The man at the door was blond, blue-eyed, and blessed with Draco Malfoy's jawline. He was trim like a competitive swimmer, dressed in the latest designer clothes, and smelled faintly of pheromone-laden cologne.
Stiles gave him points for not going overboard with the personal grooming, but the bouquet of daisies in the Alpha's hands was impersonal and too fresh-cut to be anything but snatched out of someone's garden.
Stiles slammed the door in the nameless Alpha's face. He thumbed the safety locks at the top and bottom of the door and flipped the titanium door latch.
"Three, two, one," he muttered under his breath, throwing himself on his bed. When the angry banging and shouting started, he seriously contemplated getting his noise-cancelling ear buds just to get some studying done.
In theory, there were Alphas who held to the old traditions, but these days, finding someone willing to court an Omega properly and respect their decision regardless of the outcome? Impossible, particularly on campus, where frat houses full of competing Alphas chased and bedded the rare Omegas for sport and bragging rights.
Stiles didn't come to university on a full scholarship so that he could be someone's trophy.
He stretched out on the bed and tried to figure out if this Alpha would give up after a few more minutes, or if he'd stay there, howling like an Alpha in rut, until Stiles gave in.
"In case you didn't get the hint when I slammed the door in your face? It's a big, fat, no, I'm not interested in you or your dick, with a very clear undertone of get lost," Stiles shouted.
The Alpha banged on the door again. Stiles groaned. He shouldn't have engaged. If experience was any guide, he was in for a at least another hour of this bullshit.
The pounding abruptly stopped.
"In case you didn't hear him, you were told no," Stiles heard. He perked up when he recognized Derek Hale's gruff tenor. Stiles' RA continued, "Clearly, you missed the mandatory anti-harassment seminar every Alpha fraternity is obliged to show its members. Let me help you out here. No means get the fuck out and never bother him again."
"This has nothing to do with you. If you'd just butt out --"
Whatever the Alpha had been about to say was pinched off in a strangled urk.
"Get the fuck out," Derek said pleasantly. "Never bother him again. It's very simple. Do you understand?"
There was no answer. Just a choked-off grunt.
"Excellent. You're a fast learner. Do you understand what you're going to do when I let you go?"
Again, no answer, and after a slight pause, there was a scramble of retreating footsteps.
Stiles quickly unlocked his door and --
He remembered his glasses and snatched the black frames off, tossing them onto the bedside table. He smoothed his unruly study-hair down, hoping that it wasn't sticking up on one side of his head like it normally did.
-- yanked it open. Derek was in the hallway, his arms crossed like a bodyguard, which, yeah, that dominant pose didn't help Stiles' persistent attraction to Derek at all. Stiles swayed forward, trying to catch his scent and generally just drown himself in Derek's Alpha aura. He only just saved himself from world class embarrassment, a little annoyed by how fast he could go from zero interest to all the yes whenever Derek Hale was around.
"Um, hi," he said smoothly. He coughed. "You didn't have to do that. I had it under control. But thanks."
Derek's protective frown and clenched jawline became blank, emotionless, and shuttered, and Stiles groaned inwardly. Even though he'd never really gone without unwanted attention from random Alphas, he'd never been on the receiving end of any interest from the one Alpha he thought he'd like to be courted by.
And in one firing squad string of sentences, had condemned any potential relationship to a painful, bloody death.
"He wasn't just bothering you," Derek said flatly. "There are other people on this floor."
"Yeah. Yes. I am aware. I'm really sorry about that. Between me and Heather down the hall, the roving bands of Alphas sniffing around the building and sneaking their way in can't be much fun for anyone," Stiles said.
Derek's eyebrows pinched, and he almost looked angry. Or confused. Stiles wasn't sure. Slowly, as if Derek wanted to make sure Stiles understood him, he said, "This is in no way your fault. You know that? Those Alphas bothering you? They're not supposed to treat you -- any Omega -- like this."
Stiles scoffed. "I know that. I can't help it, though. Sins of the world, dude. You show me an Omega who doesn't feel guilty for bothering other people, and I'll show you a rhino in a purple tutu. They're a rare breed among a rare breed. Believe me, I get reminded enough that if I'd been accepted into the Omega dorm, no one would have to listen to a wild Alpha humping the door."
That had happened last week, and from the way Derek's ears reddened, he remembered. He'd been the one to run them off, as usual.
"This time, it really wasn’t my fault. I don't know who that guy was, and I definitely didn't buzz him in," Stiles said.
Derek's frown deepened and he shook his head. "No, that's not what I meant. They're adults. They should be able to control themselves. There's no excuse for acting like that."
"Yeah," Stiles said softly, because that? That right there? It was in the top ten reasons why Stiles was smitten. Derek was a perfect gentleman. Old fashioned, a traditionalist. Stiles didn't know if it had anything to do with Derek being a werewolf, but he was already miles and miles out of everyone's league. Especially Stiles'. Stiles suppressed a dreamy sigh and proceeded to demonstrate why he was the most erudite pre-law student on campus. He squeaked, "Yeah. Well."
Derek tilted his head as if trying to decide if Stiles was on drugs. Stiles flushed.
"Can't fix everyone," Stiles managed to get out. He winced at the high pitch of his own voice.
The brows of doom returned, and Derek looked away, almost thoughtful. "Look, Stiles. You have finals. We all have finals. It might help if you had an Alpha around. Their scent will keep other Alphas away."
Stiles snorted. "Brilliant idea. My own personal Alpha Raid. Guaranteed to repulse unwanted Alphas. If only it could be bottled. That's a best selling product if I've ever heard one. I'd be rich."
"I meant an Alpha you know," Derek said, annoyed.
"Scott's six hours away at vet school," Stiles said. "I'm not going to ask him to come over and rub himself all over me and my room. Besides, he's got exams, too. It's a bad time for everyone."
"Do you know any other Alphas?" Derek said pointedly. Stiles stared at him, too stupefied by the implication in Derek's tone to say anything. Stiles' brain short circuited from an overload of mental images: Derek in his dorm room. Derek studying at Stiles' desk. Derek stretched out on Stiles' bed. Derek --
"Are you volunteering?" came out of his mouth before he could really think about it.
"Yes, Stiles," Derek said slowly, as if pained. "I am volunteering to keep other Alphas away from you."
Stiles gaped. He pictured a swashbuckling pirate sweeping him off his feet while whisking him away from uncouth military men. A bare-chested man in a sexy highland skirt holding up a sharp claymore against an invading horde of barbarians. A police detective rescuing him from kidnappers who cared less about the ransom and more about taking a more private, personal prize.
Stiles might or might not have a collection of bodice rippers in a Tupperware bin under his bed. He'd never admit to it, but if he did, in fact, own such a thing, it wasn't doing him any favours right now.
Stiles realized with some mortification that he was probably stinking up the corridor with Omega-rich arousal.
Derek huffed and looked away as if it personally offended him. He crossed his arms and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Quietly, he said, "For everyone's benefit. Of course."
"Of course," Stiles said lamely, ignoring the hurt that jabbed at his chest. If nothing else, the aloofness in Derek's tone was doing a good job of deflating any of Stiles' unfounded hopes of having blipped on Derek's radar. Of course, Derek would only want to hang out with Stiles in close proximity because he was a self-sacrificing asshole trying to make life easier for everyone else.
"All right," Derek said, nodding sharply. "I'll come over tomorrow after your linguistics class."
"Okay," Stiles said, confused.
Derek seemed to hesitate then, with a resolute expression, leaned in and rubbed his cheek against Stiles. His groomed stubble was softer than Stiles had imagined, but he wasn’t prepared for it and he didn’t get a chance to appreciate it fully before Derek pulled away.
Stiles watched Derek head down the hall. It wasn't until he'd rounded the corner that Stiles wondered how Derek knew Stiles' schedule.
"And I'm trying to tell you, Scotty, I'm fine," Stiles said, shrugging his shoulder to hike up the strap of his backpack before it slid off completely. He shifted his phone from one ear to the other. "Stay put. You have exams. Besides, Derek said he'd help out --"
He punched the access code to the dorm building and went in, making sure that the door latched behind him. He spotted a couple of Alphas, including a tall, blond one, standing on the other side of the street, watching his building. Stiles' eyes narrowed, and he missed what Scott said.
"I said, do you really think it's smart to let him? I mean, isn't he the guy you've been crushing on since junior year?"
"Freshman year," Stiles corrected, heading up the stairs. "And, probably not. No. It won't be the smartest thing I've ever done, but it's fine. I'm just going to study. We are going to study. If I don't think about sharing a really cramped space with the hottest guy I've ever laid eyes on, I'll be fine."
"Just the hottest guy?" Scott repeated, his tone teasing. "Didn't you tell me you named your favourite dildo Derek because you were pretty sure he's the only person who could get you through your heats --"
"Oh my God." Stiles groaned, a hand covering his face. He almost walked into a wall in the process. "I told you that in confidence. And also out of revenge for the Scott-and-Allison saga I had to listen to all through high school --"
"Ugh," Scott said. "How much longer are you going to hold that over my head?"
"Forever and ever, buddy," Stiles laughed. "Anyway, you don't have to worry."
Scott hesitated. "Actually, I have a feeling that I kind of do. He's a werewolf, right?"
"Yeah, so?" Stiles smiled at two girls heading down to the rec room. "You're a werewolf."
"Exactly," Scott said. "I'm a werewolf. And you're an Omega. Your senses are pretty good for a human, but there's probably something you should know about Alpha werewolves."
"That they're overprotective as fuck?" Stiles asked, rolling his eyes. Scott worried too much.
"Yes! And they're only ever protective like this when it comes to --"
Stiles lowered his phone, missing the rest of what Scott said, and stuttered to a stop. The door to his room was open a crack. It also smelled really nice -- like...
Like not just Derek, which, yeah, Stiles kind of already had Derek's scent memorized, and he was unrepentant about that. This was different. This was...
This was him and Derek, and the blend was better than anything he'd ever imagined.
He pushed the door open cautiously.
There was a large black wolf on the bed. It was stretched the full length of the extra-long twin, the comforter shoved against the wall, the pillow firmly under its body. It didn't so much as raise its head when Stiles walked in.
Its' eyes were a mixture of green, blue, and gold. There was a pile of clothes on the floor -- a grey-green Henley, a pair of jeans, and a pair of black boots.
"Derek?" Stiles guessed.
The wolf's tail wagged once.
Stiles couldn't help the smile spreading across his face. He'd never seen Derek in his wolf form before, and he had the feeling that this was special, something not many people were privileged to see. Stiles shut the door behind him. "That's pretty awesome."
Derek chuffed softly, his eyes twitching, but he stayed where he was.
Belatedly, Stiles remembered Scott. He put his phone to his ear and said, "Scotty, you there?"
"Yeah, what's going on?"
"Everything's cool, I'm just going to study? Derek's here, and --"
"You're going to think about what I said and call me later, right?"
"Yeah, I'll call," Stiles said absentmindedly. "I promise."
He hung up before Scott could say anything else. Derek kept shooting him sidelong looks, and Stiles snapped out of it. He was staring, thinking about how soft Derek’s fur must be and how much he wanted to run his fingers through it, and, well. Rude.
"Right," Stiles said, fixing his gaze on the only window in his room. He needed to fix the blinds. "You said you'd come over. I guess you have the key to my place? Because you're the RA?"
Derek turned his head to watch Stiles. Stiles felt self-conscious, but he dropped his bag at his desk and --
"Dude, did you get me flowers?"
-- there was a small bouquet of pink and white camellias in a short, simple vase. The flowers were fresh, the vase looked like expensive crystal, and it was definitely a step-up from the weedy daisies from the Alpha the other day.
"They're really pretty. I like them?" Stiles asked, uncertain. That seemed to be the right thing to say, because the growling softened until it was almost a purr.
Stiles sat down at his desk and pulled out his homework, glancing between Derek and the flowers.
"Um. I'm just going to study, if that's okay?"
Derek curled up in a tight ball.
"It's every night, Scott," Stiles whined. "I can't study! He's right there all the time! On my bed! In full wolf! You don't understand what it's doing to me, Scott. He's adorable! He's thoughtful! He's everything I want my mate to be, and, argh. He's only doing this because exams are coming up and he wants to keep the noise level down. How is this my life right now?"
"That's not why he's doing it," Scott said. "Don't you remember what I told you?"
"He's super attentive!" Stiles said, barely registering what Scott said. "He brought me curly fries the other night because I said I hadn't had any all week! He loaned me his blankets until he could fix the broken heater in my room! He found someone to loan me the notes for that class I missed because I slept in!"
"He didn't hear a word I said." Scott muttered. Stiles didn't know who he was talking to. "Unbelievable. And on top of that, he was there when I did all those things for --"
"Oh! And when he's studying, he doesn’t even wear socks! His toes! I love his toes --"
"Ugh," Scott said. "Did I sound like this when I was with Allison?"
"Worse!" Stiles snapped. He glanced over his shoulder and walked a little faster. The daisy-toting Alpha from the week before had cornered him coming out of class. He’d said something about reeking of someone else and needing to fix it, and if it hadn’t been for the professor unknowingly causing a distraction, Stiles would probably have been in trouble. He wasn't in the clear, not yet, because that Alpha was following him home. He'd glimpsed him twice already.
"Stiles? Are you okay? You sound upset --"
"I'm fine. I'm fine. The code box to my building is on the fritz or something," Stiles said. He thumbed through it a third time, only to get the red light again.
"Your heart's racing. Are you sure?"
"It's just been a weird day," Stiles said. He punched the locking mechanism, and froze when he heard the daisy-toting Alpha behind him.
"Having trouble?" the Alpha asked. Stiles rolled his eyes. He could practically hear the cocky smarm oozing from the frat boy. He felt as if he needed a shower just from the proximity. "I could help."
"No, I'm fine," Stiles said, refusing to turn around. He punched the buttons again, leaning against the door in the hopes that it would miraculously open.
Abruptly, the door swung wide open. Stiles crashed into something nice and solid and firm, and --
"What was it I said the last time I saw you?" Derek asked, growling deep in his chest. His arm was warm and comforting around Stiles.
The daisy-Alpha held up his hands, his complexion paling. "I'm just being friendly."
"Walk away," Derek snarled. He pulled Stiles into the building and shut the door with a firm, meaningful click. Derek practically swept Stiles in his arms to get him up the stairs, but he didn't really need to, not when Stiles was just as eager to get far away from the other Alpha. Still, Derek didn't stop touching him, as if he thought Stiles would disappear if he let go.
All the manhandling was hot, but it felt a little too much given the situation. Derek was really good at the whole pretending and protecting thing, Stiles realized. If people didn't think they were together, then they would, soon.
It took Stiles a minute to realize that he wasn't the one trembling.
"Derek? Are you all right? You're shaking," Stiles said. He tripped over his own two feet, following Derek up the stairs, and only remembered that he still had Scott on the phone when he banged into a corner and nearly dropped it. "Scott? Scott, are you there?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm still here. What's going on?"
Derek pulled Stiles into his dorm room. Stiles crashed against the door and was nearly crushed when Derek buried his nose in Stiles' neck.
"I'm not sure," Stiles said awkwardly. He wasn't complaining about the contact. It was nice. It was more than nice, and it soothed an itch that Stiles hadn't been able to scratch since this entire fake Alpha boyfriend thing started. It didn't quite go away, though. "Um."
Derek was a werewolf blanket around him, his breath slower now, less panicky, but he wasn't pulling away either.
"Dude? Are you okay?" Stiles asked Derek.
Derek didn't answer right away. When he did, he nodded. His scruffy beard tickled the side of Stiles' throat and initiated a new round of cheek rubbing. It was nice. He hadn't been scent marked before, but he'd seen Scott do it enough times, and --
He looked around the room. As the RA for their floor, Derek had the biggest room, which came in handy when he had to tutor or counsel someone. Right now, though, all that extra space was taken up by a small two-person table with a tablecloth. There were two plates, two wine glasses, a bottle of red wine, a vase with roses --
"Oh," Stiles said, finally catching on. He brought his phone to his ear and cleared his throat. "Everything's fine, Scott. But we're going to have a long talk about courting habits in the context of an Alpha and Omega, and I'm not talking about werewolf hierarchies."
Derek stiffened. Stiles wasn't even sure that Derek was breathing.
"I've been trying to tell you --"
Stiles hung up on Scott, dropping his phone onto a nearby table.
Stiles adjusted his glasses self-consciously before taking them off altogether and leaving them on the table next to his phone. He ran his fingers through Derek's hair like he'd been wanting to do all along. It wasn't fur, but it would have to do.
"Is there something you want to tell me, Derek?" Stiles asked.
Slowly, as if muscle by muscle, Derek relaxed and pulled away. The tips of his ears were burning, there was a faint blush on his cheeks, and when he raised his chin to make eye contact, it was sheepish but intent.
"I was hoping to ask you if I could... If you would..." Derek took a deep breath. He stepped back, brushing his hands over his clothes to straighten himself up, and started again. "Stiles. May I court you?"
"Officially, you mean?" Stiles teased.
Derek bowed his head. He shrugged faintly, tilting his head to the side, submitting to Stiles the way an Alpha only ever submitted to their Omega. "Yes. Officially."
Stiles' smile was so wide that it hurt his cheeks, and he laughed a tiny little laugh of joy when Derek smiled, too, though his was shy and flustered.
"Yes. All the yeses. You absolutely, definitely, one hundred-percent can court me," Stiles said. Derek's smile disappeared when he added, "On one condition."
Derek frowned. "What?" he asked, cautious.
"Since you've been courting me for a while, do you think we could we skip ahead to the part of the courtship where kissing is a thing? I mean, exams are soon, it's going to be really stressful, and I'm pretty sure my heat is coming up. I'd like to have a headstart on the relationship so that it won't be awkward when --"
Derek huffed a laugh and kissed him.