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A Second Alpha

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Stiles doesn’t really sleep a lot—does that surprise anyone?—because, a.) Adderall and, b.) lots of candy and also, c.) even though he takes a shit ton of medication for it, he still can’t ever really get his brain to slow down or even stick to one subject and so it tends to jump around a lot. And, shockingly, none of these things are actually conducive to settling down and dancing off to dreamland.

 

Something he’s learned over the past few years, though, is that if you go long enough without sleeping, everything around you starts to take on this weird sort of unreal quality and you honestly can’t tell if your dad asking you whether you want pancakes or breakfast enchiladas is real or a dream or a medication overdose-induced hallucination. More often than not lately, what with thoughts of werewolves and Scott could be killing someone right now and Jackson is most likely shredding Bambi at this very moment and also Jesus, fuck, how does Derek even get abs like that?! keeping him awake at night, even the most mundane things are turning out to be that third option.

 

Which is why his first thought, when he’s innocently and totally unobtrusively trying to buy sixteen boxes of Mike&Ikes and three cases of Mountain Dew and Greta the Checkout Lady is giving him a hard time about it and a hand comes down heavy on his shoulder and he spins around to find none other than Chris ‘I Kill Werewolves Like Stiles Kills Curly Fries’ Argent standing there, smiling in that fatherly but also kind of hot in a weird, older-dude-who-will-totally-not-hesitate-to-kill-you way, Stiles’ first though is that he’s hallucinating.

 

Or dreaming.

 

Nightmaring.

 

(Is that a word? It is now. Nightmaring is a word. And a verb. Stiles has officially just minted a new verb in the English language.)

 

And, yup, way too many Adderall.

 

He has inadvertently entered into a staring contest that is apparently meant to establish the dominant male in this scenario, and Stiles has metaphorically been baring his throat to one particularly grumpy wolf quite a lot lately (often in the form of being slammed unceremoniously into a wall and then shouted at) so he figures, what the hell?, and just looks away as soon as he figures out what Allison’s dad is trying to do.

 

“You win,” he deadpans. “I’m not much of a topper, anyways.”

 

Mr. Argent actually crinkles his nose like he understands what that means – which, okay, hot, but also ew – before he shakes his head slightly and, after taking a moment to reassemble his usual macho-scary demeanor, gives Stiles’ shoulder a shake and says, “This is a very handsome jacket you’re wearing here, son.”

 

Stiles blinks, then looks down at himself, and then realizes that he has somehow ended up wearing Derek’s jacket. Sourwolf Derek. ‘Stiles I will rip your throat out with my teeth’ Derek.

 

Huh.

 

“Um, thanks?” he offers, unsure really what is actually expected of him in this conversation, because it seems for all the world like Mr. Argent is really just trying to make fun of him more than intimidate him. But that can’t be right, can it? Surely the head honcho werewolf hunter in Beacon Hills has better things to do with his time?

 

(Well, Stiles is pretty sure there’s a box of U by Kotex tampons in Mr. Badass’s little shopping basket, so maybe he’s just feeling emasculated and is compensating by pouncing on and picking on the weakest link in sight. Which, okay, Stiles will admit that, even with Greta the Checkout Lady standing a few feet away, is probably actually still him. Whatever. Greta has been working here for as long as Stiles can remember and she hasn’t seemed to age a day; Greta is fucking hard, man.)

 

Yes, he’s aware, too much Adderall.

 

“Where does a boy like you get a jacket like this, Stiles?” Mr. Argent is asking, steering Stiles away from the checkout counter (his Dew! His candy! No, babies, I’ll come back for you, I promise!) and over to the little nook where the RedBox and CoinStar machines are, and then it’s just the two of them standing there and Stiles has no fucking idea what to do with himself. His options, apparently, are:

 

Lie, which he’s terrible at even with a good night’s sleep under his belt,

 

Admit that he has somehow stolen his Alpha’s most prized possession, which will both paint him as a thief and Derek as a weakling, or,

 

Run. And he’s pretty sure that Mr. Argent could catch him without even breaking a sweat.

 

“Well, Mr. Argent—” Oh, wait, this is Stiles, so there’s always a fourth option, and the fourth option is babble. Babble like the wind. Babble for your life. “Actually, sir, to be totally honest I haven’t slept since Tuesday and I’m pretty sure I’ve taken my entire month’s supply of my ADD meds in that span of time, too—please don’t tell my dad, by the way, because I’m going to have to tell him I accidentally dumped them in the toilet and I’m not sure he would even hesitate to arrest me for some kind of drug fraud, lying-to-dads-and-pharmacists charges—so my brain isn’t really working at peak performance and I honestly don’t even really remember driving here, let alone getting dressed, and I didn’t even know I had this jacket on until you came over here all, ‘Yo, Stiles, I like your coat, man!’ and so I can’t even really tell you how I got it, or where I got it, or when or—”

 

“Whoa, kid, whoa!”

 

Clearly, Mr. Argent has never been subjected to the full force of The Stilinski Babble. Well, that’s just his loss.

 

“I think you should just get yourself home and get some sleep, Stiles. Did you drive yourself here?”

 

Stiles pats his pockets, comes up with the keys to his jeep, and nods. He may or may not nod so emphatically that he sort of loses his balance and tips over so that Mr. Argent has to grab his shoulder again to steady him.

 

“Okay. Give me those, will you? I’d never forgive myself if I released you onto the mean streets of Beacon Hills in this condition.”

 

Stiles starts to protest, actually makes a move to cradle the keys against his chest because Jessie is his baby, and definitely in a more loyal sense than that candy and sody-pop was his baby before he forgot all about it up until now, but then Allison’s dad is using his freaky hunter skills (re: man who has actually slept in the past seventy-two hours skills) and snatching the keys right out of his hands.

 

“How am I supposed to get home now?” Stiles whines.

 

Mr. Argent just rolls his eyes and informs him, “The walk won’t kill you. You’re on the lacrosse team, right? You’ve got to be physically fit enough to walk home on a nice fall day.”

 

Stiles just makes a wounded puppy sound at him and, when that doesn’t get him his keys back, stamps his foot and cries, “Fine!” in his most petulant voice before whirling on his heel and storming out of the store.

 

Unfortunately to get back to his house he has to pass in front of the long wall of windows at the front of the store—and Mr. Argent is standing right where Stiles left him, right smack in the middle of the wall. When Stiles passes the hunter he’s on his phone, and he has to be talking to Allison because that’s the only time Stiles ever sees the man actually laugh, and he’s definitely laughing.

 

Whatever.

 

Stiles didn’t need to drive home anyway; he has every intention of stomping all the way there.

 

--

 

Literally five minutes later a familiar black Camaro squeals – actually squeals – to a stop at the curb beside him and the passenger side door is thrown open from the inside and a familiar snarly sourwolf voice orders, “Get in.”

 

Well, if it means he doesn’t have to walk anymore, then sure.

 

--

 

Stiles wakes up with absolutely no idea what time or even what day it is.

 

Usually he wakes up flailing, or jerking out of a dream about Scott mauling him or Lydia Martin blowing him (admittedly less frequently, lately) or, his personal favorite, Derek standing over him with his cock in Stiles’ mouth (that one’s more frequent, and way more enjoyable) or generally just suddenly, not in any kind of comfortable way. But not this time; he wakes up slowly, easily, like he’s floating on the sweet, gentle waves of sleep and he’s just been meandering towards the shores of wakefulness for quite some time now, and like the most natural thing in the world, he’s just bumped up lightly against the sandbar.

 

And that, if Stiles does say so himself, is a fucking beautiful metaphor.

 

His eyes come open slowly and he registers that he’s sprawled out like a starfish in the middle of his bed, wearing his favorite sweatpants and tucked neatly underneath the covers—in short, he’s in a much better state than he would ever be if he’d actually put himself to bed, which makes him instantly suspicious.

 

He sits up slowly, listening to his neck crack, his spine creak, oh, that feels good, and then he stretches his arms above his head and it’s one of those good-hurt, long stretches that actually leaves you breathless. Oh, yeah, Stiles got some good-ass sleep. He can tell.

 

But then he becomes aware of… well, a strange sort of… something’s just different. There’s this tingly sensation all over his skin and his room doesn’t smell like it usually does (which is a combination of Stiles’ body wash and the freakishly tropical-scented laundry soap his dad buys because it’s the cheapest one). It smells… earthier. No, crisper. Yeah. It smells like the woods right after a summer rain storm, when the air is so clear and perfectly dry that breathing it in is like taking a hit straight from Scott’s inhaler. It smells good.

 

Stiles actually kind of wants to roll around in the smell, if that’s possible. Wants to capture it all in a huge bottle and then crawl through the bottle’s opening and cork it behind him.

 

And that’s really fucking weird.

 

A loud thump startles him out of his thoughts, and he scrambles around uselessly for a moment before the door opens and his dad sticks his head in, saying, “Hey—Stiles—you feeling better, kid?”

 

Stiles nods, because what else can he do? His mouth is hanging open in that way that it does sometimes and he glances cautiously around before asking, in as offhand of a way as he can, “Um, what day is it?”

 

His dad laughs. “Monday, son. Your buddy dropped you off Saturday afternoon and said you’d been studying like crazy and needed some sleep. Must have been a pretty hard crash, huh?”

 

Stiles distinctly remembers getting into a shiny, sleek Camaro, but he doubts his dad would be this cavalier if Derek ‘Once-Suspected Serial Killer’ Hale had dropped him off, so…

 

“My buddy?”

 

“Yeah, from the team. Lacrosse team. Uh, uh.” Stiles’ dad snaps his fingers a few times, the way he does when he’s thinking, and then it clicks and he declares, triumphantly, “Jackson! Your buddy Jackson!”

 

Stiles shakes his head, like that will somehow make the world right again, but then his dad is saying that he’s got to work late and that Stiles needs to remember to eat something with actual nutritional value, which means it needs to includes calories and carbohydrates, tonight and that he’ll check in if Stiles’ light is still on when he gets home.

 

“Okay,” Stiles says, not really absorbing any of that at all. “Carbs. Right.”

 

His dad closes the door and Stiles shakes his head again, so confused.

 

“…my buddy Jackson?”

 

--

 

Scott ambushes him as soon as he walks into English, shoving Stiles into the corner and – okay, seriously, personal space, dude – sniffing him like he’s the newest Armani aftershave.

 

“You stink,” Scott whines, like how Stiles smells might actually rank somewhere between Allison, Allison, and Allison on his priority list.

 

“I didn’t have time to shower,” Stiles grumbles, trying to bully his way past his wolfy bestie and get back to his seat.

 

“You stink like Derek,” Scott clarifies, but Stiles ignores him because that just doesn’t make any fucking sense. None at all.

 

--

 

Allison bursts into giggles when they walk into the cafeteria, Stiles trying to pretend like his best friend hasn’t suddenly gone totally off his rocker while Scott is doing his best impersonation of Jackson’s ‘you smell like you’re not worth my time’ face.

 

What?” Stiles demands, slamming his tray down on the table in front of her.

 

“Nothing!” Allison chirps, and then she buries her face in Scott’s side and Stiles gives up on them in favor of aggressively stabbing his mashed potatoes with a spork.

 

--

 

When Stiles gets home, the crisp, clean, summery rain smell has intensified in his room and he’s starting to think his dad secretly shampooed his carpet while he was asleep for two days, or something, because it seriously smells awesome.

 

He settles down at his computer, gets his homework done in record time (and with a record minimum of distractions—he only plays Six Degrees of Hitler on Wikipedia nine times) and then promptly starfishes on the bed again, this time fully dressed and on top of his covers, and passes out.

 

He sleeps like a baby. No, like an angel.

 

He sleeps like a fucking baby angel.

 

--

 

“Stiles,” Lydia coos over the table in the library where the entire pack is gathered, her emerald eyes alight with mischief. “Sweetie, you’re glowing.”

 

Stiles glares, pops an Adderall, and hunkers down in his seat.

 

He’s not glowing.

 

--

 

He goes into the woods looking for some plant that apparently is very good for pubescent werewolf development (he found it on the internet, he shits you not) and ends up knee-deep in some awful smelling sink hole of mucky awfulness.

 

It’s awful.

 

The more he tries to get out, the further he gets sucked in. He struggles for about ten minutes before the Stiles Stilinski Patience’O’Meter totally runs out and he just starts beating the muck with his fists and shouting obscenities at the sky.

 

“I don’t think God is likely to help you out of there if you keep calling him a dirty, goat-fucking sonofabitch.”

 

Stiles yelps and turns around quickly—well, he tries to, but he really just flails around a lot until he manages to spin far enough to catch sight of Derek crouched at the edge of the muck-pool of awful, laughing at him.

 

God, no. He can’t take another person laughing at him.

 

“What the hell are you doing in there?” Derek asks, lifting one eyebrow in that critical but also totally boner-inducing way of his.

 

“I fell,” Stiles grinds out.

 

“And you couldn’t just get up and walk away?” the werewolf asks.

 

Stiles sighs in a very gawd, help me fashion. “I fell a lot,” he admits, and blushes to the roots of his hair when Derek laughs so loudly that it echoes back at them from the treetops.

 

And, wow, okay, Derek Hale might have the most beautiful, throaty, deep, genuine laugh Stiles has ever heard. Ever.

 

“Look, are you going to get me out of here, or what?” Stiles asks. Maybe begs. Okay, begs. “Please, god, Derek, get me out of here, it smells so bad!

 

So now he’s whining.

 

Derek just shakes his head and rises to his full height, turns a circle, looking for something, then stoops and picks up a long stick. He comes back to his previous position and holds it out, saying, “Grab on and don’t fight it, okay? Just let me pull you…”

 

--

 

“Pretty sure my hall carpet is ruined,” Derek remarks dryly as he and Stiles stand under the spray of the huge, ancient-looking shower in the second-floor bathroom. They’re both naked to the waist and Stiles is shivering slightly because, well, the muck was cold and the water hasn’t heated up yet. Sue him.

 

“I’m p-pretty s-sure that your whole h-house is ruined,” he manages to mutter through his chattering teeth, and Derek’s shoulders jerk with smothered laughter, but all he does in response to Stiles’ lipping off is cup his hands together, gather up as much of the freezing water as he can, and dump it on Stiles’ head.

 

Hey!” the smaller boy yelps, jerking back, but Derek hooks his thumbs through Stiles’ beltloops and tugs him closer until they’re standing so close that their hips are flush.

 

“Not sorry, but I do pity your shivering ass. Get closer; it’ll heat up soon.”

 

Stiles huffs indignantly and shimmies up against his Alpha, laying his head on the older man’s ridiculously defined chest. It’s because he’s cold and not for any other reason.

 

None.

 

--

 

“Seriously, Stilinski, did you bathe in Derek?” Jackson asks him at school the next day, hip checking Stiles in the locker room just, apparently, because he can.

 

Yes, actually, I did, Stiles thinks, but all he does is leer and say, “Nope, but I’d sure love to bathe in you, pretty boy!”

 

Danny chokes hard on his laughter and Jackson looks faintly disturbed, but the entirely-too-conceited wolf leaves him alone after that, so Stiles considers it a win.

 

--

 

Oh, God, really? Is this your revenge for me calling you a goat-fucking sonofabitch?

 

All Stiles wanted to do was collect his prescriptions without a.) getting molested by werewolves who were suddenly fascinated with his scent, or b.) getting accused by those same wolves of reeking of their Alpha, or c.) running into that Alpha, getting smellier, and making this whole thing a million times worse.

 

Well, technically he got what he wanted; he's not looking at Derek or Scott or Jackson or Lydia or even Allison—he’s looking at Allison’s dad.

 

“Hello again, Stiles,” Mr. Argent says, and he looks about two seconds away from openly laughing at him, so Stiles looks down and—

 

Seriously?

 

How does he keep ending up in Derek’s jacket without even realizing he has it on?

 

“Mr. Argent,” he greets stiffly, shuffling forward as one of the six elderly people in front of him finishes up her business and shortens the line by one body.

 

The hunter does laugh, then, and Stiles is so frustrated he just wants to flail all over the place and pout until people stop laughing at him, but he’s seventeen, damn it, so he should probably act his age and not his shoe size (although Stiles will firmly maintain the argument that he was actually pretty mature at age ten, thank you very much).

 

“Would you like to tell me why you’re laughing at me?” Stiles inquires, voice laced with all of his negative emotions. “Or why your daughter can’t even look at me without giggling like a schoolgirl?”

 

Mr. Argent tsks and, instead of giving Stiles anything close to a straight answer, says, “I thought Allison would be able to hold it together around you. Maybe I shouldn’t have told her.”

 

Told her what?!” Stiles demands, and he feels like there should be about a hundred more question marks and exclamation points attached to that, but he’s a slave to the laws of grammar.

 

Mr. Argent glances over Stiles’ shoulder, laughs again, and says, “Nothing, son. You’ll find out soon enough,” before pulling that whole badass hunter spin-on-his-heel-and-sweep-out maneuver.

 

Stiles twists, following the direction Mr. Argent had been looking, and there’s Derek, standing in the middle of the tiny automotive aisle and frowning heavily at something that Stiles couldn’t tell you the appropriate title or function of if his life depended on it. He’s convinced that his jeep runs on hope and sarcasm and nothing else, because he knows less about cars than he does about, say, having extremely hot sex with an Alpha werewolf—

 

Well, okay, that’s not the best analogy because he maybe spent the past few days googling that exact phrase, so um, he knows less about cars than Jackson knows about being humble. There.

 

(It just isn’t fair; he can research literally anything else but every time he tries to learn about the inner workings of batteries and engines and pistons and whatnot his brain just goes no, thanks and he starts reading porn on AO3 instead because, hey, he’s a hardcore SanSan shipper, and also JohnLock.)

 

Just then Derek looks up and—welp, Stiles is definitely convinced that he’s suddenly been transported into an alternate universe, because there isn’t any angry snarling or wall-slamming or anything; Derek just waves in this casual, almost friendly way and then he seemingly decides that whatever he’s been frowning at is actually worthy of his precious Camaro because he gives it a little nod and waltzes off in the direction of the checkout.

 

He looks less daunting somehow without the ever-present leather jacket, which, now that Stiles is focusing on it, smells suspiciously like—

 

No.

 

No fucking way.

 

God (and Mom) forgive him, Stiles shoves to the front of the line, actually stepping on the toes of a little old lady or two, and shouts for his ‘script, like, yesterday, please!

 

Because he needs to get back to his room and test this theory out like five minutes ago.

 

--

 

Yup.

 

He was right.

 

God fucking dammit, he was right.

 

The awesome new smell in Stiles’ room smells exactly like Derek’s jacket.

 

“Shampooed carpets my ass!” he hisses under his breath, and then he spins on his heel and storms right back out to his jeep.

 

--

 

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE PLAYING AT, WOLFY, BUT I’M NOT INTO IT!”

 

Stiles essentially busts into Derek’s house – which he totally feels bad about, because the place isn’t a house, it’s a fucking memorial site, a sad-ass memorial site but a memorial site all the same, and Stiles knows how much Derek misses his family and he should respect that but right now he’s sort of righteously indignant and furious and he’ll pay his respects later, he promises – and shouts at the top of his lungs, which turns out to be totally unnecessary because Derek is standing in the kitchen doorway like he was expecting Stiles the whole time.

 

And, well, okay, it’s perfectly possible that he was, because he probably heard the jeep and the radio and Stiles’ furious muttering all the way from the main road up the wooded one. But oh well.

 

“Would you care to repeat that at a more acceptable volume, Stiles?” Derek asks, lifting one eyebrow appraisingly and also seeming to give Stiles a thorough once-over. And looking approving afterwards. Oh, yeah, Stiles hasn’t taken the jacket off yet.

 

Fucking jacket.

 

He shucks the fucking jacket and points accusingly at Derek, and oh yeah, here it comes, a babble of epic proportions.

 

“You think this is funny, Sourwolf? You think it’s funny that everybody is laughing at me and telling me I stink and accusing me of taking baths with you and Allison can’t even look at me without giggling and I have to deal with her goddamn dad, fucking snickering at me in the supermarket? Because it’s not funny! It’s not! It’s not funny that—fucking—Lydia said I was glowing, for fuck’s sake, like I’m some kind of pregnant lady, and my room smells so fucking good and I’ve finally started calming my brain down at night and getting normal amounts of sleep and it’s—it’s—it’s your fault!”

 

Okay, he should earn some kind of award for that.

 

The Stiles Stilinski Certificate for Outstanding Babbling.

 

Or maybe just the Coach Finstock Award for Being a Goddamn Idiot.

 

“My fault?” Derek asks, sounding superbly calm for someone who was just shouted at by Stiles.

 

“Uh.” Stiles’ accusing finger drops limply to his side and he meets Derek’s eyes sheepishly. “Um, yeah.”

 

A long, awkward moment of quiet stretches out between the two of them and then Stiles rubs the back of his neck, anger deflating quicker than a popped balloon, and says, “I just—it’s frustrating. Everyone’s acting like there’s some big joke I’m not in on and it’s been really, really royally pissing me off, you know? It’s… I had Allison’s dad laughing at me. That sucked.”

 

Derek nods, like he understands that level of suck (and Stiles is sure that he does) and takes a step towards Stiles, holding his hands palm-out as if to placate the smaller boy. “You want me to explain what’s going on?”

 

“Yes, please,” Stiles blurts immediately.

 

Derek’s eyebrows come up a little. “You sure?”

 

Stiles nods like a bobblehead.

 

Derek sighs.

 

“Okay,” he grumbles, and plops down on the nearest couch, looking obscenely like some kind of dark and deadly Abercrombie model… or fantasy pulled straight out of Stiles’ mind. Or… both?

 

“You should probably sit, too,” the wolf suggests, and Stiles is sure that the world has stopped turning because he doesn’t sound annoyed or anything. He trips forward and plops down beside Derek and turns wide, expectant eyes up to his sourwolf.

 

Ah, uh, the sourwolf. Not his. Because Derek isn’t… his.

 

Of course not.

 

“Everyone is laughing at you because you do smell like me,” Derek admits, and is he blushing? Blushing? (Well, the Derek Hale equivalent of blushing, which really is more of not-deadly-pale color in his cheeks and a mildly embarrassed crinkle around his eyes.) Stiles is dead. He died and this is some insane in-between place between death and whatever comes next. Limbo. Purgatory. This is limbo-purgatory where everyone laughs at him and Derek is nice. Or at least not so grumpy.

 

“I, uh, gathered that,” Stiles says, and makes a vast gesture that’s supposed to encompass—oh, he doesn’t even know anymore. “When I made the connection between my awesome new bedroom smell and, uh, your jacket smell.” He blinks, something suddenly dawning on him, and asks, “Wait, if I can smell this, how strong must it be to Sco—”

 

Derek is definitely blushing now. “Pretty strong,” he interrupts.

 

Oh, god.

 

“Wh… why do I smell like you?” Stiles finally manages to ask.

 

Derek ducks his head and, too quickly, says, “It’s not my fault—”

 

And now it’s Stiles’ turn to interrupt, with, “Oh, dude, that’s a horrible way to open!”

 

Derek is the color of Stiles’ favorite red hoodie. Where is a camera phone when you need one? Stiles left his in his jeep.

 

“Well, it’s not,” the older man says defensively. He’s all hunched up and sad-looking so Stiles reaches out and puts a hand on his knee, which seems to steel his nerves, a little. “It’s… it’s my wolf.”

 

“Your wolf?” Stiles repeats stupidly.

 

Derek nods again. “My wolf—likes you. And might—mightconsideryouhismate.”

 

Oh, well that’s reasonable—“Wait, what?!” Stiles yelps.

 

Derek sighs enormously and says, all in a rush, “My wolf considers you his mate so I’ve—it’s—been scent-marking you and your territory, meaning your room and your jeep but mostly your bed, and the pack thinks it’s funny because they can smell it on you and on me and the Argents think it’s funny because they mentioned removing you from the pack for your own safety at the last treaty negotiations and my wolf lost it and I might have told Chris Argent that if he tried to take you away from me I’d tear off his arm and then shove it up his ass.”

 

Stiles—Stiles does not think he has heard Derek say that many words in one go ever in the history of their knowing each other. Ever.

 

“Well,” he says flippantly, but he doesn’t know where to go from there. “Well, that’s…”

 

Derek leans over, then, and peers into his eyes, rich hazel-green into puppy-dog-brown, and he says, with a note of uncertainty in his voice, “Hey, Stiles?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“My wolf wants to kiss you right now.”

 

Stiles takes a minute to think about that, and then he nods sagely. “Just a peck,” he says.

 

--

 

Scott climbs through his window four hours later and immediately backs up against the wall, caging himself between Stiles’ desk and the window as if there’s an invisible rabid dog snarling at him—which there totally isn’t. And Derek isn’t even nearby, he’s all the way out at his house where Stiles left him.

 

“Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?” Stiles demands, sitting up in his bed and tugging anxiously at the collar of his hoodie, arranging and rearranging it until he’s sure that the two (or is it three? Four? Probably more, god, he doesn’t even want to think about how many) hickeys around the base of his throat are covered.

 

Scott, instead of answering, actually drops to his knees, and then to his back, rolls so that his belly and his neck are exposed to Stiles and whines pitifully, “Alpha.”

 

“Scott, dude, I’m not your Alpha, get the fuck up—”

 

Scott whines again, apparently distressed by the, well, the distress in Stiles’ tone, so the lanky teen forces a calming breath through his teeth and tries again, more sweetly, “Scott, please get off the floor and sit like a normal person.”

 

Scott does as he’s asked, moving slowly and jerkily as if each bent limb and flexed muscle causes him physical pain.

 

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” Stiles mutters, dragging one hand through his hair. “I’m calling Lydia…”

 

Which turns out to be a bad idea.

 

Lydia calls Jackson, and Jackson for some stupid reason calls Allison, and then Stiles has to call Derek because there are three werewolves rolling around on his floor, stomachs and throats bared, and every time Allison tries to rise from the computer chair Scott lunges at her knees and pins her in place, keening the word “Alpha” all the while like some kind of scary mantra.

 

Stiles is, like, one hundred percent positive that he’s broken the entire pack and he’s on the verge of panicking when Derek climbs through the window and gives each of his betas, in turn, a long-suffering look.

 

“I didn’t touch a single hair on any of their heads,” is the first thing out of Stiles’ mouth, but Derek apparently isn’t concerned with talking because he leans over and plants a big whammie right on Stiles’ lips.

 

Scott sits up first, and then Lydia, and then Jackson. Allison looks confused but Stiles is too wrapped up in kissing Derek back to really try to help her out here. The longer they kiss, the calmer the wolves seem to get, until Derek pulls back and Stiles may or may not whimper and grip his shirt for dear life, but Derek just chuckles at him, shucks him under the chin gently, and turns to face his pack.

 

Emphatically, he points at his own chest and announces, “Alpha.”

 

Scott, Lydia, and Jackson echo him in perfect synchronization: “Alpha.”

 

Then Derek points to Stiles and, bafflingly, repeats: “Alpha.”

 

Again, the creepy triple-voice: “Alpha.”

 

“Wait!” Stiles scrambles up to Derek’s back and pops up onto his tip-toes to peer over the older man’s shoulders at his pack of once-ferocious werewolf friends. “What does that mean?”

 

Derek shrugs, turns, kisses him again. “My wolf claimed you as his mate.” As if to prove this point he lifts one hand and slips his thumb under the collar of Stiles’ hoodie, pressing gently against one of the hickeys. Stiles definitely does not swoon. “As my mate, you’re the second-highest authority in the pack. Essentially like a second Alpha. They have to acknowledge you.”

 

Stiles blinks. Second-highest authority in the pack. That means he can boss Lydia and Jackson around.

 

Oh. My. God. He can boss Lydia and Jackson around.

 

“But—wait,” he repeats, really more whines, but oh well, everyone else seems to be whining a whole hell of a lot tonight so he can, too. “Why did Scott go all weird on me when he showed up? He wouldn’t come near me and then he started with the whole belly-showing thing and—”

 

“He came expecting someone at the lowest rung of the ladder and found someone at the highest. It shocked his system, and his wolf needed time to process it, so he defaulted to the natural ritual of submission. The same thing happened to Jackson and Lydia, and Scott wouldn’t let Allison near you because he was afraid you would hurt her.”

 

Stiles shakes his head. Shakes it again.

 

“This wolf shit is just so confusing,” he emotes, swaying forward until his head hits Derek’s shoulder.

 

The Alpha—the other Alpha, apparently—cups the back of his head and murmurs reassuringly, “I know, Stiles. But it gets easier.”

 

--

 

And, here we are again.

 

Again.

 

“Hey, Mr. Argent,” Stiles greets, waving with one hand while the other clutches a bundle of frozen pizzas and couple two-liters of Coca-Cola. (Derek has permanently banned Mountain Dew from Stiles’ diet in the aftermath of The Dewerall Incident. Which is also never to be spoken of in Derek's presence. Ever.)

 

Chris Argent looks at him very seriously, which, Stiles thinks, is pretty fucking overdue, thank you very much, and nods once, offering a reserved, “Stiles.”

 

Unable to resist a little teasing, the boy grins and asks, “Gotta be a little more careful with me now that I’m an Alpha by association, eh?”

 

Mr. Argent’s eyes twinkle, just a little bit, and he nods again. “Something like that.”

 

Stiles’ grin turns into a leer, then, and he makes to lean casually back against the shelf behind him but misses it by a wide margin and flails desperately for a moment before the hunter sighs and snatches at his arm, hauling him upright. He notices that Allison’s dad is careful to not touch his bare skin where his sleeve rides up, and that his grip is extremely gentle—ginger, even.

 

So, being Derek’s mate and the pack’s second Alpha (he refuses to acknowledge that, in the traditional view of things, he’s their female Alpha, because ew, no, he plays Mario Kart like a fucking man) has its perks. Like special treatment from the leader of the werewolf hunting party. Cool.

 

“Hey, Stiles?” said leader asks, once the teen is steady on his feet again.

 

“Hey, Chris?”

 

Mr. Argent shakes his head slightly at the use of his first name but bulls onward, asking in a quick, almost stuttering way, “My daughter—she’s—Allison is pack to you, I know—but—is she—”

 

“Safe?” Stiles interrupts, plucking the word right off the adult’s tongue.

 

“Yes.”

 

Stiles nods seriously, shuffling the pizza boxes in his hands. Derek has grounded him a lot in the past few weeks but he still can’t hold still when he’s away from his mate; the ADD comes back with a vengeance the second Derek leaves the room.

 

“She’s very safe among us, Mr. Argent. Scott cares about Allison more than anything else on this planet. He—She’s—” How to phrase this without really saying it? Because he’s sure Argent knows already, but it still isn’t Stiles’ place to go around saying it. Finally he settles on, “Scott would no sooner let any harm come to Allison than Derek would let any come to me,” and that seems to do the trick because the hunter actually physically relaxes, right there before Stiles’ eyes.

 

“Good,” he says, nodding to himself. The man nods a lot, Stiles notes. His dad does, too. It means he also thinks a lot. “Good,” he repeats.

 

They stand there for a long moment, eyeing each other, sizing each other up but not fighting for dominance anymore, because unlike the first time they did this, Stiles has more authority now. And isn’t that weird?

 

“Well, goodnight, Mr. Argent. I’ll make sure Scott has Allison in by curfew.”

 

Mr. Argent blinks, like he thinks Stiles might be joking, but then he just says, “Thanks.”

 

And then Stiles thinks that maybe he owes this man some thanks, too, because if he hadn’t teased Stiles that first day in this very grocery store, Stiles might not have gotten all crazy and it might have taken him a lot longer to confront Derek than it did. And he’s really glad he confronted Derek as soon as he did.

 

Stiles steps forward, reaching out, deliberately offering the man his bare skin, and the two of them shake hands.

 

“Thank you,” Stiles says, and the hunter is either a very smart man or a very good father, or both, because he understands Stiles’ unsaid words as easily as if they’d been… well, said.

 

“No problem, kid.”

 

They release each other and go their separate ways, and Stiles heads towards Greta’s checkout line thinking that it will be a pain in the ass to pry Scott and Allison apart at ten thirty tonight so she can be home by eleven, and that they’ll complain that Jackson and Lydia don’t have a curfew (god, ew, Stiles doesn’t want to think about Jackson and Lydia after hours at all, ever) and that he’ll have to go all Momma Bear (Momma Wolf?) on them and lay down the law, and then he’s smiling because they’re his pack and he loves them.

 

And then he’s smiling harder because thinking about his pack inevitably leads to thinking about his mate, and, yeah, Stiles definitely loves him.