all semblance of being well behaved and crawled into the kid’s lap.

“Derek?”

“That’s fine,” he says, even though he really did want Thai.

“Cool, I’ll text Al.”

“Dude, where’s Kira?”

Scott points a finger at the entrance to the shop, eyes glued to his phone. Derek watches a small girl skid and almost trip as she dismounts a skateboard, stomping on one end and catching it around a wheel. She swings the door open as she fumbles her way inside, panting.

“I’m here! I’m not late! I-” she trips over the mat meant to collect dirt and leaves, keels into a display table with baskets full of rawhides, and slams her hip into the corner. Scott stands, reaching a hand out as the girl groans. Stiles has Linus hugged to his chest, caramel eyes also locked on the girl.

“Kira?” he asks cautiously.

“Oh god, that, oh jeez, that really hurt,” she whines, sinking to the floor, hand over her hip. “Farewell world, so long job, au revior future.”

Scott sighs, lifting himself over the counter easily. There’s the werewolf strength Derek’s been waiting to see him exhibit. “Kira, we have a customer.”

The girl, Kira, freezes and glances up at Derek, meeping to herself as her cheeks tint pink. “Oh, uh, hello bearded dog owner guy.”

Scott pulls her to her feet, tucking the skateboard beneath his arm. Kira makes another noise, this time a surprised gasp, and Derek catches black seeping into Scott’s hand where it’s rested on her hip. Stiles releases Linus and stands, disappearing into the backroom behind the kitchen. He returns with an icepack and a towel, handing both to Kira; Scott has her seated on the stool behind the counter.

“Kira, this is Derek and Linus.”

She squints for a moment, blinking twice before saying, “oh, you’re Isaac’s friend, his alpha.”

“Nice to meet you,” Derek says, offering her a small smile.

“Derek here asked us to go get lunch, we were just waiting for you to get here. Could you please watch the place for an hour on your own?” Stiles asks, rocking back on his heels.

“Sure!” Kira grins and a light appears around her. Neither Stiles nor Scott seem to notice it, that or they’re ignoring it. He remembers then that Isaac mentioned Scott had a fox in the pack; the light is her aura.

A kitsune then.

“Would you like us to bring you something back?” Derek asks, trying to be courteous. “We’re going to a burger place around here.”

Kira stares at the ceiling, humming. “Ah! Turkey burger and fries! Stiles, you know what I like right? Let me give you-”

“It’s my treat,” Derek says, halting her.

Kira stares with her mouth wide open, realizes it, then giggles.

“Call if you need anything,” Stiles says, snatching Linus’ leash from Derek and heading towards the entrance. “C’mon mister big bad, I’m starving. You too, Scotty.”

- - -

A woman with shoulder length, dark brown hair is waiting at a street crosswalk halfway to the burger place. She has one hand on her stomach, a barely there bump, the other typing away on her phone, humming a tune that sounds vaguely familiar. When they’re close enough, Scott sprints up to her, wraps his arms around her waist, and nuzzles her neck. She yelps and hits him with her purse.

Stiles elbows Derek, snickering. He still has Linus’ leash in his hands; Derek hadn’t had a reason to take it back since the sheepdog was behaving himself. Scott ducks his head and apologizes as they approach, scent wavering between embarrassment and almost overwhelming contentment.

“Hey there, Allison,” Stiles greets, stopping at a distance close enough to indicate familiarity.

“You couldn’t keep him from doing that?” she chides, crossing her arms. “I am carrying a child here and being frightened is not good for their development.”

“I said I was sorry,” Scott mumbles.

Allison rolls her eyes then turns her attention to Derek. Derek shifts under her gaze, anxious until she dimples at him. No one with those dimples could be anything but sweet.

“Ally, this is Derek Hale, Isaac’s alpha,” Stiles says, waving a hand at Derek. “And this is his baby, Linus. Linus here is a spoiled little butt.”

“Hey,” Derek protests but Stiles brushes it off.

“Butt face.”

“Hi,” Allison says, glancing between Stiles and Derek. “I’m Scott’s girlfriend. Isaac’s said good things about you.”

Derek snorts because yeah, that’s a lie.

Only her heartbeat doesn’t blip so who knows.

“Now that introductions are out of the way, onwards, friends. Lunch awaits for no human or werewolf!”

Stiles loops an arm through Allison’s, guiding her in the direction of the restaurant. Derek follows behind, keeping in step with Scott. He stays quiet for the most part, filtering in the important portions of Scott’s story - how he and Allison met - while appearing attentive through the irrelevant parts.

That is how much of lunch goes. Stiles and Scott and Allison talk amongst themselves, inviting Derek into the conversations every now and then. Derek answers punctually, Boyd’s voice in the back of his head reciting that interpack relationships are always important. That is why when Scott mentions something about Isaac being one of the only friends he has outside of his pack, Derek snorts.

Scott is on his way to pouting, asking “what?”

“You know about Isaac’s,” Derek stares at the table, searching for the word, “pipe dream?”

“About?”

“Us. Well, our packs.”

Stiles perks up from Derek’s right, where he has not so stealthily been feeding Linus ripped up fries.

“What do you mean?”

Derek debates telling Scott that Isaac wants his pack to become part of their pack, that he has thought it would be a good idea since the first night he and Scott ran together. It’s a topic Isaac has brought up more and more often since Derek developed a crush on Stiles, one he isn’t afraid of voicing to Erica and Boyd in hopes they will believe it's a good idea as well. Scott looks clueless though, eyebrows knit together. To his left, Allison is observing silently, though the curve of her eyebrows is inquisitive.

“He has this dream, of our pack, my pack, growing I guess. Where we’re from, home, my family’s pack is just over forty. I think he misses it sometimes, having so many people he trusts around him.”

“Where is home?” Allison asks, leaning into Scott’s space as she speaks.

“Upstate, about an hour and a half northwest of Albany. My parents own a dairy farm. We go up there for full moons every couple of months, though it’s not as much as we like. I know Isaac prefers it.”

“He’s mentioned it, yeah,” Scott says, like he’s trying to recall the memory.

“It’s refreshing compared to the confines the city.”

Allison nods in agreement, smiling. She has a hand on Scott’s forearm, as though she wants to lean in a whisper something into his ear. Stiles on the other hand is squinting at Derek, confusion written across his face.

“What?” Derek finally asks.

“Your parents own a dairy farm.” Derek raises one eyebrow then nods when Stiles’ expression fails to change. “So you’re a farmer.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “No, my parents are.”

“Isaac said you’re a writer?” Allison offers, curbing the conversation back to something without his family as the focus.

“Part time,” Derek replies, picking at the edge of his napkin. On the ground, Linus shifts to rest his head across Derek’s shoes. “I spend my time mostly as an book editor for a small publishing firm in Soho. That’s part of the reason why I can afford to take time off every now and then to go home.”

“What about the other two?” Stiles asks, a curious glint in his eyes now. “Erica and Boyd?”

“They both work for a personal security company and have more flexibility than I do. Isaac is the most tied here because of school. It would be impolite for us to leave him here to spend a full moon alone.”

A look a hurt sweeps across Scott’s face for a moment, the air tinging with discomfort. Allison bumps her shoulder against Scott’s, dimpling at him when he turns his head to face her. Stiles makes a choking noise at his friends, nose scrunching as Scott kisses Allison's cheek.

Scott’s reaction triggers an idea in Derek, one he is pretty sure Boyd has recommended in the past, just not in relation to Scott’s pack.

“You could come with us in the future, if you want,” Derek says, interrupting Scott from placing another kiss on Allison’s forehead.

Scott freezes, turns towards Derek, and blurts out “what?”

“On a full moon. We’re always open to alliance discussions with other packs and running together would solidify one.”

“What about the humans?” Stiles asks, flicking a finger between himself and Allison.

“You’d be welcome as well. Many of the members of my parents’ pack are human.”

Somewhere, Boyd should be positively grinning with pride at how Derek well is handling this situation.

“Dude,” Scott says, awed.

Dude,” Stiles mimics, chuckling. “We could spend the night in an actual forest. Right, Derek?”

Derek nods. “We own the woods that our house and several of the pastures back up to, so yes.”

“That’s very nice of you to offer,” Allison adds, eyes flicking between Scott and Stiles before she nods. “We’ll talk to the rest of the pack and let Isaac know, if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure,” Derek replies. In his head, his wolf is practically giddy. More wolves, it yaps, more wolves, more pack mates, Stiles.

“Oh shit!” Scott shouts, shrinking into his seat when a couple walking past turn to stare at him. “We should get back. It’s been over an hour and we still need to get Kira’s food.”

Stiles flags down their waiter, places the order for Kira’s food to go, and asks for the check. When the waiter returns, he sets the check at the end of the table between Derek and Scott. Derek picks it up, waving Scott off when he protests. Allison laughs and Stiles grins. By the time Derek has signed the receipt, tipping well because the waiter brought Linus his own bowl of water and a slightly burned beef patty they didn’t want to serve a customer, Kira’s food has been delivered. Stiles looks distressed as though he can’t decide as to whether he wants to carry the food or walk Linus. Derek makes the decision for him, whistling at Linus to untangle himself from the table.

As they walk back to The Barkery, Scott and Stiles ahead, lost in mumbled conversation about memories of running the woods in their hometown, Derek follows behind with Allison. Linus trots along, getting distracted when a woman with a corgi rushes past them. When he lunges forward in pursuit, Derek growls at a subvocal level, though Scott misses it. Instead he shouts a hello to the woman with the corgi, looking over his shoulder to clarify that her dog loves Stiles’ macaroni and cheese flavored cookies.

When they’re two blocks away, Derek coughs to gain everyone’s attention. “My apartment is that way,” he says, pointing a finger east.

Scott reaches out a hand to shake Derek’s, motioning for Allison to follow once he’s stepped back. She shakes her head, pointing in a different direction. “I’m going to go run an errand for work. I’ll see you for dinner, alright?” Scott nods and grins at her, drawing her in by her waist to nuzzle against her check. Of all the stereotypical werewolf traits Scott seems to have latched on to, scent marking is definitely one of them.

“Oh crap,” Stiles curses, scent flaring out unease, making the applecinnamonoatmeal dissipate. “Derek, wait here for a minute, ‘kay? Scott, c’mon.”

Stiles tugs Scott away from Allison, blowing her a kiss as he pulls Scott down the sidewalk. Derek watches them, how they match paces so quickly, how they mirror one another. They’re too far away for Derek to filter out their conversation from background noises of the city but he finds himself smiling when Stiles hits Scott in the arm.

“You like him.”

Derek flinches, having forgotten Allison was there. Her arms are crossed over her chest, a sly grin on her lips. She tucks a section of hair behind her ear and brings the dimples out full force.

“Stiles,” she states, “you like him.”

“I-”

Allison takes a step closer to him, still far enough away to be respectful. Her eyebrows furrow as she reads him, frowning. “You didn’t invite all of us out to lunch, did you?”

Derek shakes his head no. At his feet, Linus is pacing, like he’s waiting for something. For Stiles his wolf supplies and Derek shoves that thought down.

“I wanted,” he starts, scuffing the heel of his shoe at a spot on the sidewalk. “I don’t think he understood.”

“That would be Stiles for you,” Allison replies, fondness in her tone. “Since I’ve known him, he’s always been a bit blind to people who are interested in him. Part of that is because of-” she trails off, bites her lip, and shakes her head. “It’s not important. What is important is that you try again.”

Derek raises his eyebrows at her and Allison grins. “You don’t know me,” he says, as though he’s looking for reasons not to what she suggested.

Allison just shrugs. “Isaac likes and trusts you. Scott kind of does too. Besides, you get this dazed look on your face when you look at him and you don’t think he can see you and it’s endearing, all right?” She pats her stomach, continuing with “pregnancy has made me emotional.”

Before Derek can reply, Linus tugs at his leash. He barks and starts panting, Derek following his line of sight to see Stiles bounding down the sidewalk. He stops a couple of feet away from Linus, catching his breath but grinning. Derek watches him ask Linus to lay down, rewarding him with a treat before thrusting a paw print covered paper bag at Derek.

The applecinnamonoatmeal scent permeates through the plastic bag he knows is inside the paper bag, and Derek just barely manages to control flashing his eyes.

“These are for you,” Stiles huffs out, panting between words. “Oh god, I need to start running on the regular again.”

“What?”

“Your, Linus’ treats, the ones you come in for every week. You forgot them.”

Derek never asked to purchase them. He reaches for his wallet and Stiles pushes the bag at him shaking his head.

“You paid for lunch, dude. Consider this an exchange. Look, I gotta get back because I need to start a batch of cupcakes, but I’ll see you soon, alright?” Derek takes the proffered bag, a little bewildered as he watches Stiles crouch down to pat Linus on the head and get a lick in return. “See ya!”

Off to the side, Allison starts laughing. When she’s composed herself, she reaches out, wrapping her fingers around Derek’s wrist. She squeezes lightly, repeating “keep trying” before she walks off in the direction opposite of where Derek is headed.

- - -

So that’s what Derek does, keeps trying. Trips under the guise of buying his dog treats turn into lunches and dinners, sometimes with Linus, sometimes without, but always with Stiles and always with Scott. Those go on so long that Derek eventually finds himself meeting the rest of Scott’s pack, and vice versa in regards to Derek’s pack. He keeps trying for so long that he meets all of them individually, then in groups. He tries for so long it stops feeling like he’s trying; opening up to and beginning to consider members of Scott’s pack as friends just seems normal.

And isn’t that just a kick in the head because this started as an idea Isaac planted in his thoughts and Derek’s simple desire to get to know Stiles a little bit better.

Not to say that he doesn’t get that. He does, in heaps, just with the added benefit of getting to know all the people the kid considers family as well.

Of Scott’s pack, the first person Derek meets outside of that initial lunch and Kira, is Jackson Whittemore. Jackson is the only other werewolf in the pack and a lawyer at a small firm in Manhattan who doesn’t seem to get along with anyone other than his best friend Danny Mahealani, a media coordinator for the Bronx Zoo. Danny has dimples that rival Allison’s and his eyes linger on Derek a little too long for his liking, but he’s nice and lot less scary than Lydia Martin. Lydia, a banshee and postdoc at Columbia University, strides up to Derek upon meeting him the first time, giving him an intense once over before stating that she approves and he should meet Jordan.

Jordan turns out to be former Deputy Parrish of Cambridge, Massachusetts and a current sheriff’s deputy on Staten Island. He met Lydia two years ago while she was in her third year of graduate school at MIT and trying to finish her doctorate. There had been an incident with her screaming one day in class and the head of his department subsequently dropping dead the next; this after Parrish pulled her over for speeding. That had led to both of them being involved in a series of discoveries that yielded two murders on the force: Parrish’s partner, a man named Haigh, and another deputy he didn’t know.

After that, Parrish became just Jordan to Lydia. Lydia implies that he was enamored with her and Jordan insists that she was and is intriguing, and by nature he’s curious, so he stuck around, grew close to her, so much so that he left his position in Cambridge and moved to New York City when she did, officially becoming pack. He never explicitly says there is something going on between himself and Lydia - and Derek never detects their scents on one another anymore so than the other members of the pack - but for some reason it riles Jackson up, makes him bare his teeth or flash his eyes, blue eyes, when he sees them together.

There’s history there, Derek inherently knows that even before Stiles whispers tidbits of stories into his ear during one of their outings. Derek sympathizes with Jackson on that matter: werewolves are never keen to watch former partners move on. Perhaps that is why he can never decipher what exactly the relationship between Lydia and Jordan is, whether they really are just friends or very good at masking their scents.

The thing that draws Derek to Jordan the most though is that he’s also a supernatural creature of some sort, although he isn’t quite sure what exactly. Four months back he was involved in a shootout with two carjacking suspects, both armed and both with bad aim. One of them fired a blind shot, missed him by several meters, and struck the gas tank of a nearby cruiser instead. The car explosion should have killed him but when the smoke cleared, Jordan was still there, watching the skin on his arms and torso knit itself back together.

It’s distressing, the scent that Derek comes to associate with the deputy when he talks about it because he has no idea what he is. When Derek offers to borrow a few old texts from his family to aid Jordan in figuring it out, the deputy stares at him for a long moment before thanking him, the sigh he lets out right after so full of relief it makes Derek’s wolf bristle.

Lydia is particularly nice to Derek after that. She doesn’t go out of her way to show it but she does make sure to include him whenever she is in charge of planning something, though that may be at Stiles’ request. She knows about that too, figured it out quickly during a dinner with both packs. Derek avoided conversation with her after she gave him a calculating look, choosing to draw Kira into conversation instead.

Kira is a kitsune, just one whose powers didn’t manifest until about a year ago, explaining why Derek could see her aura flare the first time he met her. She is just as clumsy during every other outing and much, much sweeter. She is younger than the rest of them too, finishing up her senior year at NYU and worried out of her mind over what she’s going to do after she graduates. She seeks out Derek for advice on a day he’s at the bakery with Linus because behind Jordan, he’s the oldest person she knows in the city. A week or so later, at their holiday gift exchange right before Christmas - that’s how close the packs have become - Kira hugs him tightly and tells him that the woman he put her in touch with at his publishing company might have an open intern position over the summer. Derek hugs her back after a few seconds of not knowing how to react and Kira’s scent goes warm with content.

In January, Lydia throws Allison a baby shower, extending invitations to Derek and the betas with the request that they all best attend (“or else”). As a group, they arrive at Allison and Scott’s home in Queens, each bearing gifts purchased from a registry Allison created on Amazon and Isaac procured from Scott. Once inside and after placing his gifts down on the dining room table, Derek is led into the kitchen by Stiles, hand wrapped around his wrist and mouth going a mile a minute about how exciting this all is.

There’s food everywhere, trays of fruit and vegetables and dips, at least four different types of crackers and a dozen cheeses. At some point Stiles makes Derek determine which of the cheeses tastes the least offensive and Derek is forced into tasting five different kinds before pointing at the Fontina. Scott approaches them at that moment, cuts the wedge in half, and smiles apologetically, explaining that Allison wants some.

An hour or so later, Derek finds himself leaning back against the bar that separates the kitchen from the living room, a beer spiked with wolfsbane in one hand and the other crossed over his chest. Allison is opening gifts at a snail’s pace, dimpling at a pile of baby clothes in her lap. Next to her, Scott is bouncing in his seat, so thrilled he keeps shifting his eyes, thought he doesn’t seem to notice. The moment Allison wraps the clothes back in the tissue paper they were packaged in, reading the gift and giver off to Lydia, Scott is up and shuffling off to retrieve the next box. Jackson shifts around on the floor to make room, turning to Erica a moment later to snipe about it.

The way the betas are scattered around the room, intermixed with the members of Scott’s pack, Derek thinks that if any other werewolf outside of this room were to look at them in this moment, there would be no way to differentiate between loyalties. There’s something to be said about that, how seamlessly they all get along, how there has been zero tension or disputes. It’s a miracle, all things considered: even in the strongest of alliances between packs, there is always some low level of tension. Here there is only comfort, celebration, and this sense of wholeness Derek’s wolf wants to roll around in and be surrounded by always.

Derek is lost in his thoughts when the applecinnamonoatmeal scent floods his nose and he feels a warm body press against his side. He knows it’s Stiles without looking, would be able to tell even if he wasn’t so in tune with the kid’s scent because Derek knows the pattern of his heartbeat. That’s a bit odd he knows, but it is part of being an alpha: the ability to recognize the heartbeats of those you consider pack. This is neither the time nor place to focus on what that means in terms of his crush so he focuses on Scott, currently carrying the large box Derek walked in with under one arm and a smaller package in the other.

Stiles leans over his shoulder, whispering ‘she’s going to cry’ into his ear as Scott places the gifts down in front of Allison. He already knows what the larger of the two is, was there when Derek got the email from Isaac with the link to the wish list. Stiles had plucked Derek’s phone out of his hands, reading off items he thought the rest of the pack were planning to buy, then clicked on the most expensive item listed, saying that if he had the money, he would purchase it in a heartbeat.

It is a quilt lined cherry wood bassinet complete with an adjustable canopy, storage basket, and a small speaker that plays music. Scott’s jaw drops and Allison gasps, pulse jumping momentarily. All the wolves in the room immediately turn their attention to her, readying themselves for her reaction. Derek tenses until Allison sobs, tears streaming down her face as she glances up at him. She gets out a hiccuped ‘thank you’ as Scott clears away the wrapping paper, still staring at the bassinet in disbelief. He hands Allison the other gift, a basket that Erica wrapped, underestimating the weight when it thuds on top of the bassinet box.

The basket is just the right size to fit underneath the bassinet and filled entirely full with assorted books, most from the publishing company Derek works for and others he purchased after asking Laura what her daughters favored when they were young. Allison runs her hands over the covers, laughing when she pulls out a copy of Go the Fuck to Sleep. Derek finds himself grinning at her as she reads off everything to Lydia and Scott leaves to retrieve the next present.

There’s a soft snicker to his right and Stiles whispers ‘told you so’ into Derek’s ear, squeezing his bicep before drawing away.

Once the rest of the gifts have been opened and they’ve gorged themselves into satisfying food comas, everyone starts to gather their things to leave. Scott shakes Derek’s hand before shrugging and pulling him into a full blown hug, thanking him for coming and getting Ally her dream gift. Derek returns the embrace, patting Scott on the shoulder as he steps back and telling him to let Derek know if it needs to be replaced for whatever reason. Scott just chuckles and says he’ll see Derek the following weekend.

Allison buries her face in Derek’s chest the moment he steps into her reach, dampening his shirt as she starts to cry again. Derek wraps his arms around her back and squeezes her tightly, tucking his chin over her shoulder. It’s not only because he’s thrilled for her or even out of appreciation of being invited; no, it’s because Allison has been his cheerleader throughout all of this, ever since that first lunch.

She’s been openly rooting for Derek and his quest to make Stiles realize his intentions, given him advice when it seems hopeless and pep talks when he’s planned on making a move. Outside of the betas and his family, she has become one of the people he trusts most in his life, and that’s as new as it is frightening, as much as it is knowing that he trusts Stiles just as much.

Allison wipes at her face when she pulls away, smiling as she chokes out an apology. Derek shakes his head and squeezes her hand lightly. She reaches on the tips of her toes to kiss his cheek, saying ‘we’ll see you on Friday, yeah?’ Derek nods and Allison dimples at him.

He almost makes it out of the house when someone coughs obnoxiously at him. Derek turns around from tugging his coat on to find Stiles watching him, one eyebrow quirked. Erica snatches the keys to the Camaro out of his hand, smirking as she pulls Boyd towards the front door; Isaac’s speaking in hushed whispers with Scott. Stiles pouts and asks if Derek was trying to sneak out without saying goodbye. Derek rolls his eyes and Stiles grins, lifting his arms to wrap them around Derek’s shoulders.

Human he may be but Stiles is one of the most tactile people Derek knows and has insisted on giving Derek hugs since he knows Derek isn’t normally a huge fan of them. But because Stiles is Stiles and Derek is a little gone on him, he indulges him. It means his applecinnamonoatmeal scent will cling to Derek's clothes and skin, means that he’ll get to carry that little bit of Stiles with him until the scent fades away.

At the moment, Derek tucks his nose against the crook of Stiles’ neck, thankful that they’re relatively the same height. He takes a deep breath in through his nose, exhaling hot air slowly over Stiles’ skin, making him squirm and push Derek away. He’s complaining about Derek’s stubble giving him a rash and blushing and Derek can’t help but smirk because he did that.

By the time he gets in the car, the betas are packed inside and simpering like they’re cats who ate canaries. Derek’s phone goes off in a cup holder three times before he ever gets out of the neighborhood and Erica reads the incoming text messages out loud through snickers. Derek threatens to leave her in the borough by herself and she just flicks her hair behind her shoulder, shrugging.

The first message is from Lydia, ‘Do you know what subtlety is?’ The second is from Jackson, saying only ‘Stilinski?’ The last is from Jordan, ‘he has to know, you huge dork.’ Derek doesn’t reply to the texts until he’s home, sending the same message - ‘don’t’ - to all three of them.

The Wolf Moon falls the next Friday, the last in January, a day Derek has been looking forward to for months. Isaac only has one morning seminar to attend so they meet at his apartment around noon and take his Pathfinder home, home home. They’ve taken the Camaro before but learned the hard way that being squished in the backseat for upwards of four hours sucks and the muscle car doesn’t take gravel roads very well.

The Hales are spread across the farm when they arrive, all except for Laura and her daughters, the three of them sitting on the front porch of their parents’ house. The moment everyone is out of the car, the girls rush Isaac, Erica, and Boyd, squealing in joy because they missed their aunt and uncles. Laura rolls her eyes when Derek chastises her for having unruly children, pinches his ribs when she hugs him. She glances at the betas - Erica is shamelessly laughing as Laura's youngest rubs her face all over Boyd’s chin - before tugging Derek towards the front door.

Once inside, the interrogation begins: when are they getting here, are they all coming, Mom can’t wait to meet him.

She’s referring to Scott and the rest of his pack, though she doesn’t say their names, much less say Stiles’. About a month after Derek extended the offer for Scott and his pack to run with them, Isaac had burst into Derek’s apartment one night half shifted and reeking of alcohol and wolfsbane, grinning with all his teeth and rambling about Scott saying yes. He’d then gone on an elaborate rendition of the whole conversation before passing out at the kitchen table while Derek marked a manuscript with edits.

It’s late afternoon when the rest of the family, those who work on the farm, make it inside. No one bothers with cleaning up much other than changing into clothes not covered in cow shit. Talia kisses each of the betas on the cheek, then Derek, before directing them to the kitchen to start preparing dinner. Feeding the pack is normally a challenge on its own, but with the addition of the McCall pack, they have another eight people to feed. Dinner is to be more of a potluck tonight but there is still a feast to prepare.

Stiles’ baby blue CJ-5 rolls into the drive just after six, Jordan’s 4Runner right behind. Derek meets them at the front of the house, the betas and his mother waiting in the foyer. Hellos are exchanged - Stiles elbows Derek for failing to mention how muddy the road gets - and Talia says she will show them to the guest house where they will be staying for the night. Derek offers to accompany them but his mother waves him back to the kitchen, placing a hand on Scott’s shoulder as she starts asking how this alliance came to be.

Dinner, put simply, is manic. Members of the Hale pack that don’t live on the farm start arriving half an hour after the McCall pack, spilling into the main house and out into the backyard with plates upon plates of food; the low tonight is in the mid forties meaning outdoor dining, a good thing because squeezing the pack indoors is an even greater feat than preparing dinner. They try not to overwhelm Scott and his friends, none of who have ever been in the presence of this many werewolves, though they certainly are curious. A few of the younger members, cousins and nieces and nephews of Derek’s wander up to their portion of the yard, a table far enough away to be private but not so far as to be secluded, to inquire about the new werewolves and humans. Most of them get bored with Derek’s explanation and scamper off after scenting the air.

All except for Laura’s youngest daughter who presents Stiles with a flower crown Derek assumes she made with flowers acquired from his mother’s garden on the side of the house. Stiles thanks her and she runs off flushed and giggling. Jackson makes a comment about it suiting him and Lydia throws the core of the apple she had been nibbling on at his face.

Cora doesn’t show up until dinner is almost over, a scowl on her face as she plops down on the grass next to Derek with a plate full of food. She waves a hand to the group at large while Derek introduces her, apologizing for her lack of manners. Stiles chides him for acting the same way during their initial meeting and Cora stops chewing. She raises an eyebrow at Derek who just shrugs. The light from the candles on the table catch her eyes just right, reflecting their eyeshine for the briefest of moments before she smirks around her burger.

There is no coordination in the run that follows dinner. Pack mates take off in various states, most completely wolves, others only partially shifted. Derek and the betas trot out of the main house, all fully shifted, to greet the wolf versions of Scott and Jackson, and a svelte fox Derek recognizes as Kira. Stiles and the rest of the non-shifters opt to spend their time around the bonfire in the backyard, all huddled at a bench and deep in conversation with Derek’s father, Laura’s husband, and Peter’s wife, undoubtedly siphoning out blackmail material from general conversation.

Cora and Laura are at the edge of the tree line, waiting on their brother and his pack. Cora pounces on Erica and Laura bites at Isaac’s ankles and before Derek knows it, they’ve taken off into the woods. He exchanges a look with Scott, chuffing as the other wolf’s eyes burn gold. Derek starts off at a brisk walk which turns into a jog. When he’s sure Scott, Jackson, and Kira are comfortable, the running commences.

This is the part of the full moons Derek loves best: the freedom of running under the night sky with his friends and family. Off in the distance he can hear familiar howls, can pick out his betas’ from the rest. Somewhere deeper in the forest, his mother is howling, Peter’s howl mimicking hers. Derek adds to the chorus for the hell of it, preening when Scott and Jackson do as well. Kira looks confused and cries, her best imitation, and when it ends, Derek huffs an approval. Kira yips and dashes off.

The moon is high in the sky by the time they return to the house. Most of the humans have headed home, inside the main house, or left for other guest houses on the property. The members of Scott’s pack have done just that and Derek finds Allison and Stiles in the swing on the front porch of their guest house, covered by a pile of quilts and feet perched on the railing. Scott prances right up to Allison, licking her face as she laughs and feigns complaints. Stiles opens the door for Jackson and Kira, both nodding at Derek, eyes glowing, before heading inside. Derek turns around to start heading back to the main house when Stiles clicks his tongue. He drops onto the steps, patting the wood next to him while also tightening one of the quilts around his frame. Derek rolls his eyes, something he knows he is still capable of in this form, and climbs the stairs.

Stiles tells him that he wishes Derek would have brought Linus with him instead of banishing him to doggy prison, i.e. the boarding facility he always uses when he goes out of town. Derek nips at Stiles’ outstretched fingers when he pokes Derek in the nose, baring his teeth just a bit. Stiles groans and pushes him away only to set a hand on the top of Derek’s head. He rakes his fingers through the coarse black hair on the back of his neck a few times, quiet like he normally isn’t.

Allison announces that she and Scott are heading to bed, asking if Stiles is coming inside. He nods, pats Derek on the head once more, and says he’ll see him at breakfast. Derek pushes into Stiles’ hand, not missing the way Allison is watching. She dimples and winks, hands folded over her large stomach.

By the time Derek makes it back to the house, most of the werewolves inside are asleep. He heads up the stairs to the third floor, pushing the door to his room open with his muzzle. He shifts back, pulls on a pair of sweats, and drops onto the bed. There’s no point in showering, not when he has to be awake in three hours to help milk the cows currently in the pasture next to the building the milking station is located in.

At four, he and the betas, all exhausted from the run, start with the chores they are used to doing every time they visit. Five hours later, the cows have been milked, the heifers have been rotated into different pastures, and the pregnant animals have had the stalls in their barns rebedded.

Derek, showered and in clean clothes finally, finds Scott’s pack in the kitchen when he comes down from his room, most of them nursing coffee and chatting with Derek’s family. Cora is gossiping with Lydia, Laura is laughing at something Danny said, and Scott and Stiles are hovering over counter with Talia, helping her prepare breakfast. Good mornings are exchanged and the betas join them soon after.

After a brief tour around the farm, something Stiles begged for with eagerness because ‘calves, Derek, baby cows’, the last thing to do is to sign the alliance treaty. It’s more of a formality than anything - werewolves respect verbal agreements just as much as written ones - but since a majority of Scott’s pack are mostly human, it’s just easier this way. Talia produces the alliance agreement, acts as witness while Derek and Scott sign it as alphas of their packs, and then congratulates them.

The McCall pack leaves after a late lunch, cell phone numbers and addresses exchanged with the Hales. Scott profusely thanks Talia for letting his pack stay in the guest house and she smiles, motherly, patting his cheek as she says he and his will always be welcome now. Her eyes flick to Stiles, then over the rest of them, before she thanks them for attending.

The hug Stiles gives Derek before he climbs into the jeep is tight and warm and makes Derek’s shirt smell like applecinnamonoatmeal for five hours.

A sea of text messages flood his phone right around seven, updates and thank yous from Scott and his pack. Stiles asks Derek if he wants him to go break Linus out of jail in the morning since he won’t be back in town until Monday. Derek laughs, startling Cora who is sitting next to him on the back porch, and replies that Linus is almost a year old and capable of spending a weekend at the kennel. Stiles calls him a spoilsport.

Just before he is about to lay down in bed, Derek’s phone buzzes. It’s Allison and even through the texts, he can tell she’s miffed about something; Scott commented that his sweatpants don’t fit her anymore apparently. Derek replies to her texts quickly, even as his eyelids grow heavy. He falls asleep with his phone in his hand, the little blue notification light blinking.

I know you’ve said you’re okay with the way things are now, with you and Stiles. But I also know that you’re just telling yourself that. You should see the way you look at him, Derek. He has to know.

It’s time stamped just after eleven. There is another time stamped ten minutes later, ‘Try again.

- - -

Derek has every intention of asking Stiles out, he does. Really. He plans a speech.

But then the Argent-McCall baby comes into the world three weeks before Allison’s due date and priorities shift. Both packs make time to assist Allison with whatever she needs, whether it’s doing laundry or changing diapers or bathing her adorable baby boy. He’s a splitting image of Allison when she was young, wisps of dark hair on his head and a shallow set of dimples.

By March, she and Scott have gotten their schedules down to a routine, enough so that she can start working on small projects for her job at home and Scott can return to the bakery mostly full time. Stiles is not so secretly thrilled: he’s been pulling seventy hour weeks trying to keep the place running by himself. Kira’s still there part time but Stiles didn’t want to pressure her into helping out more since finishing college is her priority.

So when Derek walks into The Barkery on a Saturday morning halfway through the month, he expects to find Stiles, a little worse for wear these days, behind the counter. Derek doesn’t have Linus with him today; winter had its last hurrah earlier this week and the sidewalks are covered in salt and chemicals to melt the snow, a mixture that makes the sheepdog’s paw pads swell with irritation to the point he’ll chew them bloody.

Stiles is not in the store, not that Derek can see - or hear because he seeks out the familiar heartbeat - though the space is heavy with the applecinnamonoatmeal scent. Scott’s sitting on the stool by the register, wearing an apron that has melted something spattered across the chest. He’s scribbling on a pad of paper when Derek approaches him.

“Welcome to, oh, hey Derek.”

“Scott.”

The beta looks up after he finishes his scrawling, grinning as he set the pen down. “Sorry, I was making a list of the ingredients we need to pick up before next Monday. Would you believe me if I told you we have this customer who is going to pay us to cater her dog’s birthday party? Like, platters of treats, dude. Platters.”

“Sounds like a lot of work.”

“Probably. But oh well, we’ve gotta keep the business running somehow. Anyways, since you’re here, I’m supposed to tell you that you are never allowed to give Cooper books ever again because Al’s read him that one with the animals and the faux fur panels every day for the past week and he keeps drooling all over the faux fur.”

Derek smirks, saying “he’s probably scent marking it.”

“We don’t even know if he’s a werewolf though.” Scott shakes his head, sighing in resignation. “So, how can I help you today?”

Derek wants to say something along the lines of making Stiles magically appear. What comes out instead is “Stiles isn’t here, is he?”

“Nope, I made him take the day off. He’s been a lifesaver with running weekends but I could tell it was starting to get to him so I told him not to worry about it. He’s probably passed out on his couch. Or with Lydia and passed out on her couch.”

“Oh,” Derek says, grimacing.

Scott raises his eyebrows, repeating “oh? Did you need him for something?”

Derek sighs. Sometimes he really, really wonders about Scott. They’ve been working on some aspects of werewolf knowledge the kid never bothered with learning but it’s mostly a passing conversation topic that Scott isn’t super interested in and Derek doesn’t want to push on him.

“Could I just get the treats I normally get for Linus?” he asks and Scott nods.

He turns around to open one of the cases on the back counters, uses the plastic tongs to remove four apple cinnamon oatmeal bars from their shelf. He slides them into a plastic bag, twist ties it closed, and places that in a larger paper bag. After folding the top over four times, Scott turns around to place it on the counter in front of Derek.

As he releases his grip on the bag, Scott’s eyes grow wide. He lets out a loud “oh” and Derek thinks he’s finally gotten an idea of why Derek asked if Stiles was there.

“You,” Scott starts, voice hitching, “and Stiles? I, what? Does this - I am so confused.”

“It’s not that complicated.”

“Dude, Derek, you like Stiles?”

Derek nods and Scott’s mouth falls open. It makes him look years younger than he is, way too young to have a newborn cub at home. Scott’s lips open and close a few times, like he’s trying to form words and while it would be entertaining to anyone else - god, the betas would be laughing their asses off if they were here - Derek doesn’t have the patience at the moment.

“How did this happen?” Scott finally gets out, blinking rapidly.

Derek sighs and rolls his shoulders back. He and Scott may be closer now but in no way does he want to go on about why he finds Stiles, Scott’s second, so attractive. Instead, he reaches out and grabs the paper bag.

“What do these smell like?” he asks, shaking the bag.

Scott looks confused. “What?”

“What do these smell like?”

“I, is, I don’t know what’s going on. What does this have to do with Stiles?”

“I’m teaching you how to decipher scents.”

“I already know how to do that,” Scott quips, a bit petulant as his nostrils flare. “Apples, oatmeal, cinnamon, flour, honey, allspice, basically all the ingredients in the treats. The whole bakery smells like those right now because I’m making another batch.”

“Who do you know that smells like all those things?”

Scott lets out an exasperated sigh and Derek raises his eyebrows at him, as if to say ‘well?’ The door to the store opens, bell chiming as two women walk inside and stomp snow off their boots. Scott breaks away from glaring at the ceiling to offer them hellos, plastering on his signature grin. Derek rolls his eyes then glances at the other customers. One of them is watching him with intent and Derek’s wolf growls; she’s an alpha.

Derek has the urge to bare his teeth in case she challenges him but the woman just smirks and walks over to the wall of prepackaged dog treats. Scott thins his eyes for a moment then sighs, turning his attention back to Derek. He still hasn’t answered the question.

“Stiles,” he eventually says, long suffering.

“Exactly.”

“That doesn’t explain anything.”

“Think about it this way, what is the first thing you think about when you smell resin and fret oil and metal?”

“Allison,” Scott says almost immediately, because Allison works in a music store and gives private lessons to kids under ten. Between tune ups on string instruments, cleaning the fret boards of guitars brought in for repair, and correcting the stature for beginning musicians, she constantly smells like those things. The connections between why Derek asked that question and how it relates to Stiles dawns on Scott’s face a few moments later. “So that’s why you’ve been in here like clockwork for almost an entire year? Because you like Stiles’ scent?”

“I like Stiles for more than his scent,” Derek replies a little too quickly. “Also, Linus really likes the treats.”

He tries to hide the fact he’s flustered but Scott just grins, preening at getting a rise of Derek.

“You are so weird,” he says with a laugh. “No wonder you’ve gone about this in such a roundabout way.”

“Shut up.”

Scott shakes his head, still grinning when he says “dude, in my defense, I thought you were courting the pack.”

Derek feels the back of his neck go red, the tips of his ears burning too. He- “What?”

Scott must realize the ambiguity in his sentence because he flushes pink and starts waving his hands in front of his chest, a habit he has probably picked up from Stiles. He holds them there, placating, a sign of surrender as he laughs nervously. “Oh my god, that is, I don’t, I didn’t mean it like that. Unless you’re into that? Which I totally support, good for you, yeah.”

“Scott.”

Scott looks like he wants the ground to open up and swallow him whole. He exhales loudly, takes a deep breath in, eyes closed. When he opens them again, his pulse has calmed significantly and Derek waits as the kid composes himself.

“I thought you were courting the pack,” he repeats, dropping his hands, “like an outside alpha would when trying to gain the trust and allegiances from members of another pack with the intentions to bring them into their fold.”

“That’s not-"

“It was though, that’s what you did. You followed protocol.”

Which maybe, well. Crap.

“We, Stiles and I, we couldn’t figure it out, why you wanted to have lunch with us and Ally that first time. But you said something about Isaac and you paid for all of us. I even contacted this emissary I used to work for to ask him what he thought and that’s what he told me: you were courting my pack on hopes we would merge with you.”

“You’ve talked to Allison about this?”

Scott’s eyes thin and he glares after a moment. “She knew?”

Derek nods and Scott scoffs. “I didn’t tell her if that makes you feel better. She just figured it out.”

“But I didn’t. And neither did Stiles.” Derek casts his eyes down at the refrigerated display case, avoiding any chance Scott will give him another scrutinizing look. “Look, you acted like a proper alpha, Derek. I know I don’t know a lot about werewolf designations and pack dynamics, but I do know some things. You bought us all lunch, you spent time getting to know every member of my pack before any of us met Erica or Boyd. You didn’t snap at anyone, even when they deserved it, and you know Jackson deserved it when we were at the aquarium last month.”

Jackson had made a comment about marine mammals being boring and Boyd had slapped him upside the head.

“You’ve been helping Parrish with figuring out what he is and looking out for Kira when you really don’t have to. You-” Scott pauses, voice going soft, reverent. “You bought Allison her dream bassinet. She put that thing on her wish list as a joke.”

“I know,” he says, not missing the way the corners of Scott’s mouth twist into a pout.

“We thought you were courting the pack,” Scott reiterates. “It made sense.”

Before Derek can try to defend his case, explain it in as few words as possible, there are chortles from behind him. The two customers are facing the wall of leashes, collars, chew toys and prepackaged treats for dogs. The taller of the two, the alpha, has a fist pressed to her mouth, head down and shoulders shaking as laughter racks through her. The other one is punching her arm none too gently, chastising her in hushed but terse words. When she glances back to the counter, she visibly shudders. She bites something out at the alpha and hastily grabs a bag of glucosamine and chondroitin enhanced dried organic turkey strips, making her way to the counter with stilted strides.

“Find everything you need?” Scott asks as he rings the bag up, the grin on his lips nowhere close to reaching his eyes. He may be a beta but to have an unfamiliar alpha listening in on a private conversation is an unwelcome invasion of privacy no matter what designation. This isn’t exactly the best place to have this conversation, Derek concedes, but the smirk the alpha gives him is disconcerting.

Derek does bare his teeth then, a hint of fangs, and the other alpha continues smirking. Her friend takes the bag and receipt from Scott, muttering a thank you. She then grabs the alpha by the elbow and tugs her towards the door. The alpha bows her head, eyes burning red, and follows after the other woman.

The moment the bell rings as the door closes, Scott smacks his hands against his cheeks and groans. Derek shrugs when Scott gestures the door, eyebrows furrowed. After knowing Derek for so many months, Scott just rolls his eyes. He inhales and exhales loudly once, tilting his head to crack the joints in his neck. Derek waits, watches Scott compose himself again, knows they aren’t done with their conversation.

“Look,” Scott starts, wringing a hand around his wrist. “I don’t need an alpha. I’ve gotten this far in life without one and I’ve done alright I think. But the rest of the pack, they, we’ve known each other too long for anyone to really pull rank within our group. Kira’s still new to shifting and Parrish is going to need all the guidance he can get once we figure out what he is, and trust me bro, he’s not going to want to listen to a kid seven years his minor. You though.”

“Me though what?”

Scott shrugs halfheartedly. “He gets along better with you than he does the rest of us, ‘cept Lydia. But that’s another story.” Scott’s face brightens, like he’s thinking about them, only to return to his somber smile. “And then there’s Jackson.”

“Jackson doesn’t-”

“If you haven’t noticed, Jackson doesn’t think of me as his alpha. I don’t blame him for that, I really don’t, not after-” Scott flexes his hands against the counter, curling them back into fists at his side. “Stiles has never told you how we all ended up here, has he?”

And the answer to that is no, though it has been a question that’s been floating around in the back of Derek’s mind for months. It’s not abnormal for packs to stick together when their alpha decides to move but New York is a long way away from their tiny hometown in northern California. Add to that the fact they rarely talk about home, it’s been something Derek has intuitively known not to go digging for information about.

“Ask him why and you’ll understand,” Scott says and isn’t that just cryptic in a way he never is. The bell above the door chimes and Scott turns away to offer the customers a hello. When he turns back, he taps the counter with both palms and straightens his back.

“We have the alliance,” Derek says, for lack of anything else.

“Which is great. But we both know our packs would benefit from merging.”

Derek goes quiet for a few moments before asking “why?”

“Strength in numbers,” Scott replies, nose scrunching as he grins. That was the topic of a conversation they had a couple of weeks ago when Derek and Isaac came to relieve Allison from baby induced house arrest. “Also, your parents’ farm? Epic, man.”

“What about the rest of your pack?”

“We’ve talked about it a little. Everyone was in favor of it when Stiles hypothetically brought the idea up the day after we came back from running with your family and I doubt any of them will have changed their minds if I brought it up again. Legally, all we’d have to do is get Parrish to submit a change in pack registration to the city.”

“And you?”

“I like you, Derek, and I like your pack. We all get along really well. And you, you don’t treat your betas like they’re your betas, you treat them like you would anyone one else, don’t force them into submission.”

“They’re family,” Derek says.

“I know that. That doesn’t mean that all alphas think the same way though.” Scott’s eyes flick to the family browsing the rawhides, the little girl cradling a tiny Papillion in her arms. “What about you?”

Derek thinks about Isaac’s pipe dream, how that far off fantasy is no longer just a product of daydreams. He thinks about how happy the kid has been over the past few months, how he’s shattered the shell he built when they moved away from home and into the city so he, Erica, and Boyd could go to college. Derek thinks about Erica’s new habit of exchanging gossip with Lydia whenever she has a high end client at work, how she likes to pull Jackson in conversation, if only to make him roll his eyes or huff with a hint of amusement. He thinks about Boyd’s budding friendship with Kira, their mutual appreciation of winter sports over summer sports and the beauty in films that have only music without dialog.

“I think we should merge,” Derek says finally, breaking out of his thoughts when the customers approach the counter.

“Awesome,” Scott replies before launching into his rewards program pitch.

As they talk, the little girl glances up at Derek, shyly at first. The pup in her arms yips twice, growling at the end. Derek flashes his eyes and both the Papillion and the girl go silent. She breaks into giggles a moment later, flashes her own eyes, a bright but unusual emerald green, as her parents collect their purchase from Scott.

“I’ll talk to Erica and Boyd later today about merging,” Derek says as the bells chimes. “Isaac will be on board, I know. As far as a final decision, we should have a pack meeting on the full moon.”

Scott grins and holds his hand out. “Deal.”

Derek shakes his hand, his wolf preening at the thought of this all coming together, of expanding his pack, of pleasing his current pack mates, of proving his worth without having to turn anyone else. It’s comical really, that this is the outcome of his crush on Stiles.

Stiles who will truly, purely be pack.

“Just so you know,” Scott starts, tapping at the bag of Linus’ treats, “I’m pretty sure Stiles feels the same way about you.”

Derek doesn’t say anything, doesn’t listen for a spike in his heart rate. He doesn’t need to for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because Scott is a horrible liar. He opens his mouth to ask how Scott knows but the beta just grins, scent flaring warm with affection.

“Brothers just know these things. Now, I have to get back to the list of ingredients I need to buy and you need to go talk to the lovebirds.” Scott waves a hand at Derek then the door. “Text me their thoughts, please.”

“Sure,” Derek says, curling his fingers around the folded down opening of the bag. He reaches for his wallet but Scott shakes his head, waving towards the door again. “Yeah. Thank you.”

Scott’s still grinning when Derek exits the shop, pulling out his cell to call Erica.

That night as he waits for Boyd to arrive from picking Erica up from a job, he gets two messages from Allison, one ‘Derek Selby Hale’ and one ‘the best friends have given you approval (and by best I mean me and Scott), so you should definitely try asking Stiles out again.

- - -

There are no prepared speeches on the next attempt. There’s no time to write one, really. Derek gets four manuscripts, each with a two day turn around for edits and suggestions, shoved at him a few days after his conversation with Scott. Erica and Boyd had been thrilled at the idea, even more than Isaac because Isaac has his Master’s defense coming up and has been frantically going over his presentation. He makes Derek listen to it several times a night for an entire week, so stressed out that even Linus seems concerned: he sleeps with Isaac, whom never goes home, in the spare bedroom instead of with Derek.

The Thursday after Isaac gives his defense - passed successfully enough to garner encouragement from his committee that he should consider continuing on for a Ph.D. - Derek rouses from a nap with Linus on the floor of his apartment with one thing on his mind. The sheepdog follows him around as he enters his bedroom, launching onto the queen sized bed with a rope toy in his mouth. He barks over and over again while Derek changes into jeans and a Henley, still casual but a vast improvement over sweatpants, the likes of which he has been wearing for the past two days.

When Derek shrugs on his leather jacket at the front door, Linus starts whining, begging to be walked. They went for a run in the early hours of the morning when this part of the city is at its quietest but Linus wasn’t placated by that apparently. Derek crouches, runs his hands through the fur around Linus’ neck a couple of times, laughing when he drags his muzzle against Derek’s beard.

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” he says, petting Linus’ head before standing. “Be good and don’t bark too much if the neighbors climb onto the fire escape.”

Linus just woofs at him in response and tears off down the hall as Derek reaches for the scarf Erica knitted him for his birthday.

The walk to The Barkery is brisk, the cold making Derek shiver despite the warmth of the scarf or the thick lining in the pockets of his jacket. The benefit of running warm from being a werewolf doesn’t always guarantee immunity from the cold; Derek knows this from frigid winters spent upstate, stuck outside trying to plow the roads on the dairy with tractors meant to move feed.

By the time he reaches the bakery, his nose and cheeks are red and tingling, the wind howling through the streets and between the buildings. All traces of winter are gone other than the temperature, still sitting in the low forties though it feels cooler with the windchill. Derek lets out a deep breath as he swings the door to the bakery open.

Stiles is standing by the racks of dog food in the back corner next to the kitchen, a bag of food in one hand and the other dragging a Clorox wipe across the shelf. When he turns around, he breaks into a wide grin and sets both the bag and wipe down just in time.

“Hey Der-” he starts but can’t finish because Derek has stepped into his space, cradled his hands against Stiles’ face, and pressed their lips together.

Stiles’ applecinnamonoatmeal scent isn’t as strong as it normally it, drowned out by the stench of bleach and a hint of pumpkin for some odd reason, but it recedes further as Stiles squeaks. He doesn’t kiss back, gone rigid for the most part, and Derek’s heart stops.

Scott had been wrong, his friends had been wrong, their pack, packs had been wrong and now Derek has ruined everything.

He starts to pull away when Stiles’ shoulders relax and his eyelids slip shut, fingers curling into the pockets of Derek’s jacket. Stiles doesn’t move closer, nor move away, and with the barest hint of pressure, he returns the kiss. Derek lets out a sigh against his mouth, pulling away just enough to speak.

“Have lunch with me,” he says, inflection leaving no confusion as to what he wants this time.

Stiles blinks his eyelids open slowly, thick eyelashes fanning against his cheeks, skin flushed a blotchy red. Derek notices the flecks of gold in his irises, something he’s never noticed before because he’s never been this close to Stiles’ face for this length of time. His eyes dart back and forth across Derek’s face and he jerks back into the shelving for the bags of food.

“Scott?” he rasps, voice breaking as he glances across the shop to the register.

Derek hadn’t noticed him when he walked in but Scott is sitting on the stool, grinning stupidly at the two of them. He starts chuckling to himself, leaning over the counter as he dissolves into laughter. Stiles whines.

And it’s then that Derek realizes that maybe Stiles really didn’t know how he felt, at least in the beginning. Or maybe Scott has been his security blanket throughout all this, if he figured it out, just like Allison has been Derek’s. She’ll get a kick out of this story later, Derek knows, but right now his focus is on Stiles who still hasn’t responded to his request.

His fingers are clinging to pockets of Derek’s jacket though, so there’s that.

“Stiles,” Derek says, voice soft, cautious.

Stiles turns back to Derek, lips parted and eyes darting every which way. He keens miserably when Scott starts snorting, now in full hysterics. Derek moves a step back but Stiles doesn’t let go.

“Scott?” he asks again and this time Scott legitimately giggles. “Scott McCall, shut up.”

Scott wipes at the corners of his eyes with his palms, breath shaky in that way it always is when he’s been laughing for too long. “Sorry dude,” he says apologetically, though the grin on his face is anything but.

“I, Derek, we, lunch.” Stiles’ hands are shaking where they’re still gripped in the pockets of Derek’s jacket as he rushes out the broken sentence. The kid’s scent is still distorted, a mixture of embarrassment and confusion. Derek hears him babble the words “come with” at the same time he withdraws his hands.

Scott just shakes his head and leans his chin on his palm, elbow bent against the counter. “Nah, man, I’m good here. ‘Sides, that kid Kira tutors, Liam, I think his name is, will be here in a little bit for his job interview.” Stiles makes a noise in his throat and Scott shakes his head again. “We don’t both need to be here for the interview, so go. I’ve got it covered. Plus, I think Derek might have an aneurysm over there if you bail.”

“Scott,” Derek says, ears burning.

“I’ll see you at the pack meeting tomorrow, ‘kay?”

Stiles sighs and bumps back against the shelves. “Lemme go grab my phone and wallet, alright?” he asks, eyes flicking to Derek.

Derek nods and Stiles sidesteps away, pushing through the swinging door and past the ovens. His heart is rabbiting so loudly Scott can probably hear it even without focusing his hearing. As it is, Scott rests both palms beneath his chin and simpers crookedly.

“You didn’t say anything to him, right?” It’s almost a whisper the way Derek asks, purposefully so Stiles won’t hear.

“Nope. Don’t screw this up, Derek,” Scott warns, eyes going hard for a few seconds.

Then Stiles is breezing out of the back office, cheeks still flushed and fingers clutched around the sleeve cuffs of his jacket. He tilts his chin at Derek, nodding to the front door before sneaking a glance at Scott. His best friend merely waves at him.

“Kira’s going to be here two hours so don’t bother coming back,” Scott says, winking. “Have fun!”

Stiles groans and pushes the door open. Derek shoots the beta a glare, following Stiles as Scott smirks. He has a moment of hesitation that Scott is going to text Allison the moment they step out of view but Derek remembers their conversation a week prior. With a sigh, he catches up and falls in step with Stiles.

They make it a block and a half in silence before Stiles stops dead in his tracks. Derek continues on a few feet until he can’t see Stiles in his periphery anymore. The kid is standing in the middle of sidewalk, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans and shoulders slumped.

“Where’s Linus?” he asks quietly, sound almost drowned out by a slew of cabs that speed by as the light turns green.

“What?”

“Linus,” Stiles repeats, louder this time. “Where is he?”

Derek, well, Derek raises an eyebrow. “At home?”

Stiles huffs and rolls his eyes. “Seriously? You don’t know what today is, do you?”

The same hollow in the pit of his stomach feeling that Derek felt when Stiles didn’t kiss him back rises again and Derek curses.

Stiles tilts his head towards the sky, mumbling something about werewolves and their lack of memories when it comes to things like this. “Stay here a minute,” he says, rolling back on his heels. He throws a thumb over his shoulder and continues with “I’ll be right back.”

The look Derek is wearing must emote that he doesn’t believe him because Stiles furrows his eyebrows. He uses the forward momentum from rocking on his heels to take a step forward, hand out stretched. He wraps his fingers around Derek’s wrist, like Allison did all those months ago, and squeezes assuredly.

“Hey, I mean it. I’ll come back, promise, I just need to run and grab something.”

All Derek can do to keep himself from chasing after Stiles is focusing on his heartbeat and how it never skipped.

When Stiles comes back into sight, tripping over his feet as he exits the bakery in the distance, he’s holding a bag with handles. It’s bigger than the bags Derek is used to getting, the ones filled with pouches of apple cinnamon oatmeal treats for Linus. Stiles curls his left hand around the handle as he crosses the street, ignoring the red ‘do not cross’ hand on the light post.

“Alrighty,” he says, shrugging his shoulder in a different direction than the one Derek was guiding them. “Take me home?”

“What?”

“Take me home. Your home.” Stiles holds the bag up to his shoulder and shakes it. “We have a birthday to celebrate.”

The kid starts off in the direction of Derek’s apartment, looking over his shoulder when Derek doesn’t follow. He lips quirk into a hesitant smile, shy compared to the normally brilliant ones he gives Derek. It takes a few more seconds before Derek unbolts himself from the sidewalk, catching up to Stiles in several long strides. Stiles bumps his shoulder against Derek’s out of habit.

“What are you going to do when you have kids?” Stiles chides, two blocks later. “What are you gonna do if you forget their birthdays?”

The words “that’s what I’ll have you for” come out of Derek’s mouth before his brain can process and censor, and while it is very much honest it is also rather inappropriate. Derek can feel his spine go tense, can hear the spiked rush of blood through Stiles’ veins. He fumbles out “and the pack, you and Scott and Allison and the betas, the entire pack, packs. And my family. All of you.”

Derek chances a glance up from the cement, relaxes with what he sees: Stiles biting his bottom lip, a poor attempt to prevent his smile, cheeks flushed that same patchy red from earlier. At the next intersection, when Derek removes his hand from his pocket to press the button for the crosswalk, Stiles catches his pinky around Derek’s, holds it there until the light changes.

The transition from hesitant touching to hand holding takes the length of another block in half awkward silence. It’s unlike them; normally by now Stiles has launched into stories about people who have come into the shop since the last time he saw Derek, rambling things about their pets and whether they were judgmental of the fact that neither Stiles nor Scott actually have pets.

When they had opened the store, Scott and Allison had had a bloodhound named Griselle who served as their official taste tester for years as they built a following in college. During the year after opening she’d developed severe hip dysplasia and six months after The Barkery’s first anniversary, had to be put to sleep because the pain was too overwhelming for her. It’s been two years and they still miss Griselle, though they honor her by keeping several photos of her on the doors of the ovens and posted to “events” board behind the counter.

Derek is about to apologize for this, making it so uncomfortable that Stiles can’t act normal around him, but Stiles squeezes his hand, like he knows exactly what Derek is thinking. He’s good at that, Derek realizes, with the reassuring casual touches, at being tactile without being overbearing.

“Did Scott tell you about the birthday party we catered on Tuesday night?” Stiles asks and Derek shakes his head no. “Dude, we made bank. The lady who hired us made us go all out.”

The rest of the walk to Derek’s apartment building, Stiles tells him about the lengths he and Scott went to to meet their client’s wishes: a large, multilayered cake for her three year old Komondor, twenty specialized cupcakes for the guests (dogs), miniature versions of their bestselling treats partitioned out in goodie bags for all the guests’ owners to take home. Derek laughs when Stiles says he saw the husband of one of the dog owners accidentally eat a piece of the dog cake instead of the cake specified for humans.

Not that it makes a difference, really, since all of the things Stiles and Scott make from scratch can be eaten by humans, werewolves, and dogs without ill effects.

“Who would have thought a little bakery like ours would gain a pack of socialites for clients?” Stiles comments as they walk into the lobby of Derek’s building. “Or, well, not really a pack. Not like us. None of them were werewolves according to Scott. I wouldn’t have been able to tell if it had only been me. Seriously though, those ladies put Erica and Lydia, and Isaac and Scott, to shame with their gossiping, mostly over who had new men in their lives.”

Stiles simpers as he says this, stepping into the elevator after Derek. They move towards the back after Derek hits the button for his floor, another man joining them and pressing the 2 at the bottom of the column of even numbered floor buttons. He jabs at the close door button then, eyes averted away from the reflection of Stiles and Derek in the closing door.

“You knew,” Derek says, no preamble.

Stiles nods, admits “not until Coop’s shower.”

“How?” comes out of Derek’s mouth as the elevator jolts and moves up a floor.

Stiles shakes his head, flicks a finger at the back of the man standing in front of them. Derek has seen him before, briefly, at the mailboxes in the lobby he thinks. It irks him that he’s one of those people who cannot deign to walk up a single flight of stairs over making other occupants the elevator wait, so Derek huffs. The sentiment is shared because Stiles rolls his eyes when the elevator dings and the man steps out.

Derek opens his mouth to ask Stiles again how he knew but Stiles has pulled his hand out of Derek’s and dropped the bag to the ground. He places his palms against Derek’s chest, nudging him backwards until his back hits the side wall of elevator. He crowds him against it, tugs Erica’s scarf to side and ducks his head, pressing his face against the crook of Derek’s neck.

And then he does something that comes second nature to werewolves but so rarely to humans.

Stiles rubs his chin, nose, mouth across the smooth skin below Derek’s beard. An involuntary shiver runs the course of his body, from the heels of his feet and up his spine. Derek flexes his hands, fingertips tingling as he tamps down the urge to release his claws; the drag of Stiles’ lips against his jugular is shaking his control.

“Sce-ent-t marking,” Derek stutters out and Stiles chuckles, warm breath making Derek’s skin prickle into goosebumps.

He lifts his head, eyes bright in the fluorescent glow of the overhead lights, grinning. Derek watches him tilt his head up and to the side, the pale skin of his neck pulling taut over tendons. The invitation is clear without needing to be said and Stiles snickers when Derek leans in.

“I’ve been around Scott and Allison long enough to know what it means. Jackson used to do it all the time to Lydia, but I don’t think really she liked it that much. She has this thing about perfume and she gave it up when she and Jackson were together because of his sensitive nose. At least Erica and Boyd are kind of subtle about it, ya know? Don’t scent each other in public. You though, you weren’t subtle at all.”

Derek takes a deep breath in through his mouth, inhaling all the facets that make up Stiles’ scent. “I wasn’t trying to be,” he says as he breathes out, nuzzling at the barely there prick of facial hair growing on the hinge of Stiles’ jaw. “Subtlety didn’t work, neither did being obvious. You were the definition of oblivious.”

“Ouch, Derek, you wound me,” Stiles retorts, though it lacks the bite of his normal sarcasm. “You could have just told me you wanted to get all up on this.”

Derek snorts but continues with his scenting, nosing the collar of Stiles’ shirt to the side so he can get at his shoulder. “I did,” he says when Stiles threads fingers through his hair.

“When, pray tell?”

“The first time I asked you to lunch.”

The gentle petting of his hair stops and Stiles draws just far enough away that their eyes can meet. The elevator dings to indicate they’ve reached Derek’s floor but neither of them make an effort to exit. They remain pressed flush together, Derek sagged back against the wall and Stiles between his legs, bracketed around him.

“I asked you to lunch, not Scott. I wanted Thai,” Derek admits, pulse rocketing. Stiles fails to say anything, just lets his mouth fall open. His fingers curl idly in Derek’s hair and Derek drops his head onto Stiles’ shoulder. “Not that I mind, seeing how we’re all friends now. And the packs, I don’t regret that. But I was asking you and just you. I thought you’d get it.”

“How the hell was I supposed to get it?” Stiles asks, almost defensively. His fingers curl tighter in Derek’s hair.

“You have no idea what you smell like, do you?”

Derek tells himself this route worked with Scott and he hopes to whatever higher powers may exist that it works with Stiles as well.

“D’you want me to guess? You’re the werewolf, scent is your thing.”

“Scent can be important to humans too.”

Stiles sighs and shakes his head. “Fine.”

Derek smiles into the fabric of Stiles’ jacket and lets his hands rest loosely around Stiles’ hips.

“Well, I spent the past two hours cleaning, so probably bleach and window cleaner. Then there was the guy who comes in with his gargantuan Great Dane once a month to stock up on dog treats and the dog slobbered all over my sleeves. Oh, can’t forget the lady who came in with her cat on a leash. It looked miserable, Derek, so I fed it some freeze dried salmon when she was talking to Scott about vitamin supplements. I did bake today, used the last our frozen pumpkin to make a batch of cookies. Helped Scott with carob cupcakes. Hmmm, I prepped everything for a batch of those apple cinnamon oatmeal treats you-”

And then it clicks. Derek can feel it, the way Stiles freezes all of a sudden. His pupils are dilated when Derek withdraws, resting his head back against the wall.

“The treats,” Stiles mumbles, breathless. “You kept coming in for the treats.”

Derek nods. “It gave me a reason to see you.”

“Derek.”

“They make up your scent, too. Apple, cinnamon, oatmeal.”

The elevator starts moving as Stiles leans in, presses his mouth to Derek’s. For as quick as Stiles’ heart is pounding, and as much as his scent now has an accompanying lick of arousal mixed in with everything else, the kiss is gentle. Stiles’ hands are shaking against Derek’s beard, cupped around his jaw. Derek lets Stiles set the pace, content to rest his hands against the small of Stiles’ back and appreciate the flush high in Stiles’ cheeks.

There may or may not be group of three people waiting for the elevator when it reaches the first floor. Derek doesn’t register their gasps or nervous laughter, only that Stiles pulls away to press the button for Derek’s floor again and the content noise he makes when Derek reels him back in.

- - -

Linus is pacing by the door to the apartment when Derek unlocks and opens it to reveal Stiles. The kid doesn’t help the normal procedure - asking Linus to go sit by the couch until he’s calmed down - with the expressive “Linus, buddy! You’re kind of sort of an adult!”

“Don’t over excite him,” Derek chides, shutting the door with his foot. “Linus, sit.”

Linus does so reluctantly, whining. He writhes in his spot for a full thirty seconds until he breaks and pounces at the floor by Stiles’ feet. Then he’s off, running circles around the main room of the apartment, chuffing and barking as Stiles laughs. Derek rolls his eyes and apologizes for his dog’s rude manners. Stiles waves dismissively at him.

“Dude, he’s way better than like eighty percent of the dogs we have that come into the shop. Granted, you’re a werewolf and most of clientele are not, but still. You’ve done an awesome job training him. ‘Sides, we can’t help the fact that I’m awesome.”

Derek ruffles Stiles’ hair in retaliation, shaking it from its product aided form. Stiles bats Derek’s hand away but he’s grinning. He shrugs off his jacket and hangs it on a free hook of the coat rack before dropping to his knees. He whistles and Linus crawls across the carpeted floor on his stomach.

“Happy birthday, bud. You probably don’t know it, but today we shall celebrate your first year of existence. And look!” Stiles reaches into the bag he retrieved from the bakery. “I ever brought you a cake.”

Derek glances up from the takeout menus he’s pulled out from a drawer in the kitchen. The fridge isn’t barren but he’s not in the mood to cook. They, he and Stiles, have a lot to talk about and cooking would deter from that.

“You brought him a cake?” Derek questions, shuffling the menus into a neat pile.

“Well, I was just going to bring it with me tomorrow when we have our pack meeting. I totally know what it’s about, FYI. You corrected yourself when you used the word pack earlier. Trust me, no one is going to object. But yeah, I may have kind of made Linus a cake yesterday?”

The cake in question is a six inch round, white frosting on the top. Stiles has piped a messy, multicolored sheepdog in icing across the top, ‘old man linus’ scrawled along the edge. Linus sniffs at the container, blowing condensation and snot on the plastic before excitedly licking the sealing. Stiles chuckles and lifts the cake above his head, only to be knocked onto his back as the sheepdog licks at his face.

“You are ridiculous,” Derek says, not specifying whom is speaking to, as he drops the menus next to Stiles’ head. He takes the cake and sets it on the counter, back against the wall just in case Linus decides to go investigating. “Pick a menu and I’ll order us something to eat. We should talk.”

Stiles groans, the sound growing as Linus all but collapses on top of him, tail swishing back and forth in the air. It’s unfairly endearing. Stiles places a hand on top of his head that Linus tries to lick but Stiles scolds him. With his free hand he plucks one of the menus out of the pile and starts glancing it over.

“Let’s do here. Mediterranean sounds good.”

Derek calls the restaurant, placing the delivery after Stiles rambles off what he wants. The person on the phone says it’ll be half an hour - not bad for this time of day - and the total cost, not including tip. Derek hangs up and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket, thumbing through the receipts slotted between the cash he needs.

Once it is set aside, he sits down on the floor next to Stiles and Linus, the latter finally calmed down. The sheepdog’s coat hides most of Stiles’ body beneath him, and even as a werewolf Derek knows having an eighty pound dog on his chest is not comfortable, but Stiles looks happy. Pleased maybe. He flicks his eyes to Derek and grins.

They do talk then, Linus eventually sliding off to the side so Stiles can sit up. They move to the couch, sitting far enough away that Linus could squirm his between them but he doesn’t. Instead he lays down on his bed, tail wagging every now and then when Stiles says his name.

It is a bit uncomfortable, talking about feelings and all the instances Stiles didn’t catch as Derek asking him out. The flirting he got, just didn’t saying anything about.

“We work really well as friends,” Stiles says, wiping a palm across his cheek. The skin is flushed and Derek wants to skim his fingers over it, if only to feel the heat. “You know? Once I thought, I dunno, maybe you liked me a little more than just friends, I worried. I didn’t want to mess up what we have.”

“You wouldn’t have,” Derek replies and Stiles offers him a small smile, eyebrows still slightly furrowed as he stares down at the couch cushion separating them. “Hey, Stiles, you wouldn’t have. I promise.”

Derek starts to scoot across the couch when there is a knock at the door. He sighs and stands, taking two steps before stopping in front of Stiles. The kid is looking up at him, still guilt ridden. Derek places a finger underneath his chin, tilting Stiles’ head so he can bend down and place a kiss on his forehead.

The reciprocating flare of applecinnamonoatmeal and relaxed sigh are answer enough that they’ll be okay.

Lunchtime conversation is easier, Derek telling Stiles all about the books he’s been editing. When he tells him that Isaac plans on binding his thesis and giving Derek a copy of it, Stiles snorts with his mouth full of falafel, barely managing to not spit it out.

“Not that that isn’t super sweet,” Stiles hurries out, coughing. “I just don’t know how a hundred page thesis on the difference in the genetic makeup of rare bacteria is relevant to your interests.”

Derek shrugs and swallows a spoonful of tabbouleh. “Isaac included me in his dedications. It’s important to him, so it’s important to me. That’s part of being pack.”

“Whenever you finally publish your novel, are you going to include him in your dedications?”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Are you asking because you want one too?”

“Maybe,” Stiles says, stealing a dollop of hummus from Derek’s takeout container.

When they’re finished eating and have disposed of the containers, Stiles starts opening cabinet doors until he finds the bowls. He pulls one out then starts searching the drawers. Upon finding the knives, he makes a pleased noise, plucking one from the drawer and shutting it with his hip. Derek watches as Stiles cuts a piece of the cake he brought Linus, setting it in the bowl and handing it to Derek.

“Sing happy birthday to your dog.”

And Derek does. Linus doesn’t understand and it makes Stiles laugh and lean into his side.

Once Linus has started inhaling his cake, Stiles turns around and starts rifling through the cabinets again, pulling random things down from the shelves.

“What are you doing?” Derek asks when Stiles pulls the glass bowls Laura bought him for baking down from a shelf above the refrigerator.

“You’ll see,” Stiles replies, opening the refrigerator. He grimaces, mumbling “you don’t have apples.”

“It’s not season.”

“That’s okay. You have apple sauce, it’ll work.”

“What are you-” but it dawns on him before he can finish the sentence. “You’re making the bars.”

“I’m showing you how to make them so you don’t have to keep spending money on them.”

Stiles starts measuring ingredients out, lips moving like he’s reciting the recipe without verbalizing it.

“I won’t have a reason to come by the bakery every week then,” Derek says, only partially joking.

Stiles looks over his shoulder, smirking, and chuckles. “Guess you’ll have to find another reason, huh?”

Within twenty minutes, the entire apartment is warm the scent of applecinnamonoatmeal. It’s slightly different than the one that seems to cling to Stiles but close enough that Derek’s wolf is jittery. It wants to bury itself in the scent, wants to cover Stiles in its own.

“We’re going to have to tell the entire pack if you keep doing that.”

Derek sighs. He’s pressed along the length of Stiles’ back, hands on his waist and nose dragging back and forth across the nape of Stiles’ neck. Stiles has been rolling out the dough for the bars while the first batch bakes, not showing the least bit of discomfort even as Derek has rubbed his skin red with his stubble.

“Tell them what?” Derek asks and Stiles elbows him.

“That we’re, um, dating?”

Derek smiles against Stiles’ shoulder and wraps his arms around the kid’s stomach in a loose embrace. “Are we?”

“Unless you’d like come up with another term for this.” Stiles cranes his neck around, smirking. “Personally, I’d like to brag that you’re my boyfriend.”

“You make a strong argument,” Derek says. “They’re going to know anyways though.”

“Why, do you think Scott’s told everyone?”

“No, but they all knew, know.”

“Know what?”

Derek kisses the patch of skin behind Stiles' ear, rubs his chin there and scents Stiles instead of answering. Stiles groans then, abandoning his dough in order to turn around. He keeps his hands at his sides, careful not to touch Derek.

“They seriously all know?”

“That I like you? Yes.”

“Everyone.”

“Everyone. Well, maybe not Kira.”

Stiles lets out a long sigh and frowns. “And your family? When we went up in January?”

“Just my sisters. And mom. Dad doesn’t know.”

“I hate you,” Stiles says but the telltale blip in his heartbeat accompanies it. “I am never going to hear the end of this. Fuck, Jackson is never going to let me live this down. Lydia is never going to let me live this down. And Scott-”

“You’ll be fine. It’s my fault anyways. We’ll deal.”

Stiles leans back against the counter, hands still outstretched. He shakes his head then laughs, animatedly throwing his head back, and Derek lets out a rumbling growl at the sight of stubble burn he’s left there. The timer on the oven beeps once, indicating there are five minutes left until the first batch of apple cinnamon oatmeal bars will be done. On the floor, beneath the kitchen table Derek rarely eats at, preferring his desk in the office or the couch instead, Linus is passed out, feet twitching in his sleep.

Derek kisses Stiles then, mouth still parted in laughter, the sound continuing even as Derek nips at his bottom lip. Stiles doesn’t seem to care, presses their foreheads together. His irises are tinted liquid caramel in the yellow light above the stove, flecks of gold barely visible.

Then he’s kissing Derek back, pressing his dough and flour covered fingertips into Derek’s jaw and making a mess of his beard. Derek nips at his lip again, licking into Stiles’ mouth when he gasps.

By the time Stiles leaves, hours later and only because he agreed to help Lydia with a grant proposal, he’s sporting a well rumpled look: hair mussed from Derek’s fingers, lips swollen, neck, shoulders and collarbones red with stubble burn, an impressive hickey present over his jugular. He buries his face in Derek’s neck when they hug before Stiles steps out the door, a place he’s spent the past half an hour sucking his own marks into Derek’s skin, if only to watch them recede so he could renew them. Derek gets one more kiss in and then Stiles is shouting a happy birthday at Linus and waving as he wobbles towards the elevator.

It’s utterly ridiculous that they just spent the better part of the afternoon making out like over eager teenagers and Derek still wants to drag Stiles back inside and continue. But the elevator doors are opening and Stiles slips inside, pressing his hands over his face as he makes an embarrassed noise in his throat. The wolf whines for the source of its favorite scent and Derek has to lay down for a bit, to process.

- - -

Luckily for Derek (and his wolf), the scent lingers in the apartment for days, ingrained in the dishtowel and oven mitts. No one comments on it the next night at the pack meeting until the very end, after they’ve uncapped beers and a bottle of formula for Cooper to celebrate the merger of the McCall and Hale packs, and only after Stiles announces to the room at large that he and Derek are a thing and no one is allowed to make fun of their epic romance. The pack - singular pack - glance between themselves before pelting the two of them with snacks from the bowls on the coffee table. Linus scampers around gobbling up the food as Derek hides behind Stiles, laughing until his stomach hurts.

It doesn’t take long - not really, not compared to the almost yearlong build from acquaintances to boyfriends - for Stiles’ scent to become semipermanent. As they spend more and more time together outside of pack functions, just the two of them and Linus, the scent starts to permeate items around Derek’s apartment. It embeds itself in the couch, the loveseat, in the sheets and the towels and the pillows Stiles comes to claim as his own. It lingers in clothes they inevitably start sharing from nights spent at the other’s apartment and mornings spent making their ways home or to work, sleepy and unaware of what they’re wearing until they’ve had their first cup of coffee.

Then one day the applecinnamonoatmeal scent becomes permanent and the entire apartment smells like them, like DerekandStilesandLinus with a hint of pack, and Derek has never been happier.