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Pack Dynamics For Dummies

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As it turns out, carpentry is not among Stiles’ many skills. The third time he hits his finger rather than the plank of wood he was aiming for, he backs off and leaves that sort of thing to the people with supernatural healing abilities.

Instead, he goes to help Allison and tries not to feel too much like his man card just got revoked.

Project ‘Make the Hale House Look Less Like it’s On The Brink Of Being Condemned And Make It Look Like A Real Wolf Den’ is well underway. In lieu of the name that Stiles came up with, the others have been calling it ‘Project Rebuild.’ Whatever.

It had taken almost a month and a half for Derek’s new Pack to convince him that the fire-ruined chic thing he was rocking now wasn’t working for any of them, and they should probably try and fix it up.

Even then, it had taken Stiles some serious wheedling and more than a few clever tricks to get Derek on board with it. Such tricks included taking a couch that had been seized by the Sheriff’s department and sticking it in the middle of the Hale living room.

It had grown from there. Scott had donated the kitchen table his mom had wanted to get rid of for awhile. Jackson bought a couple of chairs and Lydia had said the whole place was depressing her before she dragged in what looked like half of her living room. Lydia didn’t do things halfway.

Allison had wanted to bring a few things, but the only extra furniture in her house had belonged to her recently deceased Aunt and they had all figured that was a pretty terrible idea.

After awhile, Derek had to capitulate because they kept having to move the couch into the basement so it wouldn’t get rained on.

The Hale house is looking pretty good, in Stiles’ opinion. Well, if you take into account how it looked before they started. If you don’t, well, it still looks like a shambles about one strong gust of wind away from falling on anyone unlucky enough to be trapped inside.

They had spent the past three days knocking down anything that didn’t look like it could be improved by a few nails and a couple coats of paint. They’d knocked down a lot.

“This is fun, isn’t it?” Allison asks as she uses a circular saw with way too much familiarity for Stiles’ comfort. Anyone that at home with a giant circular blade should be watched.

Stiles shrugs. “I guess.”

Allison starts making more cuts with the saw without waiting for him to elaborate, so he looks out to watch the rest of the pack work.

Jackson is helping Derek put up new supports for the walls, while Scott clambers around over them nailing things in place. In Stiles’ opinion, Scott would have been more suited as a were-monkey, with his propensity for climbing.

Lydia, who had scoffed daintily when they’d handed her a hammer, was taking the lumber from Allison’s cutting station to where ever they were working. There was something distinctly unnerving about watching the petite and dainty Lydia lifting lumber twice her size without hesitating. She certainly wasn’t having any issues with the whole werewolf thing.

“Anything I can do to help?” Stiles asks, turning back to Lydia and starting to lean casually on the table.

“Watch your hand!” she yells, and he jerks it back just in time to avoid having her newest piece of wood land on top of it.

“That’s a no then?” he asks sheepishly.

Because Allison is the nicest, she gives him a sorry little smile. “You could keep me company?” she offers, and Stiles barely contains a sigh. It seems that, in carpentry, as in life, Stiles isn’t much use to anyone.

“Yeah, I guess.” He shrugs, shooting another glance to where the other three guys are working, looking manly and tough. They’ve all even taken off their shirts. Stiles looks down at his own ragged t-shirt mournfully. It will be staying on for the foreseeable future. No need to embarrass himself more than necessary.

“Hang on a second,” he says, catching sight of something out of the corner of his eye. He heads over to where Scott is about to do something stupid, with the added bonus of a hammer.

“You know,” Stiles says, trying to lean casually against one of the finished pillars, slipping off the side and trying to play it off like he did it on purpose before continuing on like nothing's happened, “that generally works a lot better when you make sure that the corners are properly straight-edged. You need to start checking that everything is even before you start nailing things in.”

He’s aiming for suave, but he’s pretty sure he misses by several meters.

“Uh-huh,” Jackson says skeptically. “And what would you know about it?”

Stiles scuffs the worn toe of his shoe against the concrete. “I read up on some carpentry stuff. Not that a bunch of teenagers going into house building blind isn’t an awesome idea in it’s own, don’t get me wrong.”

“Oh, and you’re an expert on building houses?” Jackson snaps back.

Stiles bristles, offended. Any idiot in the world could tell you that it was a good idea to build a house straight instead of crooked. Like that should even be a question. It’s not Stiles’ fault that Jackson wasn’t paying any attention.

“He’s right,” Derek says, cutting him off before he can open his mouth, probably for the best. Jackson whips around to stare at Derek, but Derek stares him down. “He’s right,” Derek repeats. Jackson glowers at Stiles, but he fixes the crooked board they’d been about to nail into place.

“Like Stilinski knows anything about being straight,” he hears Jackson mutter as he heads off. And if Stiles heard him, there’s a good chance everyone else did too. He can feel the tips of his ears turning red and the rest of these assholes can probably hear it happening or something.

Instead of saying anything back, he just hunches his shoulders a bit and heads back to Allison. At least she doesn’t have freaky werewolf powers.

--

“Hey, Dad, how do you insulate the walls of a house?”

Stiles’ dad puts down his silverware slowly. “What are you up to?”

Stiles makes his best innocent face. “Nothing. Can’t a kid be curious about basic house construction?”

His dad gives him a flat look and Stiles deflates. “We’re working to rebuild the Hale house.”

“Why the hell would you be doing that?”

Stiles shrugs. He can’t tell the truth. He can just see how well that would go down: ‘ Well, Dad, Derek is actually an alpha werewolf and I’m sort of part of his pack. Even though I’m human and he kind of needs a cozy wolf den for all the cuddle puddles and pack meetings, and frankly, I’m tired of getting soaked indoors everytime it rains.’ Uh-huh. Yeah, right.

Instead he says, “Well, Scott and I felt pretty bad about the whole getting him arrested for murder thing. So we’re helping him rebuild. And stuff.”

“Is that what you’ve been doing for the past week?”

Stiles shrugs, not wanting to get Derek into any more trouble. His dad sighs and rubs his forehead slowly. “Out of concern for the public, I can’t let you build a house by yourself.”

“Hey!” Stiles protests. “Scott’s helping.”

“I’ve known Scott his whole life. That’s not much of an assurance.”

“Derek’s there.”

His dad rolls his eyes. “Oh, great. Two teenage boys and a man who spent the last couple years on the run. I feel so much better.”

“He needs our help, Dad,” Stiles says, uncharacteristically serious.

His dad sighs and points his fork at Stiles. “I know that face. You’re going to be obnoxious and stubborn about this, aren’t you?” His voice is resigned amusement and the look he gives his son is exasperated.

Stiles grins. “So, can you tell me how to install insulation?”

His dad matches Stiles’ grin with one of his own. “I can do a bit better that.”

--

Which is how Project ‘Make the Hale House Look Less Like it’s On The Brink Of Being Condemned And Make It Look Like A Real Wolf Den’ gets a couple new members. Stiles is as surprised as anyone else when, after a few hours of working, several patrol cars roll into the forest towards the house.

Derek stiffens up, muscles bunching in an instinctive drive to get away or stand and fight. Stiles, this time helping by holding out nails for the others to grab, reaches out to put a calming hand on his arm. “They’re here to help. I think.”

Derek glares down at Stiles’ hand until Stiles jerks it back guiltily. Then he turns to look out at the patrol cars, which are spilling out what Stiles recognises as some of the new recruits and trainees.

“What the hell are they doing here?” Derek growls.

“Well, judging from all the lumber and power tools they have with them, they’re either here with a very strange modern version of torches and pitchforks, or they’re here to help. One of the two.”

They’re all joking and laughing as they start to set up sawhorses and plastic tables. “They’re not welcome,” Derek snarls, dropping his end of the plan and making Jackson struggle to keep his end balanced.

“Woah, woah!” Stiles scrambles to get in front of him, putting on hand on Derek’s chest to slow him down and yanking it back when Derek growls at him. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to tell them to get off of my land.”

“Oh, that’s a great idea. You have all the upcoming members of the law enforcement, strapping young men with more building experience then the rest of us put together, and you want to go piss them off,” Stiles says incredulously. “Yeah, I can see why it was so hard to convince them you were innocent.”

Derek growls at him, but Stiles stands his ground because he knows he’s right about this. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see his dad approaching and he lowers his voice accordingly.

“Look, Derek, you need their help. I’m guessing this is going to be one of their community service projects and, believe me, it’s one of the better options. My dad makes me help out on some of them when he’s mad at me. I should tell you about that one time at-”

“What’s your point, Stilinski?” Derek cuts him off.

“Right, yes. My point is we need their help. At the rate the five of us are going, we’ll end up having a lopsided house with leaks and holes that will fall down when the wind blows, and it still won’t be done for another three years. For once in your life accept help when someone is offering it.”

“I don’t like them in my territory.”

“And I’m sure that’s a big deal for you, but right now you don’t have a choice. If we don’t get this house fixed up soon it won’t be much of a territory at all. Winter is coming and I, for one, don’t want to spend it in your creepy ass basement, cuddling with Jackson for warmth.”

Stiles isn’t sure what Derek would have said to that, but when his father reaches the two of them, Derek manages to dredge up a polite expression for him.

“I hear you boys could use some help with this house,” His dad says jovially. Derek gives Stiles a dirty look, but doesn’t protest. Stiles raises his hands defensively and backs away pointedly. He trips over a piece of lumber and only barely manages to right himself. Derek and his father both roll their eyes simultaneously which Stiles finds somewhat unnerving.

Derek manages to look polite and sincere when he says, “Yes, some help would be appreciated. Thanks, Sheriff.”

“Not at all. Some of my boys were getting a little restless. They’re happy to help.”

Some of the more enthusiastic rookies are already starting on the walls, and even Stiles’ inexperienced eyes he can tell that they are doing a better job then Derek’s pack has been doing.

“Thanks, Dad!” Stiles says, grabbing Derek’s arm enough to drag him away because it’s going really well so far and it could only go downhill from here.

“Stop grabbing me,” Derek growls, yanking his arm out of Stiles’ grip.

“Rude,” Stiles grumbles. “Just, play nice, alright? These are mostly just kids from the academy trying to get their required community service in. They’re only trying to help.”

Derek looks like he’s about to say something in reply, probably something rude and uncalled for, but he’s interrupted by one of the few official deputies present.

“Hey, Stiles!” calls Henry Thompson. “Come here for a second!”

Stiles gives Derek a what-can-you-do shrug and runs over to where Henry is waving

Henry has worked at the police station for as long as Stiles can remember, and had taken care of him more than once. Though, to be fair, most of the people at the Sheriff's department have looked after Stiles at some point. It’s practically an initiation ritual.

“‘Sup, man?” Stiles asks casually.

Henry laughs and scrubs a hand over Stiles’ head like he’s trying to ruffle his too short hair. “Nothing much kiddo. I hear this is your doing?”

“Well, I can’t take all the credit. But yes. Yes it is.” He’s probably going to get crap for that later, because there’s no way that Derek can’t hear him, but whatever.

“You’re a terror without construction tools,” Henry jokes and Stiles sticks his tongue out at him.

“Uncalled for,” he grumbles jokingly.

“You want to talk about that time you fell off the wall when you came to the training camp for a week?”

“I was ten!” The problem with living in a small town is that everyone knows the embarrassing stuff about you. Especially the people in the Sheriff’s department.

“You were a menace, kiddo.”

It’s not entirely untrue and certainly not something that Stiles is ashamed of, so he he just shrugs.

“I am who I am.”

“That you are. Well, anyway, we brought a grill. How about you make your skinny self useful and fix us up some of your famous burgers.”

Stiles looks out at the bustling yard of rookies and werewolves. “For this crowd? I hope you brought a lot of meat.”

“Go look for yourself.” Henry pushes him over to where Stiles can see one of the rookies setting up the stations portable grill.

“Move out of the way, plebeian,” Stiles commands when he gets within hearing range. The guy is setting it up all wrong. Stiles was practically raised making things on this old thing.

“All yours man,” the rookie says, backing away gratefully and heading to help with the left wall of the house. Stiles shakes his head, because seriously, who’d rather do construction than cooking?

“I see you’re making yourself useful.” Lydia joins him at the grill just after he starts putting the meat on it.

“I see you aren’t,” he retorts, keeping one eye on the meat as he turns to face her.

Lydia flips her hair. “What can I do? With all these big, strong men here, what can little me possible do?” She pouts at him exaggeratedly. It’s distracting, but not as much as it once was.

“You could help Allison on the saw.”

“Please. Are these the hands of a girl who knows how to use a saw?” She presents her delicate hands out for inspection, nails perfectly manicured and well kept, despite the past several days of construction.

“No?” he hazards.

“Good boy.” She smiles, patting him on the cheek.

“Ha ha,” he replies, flipping the burgers on the grill carefully.

“I think I’ll stick around you,” she says flippantly.

“Um. Why?”

“Don’t you know? The most popular girl at the party is the one with the food.”

Stiles looks out at the house, teeming over with overly enthusiastic rookies and sawdust. “This isn’t exactly your kind of party.”

“Yes, but it’s the kind I’m at. A girl has to make adjustments.” She catches the eyes of one of the guys working on the far wall and flips her hair with a flirty little grin. He smiles back and misses the nail he was trying to hammer in. Stiles snorts and Lydia sighs.

“Men can be so dull sometimes.”

“Maybe if you didn’t treat all of them like playthings, they’d be more interesting.”

“Hm, yes. It worked with you, didn’t it?”

Stiles puts his hand on the grill in surprise and jerks it back with a wince. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Lydia gives him an adorably innocent look that he is not going to fall for. He’s not, dammit! “Nothing,” Lydia says, like she’s surprised that he took offense. Yeah, Stiles is so not buying that. This time.

“I’m not your plaything!” he says, loud enough that Jackson, Scott and Derek all turn to look at him. He flushes and lowers his voice. Not that it will help, because they and their super werewolf powers are all out to make his life suck even more than it does. “I’m nobody’s plaything!” he repeats.

“No,” Lydia muses, slow and thoughtful, rolling the word out like a secret. “And that’s what makes you so interesting.” She gives him a quick peck on the cheek and flounces off.

--

As soon as the men of the Sheriff’s department learn that Stiles is manning the grill, Stiles hardly has room to move. Even the newbies have been to at least one of the Sheriff department cookout and Stiles has manned the grill at all of them.

He hides away a full twenty burgers for Derek’s pack, because by now he knows how much four hungry werewolves can eat. Even with that much set aside, when he sees the way Jackson and Scott tear into the burgers, he’s still worried there won’t be enough.

“Itshgoos,” Jackson says through a full mouth, sounding almost insultingly surprised.

Lydia, managing to take dainty bite even from a hamburger, nods agreeably.

“Stiles makes the best food,” Scott says, as proud as if he’d made the food himself.

Stiles shrugs. Of all the ways he’d imagined impressing the others with his skills and prowess, he hadn’t thought his cooking would be a part of it. He’d hoped that it would be more along the lines of dramatically saving the day and rescuing everyone.

“It is good,” Derek cuts in, as though that makes it the end of the conversation.

“So, where are you going to sleep now that your house is a construction zone?” Stiles asks, because he likes being praised as much as the next guy, but praise from Derek is just weird.

Derek gives him a look like he’s completely insane. “In my basement.”

“Oh, right,” Stiles mutters. “Of course. Why wouldn’t you stay in the creepy dungeon room?”

Derek gives him a dirty look but doesn’t answer. Stiles likes to think that his stunning personality is winning him over.

It could happen.

“Hey, if we need somewhere to hang out while your house is being finished, there’s plenty of room at my house.”

Stiles actually puts down his burger because it sounds a lot like Jackson Whittemore is being a decent human being and that’s just weird.

“Hang out?” Derek repeats, sounding like the words themselves are offending him.

Jackson shrugs defensively. “It’s a big house.”

“Sounds like a plan to me!” Stiles jumps in, because he’s heard of Jackson’s house, but he’s never managed to score an invite before. Apparently all it took was joining a werewolf pack. Go figure.

Jackson gives him a dirty look, but doesn’t retract the offer, so Stiles counts that as a win.

--

In the end, it takes three weeks to get the house into something that vaguely resembles hospitable. That is, there are four walls and a roof, but the inside is depressingly barren and Stiles suspects that it will take another week of solid negotiations to get Derek to agree to a plumber.

On the bright side, they get to spend their time doing things less likely to end in permanent injury, like painting.

“Are you sure that this is the best color to use here?” Stiles calls to Derek, who’s working on the kitchen.

“Shut up, Stiles!” Derek calls back.

Allison giggles politely behind her hand. “Traitor,” Stiles mutters to her, which only makes her laugh harder.

She, Stiles and Scott are working on painting the living room a peaceful cream color. Stiles figures they need all the peace they can get, but it’s still kind of a weird color for the house of werewolves to have.

Derek is picking out all the colors, and he’ll never say it, but Stiles suspects that he’s trying to recreate the way it was before the fire.

Stiles isn’t sure how healthy that is, but there are still boxes of his mom’s things in the attic, so he has no room to talk.

“You’re missing a spot, McCall,” Jackson says, leaning against the doorway in what Stiles calls his ‘jerk pose.’ It’s a pretty apt description.

“Am not,” Scott argues valiantly. Well, he tries.

“Your section of the wall looks like it was painted by a third grader.”

Scott actually growls at him and seriously, are they really about to start fighting over this? How is Stiles in a place where he needs to be the mature one?

He glances towards the kitchen to see if Derek looks like he’s going to break this up. No such luck.

“Calm down guys,” Stiles says, and holy crap he feels like his dad. This is terrible. They both ignore him, which isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s still kind of annoying. “Seriously. You’re going to get paint on the floors.”

It’s kind of a stupid argument--the floors are beyond saving at this point and are almost definitely going to need to be redone anyway, but somehow that’s what makes them stop. Jackson makes a little lunge at Scott, snapping his teeth, but he heads into the kitchen without more protest.

Stiles needs to examine his life choices. Clearly he’s made some mistakes along the way.

--

It would be really great if things could stay the simple way they have been lately. Sometimes it feels like he’s just in a group of friends that happens to like their meat a little red and have bad tempers. He’s actually enjoying the house building experience. It’s a nice change of the usual mind-numbing tedium of summer vacation.

He’s just starting to get comfortable with the routine they have going when he gets a text from Scott that says sos may be vampies.

Stiles actually snorts with laughter at the joke before he remembers what his life is like now, and then he scrambles from his bed so fast that he takes half of the blankets with him.

if ur fucking with me, i will end you he texts back, but he’s already going to his computer to pull up his research files.

He really wishes that he didn’t already have a file, neatly labeled ‘Vampires’ with subfolders like ‘the making of,’ ‘the killing of,’ ‘harmful/harmless’ and ‘potential allies?’.

He kind of hates Scott for making him have to open up any of these. When he gets a text back that says no jk, they taste terrible.

Wonderful. Thanks for that crucial information. Still, he opens up the folder that says ‘the killing of’ then goes down to see what he can use from his kitchen. Neither he nor his dad are religious, but there’s a cross on the wall of the kitchen for when Grampa Stilinski comes over and wants to know why his son isn’t going to church every Sunday.

Stiles grabs that, an entire crate of water (not holy, as far as he knows) and heads over to the Hale house.

Everyone except Allison is already there, but from their grumpy expressions and Lydia’s uncharacteristically rumpled clothes, they’re still there from their wolfy sleep-over the night before. It wasn’t the full moon, but sometimes Derek will keep all the werewolf members of his pack late into the night for what Stiles can only presume are top secret werewolf tips. Like how to be extra creepy and how to lurk around in the shadows. He understands. Scott needs all the help he can get.

“So, vampies?” he says cheerfully, dropping his haul down onto the kitchen and determinedly not flinching when they all turn to glare at him. Yeah, he’s gonna be calling them vampies for awhile now. It sounds a lot less scary.

“You called in the loony brigade?” Jackson demands of Scott.

“Hey!” Well, it’s one of the nicer things that Jackson has called him. He decides to be the better man and takes a seat at the table. “Is it really vampires?”

“Yes. And it’s also a big problem.” Derek is sitting at the head of the table, looking commanding and important.

“So, what are we doing about it?’

“We aren’t doing anything. You are going to go home while we deal with this trespass on our territory.”

Stiles shakes his head. “Uh-uh, buddy. I’m in this now. You guys don’t get to spend three months treating me like a glorified chauffeur and punching bag then cut me out when I can actually be some help.”

“Not this time, Stiles.”

Stiles turns to Scott, feeling betrayed and hurt. “You too, Scott? Come on, man! I’ve been through more of this shit than some other people at this table.” Then, in case they aren’t getting his point. “Yeah, I’m talking about you, Jackson.”

Jackson growls at him, but Derek puts out a hand and Jackson goes quiet.

“You’ll just be in the way,” Derek says quietly.

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. He has it on good authority that he can out-stubborn most people.

“I’ll be even more in the way if I just sit here while you’re trying to work. You tell me what happened last night and what the risks are.”

When none of them answer, he sighs. “This is my town too, guys. My dad’s going to be in the first line of fire if something goes wrong. I deserve to know what’s going on, at least. If I’m actually going to be a part of this pack, you owe me that much.”

For a moment, he’s afraid they’re going to call his bluff and he’ll have to leave the pack. Then Derek leans forward. “We ran into them when we were running last night.”

Stiles immediately substitutes ‘running’ with ‘gallivanting around the woods as werewolves.’

“We smelled them before we saw them,” Lydia chimes in. She wrinkles her nose delicately. “They smell terrible.” Stiles adds a reluctant point for Twilight in his head. He’s been keeping a tally of which supernatural fiction is the most accurate. So far, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was winning.

“Did you attack them, or did they attack you?” Stiles asks.

Scott and Jackson exchange looks. “It was all too fast to-”

“It was kind of hard to tell-”

They speak at the same moment, then cut off to glare at each other. Stiles rolls his eyes.

“So, Scott and Jackson attacked them, and then what?”

“And then they ran off,” Lydia finishes.

“So, basically,” Stiles says, “you guys attacked a group of vampires for no reason and you’re worried they’re going to get revenge.”

“They were in our territory,” Derek says, speaking up for the time.

“Did they know it was your territory?”

Derek sits forward like Stiles is trying to challenge his territory as well. “Beacon Hills has always belonged to the Hale’s. It is under our protection.”

Well, that’s. . . comforting. Maybe. “Yeah, but as far as they know, all the Hale’s could be dead.”

Derek actually growls at him for that and Stiles leans away, raising his hands in a harmless gesture. “Sorry man, but it’s true.”

“We need to defend our territory,” Jackson says fiercely. “We need to go find them and make sure they know not to come back.”

“That is a terrible idea,” Stiles says before he can help himself. Well, if they had better ideas, he wouldn’t comment on them. Probably. Maybe.

“We do need to defend this land,” Derek says forcefully.

“Yeah, but there are only four of you. My research shows that vampire covens are usually as big as twenty or thirty, and they rarely travel in groups less than five. You would be outmatched in a fight.”

“And what was your research?” Jackson sneers. “The complete encyclopedia of Stephanie Meyers?”

“Hey!” Scott says defensively. “Stiles is great at researching.”

“Derek, you said that most werewolves have some sort of thing about not killing innocent people?” When Derek nods, Stiles continues. “Do vampires have something similar? Something to keep the hunters off their back.”

Derek frowns in thought. “We never interacted with vampires much. They kept to their territories and we kept to ours.”

“Helpful. Thanks for that, big guy.” Derek gives him a dirty look. “Look, if I could just go with you to-”

“NO!” The others all say it together and Stiles raises his hands defensively. He seems to be doing that a lot lately. He should probably get better friends.

“I could help!” he protests. “I have a lot of information on them. I even have some things on their treaties and some things that look pretty legit about other neutrality agreements between werewolves and vampires.”

Jackson coughs something that sounds an awful lot like Twilight, but Stiles ignores him.

“You’re staying behind, Stiles,” Derek growls, tone leaving no room for argument. “Maybe with something else you could help, but not vampires.”

“Vampies,” Stiles corrects grumpily. Derek ignores him.

“Werewolves and vampires are immune to one another, but bringing humans into it would just create trouble. Even if they are the sort who don’t kill people, bringing someone like you would just look like a taunt. So no, you’re staying behind.”

Stiles crosses his arms over his chest and drops down into his chair to sulk. “This sucks,” he mutters, but mostly because Derek has a good point.

--

Stiles ends up having to fork over all of his meticulous research. He’s not happy about it, but he won’t let his pack go into a situation blind, even if they won’t let him come along.

“Good job, Stiles,” Derek says when Stiles finishes his little presentation on how to mortally offend vampires and, in case Jackson acts like Jackson, how to fight their way out of a bad situation.

“Yeah, great,” Stiles mutters. “Research boy to the rescue.”

Derek just grunts. A-plus communication skills from Alpha Hale.

“What am I supposed to do while you’re gone?” he asks.

“You could leave,” Derek says pointedly, but Stiles shakes his head.

“Not until I know you’re all safe.”

“You could cook for us,” Scott suggests.

“Ha fucking ha, Scott. I’m not your little woman.”

“We’re leaving,” Derek cuts in,

“Good luck,” Stiles replies. “Call if you need anything.”

“Not going to happen,” Derek snaps. Damn. Worth a try.

“Put on something nice for when we get back,” Jackson calls over his shoulder, because he’s an asshole.

“Fuck you!” Stiles calls after him cheerfully.

--

It takes the pack almost five hours to get back. In that time, Stiles has plenty of time to feel exactly like someone’s wife. He didn’t bring anything to do, so ends up having to straighten things out just out of default.

He calls Allison after about half an hour of sitting around, partly because he is bored, but also because she deserves to know what is going on, and it’s unlikely that Scott will have told her about it.

Together, they straighten up the living room and get rid of some of the excess lumber that has been cluttering things up. They even manage to get a good dent in some of the painting left to do.

It feels calming and domestic, a contrast to the too-fast beating of his heart and how jittery his hands are getting. He and Allison discuss school and homework, and neither of them wonder aloud what the pack might be doing.

In the end, Stiles does end up cooking, but its something simple so it doesn’t count. Derek’s house isn’t exactly a safe haven for all things perishable, so there isn’t much to work anyway. He ends up just making about fifteen BLTs, figuring that the others are going to be hungry when they get back. He spends the entire time desperately hoping that they won’t come through the door while he’s working in the kitchen.

When they finally do come through the door, Allison and Stiles have regressed to playing cards, trading secrets in lieu of proper materials.

The others look tired and a bit bedraggled, but no worse for wear. Scott goes immediately to Allison’s side and sweeps her into a hug. Stiles just stands, hands clenched at his side and looks to Derek, trying to think of something to say.

What comes out is: “So, did you all make good choices?”

Derek just rolls his eyes. “We’re all fine. They agreed to back off. If this hadn’t been in the records as Hale territory, there may have been more of a fight.”

“So, they were the vegetarian sort?” Stiles quips.

“There aren’t any vegetarian vampires. It’s just a matter of how willing their prey is.”

“Yeah, whatever.” Stiles crosses over to Derek’s side to give him a once over, then turns his attentions to the others. “You’re all fine though, right?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “We’re all fine, Stiles.”

“Do I smell bacon?” Jackson interrupts, heading into the kitchen.

“Allison made some,” Stiles lies.

“The sandwich smell like you, you know,” Derek points out.

“And we can tell when you’re lying,” Lydia chimes in.

Stiles throws his hands up. “I get it! You all have super special werewolf powers. Hooray for you!”

“The sandwiches are good!” Scott calls from the kitchen.

“Make some more!” Jackson demands.

“I hate all of you.”

“No you don’t,” Lydia says sweetly, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek.

Stiles goes to make the ungrateful bastards some more sandwiches.

--

“Hey there, cutie.”

Stiles turns around slowly, because it sounds an awful lot like that low, purring voice is directed at him. “Wha?” The word kind of trails into mist when he sees the woman who’s, yep, looking right at him. She’s tall and blonde, with a dark red, figure hugging shirt and a skirt that just barely reaches her knees. She looks like she’s about 35 and Stiles can’t for the life of him figure out why she would be talking to him.

“I’m talking to you,” she says, pointing one red tipped finger at him. And yeah, meeting gorgeous women in the local coffee shop was not on his to-do list, but hey, Stiles can roll with the punches.

“And what can I do for you?” he asks suavely. Hopefully suavely. He’s in the general area of suave.

“Can’t a girl just talk to a boy?” she asks, pouting.

“Uh, yeah. A girl can um, totally do that.”

She laughs, a pretty tinkling sound. “I’m Sharon.” She holds out a hand to shake.

“I’m Stilin. Stiles! I’m Stiles,” he replies, taking her hand and shaking it.

“I know.” Wait, what?

“Excuse me?”

“You’re one of Hale’s little puppies. Except,” she takes a deep breath, like someone breathing in a flower garden, “delightfully human.”

Oh great. This is so his life. “You’re a vampire.”

She grins at him, and her teeth don’t look sharp at all. But then, neither did Scott’s. Until he needed them. “Got it in one, sweetie.”

Stiles shoots a look at the door, wondering if he can get past her. Probably not. Awesome. “I should probably, um, go?” It comes out like a question, which wasn’t at all what he was going for.

Sharon pouts at him. “Oh, where’s the fun in that? I thought we could sit, talk.” She gestures at the low chairs by the window.

“That’s probably a bad idea. I have a thing. An important thing. I should go.”

She laughs again. “Oh, Stiles. Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a terrible liar?”

Stiles swallows. “It’s been said. Once ot twice.”

“So I know that you have plenty of time to sit and talk with little old me. Isn’t that right?”

Derek is going to kill him for this. “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”

Sharon sits down in the armchair and looks between him and the other chair pointedly until he sits. “There,” she says, satisfied. “Isn’t this nice? Just the two of us, having a polite little chat.”

“I’m pretty good on chats with supernatural beings who could eat me.”

“Oh, I’m not going to eat you!” She winks at him. “Unless you’re really good.”

Stiles swallows. “Look, this whole,” he makes a spastic gesture with both hands that indicates her whole body, “sexy, creepy vampire thing. You’re working it. Great job, you. But can we just talk about what it is you cornered me for?”

“Oh, you are adorable. I can see why Hale keeps you around.” Well, that makes one of them, at least.

“What do you want? Didn’t you make some kind of treaty with them yesterday?”

“Oh, fine. Ruin all my fun.” She pouts exaggeratedly, which is a little distracting. “Yes, we made a pact with Hale and his little puppy pile. Or, we agreed to stick to the old pact, whichever you prefer.” She rolls her eyes like she’s trying to invite Stiles to share a joke. He just stares at her blankly.

“So, why are you still here?”

“The pact just said we couldn’t kill people, or live here.” She gives the coffee shop a disdainful look over. “Not that we’d want to. No offense, but it doesn’t have the night life we usually look for in our cities.”

“And what about eating people?”

She leans forward, the angle giving him a straight look down her shirt, if he chooses to look. He manfully restrains. “Not unless they ask very, very nicely,” she purrs, right up next to his ear.

“That’s cool,” Stiles manages, edging away from her. He can feel her breath on his neck. It’s probably bad when you can feel a vampire’s breath on your neck.

“Has anyone ever told you that you smell really good? Under all that wet dog smell, I mean.”

“Um, it’s Old Spice?” Stiles tries. “The man your man could smell like. If he weren’t, you know, the undead.”

Sharon laughs. “I could just eat you up!” She gets this expression like his Aunt Mindy does when she wants to pinch his cheeks.

“Please don’t!” Stiles says hastily, moving to leave his chair completely.

“Relax, sweetie. I’m not going to touch your unconsenting little neck. I have enough problems without Derek Hale after me,” she says, leaning back in her chair. Stiles is kind of gratified by the fact that she thinks Derek would go after her for hurting him.

Well, if she’s not going to eat him, there’s no reason not to add to his research. “So do you, what, eat animals instead or something?”

She gives another tinkling little laugh. “Oh, honey. This isn’t Twilight. I’m afraid I’m on a strictly human diet. Cows are so bad for my figure.”

“Why are cows bad for you?”

Sharon gives him a cool look. “Could you put cow blood into your bloodstream? I don’t think so! It’s just doesn’t add up. Human body, human blood. It keeps our poor, undead bodies running properly. We don’t drink for the yummy taste.” She thinks it over. “Well, mostly not.”

“So where do you get your food from?”

“You’re a curious little thing, aren’t you? We get it from people who are willing to help us. You’d be surprised how many there are. Some are friends, people who know about us and want us not to starve. But most are the vampire junkies.” She spread her arms out wide. “It’s the 21st century, age of the supernatural. Vampires are the new hit thing, and everyone wants to be a part of it!”

“Yeah, OK.” Stiles says slowly. “And why did you kidnap me again?”

“I wanted to warn you.”

“Yeah, OK, I’m leaving,” Stiles says, standing. He’s reached his supernatural cliche quota for the day.

“No, wait!” Sharon sounds urgent for the first time in their discussion, and as it turns out, Stiles is still a sucker for a girl in trouble. Even an undead one.

“You couldn’t have told them at the meeting? You literally just met with my pack this morning.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Derek Hale doesn’t seem like the listening type.”

Stiles snorts. That’s an understatement.

“Besides,” Sharon continues, “one of your little friends bit our leader. He wasn’t in much of a sharing mood after that.”

Stiles winces. “We’re working on that biting thing. Rolled up papers, taking away his chew toy, the whole she-bang. It’s a process.”

Sharon laughs. “It doesn’t matter much to me, it’ll heal and it’s not like the bite affects us.”

“So, if your immortal sugar daddy put a no-no on the warnings, why’d you corner me?”

“I was curious about your little pack thingy. I could smell humans on the others, and I wanted to know more. Why would werewolves keep a human around? It’s not like they can feed off you, like we do with our humans.”

“They’re my friends.”

Sharon stares at him. “I can see that. And I can smell them on you, so you clearly spend a lot of time with them. But most of the werewolves I’ve met have been total tools. And they didn’t have any pets.”

“I’m not a pet!”

She pats his cheek. “Calm down, sweetie. It’s not a bad thing.”

“I’m not a pet. I help out.”

“I’m sure you do.”

“Can you just give the warning now or something? Not that this isn’t super fun for me.”

She grins at him. “Patience, dear.”

“I have a curfew, you know.”

“That’s adorable. Curfew. Oh, I love it. A member of a werewolf pack with a curfew. You’re just too cute, Stiles. I’m so glad I decided to talk to you.”

“Yeah, it’s been a blast. What’s the supernatural 4-1-1?”

Sharon sighs. “The hunters are on the move.”

“Yeah, big news. We’ve got our own group right here in town. They’re practically in-laws.”

She grabs his arm. “You don’t get it. There’s a new group out there. They don’t follow the Code. They kill what they want, when they want. Because they like it. Kate Argent was one of theirs.”

Stiles sucks in a sharp breath.

“So you know the name then? Good. Because the word on the street is that they’re headed this way.”

Stiles pulls his arm free. “So why are you here? If there are ruthless killers looking for the supernatural, what’s a group of vamps doing wandering around the woods in between a werewolf pack and a hunter’s house?”

Sharon gives him a dark look. “You’re annoyingly perceptive. We’re here to warn a coven about two days from here. We want to get them out.”

“Cell phone coverage not available to the undead?”

“There aren’t many of them. They need our help to get somewhere safe.”

“Sounds like tons of fun. Can I go now? Are we done?”

Sharon sighs. “We’re done. Although, Stiles,” she adds when he starts to stand. “Another reason I wanted to warn you; your little puppy pile is very young. And it shows. You’re lucky it was us that your pack ran across, and that we were headed somewhere. They aren’t very well behaved either.”

“I don’t know what you want me to do about that.”

Sharon stands. “You know how I knew you were part of Hale’s little pack? You smell like him. And, more to the point, he smelled like you. Think about that.”

She strides out of the coffee shop before he can reply. “I have no idea what that means!” he calls after her. Great.

And, now he has to get another cup of coffee for his dad, because this one is cold.

--

Derek is on his feet before Stiles can even get through the front door of the Hale house.

“What happened?”

Stiles raises his hands defensively, because on top of everything else, he really doesn’t want to be pushed into a wall right now. “She just wanted to talk!”

“She?” Derek growls, low and fierce.

“Yes, she. Nothing happened.” Stiles pushes past Derek, trying to head into the living room.

“You went and spoke to the vampires.” Derek’s voice is lower than usual and Stiles turns to look at him in bemusement. Derek is starting to wolf out, fingers curling into claws and fangs lengthening dangerously.

“Oh my god!” Stiles yells, jumping back. “What the hell, Derek! It was just a talk!”

“You deliberately disobeyed me!”

“She cornered me! I couldn’t leave!”

Derek just snarls wordlessly. Stiles eyes the door to the living room hopefully, but apparently it’s just him and Derek. Great.

“Look,” he says, trying to keep his voice slow and calm. Angry werewolves were kind of like angry dogs, right? “I’m sorry that I didn’t listen to you, or whatever. I’ll work on that in the future. But it would be really good if you could put the angry teeth away. You’re freaking me out a little.”

The growling has stopped, which Stiles takes as a good sign. “If you want, we can go into the other room and talk. I can explain. We can watch a movie, if you want. We can relax. It’ll be fun.”

Sometime during his speech, Derek manages to get control of himself. “I’m not a child.”

“Then don’t throw a tantrum at me,” Stiles retorts. “Are we going to sit down or what?”

He pushes back Derek to go into the living room, dropping down into the couch with a sigh. For a couch seized by the sheriff’s department, it’s surprisingly comfy. Or maybe not so surprising. Some criminals have pretty high standards. Maybe they needed somewhere comfy to shoot up their illegal cocaine or something.

To his surprise, Derek drops down right next to him, sides touching. Stiles gives him a weird look. “Dude, personal space!”

Derek ignores him, grabbing Stiles’ arm by the wrist and pulling it close. Then, to Stiles’ utter bemusement, he starts sniffing his arm.

“What is up with you?” Stiles demands, trying to pull his arm free and failing. Derek growls at it and yanks harder, so that Stiles falls partly across him. “Dude!”

“She touched you,” Derek growls.

“Um, yeah? And? I’m fine.”

Derek traces some invisible marker up Stiles’ arm to sniff just under his ear. Stiles can feel his face flushing, his whole body temperature rising and he desperately hopes that Derek won’t notice.

“You smell like vampires.”

“Um. I’m sorry?”

“It’s disgusting.” Derek keeps his one hand wrapped around Stiles’ waist and uses the other to pull Stiles fully into his lap.

“What are you doing?” Stiles cries. It’s a manly cry. Not a shriek. At all.

“No member of my pack is going to go around smelling like those bloodsuckers.”

“Oh, yes, of course, that makes perfect sense,” Stiles says with mock calm. “Are you out of your mind?!”

He tries to get up, but Derek just pulls him back down.

“I am so uncomfortable with this,” Stiles informs him.

“You said you have something to tell me?” Derek asks, like he isn’t totally cuddling Stiles in his lap.

“Are you serious?” Stiles says incredulously. Derek just stares him down. “Alright. Fine, whatever. She told me to warn you to watch out for rogue hunters.”

“Is that it?”

“Pretty much. These hunters don’t follow the Code.” He hesitates. “Like Kate. She was part of this group.” Derek growls, but Stiles can’t seem to help himself. “Sharon thinks that they might be trying to get revenge for her death.”

“Sharon?” Derek repeats. “The vampire?”

“Is that seriously all you’re thinking about right now? There are people trying to kill you!”

“There are always people trying to kill me,” Derek replies. He takes another deep breath.

“Are you smelling me?” Stiles demands. “You have problems!”

“She didn’t need to touch you to warn you,” Derek growls. “She was trying to mark you.”

“She was being friendly!” Stiles says furiously.

“She was making a statement.”

“That’s it,” Stiles decides. “You’ve snapped. I’m going home. Call me when you’re sane again.”

He breaks free through sheer force of will.

“You’ll come back tomorrow.” It’s not a question.

Stiles straightens his clothes pointedly. “Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

Hopefully by then, Derek will be normal. Normalish. On second thought, maybe he should just get new friends.

--

Stiles really should have known better. As soon as he walks into the living room, all conversation stops. Everyone turns to look at him, Allison a beat behind everyone else.

“You smell terrible,” Lydia remarks cooly.

“Gee. Thanks,” Stiles replies, dropping his bag onto the floor.

Derek is sitting in the middle of the couch, Lydia and Jackson on either side of him, close enough that their sides press together. Scott is sitting next to Lydia, Allison perched on his lap. They’ve always sat this way, Stiles just put it down to the fact that they only have the one couch. But in light of Derek’s weirdness last night, Stiles thinks differently. Do other friends sit this close to one another?

Stiles moves to go past them, to his usual spot on the arm next to Scott, but Jackson grabs his arm when he passes. Then, to Stiles’ complete incredulity, he brings it up to his nose just like Derek had and takes a deep whiff.

Stiles yanks his arm back. “Yes, the vampire girl touched me. Eau de Vampire doesn’t work for you. I get it.”

Jackson just grabs his wrist again and yanks him down so that Stiles falls, sprawled half across Derek and Jackson. They both shift so that he can fit between them, but only barely.

“I can’t even believe this is my life anymore,” he remarks to no one. Allison laughs. Well, great. She isn’t the one getting felt up by werewolves. Well, he amends, looking at Scott’s hand on her leg, not by two werewolves.

‘What’s your deal?” Stiles asks, having to turn half his body to see Jackson because the other boy is so close. “You don’t even like me.”

“I don’t know,” Jackson growls, sounding grumpy. “You just smell wrong. I need to fix it.” And then he puts his head on Stiles shoulder, what the hell.

“Dude!”

“Shut up, Stilinski,” Jackson growls.

“I think it’s cute,” Allison chirps in. Stiles glares at her.

“I have news. Not that anyone cares,” Stiles says. “Clearly it’s much more important that I smell OK to everyone.”

Scott shrugs. “Sorry, man. It’s a pack thing.”

“You aren’t touching me.”

“You already kind of smell like me.”

Stiles takes a deep whiff of his shirt. It smells normal to him

“Not like that, you idiot,” Jackson says, smacking the back of his head.

“It’s because you’ve spent so much time together,” Derek says. “Pack scent stays. We’re too new for it to have sunk in yet.”

“What about you?” Stiles asks Lydia.

“I can wait,” she says ominously.

“Great,” Stiles says enthusiastically.

“I already told them about the hunters.” Derek interrupts. “And if Stiles is right-”

“I am!”

“If Stiles is right, then we need to train more. I should have been training you from the beginning. That’s my fault.”

Scott groans loudly. “More training? Are you kidding me?”

Derek gives him a flat look. “You need it.”

“I’m already failing two classes!” Scott exclaims.

Stiles leans around Derek to stare at him incredulously. It wouldn’t have the same effect if Scott couldn’t see him. “Dude, your life is literally on the line here. I will help you with your stupid classes but you need to do the goddamn training.”

Allison runs her hand through Scott’s hair. “He’s right. And I’ll help you too.”

“When do we have to start?” Scott whines. Sometimes, Stiles can’t believe the friends he has.

Derek grins ferally. “How about now?”

--

The training does end up being a daily event. Stiles even ends up enjoying it more then he thought that he would. He and Allison sit on the front of his jeep and eat popcorn, jeering and yelling comments. He’s never felt so close to her before.

She cements her place as his official favorite when Scott gets flipped by Derek after a particularly embarrassing attempt at defense. Instead of rushing to his side, when even Stiles can tell that Derek when easy on him, Allison yells

“Stop whining and get up like a man! And stop favoring your right side!”

Yeah, Allison is pretty cool.

About a week in, Allison starts bringing her bow and practicing archery while she waits. Stiles watches her for a bit until she offers to let him try.

“Oh, that is a really bad idea,” Stiles says. “Seriously, you do not want to give me one of those things. Danger! Danger!”

“Oh, come on, Stiles!” She laughs, grabbing his wrist and dragging him off of the jeep. “How bad could you be?”

As it turns out, the answer is: very bad. After the first few shots, Stiles becomes aware that the others have stopped sparring to watch. Jackson is actually doubled over laughing and it looks like only sheer loyalty is keeping Scott from the same fate.

“Oh, screw you guys!” Stiles yells “Like you could do it!”

“Is there anything you’re good at, Stilinski?” Jackson laughs.

Stiles stiffens. “I can out-think your pretty ass,” he snaps.

“He’s got a point there, Jackson,” Lydia says charmingly. Jackson glares at her and she snaps her teeth at him playfully. Jackson gives an equally playful snarl and leaps for her. She goes down in a flurry of leaves and hair.

Stiles leans back against a tree and watches them tussle. Allison leans next to him, smiling down at the others.

“Come on, Stiles,” she says, nudging him with her shoulder, much like Scott would. “I know there must be something you’re good at.”

Stiles shrugs. “Not really. Lacrosse is as close as it gets, and I’m not even very good at that.”

Scott drops in to lean against the tree on Stiles’ other side. “Didn’t your dad teach you to shoot a couple years ago?”

Stiles shrugs. It had been not too long after his mom died, when both of them were still wracked with grief and his dad’s best way of dealing with it was giving Stiles one more tool that would stop him leaving too.

“Yeah, but it’s not like I’ll be able to get a gun.”

Allison grins at him. “Oh, I can get you a gun.”

--

When Allison says she can do something, she doesn’t do it halfway. The next day at training, she drops a bag down onto the forest floor and three guns fall out.

“Take your pick,” she says, dumping the rest of guns out. Stiles winces at the callous treatment, because proper gun care was one of the first things that his dad had taught him and was apparently something that Chris Argent had skipped completely.

Stiles just stares at the pile of guns before him. “Have I mentioned how much your family scares me?” he asks casually, shifting through the pile for something familiar. He could probably name about five of them, and shoot only three with any degree of accuracy.

He ends up picking the gun he’s most familiar with-- a Glock 22. Out of reflex, he checks the safety, opens up the cartridge and hefts it in his hand to feel the weight of it.

“You actually know what you’re doing,” Lydia says, sounding reluctantly impressed. Stiles preens a little because, yeah, he might not be fast or tough or as cool as any of the others, but he knows how to shoot a gun.

“Same target?” he asks Allison, but his eyes are on Derek. Apparently, regular training is on hold until they’ve sufficiently determined how good, or bad, Stiles’ aim is. Or just that Jackson isn’t here. Stiles can’t say he misses him.

Taking a deep breath, Stiles lines himself up like his dad always taught him. Feet apart, arms steady, eyes on the target. He deliberately flicks the safety off and raises the gun. Deep breath, aim, release and fire.

He absorbs the shock of the recoil and flicks the safety off before he checks to see how he did. He didn’t the center of the target, but it’s within the red circle painted on the tree he and Allison had been using for practice.

“Great job!” Allison says delightedly, clapping her hands.

“Awesome.” Scott grins. Stiles ducks his head, then shoots a glance at Derek.

“Not bad, Stilinski,” Derek admits and Stiles can feel a grin breaking out.

“Did it hurt to say that?” he asks, and Derek snaps his teeth at him playfully. Stiles, used to this, just sticks his tongue out in response.

Stiles makes a move to hand the gun back to Allison, but she waves him off. “Keep it. It’s yours.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, it will go so well when the Sheriff’s son is found carrying without a permit.”

“Don’t get caught,” Derek replies. “You’re keeping it.”

Stiles salutes sarcastically, “Yes, sir, Mr Alpha, sir!”

Derek rolls his eyes and looks on the verge of saying something when he stops, cocking his head in the incredibly irritating ‘I’m a werewolf and I can hear things you can’t’ kind of way. Stiles exchanges a look with Allison.

“Jackson is coming.” Lydia says, but Stiles thinks it’s just for his and Allison’s benefit.

Sure enough, Jackson comes skidding into the clearing, fast enough to send up leaves when he slides to a stop. Stiles, bearing the brunt of his sudden stop, spits leaves out of his mouth and glares at Jackson.

“We have a problem,” Jackson says. “It’s Danny. He knows.”

Chapter Text

“To be fair,” Stiles says, “it was only a matter of time.”

“I don’t like it,” Lydia says, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

“You’re just mad that you didn’t figure it out too,” Stiles jokes.

“I could have. If I wanted too.”

“Uh-huh,” Stiles says skeptically.

“Lydia is right,” Derek interrupts. “We don’t need any more humans to look out for.”

“Hey,” Stiles protests, stung.

“Danny can look after himself,” Jackson says. “He can probably manage better than Stiles.”

“Hey!”

“It doesn’t sound like we have much of a choice,” Allison cuts in. “If he already knows. . .”

“He only has guesses,” Derek says. “Unless Jackson confirmed them.”

As one, they all turn to look at Jackson.

“Hey, Scott gets Allison!”

“And me!” Stiles protests. “But, wait. Not in the same way! I mean, no offense, dude. I mean, I guess you are kind of ruggedly handsome after this whole werewolf thing, but-”

“Shut up, Stiles.” Scott laughs.

“Right, yeah. Shutting up.”

Derek sighs. “If there really are hunters coming for us, we need to be concentrating on getting stronger, not on picking up new members.”

“If there are hunters coming, we need to get stronger by building a bigger pack,” Stiles argues. “Everything I’ve read says that a werewolf in a pack is stronger than a werewolf without one. And the bigger the pack, the stronger the werewolf.”

Derek doesn’t say anything.

“Well?” Stiles presses. “Is it true or not?”

“It’s true,” Derek admits reluctantly.

“So, what’s the problem? I like Danny. He’s nice.”

“Well, I don’t like him,” Derek snaps back.

“And I’m sure those two have nothing to do with one another,” Lydia drawls lazily, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger. “But we need Danny.”

Stiles cocks his head at her, confused, but Derek snarls at her before she can elaborate.

“I do not need Danny! None of us do!” Derek shoots Stiles a dirty look as he says it, like this is somehow Stiles’ fault now.

Stiles puts a hand on Derek’s arm. “I’m not saying you give him the bite. Just, give him a chance? OK?”

Derek’s eyes flick from the hand on his arm to Stiles’ face and Stiles hastily withdraws the contact.

Derek draws a quick breath in through his teeth. “I’ll think about it.”

--

Danny takes one look at Derek and raises his eyebrows at Stiles. “Your cousin Miguel?”

Stiles shrugs guilelessly. Danny just snorts, clearly unimpressed.

“And, you’re all werewolves?” Danny asks, ignoring the way Derek is looking at him. Somewhere between homicidal rage and deliberate apathy. Stiles can still remember when Derek would look at him like that. Good times.

“I’m not,” Allison says cheerfully.

“Me neither,” Stiles says. Danny snorts.

“Yeah, that part I could have guessed myself.”

“Hey!” Seriously, where is the love? Danny just gives him an apologetic little shrug. Stiles isn’t fooled.

“What do you want here?” Derek asks, arms crossed menacingly over his chest.

“Hey, no offense, man,” Danny says, raising his hands defensively. “I just knew something was up with my friends. I wanted to know what it was. I was worried about them.”

Yeah, Stiles knew he always liked Danny. He knows how to be a good friend. When he turns to Derek, to see how his Alpha is taking this beautiful profession of friendship, he’s surprised to see that Derek is staring at him. Stiles drops his smile quickly.

Danny’s eyes flick between the two of them. “I promise I won’t tell my boyfriend,” he says, putting a weird emphasis on the last two words.

Somehow, because apparently all werewolves are insane, this makes Derek relax, if only marginally. What, only taken people allowed in the club now? Stiles feels like he should be offended on behalf of single people everywhere.

“This doesn’t mean I like you,” Derek snaps, before heading back into the house.

Jackson claps Danny triumphantly on the back. “I told you it would be fine.”

Danny just shakes his head, laughing. “You are the absolute worst judge of character.”

--

It’s only a matter of time before their first real fight breaks out. They’ve subsisted on minor squabbles and incoherent grumblings for this long, but when it comes down to it, they don’t mesh well--not yet.

Lydia is used to being able to manipulate people, Jackson is used to being in charge and Scott is just stupidly stubborn. Stiles isn’t really sure what Derek is used to, but right now he expects people to listen to him.

Stiles has been waiting for this to happen, since the day that Jackson took the bite and Lydia woke up from her impression of Sleeping Beauty.

It happens, as should probably be expected, over something stupid. Stiles suspects the only reason it hasn’t happened sooner was that summer time had given them enough leeway to get used to the messy werewolf stuff, without the conflicts of school and lacrosse that had made Scott so obstinate. Well, other than Scott’s usual charming personality.

Rachel McEvans, one of Lydia’s old friends and part of the lacrosse groupies that Stiles had once hoped would eventually realize his natural charms, is turning 17 on the night of a full moon, and both Lydia and Jackson have been invited to the party.

Unsurprisingly, neither of them react well to Derek telling them that they can’t go.

It had escalated into an all out screaming match, with both Jackson and Lydia half turned and Derek clearly only barely restraining his temper.

Stiles, watching from the sidelines, is struck by how many times Derek has had to go through this same argument. How sick Derek must be with dealing with whiny teenagers who don’t care that Derek is, for the most part, trying to help them.

Jackson and Lydia’s concerns seem so petty when Stiles remembers sitting outside Scott’s room, listening to Scott try to break free at the full moon so that he could try and kill his best friend. Derek is trying to help all of them here, trying to keep them and everyone in Beacon Hills safe.

Next to him, Jackson and Lydia sound like spoiled little children who are mad that they can’t have a sweet before dinner.

And Stiles is done. He is tired of listening to this, of these people with theses amazing abilities acting like they’re party favors and never taking any responsibility for their actions. He put up with it from Scott, because Scott was his best friend and they hadn’t really known if Derek was looking out for them or secretly trying to get them killed. He’s not going to listen to it from Lydia and Jackson.

“Shut up!” Stiles yells, slamming his hands down on the table, interrupting what feels like the tenth iteration of “You’re not my dad!” and “No, I’m your alpha!”.

The three of them turn to him, but he suspects that it’s more out of surprise than any amount of respect for him. “Just, shut up!” he reiterates, not entirely sure what to say now that he has their attention. He runs his hands through his short hair in frustration. “I can’t believe you’re actually having this argument at all. Do you even think before you speak?”

Jackson looks like he’s about to protest, but Stiles cuts him off. “No, seriously? Has it occured to you, like, at all, that the reason Derek doesn’t want you to go the party has nothing to do with his over controlling personality. You could literally kill people!”

Lydia snorts disdainfully. “I can control myself better than that.”

“You think,” Stiles replies. “You’re wolfing out right now, just from an argument. What do you think it will be like at the full moon, especially when you’ve been drinking. This isn’t about asserting your inalienable rights to party. This is about not killing people!”

“Scott managed just fine!” Jackson protests and Stiles actually laughs at that.

“Scott, yeah! Sure!” he chokes out. “Scott nearly took out half the town and it was only by sheer dumb luck, Derek looking out for him and whatever magical thing being near Allison does for him that he didn’t.”

Stiles takes a deep breath. “Jackson, I know you want to maintain your stupid pretty boy party image or whatever, but I think you might lose some friends when you accidently claw someone in half. And Lydia, I’m sure your adoring public will really miss you for one night, but I can guarantee that turning into a half-wolf thing won’t be up to the standards of beauty that your friends usually look for.” When she glowers at him, he hastily adds, “Though I think it only makes you look prettier.”

Lydia is still glaring at him, but he can tell that his words penetrated somewhere. She has that same reluctantly thoughtful look she’d worn when he’d convinced her to dance him.

He can’t read Jackson’s expression but after a minute, Jackson glares at the floor and says ‘It probably would have been lame anyway.”

“Rachel’s parties are usually terrible,” Lydia agrees, and Stiles rolls his eyes at both of them. ‘Anyway, I’m tired. Jackson?”

“Um, yeah?”

“Ride?” She raises her eyebrows expectantly.

“Yeah. Sure. Whatever.”

Lydia takes his arm as soon as he’s within range and they both leave together. Stiles will never understand their relationship, but he suspects it’s very unhealthy.

Derek is still breathing heavily and Stiles is a little distracted by how it makes his chest fill out his shirt, but a little bit more by the way Derek is glaring at him. That look usually ends with Stiles pressed against a wall, and though that’s becoming more and more of a mixed blessing, is usually results in bruises in uncomfortable places.

“Scott, Allison,” Derek says, voice scary calm. “I think you should probably head home.” He doesn’t take his eyes off Stiles as he says it, which Stiles finds kind of impressive and really intimidating.

“Stiles?” Scott asks, and Stiles takes a moment to appreciate that, while Scott sucks at being there for him emotionally, his best friend always has his back.

“I’ll be fine,” He says, knowing that Scott could tell if he were lying, but also knowing that it’s the truth. Derek won’t hurt him. Slam him around, maybe. But not hurt him. Stiles can’t say how he knows it, but he does. Knows it in his bones, like he knows that Scott is his best friend and that his dad will always, always have his back.

Derek waits until the sound of Allison’s car has faded away to Stiles’ human ears before he circles around the table. Slow and steady, a predators walk and Stiles can feel his heart-rate kicking up. Hopefully Derek will put it all down to fear, not the 60% of ‘other stuff that Stiles is definitely not thinking of, thank you very much’ that it actually is.

“Would you like to tell me,” Derek asks, voice slow and careful, “why you just gave my pack orders?”

Stiles swallows. Derek is getting way into his personal space and it’s really distracting. “Um, well. Your methods weren’t being very effective. And, well, it’s not like they could just go to the party. I know Rachel McEvans--she always has alcohol at her parties. And usually people in swimsuits. So I’ve heard. Somewhere. Around town.”

“And why did they listen to you?”

Derek smells like smoke and wood finish. How has Stiles not noticed that before? “Well, not that your ‘rawr, I’m the Alpha’ tactics don’t have their place, but that was not what Lydia and Jackson needed at the moment. I don’t know if you noticed, but you picked up probably the five most stubborn people in California for your pack. They’re all stupid. They respond to force with more force.”

“I’m the alpha!” Derek protests furiously.

“Then act like it!” Stiles replies, finally pushing Derek away to get some breathing room. “If you’re the boss then lay down the fucking rules. You let them walk all over you sometimes and I don’t get it! No wonder they don’t listen to you--your main tactic of control is yelling ‘I’m the alpha!’ and flashing your pearly white and reds at them!”

Derek’s eyes flash red at that, like Stiles mentioning it brought them out, and Stiles hastily adds, “Not that that isn’t plenty effective, big guy! It just, needs a time and place.”

Derek breaks away from what, Stiles realises, has been a very intense staring contest to hit the closest wall. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he says softly.

“What? No!” Stiles protests, alarmed by the sudden change in mood. “You’re doing a great job!”

Derek turns back to give him a skeptical look.

“Well, OK, you’re doing a decent job.”

Derek huffs out a breath. “Thanks, Stiles.”

“Hey, sarcasm! You’re picking up on normal human things already!”

This time he gets a half-smile and Stiles can’t help the smile he feels breaking out in reply. He likes being able to make Derek smile.

“Come here, big guy,” Stiles says, dropping down onto the couch and patting the space beside him.

Derek sits down next to him, closer than Stiles expected. Then he grabs the wrist of Stiles and pulls Stiles closer, so that they’re sitting flushed together.

“Um, OK,” Stiles says, resigned. “Didn’t you have ‘what to do when you’re an alpha’ lessons when you were a kid?” he asks, when the idea of basically cuddling with Derek Hale becomes too much.

Derek sighs, his breath skidding across the top of Stiles’ head and making him shiver. “I was never supposed to be the alpha.”

“I- really? Big tough guy like you?”

“It’s not all about strength, Stiles.”

“So, what, is it an age thing?”

“Laura was always supposed to be the Alpha, after my dad.”

“Not Peter?”

“No,” Derek says shortly.

“So, was Laura the oldest or something?”

Derek makes the huff of breath sound that Stiles usually takes to mean amusement. “It’s not a monarchy, Stiles.”

“So, explain it to me.”

Derek’s arm tightens around Stiles’ waist and woah, when did that even get there?

“Laura was older than me, by about a year or so, but that’s not why she was going to be the alpha. It’s about leadership potential. The kind of person someone will want to follow. Yes, part of it is about strength, that’s the wolf part of us. But the alpha position comes with strength on its own. Most of it is the same things you’d look for in a leader. Charisma, loyalty, intelligence. The ability to get people to want to follow you.

“Laura had it in spades. I think you would have liked her. She was a leader. She could talk anyone into doing anything. She was funny, popular. She would have been a great Alpha.”

“And you?”

“I would have followed her. Just like the rest of the Pack. Like we followed my dad.”

“I’m sorry.”

Derek doesn’t say anything.

“My mom was a lot like that,” Stiles says “She was a lawyer. She always knew what to say. When I was little, I wanted to be just like her.”

“And now?”

Stiles laughs. “I talk too much to be just like her.”

Derek jostles his shoulder, friendly, like Scott would. “You manage alright.”

Stiles ducks his head and hides a smile.

--

 

There is a lot that Stiles has had to get used to since his best friend turned into a werewolf and his own life turned into some kind of supernatural tv show. But one that he's pretty sure he'll never understand is the cuddling thing.

"OK, this is it." Stiles says when he goes into the Hale house, the morning after the full moon, to see the Pack arranged into a haphazard pile of limbs and skin.

Then he just has to stop and stare. Derek is in the center, his head on Jackson's chest and his arm across Scott. Lydia is lying sideways across him, her head on the floor pressed into Scott's side, her knees over Derek's waist and her feet pressed into Jackson's thigh.

Scott and Jackson are both wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but Lydia, who apparently values her designer jeans more than Scott values his ratty $15 pair, is only wearing gym shorts and a sweat bra. And somehow, even despite her amazing long legs and the pale expanse of her stomach on display, Stiles’ gaze is drawn to Derek.

Derek, whose Alpha form effectively ruins almost any shirt he transforms in, has opted to go shirtless instead, and is wearing only a low slung pair of gym shorts.

Stiles’ eyes flick from Lydia to Derek, not quite sure how to process all this visual feedback, and he must make some sort of confused, brain-shorting-out noise because the Pack stirs.

They all turn to him, sleepy and blurry-eyed. It's rare that any of them feel like doing anything until at least noon after the full moon. This is the first time that Stiles had been allowed to visit after a full moon night--Derek had been worried about Jackson and Lydia’s control.

"Seriously," Siles continues, putting down the plate of BLTs he made for them. "What is it with you guys."

Scott gives him a sleepy smile. "Stiles. C'mere."

"I want you to know that I think you're all crazy," Stiles says, approaching cautiously, because at this point, he trusts none of them.

Scott waits until Stiles is standing just above him, then grabs his arm and yanks him down. Stiles makes a squeaking noise of protest as he goes down hard, landing spread eagled next to Scott.

Scott drags on his arm until Stiles is approximately next to him. When Stiles is, apparently, arranged to his satisfaction, he sighs heavily, drapes his leg over Stiles', buries his face into Stiles' neck and makes a sleepy noise of satisfaction.

"What is going on?" Stiles says, his voice several octaves higher with surprise and bewilderment.

"Shut up, Stiles," Jackson mutters.

"Shut up?!" Stiles cries, indignant. "I am being forcibly cuddled against my will! I-"

Lydia, apparently deciding that enough is enough, reaches up to cover his mouth with her small hand. Stiles falls quiet immediately, because he's pretty sure that Lydia can kill him. Or make his life hell. One of the two. Satisfied, she moves so that her head rests on Stiles' stomach. He can feel her hair against the strip of skin where his shirt has ridden up.

Derek sighs heavily and wraps a broad hand around Siles' neck and pulls so that Stiles' head rests on his shoulder. "Go to sleep," he mutters, voice a low growl next to Stiles' ear. Stiles takes a deep breath, breathing in the familiar smells and lets the sound of the Pack's collective breathing lull him into a doze.

-- --

Stiles jerks awake when he hears a the sound of the door slamming closed. He pulls his head off of Derek’s shoulder to peer at the door in bemusement. Allison is staring at them, mouth open a little, eyes wide.

“What, um. What?” she asks. Scott waves her over and Stiles is pretty sure that she’s about to be added to this giant pile of werewolf cuddles, but Derek pushes himself up before Scott has the chance. Stiles kind of slides off his chest awkwardly, barely managing to catch himself before his head bounces off the floor.

Apparently, it’s some kind of cue to the others. Lydia stands and stretches, which Stiles watches avidly. He’s pretty sure he’s not in love with her anymore, but she’s still pretty much the hottest girl he’s ever seen. He’s a teenage boy, he can appreciate that.

Jackson grumbles, but climbs to his feet, making a beeline for the sandwiches that Stiles had put out earlier. Stiles rolls up after him, because he knows that if he isn’t there to watch Jackson he’ll eat all of the sandwiches and leave nothing for anyone else.

Scott, lazy bum that he is, stays on the floor, tugging Allison down beside him. She goes more readily than Stiles had, curving easily into Scott’s side and letting him run his fingers through her hair. Stiles makes a face at them and their disgusting cuteness.

“Come here, Stiles,” Lydia commands imperiously from the hallway. Stiles rolls his eyes at Jackson, because Lydia and her ways is one of the only things they can connect on. Jackson, apparently in a weirdly cheerful mood brought about by an ingestion of amazing BLTs, rolls his eyes back and bumps his shoulder against Stiles’. It almost knocks him over, but it’s the thought that counts.

“Yes, your highness?” Stiles says, coming to an abrupt stop when he sees that Lydia has changed out of her ‘running with the wolves’ clothes and is standing there in her underwear and bra, in the process of pulling her shorts up.

“Took you long enough,” she says, buttoning her shorts and turning to him with an eye catching hair flip. She puts her hands on her hips, uncaring of the fact that she’s only wearing her bra. “Well?”

Stiles stares at her. “Um. What?”

“Where’s my sandwich?” She turns to grab her shirt from where she’s apparently laid it out on the table next to her.

“Oh, I’m sorry, did you want a sandwich? I must have missed the part where you asked.”

Lydia pouts at him. “Stiles, would you go bring me a sandwich?”

“I know what you’re doing,” Stiles points at her. “You think you’re fooling me, but you’re not!”

“Pretty please.”

“You’re lucky you’re pretty,” Stiles says, and then goes to get her a sandwich. Sometimes he can’t believe the friends he has. And not in a good way.

“Thank you, Stiles!” she calls after him.

“Put a shirt on!” he calls back, unamused.

--

“I heard there were bacon sandwiches?” Danny says when Stiles answers the knock on the door.

Stiles leans his head around to glare at Jackson, who totally fails to look even a little repentant.

“We’re closed,” Derek says, appearing out of nowhere to close the door in Danny’s face.

“What is your issue?” Stiles asks, pushing Derek away from him and pulling the door open again. “Hey, Danny. Please, come in.” He uses the over sweet voice his dad had taught him for entertaining company.

“Thank you, Stiles,” Danny says, equally polite

“There actually aren’t any BLTs left,” Stiles says apologetically. At some point, he’ll be able to make a number that the entire pack can’t eat, but he suspects that’s a long way out.

“I figured as much.”

“It’s like living with a pack of wolves,” Stiles jokes. It’s not really very funny, but it’s worth it for the way that Derek growls at him a little.

Danny just rolls his eyes and goes to sit next to Jackson at the breakfast table.

Stiles puts a hand on Derek’s arm. “Don’t worry about Danny. He’s trustworthy.”

“That’s not the problem,” Derek says cryptically, glaring at Stiles hand until he removes it. One of these days, Stiles is going to look into why he touches Derek so much. He probably won’t like the answer, so he tries not to think about it.

Stiles waits a moment to give Derek a chance to explain what the problem is, then rolls his eyes. “Then, just relax and accept it. It’s better to have someone who knows inside the Pack then out of it.”

“He’s not Pack,” Derek protests, but he follows Stiles into the kitchen readily enough.

Stiles joins Jackson and Danny at the table because it’s that or watch Scott and Allison cuddle and honestly, he’s had about as much of that as he can stand. Derek just leans against the cabinets to watch them, because he has issues.

They make pointless chit-chat about lacrosse and school, Jackson making his usual complains about their teachers, while Danny tries to justify their behavior to him. Stiles jumps in with sarcastic observations when the opportunity presents itself and lets the others talk around him when it doesn’t.

Derek surprises all of them by perking up when he hears them say something about Ms. Callogani. “She teaches English?” he asks, and they all turn to stare at him.

“How’d you know that?” Jackson demands.

“I went to high school too, you know,” Derek snaps.

“I always forget you’re not, like, thirty,” Stiles jokes. “You act older than my dad sometimes.”

Derek ignores him. “Does she still give out candy if you get the answers right?”

Stiles just stares at him. He’d been joking when he said that Derek seemed thirty, but at the same time, it’s so hard to picture Derek as one of his peers, catching candy in English class for being able to properly explain The Great Gatsby, or getting yelled at in Geometry for not paying attention, or any other pointless, teenager things.

It’s not that he doesn’t think of Derek as human, because he does--certainly more than Scott seems to, but Derek has this other worldly quality about him. Stiles doesn’t really think that he went to werewolf school and spent most of his afternoons playing fetch, but Derek doesn’t quite fit into the world of Beacon Hills High School that Stiles is used to.

“Did you play a sport?” he blurts out, interrupting whatever probably rude thing Jackson was saying.

Derek gives him a weird look, then a shrug. “I played baseball.”

“We have a baseball team?” Stiles asks in amazement.

Derek rolls his eyes. “It’s not as big as lacrosse, but that was better for me anyway. You don’t want to call much attention yourself. Laura and Natalie both played soccer.”

“Natalie?”

Derek shifts, looking uncomfortable and regretful. “My little sister.”

Oh.

Sometimes Stiles forget just how many people Derek must have lost that day. His parents, his sister, whatever family Peter had. The Hale house is big, it could have fit so many people. And only three survived.

“So,” Stiles says in a blatant attempt to change the topic, “what’s your favorite baseball team? I like the Mets.”

--

When Stiles gets home that night, his dad is waiting for him. That is weird enough in itself, because on the rare occasions that his dad gets home first, he tends to conk out on the couch with a game on.

“We need to talk, Stiles.”

Double uh-oh. Nothing good has ever followed those words, Stiles is sure of it.

“About what?” he asks, carefully casual.

“About this, this,” he waves his hands around in his search for the right words, “this cult you’ve joined.”

Stiles is pretty glad that he wasn’t drinking anything, because he’s pretty sure he would have spit it out in shock. “The what?”

“This cult of Derek Hale’s. I’m worried about you, son.”

“You think I joined a cult?”

His dad sighs and, to Stiles’ dismay, pours himself a finger of whiskey. If it’s a whiskey night, then things are really bad. “At first I was worried about you teaming up or whatever with Derek Hale, even after he was cleared. But you’ve been more responsible lately, and I saw you working on the house and I thought maybe it was good for you, to have a project-”

“So what’s the problem?”

“But then, I hear about this whole little gang you have going. A grown man, surrounding himself with teenage kids. It doesn’t look good.”

“That doesn’t make it a cult, Dad!” Stiles protests indignantly.

“The Whittemore’s have come to me to express their concerns about Jackson. More recently, the Mahealani’s came by to ask me if I was sure that Derek Hale was no longer a threat. He’s getting quite a little pack together, isn’t he?”

Stiles knows the word choice is a coincidence, but he flinches anyway. His dad’s eyes narrow.

“Furthermore,” he continues, pressing his advantage. “Lydia’s parents have mentioned that she is rarely at home and that she’s been coming home later and later. She says she’s with Allison, but I know Allison is usually with Scott, and Scott is usually with you. And you, Stiles? You’re usually with Derek Hale. Which gives Derek Hale a group of at least six impressionable teenagers.”

“I’m not impressionable!” Stiles protests.

“And then there’s this,” his dad says, and drops down three books onto the kitchen table. Stiles’ stomach falls because he’s pretty sure he won’t be able to talk his way out of this one. One is a book on werewolf lore, the other is on vampire mythology, and the third and most damning is a book on hunting and killing monsters that he’s picked up with a ‘know your enemy’ mentality.

“Um. I can explain all of that.”

His father raises an eyebrow at him. “This should be good.”

“It’s, uh, it’s all for a school project.”

“Oh yeah? What subject?”

“Biology? How um, humans can uh, mutate into supernatural beings. And how to, er, recreate it. In real life. And stuff. Fascinating stuff.”

His dad holds up the third book silently.

“And how to kill them with the project inevitably goes wrong,” Stiles adds quickly.

The Sheriff sighs. “Stiles, I’m trying to help you here. I’m worried about you.” Oh no. Not the worried Dad card. Stiles is practically helpless against it. “After your mother died,” oh god. Stiles isn’t sure he’s going to make it through this, “you’re all I have, son.”

“Dad.” Stiles says helplessly. He wants to tell him, wants so badly to trust his dad with this, to give him the knowledge that might keep all of them alive when danger comes calling again, but he can’t betray the pack like that. “I just, can you just trust me? Please. Just for right now.”

His dad drops his head into his hands. “Can you promise me you’re safe, at least. That nothing that you’re doing could get you hurt.”

No. “Yes.” Sometimes, Stiles care hardly live with himself. His dad sighs like he knows that Stiles is lying and takes another finger of whiskey.

“Go to bed, Genim.”

Hanging his head, throat thick with guilt, Stiles does as he says.

--

“You know you can’t tell him,” comes a voice out of the darkness.

“Jesus Christ!” Stiles yells, flinging himself back against the wall.

“Relax, idiot. It’s just me.”

Stiles throws the light on, but he knows it’s Derek before the he can fully see him, leaning against the wall like he owns it.

“You have issues, you know that?” he snaps as he straightens his clothes out, trying to play it cool.

“You can’t tell your Dad.”

“Seriously, do you take creeper lessons from Twilight?”

“Stiles,” Derek says reprovingly.

Stiles sighs and drops down into his desk chair. “Yeah. I know. I want to, though.”

“I know.”

“It’s so hard to keep secrets from him. I’m all that he has.”

“Stiles,” Derek says, but his voice is soft, like he’s trying to be comforting. It’s somewhat alarming.

“And the worst part is, he knows something’s wrong. He knew there was something up with the mountain lion story, too. He should know. He could help us.”

“You know he can’t right now.”

“Yeah, because secret keeping has really been this Pack’s strong point,” Stiles snaps. “Can we go over a list about how many people have put the dots together and, against all odds, still ended up with werewolf?”

“We’ll get better.”

“Yeah, OK, sure,” Stiles says ruefully. “Whatever you say, pack-man.”

“We will.” There’s pure command in Derek’s voice, and for a moment Stiles even believes him “We have to.”

“You know, before this year, I never really lied to my dad.” Stiles stares down at his hands. “I know it sounds kind of sad, a teenage boy who was completely honest with his father? But before this year, there was nothing I didn’t want him to know about.

“I mean sure, every now and then there were the little white lies, or the times I snuck into the crime scenes. But that didn’t count, because he knew I was lying and I knew that he knew. It was just a thing we did, you know.”

“You don’t have to be a part of this, Stiles,” Derek says. “You’re human. You can walk away.”

Stiles snorts. “Please. Like you guys could survive without me. You need me.”

“You’re a pain in the ass,” Derek retorts. Then, when Stiles glares at him, he adds, “Who can sometimes be useful. Even if you do faint at the sight of blood.”

“The blood wasn’t the issue!” Stiles says, jumping to his feet indignantly. “It was the bone saw I had a problem with!”

Derek just smirks at him.

“Oh, I get it. Very funny.”

“I thought so.”

“What about you?”

“No, Stiles. Blood doesn’t bother me much anymore.”

“Ha-fucking ha. You’re hilarious. No, I mean did you ever keep secrets from your parents.” He regrets asking it as soon as the words leave his mouth because he’s pretty sure that ‘Parents’ are in the ‘Seriously off-limits’ category for Derek.

Derek surprises him though, because he just grins, even if it is a little sad around the edges. “I tried. It’s pretty hard to keep secrets from people you can’t lie to.”

“I bet you tried though,” Stiles guesses.

Derek shrugs. “Not as much as Laura. She was the master of the half-truth. I was the good son.’

Stiles snorts because, yeah right.

“It’s true,” Derek says mildly. “But it’s mostly because I didn’t have Laura’s bustling social life to sneak away too.”

“Were you a nerd?” Stiles asks, surprised and delighted by the possibility.

“Not in school,” Derek admits after a long moment.

Stiles squints at him suspiciously. He’s a long way away from his dad’s masterful eye-narrowing, but he hopes that will come with age. “What does that mean?”

Derek gives him a little smirk. “I watched my share of Star Trek,” he admits.

Stiles sits bolt upright in his chair. “Shut up. You did not.”

Derek just smirks at him, looking smug and amused at Stiles’ reaction. “I did.”

“You were not a, a trekkie!”

Derek sniffs, and Stiles is pretty sure his offended tone is all affected when he says, “The proper term is Trekker,” but Stiles is too busy staring at him, mouth open in shock, to care.

“You’re messing with me.” he protests.

“Goodnight, Stiles,” Derek says, heading towards the bedroom window.

“Wait, you’re leaving? Why did you even come here?”

Derek ignores him, climbing out the window without looking back.

“You can’t leave after that!” Stiles says, just before Derek’s back disappears as he drops off of the window sill. “Come tell me more embarrassing secrets!” he calls, knowing Derek can hear him. “Did you have a man-crush on Captain Kirk?”

The leaves rustling are his only answer and Stiles glares at nothing before he closes his window. “What a jerk,” he mutters to himself, but it’s half-hearted at best.

--

“Derek’s in a better mood today,” Lydia says casually, leaning against Stiles’ jeep while he practices assembling and dissembling his shiny new gun. He’ll practice shooting it. Sometime. Maybe. When there aren’t as many people around.

“Really?” He glances over to where Derek is engaged in a tragically unequal sparring match with Scott. He’s just in time to see Scott get slammed to the ground and Stiles winces in sympathy. “That’s a good mood?”

Lydia tosses her hair over her shoulder. “Compared to how he was yesterday? Yeah.”

“He seemed fine yesterday.”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “He was in a pissy mood ever since Danny showed up.”

They both turn to look at where Danny is sparring with Jackson. Jackson is winning, but Danny is holding his own pretty well for a guy going against a werewolf.

“What’s wrong with Danny? Everyone likes Danny.”

“Hm. Yes.”

“Anyway, he seemed fine when he came by last night.”

Lydia turns to face him, giving him her full attention. “He came by your place?”

“Yeah, just for a little bit. We talked. He was almost human.”

Lydia gives him a piercing look. “Interesting,” she says, rolling the words around in her mouth like fine wine.

“What is?” Stiles asks, but Lydia is already moving to take her turn fighting Derek. “That wasn’t weird at all,” Stiles mutters, watching how Lydia holds up. She does better than Scott, but not by much.

“Is it always like this?” Danny asks, coming up to stand beside him, dripping sweat.

“What, the were-puppies beat the crap out of each other for fun? Yeah, pretty much.”

“It doesn’t look like much fun.” They both wince when Lydia goes slamming into a tree, but she’s up and leaping at Derek before they can blink.

“I don’t think that fun is the point,” Stiles says. Danny laughs softly next to him.

“Good point.”

“Come on, chatty,” Allison interrupts, grabbing Stiles’ arm and dragging him away from his beloved Jeep. “You and me have targets to shoot at.”

“Do I have a choice in this?”

“No.”

Stiles sighs and waves goodbye. “Sorry, Danny. I’m just so popular!”

Allison rolls her eyes. “Have you been practicing?”

“Yes?” Stiles tries.

Allison gives him a stern look.

“No,” Stiles admits. “But I can take it apart and put it together blindfolded.”

“Which doesn’t help at all if you can’t fire it.”

“OK, OK. I’m here now, aren’t I?”

“So show me,” Allison challenges. One day, Stiles will figure out what Scott did to get a girl like Allison. It might even make sense.

They spend the next two hours firing at various targets and while Allison hits the bullseyes about twice as often as Stiles does, he prides himself on hitting the target itself more often than not.

“You’re pretty good. Both of you,” Danny says from behind them and Stiles turns around to grin at him.

“Yeah?” he asks proudly. He needs more friends who compliment him. It’s just a common courtesy.

Danny shrugs. “I wouldn’t have guessed it. But then,” he looks to where Lydia and Jackson are fighting, both of them in their wolfed out forms, “I don’t think I could have guessed any of this.”

“Except that you did,” Allison points out.

“Before Jackson started disappearing all the time, he asked me if I thought werewolves were real. Add that to McCall’s general weirdness and it wasn’t that hard to put together.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, it’s just a hop skip and a jump from ordinary steroids. I’m amazed the whole town hasn’t figured it out.”

Danny claps him on the back, hard enough that Stiles stumbles forward a bit. “You’re alright, Stilinski.” He grins.

“Oh, great. Thanks,” Stiles mutters.

--

“OK, seriously,” Stiles says as Lydia drags him down onto the couch beside her. “If we’re going to keep doing this, we need a bigger couch.”

The addition of Danny to their already crowded group has made, what Stiles calls the cuddle couch, feel very tight.

“I don’t mind,” Allison says cheerfully.

“Um, yeah, but that’s because you’re sitting on Scott’s lap,” Stiles retorts, and Scott sticks his tongue out at him.

“Oh, very mature,” Stiles says sarcastically

“We’ll make do,” Derek says, even though he has to be suffocating, with Jackson and Lydia sandwiching him between them, so close there wouldn’t be room for a piece of paper between them.

“No, really. I’m sitting on the floor today.” Stiles squirms his way out from between Lydia and Scott because no matter how good Lydia smells right now, Stiles is about ten minutes of very close quarters away from a heat stroke.

He sits down with his back to the coffee table, facing the couch. Danny had adjusted well to the cuddle couch thing, better then Stiles had, but then Stiles had always suspected that Danny was a closet cuddler.

He’s practically smushed between Jackson and the arm of the couch, more than half up the side just to have enough room to move his arms. Jackson is pressed close to Derek, who has his arm around Lydia. Lydia’s leaning into it, adjusting her weight without Stiles beside her. Scott, who had been half on the couch and half on the arm, even with Allison on his lap, slides into the place Stiles left open.

“This is not a seven person sofa, guys,” Stiles says. Derek is glaring at him like his leaving the couch is a personal betrayal, so Stiles stretches his legs out so that his feet are propped up on Derek’s shins. Seriously, he’s never going to understand werewolves.

“I’m hungry,” Jackson says after a moment of comfortable silence.

“Don’t look at me,” Stiles says, holding his hands up in defence. “Order some pizza or something.”

“Yeah, because the delivery guy gets so excited when I tell him to bring a pizza out to the haunted house in the woods,” Jackson retorts.

Stiles sits up straighter. “OK, I need to talk to you guys about that.”

“About ordering pizza?” Scott asks, sounding hopeful.

“No, not about--this isn’t about food, OK guys.”

“Boo!” Allison jeers jokingly. Stiles rolls his eyes at her.

“This is about the fact that a pizza guy is too scared to come up here and my dad thinks that I joined a cult,” Stiles says, which at least has the benefit of shutting them up.

“A cult?”

“Apparently, something about six teenagers hanging out with a guy in his twenties in his ramshackle haunted house in the woods struck some people as weird. Go figure.”

“You convinced him otherwise, right?” Allison asks nervously.

“Oh, yeah, I explained to him that it was actually just a bunch of werewolves living in the woods and howling at the moon. He found it very comforting.”

“So, basically you’re just complaining to us,” Jackson says. Danny elbows him in the ribs. Stiles is so glad that Danny is around now.

“No, I’m saying we should maybe come up with a cover story. Most of us can say we’re doing some extra lacrosse training. Lydia, you’re smart enough to come up with something. Allison, I don’t even know where to start with your family.”

Allison pulls a face that means she agrees with him.

“Meanwhile,” Derek interrupts, “we haven’t seen anything that might indicate that there are Hunters on the way here.”

Stiles looks to Allison. “Have your parents mentioned anything?”

She shrugs apologetically. “Sorry, Stiles. Nothing.”

“Maybe your vampire girlfriend was lying to you,” Jackson says.

“Vampire girlfriend?” Danny repeats.

“She isn’t my girlfriend!” Stiles says indignantly.

“I’m just saying, coffee, touching, warnings of doom. Sounds like a date to me.”

“You’re dating wrong,” Stiles remarks. Danny laughs and Jackson elbows him in the stomach, making a face at Stiles. Stiles counts it as a win.

“The point is, we haven’t heard anything,” Derek interrupts.

“Well, better safe than sorry, right?” Scott offers.

Derek sighs. “I suppose. That means more training for you though.” He turns his head to glare at Stiles. “All of you.”

They all groan.

Stiles is pretty sure this isn’t his fault, but they’ll probably blame him anyway.

--

The next few weeks pass in much the same way, with stupidly hard training every day and stupidly annoying pack bonding time every evening.

Stiles tries to convince his dad that they really are practicing lacrosse, but he’s pretty sure that his dad isn’t actually buying it.

Derek is still unnaturally grumpy towards Danny, but he wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine to Stiles when they first met, so Stiles is fairly confident it’s just a matter of time.

Sometimes, on the off days when Jackson or Lydia are being contrary, Derek will creep into Stiles’ window.

No matter what he’s doing, Stiles always puts it down to talk to him. He figures that Derek doesn’t have anyone else to talk to, and Stiles isn’t really sure where this increasing urge to help Derek is coming from, but he’ll do what he can.

They don’t talk about the Pack, Stiles figures that it isn’t his place to ask and Derek needs to look like he’s in control, but they talk about pretty much anything else. Well, usually Stiles talks and Derek listens and rolls his eyes.

Stiles will tell him about the research he’s doing, or what movies he’s watching, or even just the for-public-knowledge stuff he hears from his dad. It’s weird, but he finds it easier to go to sleep on the nights when they do talk.

Somehow they manage to get through another full moon, made easier without a big beach party the same night. This time, Danny is there to join in the Post-Moon-Stress cuddle session, which never stops being weird.

“Are you going to keep doing this when school starts?” Stiles asks. His head is on Allison’s stomach this time, his feet swung over Danny’s knees, and Derek has one arm flung over his chest.

“We’ll worry about that when it comes,” Derek replies, and Danny covers Stiles’ mouth before he can protest that lackluster reply.

A week after that, Derek is trying to teach Stiles some basic self defense moves. He learned a couple from his father, but most of those were how to get out of holds and how to get away from bigger, stronger opponents.

Derek’s teachings are mostly on how to incapacitate bigger, stronger opponents, because there isn’t much these days that Stiles will actually be able to outrun.

Derek is in the middle of trying to explain the best way to kick out someone’s knee cap, an explanation that has Stiles wincing every few seconds, when Derek’s head shoots up.

“Um, Derek?” Stile prompts, but Derek holds up a hand for quiet. Stiles is about to ignore him and talk anyway, but he can hear a low growl start up low in Derek’s throat and he thinks better of it.

They spend what feels like forever just standing there with Derek sniffing at the air, and Stiles nearly jumps out of his skin when Jackson and Lydia come crashing through the trees.

“Do I smell-” Lydia demands.

“Yes,” Derek cuts her off. “Heading this way. Where are the others?”

“They’re with Scott. On their way.”

“Bad idea. Take Stiles and the others and wait at the house. In the basement.”

“What the hell is going on?” Stiles demands.

“Knock-knock,” comes a voice to his left, and Stiles whips around to see Sharon the vampire leaning against a tree, grinning at them. She waggles her fingers in a sarcastic wave.

“Sharon!” Stiles exclaims, then shrinks back from the fangs bared, red eyed glower that Derek shoots him.

“Hey, pet,” she replies.

Derek’s growls pick up volume and Stiles glances over at him, alarmed. Derek is hunched over in preparation to attack, hands curled into vicious talons.

“Hey, I come in peace,” Sharon says, raising her hands placatingly. “Play nice.”

Derek takes a visible breath and straightens, claws fading back into fingernails and face smoothing into his usual pokerface.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

“I just came for a chat. No need for the hostilities,” she says to her fingernails.

There’s still growling in the clearing and Stiles turns to see that both Lydia and Jackson have wolfed out, looking about a minute away from attacking.

“Stand down, guys,” Derek orders. Lydia glances at him, and Derek glares her down, but Jackson ignores him completely. Derek strides over to him in three broad steps and grips the back of his neck in one hand. “Stand down,” he commands again. Jackson’s growls increase in volume, but he does as Derek says, face smoothing and fangs receding, though he doesn’t look at Derek when he does it.

“What’s up?” Stiles asks, trying to draw attention away from the inter-pack disciplinary problems.

“You added another human to your little puppy-pile,” she remarks, staring off into the middle distance.

“So?” Derek asks, putting himself in the path of her gaze. Her eyes settle back to his, mouth tipping up in a smirk.

“Just making small talk, Hale.”

“Are you here on Coven business?” Derek demands.

“In a manner of speaking. Hang on, why don’t we wait for the rest of your little group.” She indicates a portion of the woods to Stiles’ left, where, sure enough, Scott, Allison and Danny come piling through.

“I thought I smelled-oh,” Scott cuts himself off when he sees Sharon.

“You’re the one who bit Tony,” Sharons remarks.

“He tasted terrible,” Scott says, already shifting into attack form. Stiles can feel a headache building behind his eyes.

“I’m sure I could say the same about you,” Sharon says cooly, unimpressed.

“Scott, take the humans and go back to the house,” Derek commands.

“No way,” Scott snarls.

“Scott. Now.”

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Scott retorts. Stiles resists the urge to put his head in his hands, but only because it would make this look worse.

Derek takes a deep breath, clearly deciding not to push the issue. “Back down then. This isn’t a fight.”

Stiles catches Allison’s eye and jerks his head at Scott. She nods and puts her hand into Scott’s dangerous, clawed one. He turns his head to look at her and she smiles serenely at him. Scott sighs and shifts seamlessly back to human.

Sharon is studying her nails, pretending not to watch and Stiles tries not the be pathetically grateful to her for that.

“All good, big boy?” she asks when Derek turns back to her and all feelings of gratitude abruptly vanish.

“Why are you here?”

“I just wanted to talk with Stiles here,” she says and Stiles tries very hard to turn invisible. It doesn’t work well.

“You didn’t ask permission.”

“It wasn’t an official visit,” she replies. Her eyes flick around the clearing, jumping from person to person.

“All supernatural beings have to make a declaration of intent before crossing into another’s territory.”

“Well, I forgot or something, OK!” Sharon snaps. She’s nervous, Stiles realizes. Sharon takes a deep breath and moves in a slow circle around the clearing. “My, you are a big one, aren’t you?” she says to Danny. Jackson snaps his teeth at her and she smirks at him, continuing around until she stops in front of Stiles. “Did you miss me, pet?” she asks, putting one hand on his cheek.

Scott and Lydia both start forward at once. Scott grabs for Sharon’s wrist and Lydia grabs Stiles to pull him back. Both of them have their teeth bared and Lydia’s claws are biting into Stiles’ shoulders.

“Scott. Lydia. Calm down,” Derek commands, but his hands are clenched into tight fists, voice carefully contained. “You,” he says to Sharon. “Do not touch him again.”

Sharon pouts at him. “Such a spoilsport. Let the human decide for himself.”

“I listen to Derek,” Stiles says, because someone has to. “And he’s right. Don’t touch me.”

Sharon gives him a surprised look. “So the pet bites.”

“I already told you, I’m not a pet. I’m pack.” Stiles can feel Lydia’s claws receding, but her hand stays on his shoulder.

“So you did, hun. Well, I just came to give you a warning.”

“You already did that,” Jackson interrupts. “As far as we can tell, it was a false alarm.”

Sharon shrugs. “So it came ahead of schedule. It’s real now. If the hunters aren’t here in a week, I’ll be surprised.”

“Oh, I’m so sure,” Lydia snaps.

“Think what you want. I’m just trying to help.” Sharon shrugs, turning away and starting to walk into the trees.

“Wait!” Stiles calls after her, and she stops. “Why do you keep helping us?”

Sharon laughs. “That is for me to know, and you to find out.”

With those cryptic words, she turns and fades into the trees.

--

Derek rounds on them the second they get through the doors to the house.

“What the hell was that out there?” he demands.

Jackson crosses his arms, looking grumpy. “We were defending our territory.”

Derek snarls at him. “No, what you did was disobey me and embarrass the pack in front of outsiders!”

“It was just a vampire,” Jackson grumbles.

“It wasn’t just vampire, Jackson. It was a lack of respect. It shows everyone that I can’t control my pack.”

Jackson tilts his head up arrogantly and glares at him. “And what if you can’t?”

“What?” Derek growls, voice harsh.

“I said, what if you can’t control your pack? Because I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think that leadership is really your thing.” Jackson’s hands are curled into fists, looking as though every inch of fight is costing him.

“Oh, really?” Derek sneers. “You think that?”

“Yeah, I really do,” Jackson retorts.

Derek takes two broad steps so that he’s right up in Jackson’s space. “Well, you know what? I don’t give a damn what you think. You’re in my Pack, you do what I say.”

“Fuck that!” Jackson shouts. “I didn’t sign up to be some kind of indentured servant.”

“An indentured servant is someone who works for a set amount of time in exchange for home and food,” Lydia says derisively. “Idiot.”

“I don’t fucking care, Lydia!” Jackson practically howls, wolfish growls creeping in at the edge of his words.

“Hmph.” Lydia flips her hair and crosses her arms, projecting total apathy.

“I’m out. Danny, come on,” Jackson says, heading for the door.

Derek gets to the door first, faster than Stiles can track. He slams the door closed with one hand when Jackson moves to open in and leans down, crowding into Jackson’s space.

“I own you, Whittemore,” Derek snarls. “So get your fucking act together.”

“My act?” Jackson snorts, “My ‘act’ is fine? It’s pretty obvious which of us needs to get it together, pal.” He pushes Derek away from him.

Derek snarls and grabs him by the collar. “You want to mess with me, pretty boy?”

“Woah, woah!” Stiles says, putting his hands up and approaching them cautiously. “Everyone take a step back here.”

“And what about him?” Jackson demands, pointing at Stiles. “He’s human, so he gets free will and permission to run his mouth whenever he wants?”

“Excuse you?” Stiles says furiously.

“Shut up, Stiles,” Derek cuts him off.

Stiles opens and closes his mouth, indignant. “You can’t just-”

“Yes, I can!” Derek roars, claws ripping out of his hands as he wheels on Stiles. “I’m the Alpha! You’re not acting any better; consorting with vampires,”

“I wasn’t consorting-”

“And giving orders-”

“I’m trying to help, if you’d stop losing your-”

“And you never listen, it’s like you’re-”

“I never listen, me? You’re the one who-”

“I’m the Alpha, it’s my job to-”

“Oh yeah, maybe I’d listen if you stopped-”

“Stiles, seriously, just-”

“Derek, I swear to god, for once just-”

“Shut up!” they yell the last bit together, facing off across the room like a battlefield, and both of them breathing heavily.

“Get out,” Derek says.

“What?” Stiles asks, unable to believe his ears.

“Get out,” Derek repeats. “And don’t come back until you can act like part of the Pack.”

Stiles stares at him, but Derek just crosses his arms over his chest. Stiles looks to Scott, then to Lydia, but neither of them will meet his eyes.

“Fine,” he spits, throwing his arms up and turning around. “Fine!”

He slams the door behind him, but it doesn’t make him feel any better.

Chapter Text

Stiles gets a text the next day that says ‘come to the house--we need to talk.’

Stiles snorts, because yeah, right. ‘Try harder, douche bag’ he replies.

‘Please.’

Goddammit.

Stiles grabs his bag and heads out to the Jeep.

He spends most of the drive to the house glaring at the road and thinking of what he would say to Derek when he gets there. None of it is complimentary.

He’s surprised to see Lydia waiting for him outside, hands on her hips like she’s impatient.

“What took you so long?” she demands.

Stiles gives her a suspicious look. “Did you steal Derek’s phone to lure me here?”

Lydia raises a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Would that have worked?”

Stiles winces. “Um. No?”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “Just come on. He probably wants to yell at us some more.” She takes Stiles’ arms and links it through hers like when they went to the dance together.

“I guess we have to do this, don’t we?” Stiles sighs.

“Once more unto the breach,” Lydia says with false cheer and they enter the Hale house together.

Derek is pacing back and forth on the rug before the couch when they get in.

And, just Stiles’ luck, he and Lydia are the first to arrive, which at least explains why she was waiting outside for him.

“Have a seat,” Derek says, gesturing at the couch. Stiles can think of at least five horror movies that start this way and he tries not to let it show. He settles himself down next to the arm of the couch, and for once doesn’t comment when Lydia curls in close to his side. Instead, he just goes with it and puts his arm around her slender shoulders. He’s pretty sure that his fifteen year old self would have killed for this moment. Well, maybe with a bit less potentially homicidal sourwolf staring down at them

“If you’re planning to, I dunno, kill me and hide the body, I’m pretty sure Lydia will defend me,” Stiles blurts out. He glances to Lydia for confirmation.

“I would,” she agrees, buffing her nails on her shirt.

“See,” Stiles says, looking back to Derek. Derek just rolls his eyes, which is somewhat comforting.

“We’re waiting for the others, I need to talk to all of you.”

“This should be fun,” Stiles mutters. Lydia elbows him in the side.

The front door slams open before Derek can reply and Jackson storms in, looking deliberately nonchalant, hands shoved into his pockets and sunglasses perched on the bridge of his nose.

“This better be important, Hale,” he says, like he’s trying to pretend he has a choice.

“Sit down,” Derek orders. Stiles clears his throat loudly. “Please,” Derek adds reluctantly.

Jackson slouches over to the couch and drops down, landing almost on top of Lydia’s curled up feet. She moves them out of the way just in time, then worms her toes under his thighs.

“No Danny?” Lydia asks archly.

“This is a Pack thing, isn’t it?” Jackson replies. “Danny isn’t there yet.”

“Yet?” Stiles repeats. Jackson makes a face and doesn’t reply.

Scott and Allison come in last, clutching at each other’s hands like a lifeline. Scott sits down next to Jackson and Jackson lifts up his arm to make more room for him, then drops it back over Scott’s shoulders when Scott sits. Stiles is pretty sure this will never not be weird. Allison settles in with her back to the arm of the couch, legs over Scott’s lap and her toes resting on Jackson’s leg.

Derek looks down at all of them.

“You’re my Pack,” he says cooly. “This isn’t a democracy. We don’t vote, and you don’t get to decide which orders you follow and which ones you don’t.” He takes a deep breath. “But this isn’t a dictatorship either. I want you to give me your opinions on things. I want your ideas. A strong Pack is just as much about having input from multiple people as it is about physical strength.

“But there are times when you can argue and give those ideas, and there are times when you can’t. In front of outsiders--any outsiders--we present a unified front. They will see our arguments as weakness. They will see my lack of control as weakness and they will use that against us. That is unacceptable. If you have a problem, speak to me in private. When we’re in front of outsiders, we stand united. Understand?”

The really horrifying thing is that Stiles actually feels proud of Derek for this. It’s like one of the few times he gets to see Scott act mature, or when his dad finishes a tough case and Stiles kind of wants to stand up and clap.

The others sit in silence and Derek lets out a long breath. “Food’s in the kitchen. Go.” He jerks a thumb in that direction and they all scatter.

“Stiles,” Derek calls when he gets up, and Stiles falls back.

“Yeah? What?”

“I shouldn’t have told you to get out.”

Stiles shrugs, uncomfortable. Derek loses his temper all the time, he’s never apologized for it before.

“Whatever, dude. You were angry, I get it.”

“No, you don’t,” Derek cuts him off. “It doesn’t matter how angry I get or how annoying you are. I shouldn’t have told you to get out.”

“So let me get this straight,” Stiles muses. “You’re not apologising for getting angry, or for yelling at me, or for any of the times you’ve used actual physical violence. The issue is that you kicked me out?”

“You’re pack,” Derek says uncomfortably. “Pack sticks together no matter what.”

And, yeah, OK, Stiles gets that. It’s why he hasn’t dumped Scott’s sorry ass after all the shit he’s pulled.

“It’s cool, man.” Stiles bumps his fist into Derek’s shoulder. Derek snaps his teeth at Stiles in reply, but Stiles only laughs. “You’re really getting the hang of this Alpha thing though,” he says as they head into the kitchen.

“Yeah?”

“Seriously. I almost cried during that speech.”

Derek shoves Stiles into the doorframe as they walk through it. Stiles takes it as a thank you.

--

The rest of the afternoon passes in state of forced cheer underlaid with awkwardness. Derek has managed to get his hands on some barbeque, and even though Stiles will never get used to the thought of Derek doing something as mundane as grocery shopping, he’s grateful for it.

The food gives all of them something to focus on besides the weight of Derek's words and this time even Stiles is focusing more on his food than on conversation.

Allison ends up taking on the brunt of the conversation, drawing Scott into a discussion on the movie they'd watched earlier that week and trying to get everyone's opinions on it.

Stiles answers when a question is put to him, but he doesn't go out of his way to volunteer opinions.

When Derek stands and announces that it's time for training, Stiles feels almost relieved.

Allison pulls Lydia aside, ostensibly to show her how to use a bow, but probably to gossip.

Derek and Jackson are working out the last of their issues by throwing each other around the clearing. Stiles thinks they're both crazy, but he can't really argue with the results.

Stiles leans back on his jeep and weighs the pros and cons of just cutting out early today. He's pretty sure if he leaves, he'll find Derek waiting in his bedroom when he goes to sleep, but he really wants to do some more research on pack dynamics. He's been getting the feeling he doesn't know enough yet.

Scott leans against the jeep next to him, aiming for nonchalant and fooling no one.

"Nice day, isn't it?" Scott says conversationally.

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Yeah, it's great, Scott."

"Very sunny," Scott adds.

"What do you want?"

Scott turns to face him fully. "We were all worried about you, man."

"I- what?"

"With that vampire chick," Scott elaborates.

Stiles throws his hands up in the air. "Oh my god! I keep telling you--she just wanted to talk! Don't any of you trust my judgement?"

Scott grips his arm. "Yeah, you keep saying that. And yeah, I trust you, but that doesn't mean I trust her. You're my best friend, Stiles, I'm always going to worry about you."

Stiles sighs. "I know, man."

"We all worry," Scott adds.

Stiles makes a face. "Because I'm human."

"Because we care about you."

"Allison is human too," Stiles grumbles.

Scott laughs, but it's not a very cheerful sound. "You think I don't worry about her too?"

And no, Stiles really, really doesn't think that. He's had up close, personal knowledge of how much Scott worries about Allison.

"What's your point?" he sighs, suddenly tired.

Scott thumps him on the shoulder. "Just, we all worry. Maybe try and play it a bit more safe next time."

"I'll try. But I gotta tell you, I don't look for these things. They show up in my room, in my jeep, in my coffee shop. I accept responsibility only for being too awesome."

Scott laughs and it sounds more genuine this time. Good.

The two of them stand and watch Derek flip Jackson into the ground for a few more minutes. It's petty therapeutic.

When Scott gets called over for his turn to get pounded, Stiles heads over to Allison.

Jackson punches Stiles in the arm as he passes. "Watch yourself, Stilinski," he says, but it doesn't sound like a threat.

"Did you coach him through that?" Stiles asks Allison.

She laughs and holds out her pointer finger and thumb less than an inch apart. "Only a little."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "He does what he can."

"I think it's sweet," Allison replies.

Stiles pats her on the shoulder. "You're beyond help, now," he says somberly.

--

Danny returns the next day, and is well accepted, especially since he brought enough take-away Chinese food to feed a small army.

He's cautious around Derek, but the way Derek glares at him is enough to keep away bigger men than Danny, so Sties doesn't blame him. If Stiles ever had much of a choice, he probably would have stayed far, far away from Derek Hale.

A potential issue occurs to Stiles one night when he hears Danny talking loudly and boldly about his boyfriend. He says it like he's trying to make a point, shooting glances at Derek like he wants to make sure that Derek is listening. Not that not hearing someone ever a problem with this group of friends.

Stiles likes to think of himself as pretty intuitive. He may not be very good at keeping his mouth shut, but he considers himself a good judge of character. So, when Danny make his third remark of the night about his boyfriend, it occurs to Stiles that Danny might think that Derek is homophobic and is trying to show that he doesn't care.

Stiles still has no idea what Derek's problem with Danny is, but he's sure that isn't it.

He pulls Danny aside after dinner. "Danny," he says seriously. "You know that Derek's problem is with you personally, not with any," he makes a vague gesture at Danny's general person, "other issues."

"Is that supposed to be a good thing?" Danny asks, confused.

"No, I mean, he doesn't like you, but he's fine with who you. . . like?" He trails off, pretty sure that hasn't come out like he'd intended.

Danny raises an eyebrow, looking amused. "Are you trying to tell me that Derek is not a homophobe?"

"Yes!" Stiles exclaims, jabbing a finger at Danny triumphantly. "That's exactly what I'm trying to say!"

Danny laughs aloud. "Oh, Stiles. Trust me, that is definitely not his problem."

"Yes?" Stiles tries. He's pretty sure that's what he was trying to tell Danny. "So, don't worry?” It comes out as a question and Stiles isn't really sure how this conversation got away from him.

Danny claps him on the back. "You'll figure it out sometime, Stilinski."

Stiles has no idea what just happened.

--

Stiles is getting really tired of things happening to his Jeep. His Jeep is, arguably, the most innocent and guilt-free party in their little fable and yet it is the constant victim of shoot-outs, car chases and the transport of bleeding and potentially dying people.

He's driving back from Derek's alone one night when it happens, Scott having opted for the apparently more fun route of getting a ride with Allison. To be fair, Stiles was less willing to take gas payment in the form of kisses, so he can kind of see where Scott is coming from.

He's just rounding the last bend that would take him out of the forest and onto the properly paved roads back to civilization when his tire makes a noise like a firecracker and then, presumably, explodes. Or, at least, that's what it feels like when his Jeep tilts dangerously to the side and veers him into an on-coming tree.

"Ow, fuck," Stiles mutters as he tries to fight his way free of the airbags. Which is about the same time that the door to his car gets yanked open and an arm grabs him, jerking him out of the car.

Well, it tries. Stiles gets caught in the seatbelt, which apparently has the added benefit of kidnapping prevention.

"Oh my god!" Stiles yells, batting at the arm with his free hand and trying to push the airbags out of the way with the other.

He's pretty sure it's not actually louder than his voice, but the sound of a gun cocking sounds as loud as a siren and Stiles falls into abrupt, terrified silence.

“Get out of the car,” a voice says, cold and raspy. Stiles raises both his arms in surrender, eyes darting around desperately for something to help him escape this situation.

“I’d rather not,” he says carefully, making sure his voice doesn’t falter.

He can feel the cold barrel of the gun jab into the base of this skull and he flinches. “Get out of the car,” the voice repeats.

Stiles puts one hand down to carefully undo his seatbelt. “If this is a robbery, I don’t have any money on me,” he says, fumbling with the buckle. He can feel sweat breaking out on his brow.

“I won’t ask again.” Oh great, they’ve reached the bad guy cliche part of evening.

Stiles finally manages to get his seatbelt loose and he dives for his backpack lying on the passenger seat, scrabbling for the front pocket.

The man grabs his shoulder and wrenches it painfully, pulling Stiles completely out of the car, clutching his backpack like a lifeline.

The man doesn’t bother to catch Stiles on the way out of the car and hitting the ground knocks all the breath out of him, hard enough that he can’t speak.

“Tell me where Derek Hale is.” The man looms over Stiles, looking huge and terrifying from his angle.

Well, Stiles has dealt with huge and terrifying before. He kicks out like Derek had taught him, catching the man in the knee and watching him fall to the ground. He uses the split second advantage to dig into the pocket of his backpack and his fingers close around their goal just as the man manages to get himself together.

“You little shit!” the man exclaims angrily, levelling his gun at Stiles.

Stiles holds his arm out like he’s blocking a blow, squinting his eyes almost closed and waiting. The man moves closer and Stiles twists his wrists out, hitting the man square in the face with a bout of pepper spray.

The man yells and falls back, and Stiles take the opportunity to run, pepper spray still clutched in one hand. As soon as he has enough breath he brings the stupid rape whistle his dad had made him carry since he was seven to his lips and blows, long and clear.

It echoes through the forest and Stiles sincerely hopes that Scott, at least, will know what it means. Scott had been there for many a rant from his over-protective father and Stiles not being a teenage girl. He would gladly eat those words now, Stiles thinks as he blows and another call, almost tripping over a root.

He can hear the man getting to his feet behind him and Stiles scrambles to move faster, feet slipping and sliding on the leaves.

He hears a gunshot and the tree next to him shoots out chips of wood. Stiles can feel shards of wood cutting his cheek and it’s only his fast pace and labored breaths that hold back a yell.

His foot catches on an emerging root and he trips, sprawling onto the ground. He can hear the other man getting closer and he flips over to see him better, scrambling backwards. His back hits a tree and he freezes.

Stiles flinches when a bone shaking roar breaks through the silence of the woods around him. He barely has time to register what’s happening when Derek jumps out of the woods behind him to land just in front of Stiles.

Derek has gone completely alpha, fur bristling along his jaw and down his back. His shirt is a torn mess, and when he glances back at Stiles, his eyes are crimson.

“Derek Hale,” the man says. His eyes are bright red and still streaming from the pepper spray, but his gun is steady, pointed directly at Derek’s heart.

Derek snarls at him wordlessly.

Emboldened by Derek’s presence, Stiles uses the tree to pull himself to his feet.

“What do you want?” he asks, moving to stand just behind Derek, to his right.

“Oh, that’s easy.” The man grins, slow and dangerous. “I want you to die.”

Oh, great. Hunters. Hunters who use cliches, which is even better.

“Don’t you mean, ‘No, Mr. Hale, I expect you to die,’?” Stiles asks. Derek growls at him, clearly a warning to shut up. The Hunter just stares at him. “James Bond,” Stiles clarifies.

“Has anyone ever told you you’re annoying?” the Hunter asks, turning so that his gun is pointed at Stiles. Derek moves to block his shot in a blink of an eye.

“It’s been said.” Stiles shrugs. “Here’s the thing. Could you not kill my friend here? Because we don’t hurt people. Not even a little.”

“Shut up, Stiles,” Derek snarls, and yeah, it’s like Derek doesn’t know him at all.

“Don’t you have some sort of Code?” Stiles asks.

The Hunter laughs. “The Code is for the weak. I’m not weak.”

Which is about when Lydia comes bursting through the trees in her wolfed-out form and tackles the Hunter like a linebacker.

Derek uses the opportunity to leap forward, and it’s disturbingly like a special on animal planet. Lydia is sitting on the man’s legs and snarling viciously, while Derek looms over him, claws unsheathed.

He raises his hand in a move that Stiles distinctly recognizes as ‘about to slash’ and Stiles is moving before he can think better of it.

“Stop!” He grabs Derek’s arm, fully aware that he won’t have enough strength to really stop Derek if Derek doesn’t want to be stopped.

“He attacked a part of my Pack,” Derek growls. “He deserves to die.”

“Yeah, and that’s all super flattering and everything, but if you kill him we’ll have every kind of Hunter on our ass, including the ones who follow the Code!”

The Hunter snarls. “You think there are so few of us? There are more than you can imagine.”

“Dude,” Stiles says disdainfully. “This is not the time for you to be talking.”

Derek actually laughs at that, gently tugging his arm out of Stiles’ grip. “What do you suggest, then? I won’t just let him go.”

“I wouldn’t want you to,” Stiles replies, running ideas through his head. “Take him to the Argents. Not only will it deal with this asshole,” he kick the man lightly in the ribs, “but it may come across as a peace offering. Let the Hunters deal with their own rogues, like you’d want to deal with yours.”

Derek crosses his arms, thinking it over.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Lydia adds in, still perched on the man’s chest.

The Hunter spits at her, but she dodges. “You’re pathetic,” the Hunter snarls. “An Alpha, taking orders from a human. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“Shut him up,” Derek growls.

“Gladly,” Lydia says, teeth bared in a feral grin. Then she slams the man’s head down onto the unforgiving forest floor. Stiles almost winces in sympathy, then remembers that the man had shot at him and finds that he doesn’t care that much.

“I’ll take him,” Derek says. “Stiles, you’re coming with me. The Argents will want to know what happened.”

“Shouldn’t Allison be there?” Stiles asks.

“You can call her on the way over.” He turns to face Stiles fully, and for the first time catches sight of Stiles’ face.

“You’re hurt,” he says softly. He reaches out to gently touch Stiles’ jaw, running a hesitant finger over his cheekbone. His thumb comes back red with blood and Stiles can see his eyes darken.

“I’m fine!” Stiles protests. “Totally fine! It’s just a few splinters, that’s all.”

“And where,” Derek demands, “was your gun?”

“Um.”

“The one I told you to have on you at all times, to protect you from people like this!” He kicks the man’s head again, not hard enough to do damage, but it would have hurt if the man had been conscious.

“It’s at your house,” Stiles says reluctantly.

“My house?” Derek says angrily, “What good will it do there? Keep it on you at all times, understood?”

“I’m the Sheriff's son! I can’t be caught with a concealed weapon! Who do you think is going to be blamed!”

“Then don’t get caught,” Derek snarls. “But keep the gun on you.”

He holds Stiles’ gaze until Stiles looks away. “Alright, fine,” Stiles grumbles resentfully.

“I think he’s waking up,” Lydia puts in, then slams the man’s head back onto the ground. The Hunter falls still again.

“Then we better get going.” Derek leans down to hoist the man up over one shoulder. “Come on, Stiles. We’ll get your stupid car later.”

“It’s not stupid,” Stiles mutters, but he follows Derek through the forest.

--

Following Derek up to the front door of the Argent house, watching the Hunter’s head bounce on his shoulder, feels a lot like a demented version of ding-dong-ditch. Stiles is forcibly reminded of all the times he and Scott had run up to all the neighborhood houses and rung the doorbell, then running away, giggling like they’d just pulled off the prank of the century.

Except this time, Stiles is pretty sure they’re not going to run. Stiles really wants to run.

He’s pretty sure that he wouldn’t be able to do this without Allison by his side. Well, sort of by his side, more standing slightly behind him to the left, clutching Scott’s hand like a vice.

Lydia and Stiles are shoulder to shoulder, flanking Derek. It feels like they should be walking in slow motion, the dramatic entrance of an action team.

Still, he’s pretty sure that with Allison there, the evening is less likely to end with all of them shot full of silver bullets and dumped in the lake. He’s still not completely convinced it won’t go that way anyway, but having Allison there helps.

Since Derek is busy trying not to drop the unconscious guy onto the ground, Stiles is the one who has to push the doorbell. He does so tentatively, half expecting it to trigger an explosion, or shoot poisoned darts.

It does neither of these things, thank god. Instead, a clear, typical door bell chime rings out through the house. Stiles isn’t really sure who he would rather see open the door, but when he sees Mrs. Argent staring down at him with her terrifyingly intent gaze he realises that he really, really wishes it had been Mr. Argent who had answered the door.

Her ice green eyes flick from Stiles to Derek to the unconscious body over Derek’s shoulder.

“I can explain!” Stiles says, holding up his hands in the universal ‘don’t shoot’ gesture. He wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if it turned out that she was keeping a silver knife in her boot.

Allison, apparently not putting any more faith in her mother’s sanity than Stiles is, shoulders her way to the front.

“Allison,” Mrs. Argent says frostily, and Stiles can foresee an entire world of grounding in Allison’s future. “I thought you were hanging out with Lydia.”

“I was,” Allison protests. “In a manner of speaking.” She glances back at Lydia, who cocks her hip and gives Mrs. Argent a winning smile.

“Hello, Mrs. Argent,” she says politely. “It’s nice to see you again.”

“Look, Mom, can we please come in? I think he’s coming around again.”

The Hunter groans obligingly.

Mrs. Argent purses her lips, clearly unhappy. “Come in,” she says tersely, holding the door open so that they can step through. “Please, wait here.” She leaves them in the living room and walks deeper into the house

“Where, uh, where should we put him?” Stiles asks hesitatingly.

“Just drop him on the couch or something,” Allison hisses.

“Oh, great. Flawless plan,” Stiles hisses back.

“I’m good,” Derek intercuts, shifting the Hunter on his shoulder like he’s a large pillow, and not a full grown man of at least six feet.

“No, I think you really better put him on the couch,” comes a voice from the doorway and Stiles whirls around to see Mr. Argent pointing a gun at Derek.

“Oh, come on!” Stiles says, throwing his hands up again.

“Dad!” Allison says reproachfully. “We came to talk to you.”

The look Mr. Argent gives his daughter makes Stiles feel like he’s been dunked in ice water. It’s hurt and shock and something a lot like disgust on his face and Stiles feels sucker-punched just at the thought of his dad looking at him like that.

“We,” Mr. Argent repeats, like he can’t believe his ears.

Allison clearly got the same thing from the look that Stiles did, but she recovers well. She straightens her shoulders and meets her dad’s stare head on. “Yes. We.”

“I think we should sit down,” Mrs. Argent says, entering the room to stand beside her husband. She’s carrying a terrifying looking shotgun. Stiles wonders fervently how his life got to the place where a suburban housewife could potentially kill him in the next half hour. He really needs to examine his life choices.

--

If Stiles had given it much thought, he would have said that getting shot at would make up the worst part of any day. He would have been wrong. This is so much worse.

Mrs. Argent had made everyone tea. Tea! There is nothing more terrifying than a woman who hates you and has possession of deadly poisons making tea. Allison is the only one who drinks any.

The Hunter they caught is tied up and gagged on the couch, because that’s apparently the kind of thing the Argent’s are equipped to handle. Stiles really doesn’t want to learn anything else about them, because frankly, the more he knows, the more terrifying they become.

“He was trespassing on our land,” Derek is explaining for the sixth or seventh time. “He’s lucky I didn’t kill him.”

“You know that if you had killed a Hunter, all of us would have been after you,” Mrs. Argent replies patiently. “So that threat holds very little water.”

“I don’t kill people unless I have to,” Derek says, and Stiles can tell that his patience is wearing thin. He thinks about chiming in, but decides that it would only make things worse at this particular place. The Argent’s have even less reason to listen to Stiles than to Derek, and it would undermine Derek’s authority. Again.

Instead, Stiles stretches out his legs under the table to press them against Derek’s. Derek doesn’t acknowledge it, doesn’t look away from his staring contest with Mrs. Argent, but Stiles thinks that the lines around his eyes relax a little. Derek also shifts, just a little, so that his leg is pressed against Stiles’ from ankle to knee.

Derek takes a deep breath. “I brought him here as a sign of trust. I want to be able to live in peace with your family. This man trespassed onto Hale territory and broke the Code, and instead of dealing with him on my terms, I brought him here.”

Mr. Argent stiffens at the mention of the Code. “He broke the Code?” he repeats.

“Unrepentantly,” Derek replies.

“Do you have any proof?” Mrs. Argent asks frostily.

“He shot at Stiles, a human, repeatedly,” Derek says. “Stiles.”

The last is directed at Stiles, who turns his head obligingly to show them the scrapes across his face where the splinters from the tree had cut him.

“My Jeep is also in the woods somewhere, probably with bullet holes in it. Which I’m going to have the pleasure of explaining to my dad.”

“And how do I know that you didn’t shoot the car yourself, to provide an excuse for attacking a Hunter?”

Stiles shoots Allison a look that he hopes conveys ‘your mom has serious issues’. Allison glares at him.

“Dude, it’s my car! I wouldn’t let anyone touch my baby!” Stiles replies.

“He attacked a human, for no reason. He was openly firing on him with I arrived,” Derek continues.

“That is against the Code, Victoria,” Mr. Argent says calmly. “We don’t attack humans.”

“It could have been Allison he attacked,’ Lydia chimes in. “He didn’t care who he hurt.”

It’s the wrong thing to say.

Mrs. Argent slams her hands down on the table. “Only because she keeps hanging out with you! You’re the ones putting her in danger.”

Of course. Stiles should have realized that this wasn’t about hunting, or the Code. It was about Allison. Some days it feels like everything in his life is about Allison.

“Mom!” Allison protests angrily, standing up as well. “This is my choice!”

“You don’t know what you’re getting involved with! You run around with these, these monsters like you think it won’t have consequences.”

“Mom! Stop!” Allison yells.

Stiles can hear a growl building in Derek’s throat and this really isn’t the time or place, so he brings his foot down hard on Derek’s. Derek turns his head to glower at Stiles, but Stiles just shakes his head.

This isn’t going at all like he hoped.

“His uncle killed Kate,” Mrs. Argent says in a deadly cold voice. “Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”

“Kate killed my entire family,” Derek replies, voice tight. “I’ve never blamed Allison for that.”

Mrs. Argent sneers, the expression making her ugly. “But you can’t forget it, can you?”

“Mom, what the hell?” Allison demands.

Mr. Argent stands and puts his hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Victoria, sit down.” He tugs her back into her chair and looks to Derek, clasping his hands together on the table before him.

“You have chosen to bring this Hunter to us, rather than dispense your own justice. I can respect and appreciate that. However, I agree with my wife that Allison is far too young to be dragged into the issues of a werewolf pack.”

“I’m with them, Dad,” Allison says, moving to stand behind Derek. Stiles gets up before he can think about it to flank Derek’s other side. “They need me.”

“Your mother and I need you!” Mr. Argent snaps. “We need you to be safe and alive, and not here in the middle of a werewolf territory dispute.”

Allison looks on the verge of losing her formidable temper and Stiles isn’t sure how this conversation got so out of hand.

“We need to work together,” Derek says, sounding like the words are forced out of him. Stiles puts his hand on Derek’s shoulder, not gripping it but just letting it rest there, a gesture of support. “For the good of this town, we can not be enemies.”

“Allison-” Mrs. Argent begins.

“Allison is old enough to make her choices,” Derek interrupts. “And I know that you don’t like those choices, but they are hers to make.”

“Because of a stupid, teenage crush,” Mrs. Argent spits out.

“It’s more than that,” Allison protests.

“You’re sixteen!” Mrs. Argent snaps. Stiles is feeling super awkward and very much like he does not belong in this conversation. Or in this room. Or heck, he could probably leave the entire house and be happy.

“Allison is Scott’s mate,” Derek says, sounding reluctant. All eyes whip to him, including Stiles’. He’d come across the term in his research, but he’d assumed that it was something fictional, one of the stupid made-up things mixed up with the facts. Oh god, he really hoped that the whole heat thing wasn’t true as well.

“His, what?” Mrs. Argent asks, sounding faint.

“Allison will never be around anyone who cares as much about keeping her safe as Scott does.”

“She’s too young,” Mr. Argent says weakly.

Derek shakes his head. “You know that doesn’t matter.”

“OK, will someone please tell me what’s going on?” Allison asks in that overly polite tone she uses when she wants to whip out her crossbow.

Derek hesitates. “I wasn’t going to tell you.”

“Do any of them know anything?” Mr. Argent demands.

Derek glares at him. “I handle my Pack my way.”

Stiles takes this to mean ‘The only people who know what’s going on is you two and me.’

“A werewolf’s mate is a sacred thing,” Derek says carefully. “A forever thing. There is nothing more important to a werewolf than their mate.” Stiles snorts, he can’t help it. Derek elbows him in the stomach and continues without pausing. “It’s deeper than love, deeper than marriage. And it’s why I can promise you that Allison will always be safe with Scott. He would rather die than see her hurt.”

“It’s true,’ Scott says somberly, speaking for the first time. Allison gives him a soft smile and takes his hand.

Mrs. Argent closes her eyes and puts her head in her hands.

Mr. Argent takes a deep breath. “What do you want, Derek?”

“I want you to help me protect Beacon Hills. I want us not to be enemies, because we have enough of those as we can handle. And I would,” he grits his teeth, “appreciate any help you can give up with Hunters.”

Mr. Argent frowns. “I will not help you hurt any Hunters.”

“I have no problem with any Hunters who follow the Code,” Derek replies. “The Hales have always operated by the same system that governs who a Hunter will and will not hurt. We don’t kill, we don’t involve humans who don’t ask for it. My concern are the Hunters who don’t follow the Code.”

“Like Kate,” Mr. Argent says shrewdly.

Derek meets his eyes steadily. “Like Kate.”

“We are not friends. We will never be friends.”

Derek’s lips twist into a sarcastic little half smile. “That is clear.”

“But I want to protect Beacon Hills and it’s humans. As long as that is your objective, I won’t stand in your way.”

“And the Hunters?” Allison asks.

Mr. Argent meets her eyes, expression too complex for Stiles to read. “You have Hunter blood in your veins, Allison. Don’t ever forget that.”

Allison tilts her chin up stubbornly. “I would always follow the Code. What about the ones who don’t?”

Mr. Argent sighs heavily. “I am not responsible for every Hunter on the west coast.”

“Whatever you can do,” Derek replies.

They shake on it. Stiles isn’t sure if they’ve actually made any ground with the Argents, but he really hopes that they have.

--

Derek corners Stiles against a wall before they even get through the entryway of the Hale house.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Derek growls, getting right up in his face.

“What the hell, dude?” Stiles replies angrily, pushing futilely at Derek’s shoulder. “He attacked me!”

“Where was your gun? I told you to keep it on you!”

“Are you seriously trying to blame this one me?” Stiles demands.

“Dude,” Scott comes up and puts a hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Calm down.”

Derek bares his teeth at Scott, who stands his ground. Sometimes, Scott can seriously be the best friend ever, and it makes up for the times when Stiles has to bail his sorry ass out of whatever trouble he managed to get himself into.

“Stiles didn’t ask to be shot at,” Scott continues.

“Or my Jeep!” Stiles cuts in. Scott rolls his eyes.

“Keep your gun on you,” Derek snaps, making a big show of releasing Stiles.

Stiles straightens his jacket pointedly. “You really need to stop doing that,” he says. Lydia snorts, but she just gives him an innocent look when he glances at her. “I’m leaving,” Stiles continues. “I’ve been shot at and interrogated and had to deal with Allison’s wacko family. I’m done.”

Derek cocks his head, looking arrogant and smug in a way that makes Stiles want to punch him in the face. “Oh yeah?” he asks. “How are you getting home?”

“Scott can just,” Stiles trails off. Allison had been driving Scott earlier. Allison, who was currently back at the Argent household with her car.

Derek raises an eyebrow smugly. How does he even do that?

Stiles ignores him. “Lydia?” he asks, turning around to see that the place she’d been was empty. He can hear her car taking off in the driveway. “Traitor,” he mutters.

“Yes, Stiles?” Derek asks with mock sweetness.

“I’m not staying here.” Stiles crosses his arms over his chest. “Your house is creepy and I’m not going to sleep on the floor.”

“You might be safer-” Derek begins, like this is actually a serious idea that he is considering and no. Just no.

“Dude. My dad is the Sheriff. Please explain to me how your crumbling house in the middle of the woods is safer. I’d really love to hear this.”

Derek makes a face that Stiles takes as Derek realising that Stiles is right and being unwilling to acknowledge it.

“Scott, back me up here,” Stiles says, glancing over at his best friend.

Scott raises his hands. “Hey, man, leave me out of this. I have to be home in like, ten minutes.”

And, of course, Scott can run home. Stiles’ life is so unfair.

Stiles grits his teeth, because he can see how this is going to end. “Derek. Will you please take me home in your fancy, shiny car?”

Derek gives him a smug little smile. “Well, Stiles. If you insist.”

Arrogant little shit.

--
The drive to Stiles house is awkwardly quiet. Stiles does not do awkwardly quiet well. He reaches for the radio twice, but Derek slaps his hand away both times and finally Stiles just crosses his arms over his chest and sulks.

“Your dad’s home,” Derek says, stopping about a block down from Stiles house and killing the engine.

Stiles feels a jolt of panic at the thought and hates it. He’s lied to his dad more in the past three months than he has in his entire life and it’s the worst. He hates coming home and hoping that his dad won’t be around so he won’t have to answer awkward questions, and he hates that his dad can tell that something is wrong but Stiles can’t tell him.

Outwardly, he just sighs and reaches for the door. Derek grips his arm tightly, preventing him from leaving. “Stiles, I’m serious. Keep your gun on you.”

“Yeah, that’ll be easy to explain. Oh, don’t worry Dad, it’s just for decoration. Or maybe I could go with, oh, don’t worry Dad, it’s only to protect myself from the crazy werewolf hunters who want to kill me.”

“I don’t care what you say,” Derek snaps. “Keep your gun on you.”

He lets go of Stiles’ arm and lets him get out of the car.

“I hate your face,” Stiles says grumpily, slamming the door behind him.

Derek takes off without answering him.

--

“You’re home early,” Stiles says because it’s best to start with the classics and work your way down from there.

“You’re not,” his dad replies, glancing up from the reports on the table.

Stiles angles his face so that his dad won’t be able to see the cuts on his cheek. “Oh, you know.”

“I didn’t hear the truck pull up.”

“Um,” Stiles says cleverly. “I got a flat.”

His father nods absently and goes back to the case files. Stiles slides into the seat next to him, glad to see that there isn’t any whiskey tonight. “Whatchya working on?”

His dad rubs a hand over his face and sighs. “Nothing big. The usual.” He shoots Stiles a stern look. “The Whittemore’s came by my office again.”

“They’re a little overprotective,” Stiles mutters.

“They’re not the only ones who are worried,” his dad replies.

Stiles sighs. He’s had just about as much of parent drama as he can handle tonight, his everlasting love for his father aside.

“I’m fine, Dad.”

His dad puts a hand on his shoulder. “I know you are. But, I worry. Try to be careful, OK?”

“I promise,” Stiles replies somberly. Well, he always tries. Trying is not the issue.

He gives his dad a hug around the shoulders and heads up to his room. His computer is already out and as much as Stiles would really like to drop into his bed and go to sleep, he needs to look up a couple things.

Both Mr. Argent and the mysterious Hunter had talked about the Code like it was a Thing, capital T. Stiles has always assumed that it was this unwritten honor thing, but Chris Argent talks like it’s the law, like it’s something sacred and unsurpassable.

Stiles likes to think that he’s pretty good at research. He enjoys it, for one thing. It’s something to focus his constantly moving mind on. He loves being about to scour out the truth, to reveal the hidden details that can change everything. He’s liked it even before all this drama started, when he was only researching the reasons why Rome fell. And now, it’s a way to be useful in a group where everyone is stronger, faster and considerably better looking than he is.

The thing is, Stiles is good at research. He knows where to go and what to look for, and he has this intrinsic ability to distinguish what’s true from all the total bullshit on the internet.

The first thing he looks for is ‘Werewolf’s Mate’ because the Argents had done whatever the contained, upper-class version of ‘flipping the fuck out’ is called.

He gets a lot of porn. Which is really just typical.

The other reason that Stiles is good at research is because he knows to look in places that no one else would consider.

It’s why he’s signed up for a yearly membership to Hunt Quest. It’s an underground type of website where Stiles, in a bizarre reversal of his everyday life, is part of a online gaming community that hunts mythological creatures.

The thing is, these are some really smart, knowledgeable nerds here. Nerds who either do their research really well, or who are actually deeply involved in the supernatural world. Stiles is pretty sure that BiteMe243 is actually a werewolf, since she’s never online near the full moon. And he’ll put serious money on n1nj4 actually being a vampire.

Stiles makes a general post asking for porn-free information on what being a werewolf’s mate might entail, then closes out. He should probably do something actually useful on the site, like provide his group with the Mage Assassin skills he has been perfecting, but he’s about sapped out of fighting things for the day, so he logs out.

He opens up Google in a new tab and starts trying to see if the Code that governs the Hunters is all based on an honor system or if there’s something more legitimate to it.

--

Stiles barely makes it to the couch when he’s pulled into a puppy pile of limbs and hair.

“What the hell, man?” he asks Lydia, because she’s the closest to his head.

“We just need to be sure you’re OK,” she says calmly, like she’s not nestling into his neck.

Stiles, resigned to this sort of behavior, just sits back and lets himself be petted.

“Why didn’t you have your gun?” Allison asks from Lydia’s other side. Stiles isn’t sure how she managed to get her after last night, but he stopped being surprised by Allison’s awesomeness a long time ago--it’s much less tiring to just let it happen.

“Not you too,” Stiles groans.

“You do have it to defend yourself,” Jackson points out. Stiles flails out his leg and is gratified when Jackson grunts on contact.

“I hate all of you,” Stiles mutters.

“Liar,” Lydia says smugly and Stiles blows out a breath in disgust. Werewolves.

“So, I talked to my parents,” Allison says after a moment of calm.

Stiles can feel everyone tense, pressed against him as they are.

“What did they say?” Scott asks, and Stiles can’t see him, but he knows that Scott is taking her hand or something equally grossly supportive.

“They don’t know the guy who attacked Stiles last night. They think he’s part of this new, radical group of younger Hunters.”

“I could have told them that,” Stiles says, unimpressed The guy had basically admitted as much to their face.

“What did they do to him?” Derek asks, voice a deep rumble to Stiles’ left.

Allison coughs and Stiles recognises it as the sound you make when you really don’t want to talk about something. “They told him to follow the Code and let him go.”

“They what.” Derek’s voice is hard and terrifying.

“I asked them not to, but they said it was Hunter business.”

Derek growls, a low feral sound that makes the hairs stand up on the back of Stiles’ neck. “We should have handled them our way.”

“Violence is not the answer,” Stiles says, not feeling very sincere at all.

“I agree with Derek,” Jackson growls. “We should have handled him.” Something about the way he says handled makes Stiles think that he isn’t talking about giving the guy a gift basket and showing him the metaphorical door.

“Did they find out why he was here?” Lydia asks.

“He said he was just passing through,” Allison replies, voice twisted with anger.

Scott and Jackson make identical noises of disbelief, then glare at each other for the offence of, Stiles can only presume, thinking the same thing.

“The weird thing is that he was here so close to the full moon,” Stiles says thoughtfully.

Danny, stretched out on his back at the edge of the pile, sits up to look at him. “What do you mean?”

“Well, these guys get a little more temperamental towards the full moon. Wolf side closer to the surface or something. Trespassing on werewolf territory two days before the full moon is risky.” Stiles should know. He and his group made that very mistake on Hunt Quest and nearly got slaughtered for it.

Derek makes a face at Stiles’ phrasing, but nods his agreement regardless.

“I think he might have been scouting ahead,” Lydia says thoughtfully

Stiles rolls his head over to look at her.

“What?” she asks, under the weight of their collective gaze. “You don’t plan an offensive mission without doing some recon work, obviously.”

“You terrify me,” Stiles says with the utmost sincerity and Lydia smacks him hard in the stomach. Stiles groans and curls around it.

“Speaking of the full moon,” Scott interrupts, completely ignoring Stiles pain. “What are we planning to do about that?”

It’s their third full moon as a Pack, past the point where there’s anything to worry about, control wise, but the idea of it puts Stiles on edge. There are Hunters after them, and he has no doubt that the Argents will be on the lookout for the slightest slip-ups, looking for any excuse to exercise their rage issues from the previous night.

“We stay in,” Derek replies, voice stern. “We stay in the basement and wait for the night to be over.”

“But-” Jackson begins to protest, but Derek cuts him off.

“This isn’t open to negotiation. Not with such a recent attack on a Pack mate. Until we’re sure that there aren’t any more attacks coming, we’re in full self-defense mode.”

Jackson makes a face, but subsides when Lydia elbows him in the ribs.

“The humans need to stay away for a few days, just to be safe,” Derek’s eyes are on Stiles when he says it, but he flicks his gaze to include Danny and Allison.

Stiles sits bolt upright, knocking Lydia’s head off of his stomach. “What? No!”

“Stiles, I’m not going to argue with you about this.”

“No, you’re not just going to shove me away into some corner like a misbehaving puppy!”

“You could have been killed yesterday,” Derek snaps back, hackles rising.

“But I wasn’t. I’ll keep my gun on me, sure, but I won’t be kept in a glass box while you guys are in danger.”

“Neither am I,” Allison says, sitting up as well.

Derek growls, which makes Stiles even more impressed when Danny states his own refusal to hide away.

“We’re either a Pack or we aren’t, Derek. But it’s not a conditional, only when it’s super-safe-and-summertime kind of deal,” Stiles says firmly.

“I’ve helped you before, and I can do it again,” Allison adds.

Derek runs a hand through his hair, frustrated. “Fine. Fine! Just don’t come by on the full moon. And we’re stepping up your training.”

It’s Stiles turn to make a face. More time letting Derek beat him up is not his idea of fun.

“Sounds good to me,” Allison replies. Well, they can’t all be warrior princesses.

--

One of the worst things about Beacon Hills is that everyone knows everyone. And even the recluses know that Stiles is the Sheriff’s son.

“Are those bullet holes?” his mechanic demands, looking over Stiles’ Jeep like it’s covered in blood and guts. Which Stiles knows it’s not, because he was the one who had to clean the upholstery the last time Derek bled all over his front seat.

“No?” Stiles tries, frantically searching his mind for a plausible explanation. “Someone was throwing rocks at my car.”

The mechanic, thank god, is listening to him. Because he’s far too busy looking agape at the tires.

“Did someone shoot this one?”

“I drove over some fireworks,” Stiles says hastily. “Look, can you just tell me how much this is going to cost.”

The mechanic rubs his hand over his neck. “You know I have to report anything suspicious to the Sheriff, right?”

“What’s suspicious about a flat tire?”

The mechanic gives him a deeply impressed look.

“How much will it cost, plus what I pay you for not telling my dad?” Stiles asks hopefully.

The mechanic pats his shoulder sympathetically. “I’ll give you an hour before I call him.”

“I hate you,” Stiles says with deep sincerity. He and his mechanic have become very close after all the stupid shenanigans his car has been through lately.

“You want a full tune-up, Stilinski?” the man asks kindly.

Stiles hangs his head and sighs. “May as well.”

--

“Bullet holes, Stiles?!” his dad yells as soon as Stiles picks up the phone.

Yeah, Stiles probably should have mustered up the courage to tell his dad himself.

“I can explain?” he says tentatively. His father’s exhale is loud and exasperated in his ear.

“I don’t want to know,” his dad says with finality. “Was anyone hurt?”

“No,” Stiles replies firmly. Well, unless you count the Hunter. But his dad hadn’t asked about him.

“Next time you and your friends want to be stupid idiots in the woods, make sure that your truck isn’t in the way. And there’s no way I’m paying for this.”

“Yes, sir,” Stiles replies.

His dad sighs, and Stiles can imagine him dragging a hand over his face. “I’ll be home for dinner.”

“I’ll be there,” Stiles promises.

--

As promised, Stiles stays away from the Hale house on the full moon. He can only presume that Allison and Danny do the same, because Derek isn’t yelling at all of them when they show up the next day.

And, as promised, Derek steps up training to level 200. Stiles never goes home without feeling sore and tired anymore. Pack cuddle time has gotten exponentially more icky as they’re all sweaty and gross. The werewolf members of the Pack seem fine with it. He’s guessing it has to do with some scent stuff and Stiles accepts that it will probably always be like this.

On the bright side, there haven’t been any more attacks, and Stiles is getting even more definition in his arms. He was no slouch before, with lacrosse practice every day, but his dad had walked in on him making muscles at himself in the mirror the other day. Stiles is pretty sure he’s never going to live that down.

It’s been almost two weeks since a crazy Hunter took a shot at Stiles’ car, but Derek is still on high alert, scenting the air every few minutes and twisting around at small noises. Atl least, Stiles hopes that it’s small noises and not minature seizures, since he can’t hear them.

“Relax,” Stiles says as Derek whips around when Allison accidentally shoots down a branch from a tree in the distance. “It’s been weeks. He was probably just a rogue nut job.”

“I don’t want to risk it,” Derek replies.

“And I don’t want to risk your imminent death by aneurysm, so take a chill pill and calm down.”

“Don’t you take anything seriously?” Derek growls.

“Sure I do. Have you seen my hair? It’s amazing.”

“It’s less than an inch long,” Danny says skeptically.

“Hence the basis of its appeal,” Stiles replies in his best ‘well, duh’ tone. Danny rolls his eyes. Stiles is pretty sure he’s winning him over.

“Quit joking around!” Derek snaps. “This is serious.”

“Don’t be such a sour wolf.” Stiles grins. “Why don’t you go beat the hell out of one of your puppies. That always makes you feel better.”

Derek grins, slow and feral. “Are you volunteering?”

--

Stiles is still hurting from it two days later. “Seriously, what the hell is his problem?” he asks Danny, who just shrugs.

“You kind of deserved it, man.”

“How can you say that?” Stiles demands, affronted. “He was trying to kill me!”

Danny gives him a sardonic look. “I think if he was trying, he would have succeeded.”

Stiles nods, conceding the point. “Well, he was at least trying to seriously injure me.”

Danny grins outright. “I can’t say I’ve never had the urge to do that myself.”

Stiles shoves him. “I don’t know why everyone likes you so much,” he grumbles.

“I’m a likeable guy.”

“My ass,” Stiles mutters. “You’re like six feet of evil.”

“I think I compare pretty well to your other friends though,” Danny replies.

“I think that says more about them than you.”

Danny shrugs. “Aren’t we supposed to be quiet?”

Stiles makes a face. “Dude, quiet was half hour ago. If they haven’t found us in this sorry excuse for a forest by now, they need all the help they can get.”

They’re doing what Derek calls ‘tracking practice’ and what Stiles calls ‘hunt the humans’. Allison was on Team Wolf this time, to practice non-lethal ways of taking down enemies. The theory was that the wolves would help find Stiles and Danny, then Allison will shoot them with her cushioned arrows.

They’ve yet to find a way to make Stiles’ gun into something that can show where a person was hit without also causing severe bullet wounds. Stiles is still arguing for a paint gun.

“We’ve been walking for almost an hour and a half. Maybe we should just sit and wait for them.”

“We had a half hour minute head start,” Danny says reasonably.

“We’re probably just too good at hiding from them.”

“Yeah, that must be it.” Danny doesn’t sound convinced.

Hey, Stiles knows what he’s talking about. He’s heard his dad talk about man-hunts, about what threw dogs off the scene and how to look for signs of passage in the woods. He’s pretty sure his dad meant ‘in order to backtrace them if you’re lost’ but ‘in order to not do those things and hide from werewolves’ works just as well.

“I’m sitting down.” Stiles backs this up by taking a seat on an upturned tree. “They clearly need more training. I think we can officially say Team Human wins this one.”

He holds his hand up for a high five. Danny gives him an ‘are you serious’ look that Stiles is all too used to, but he gives him a reluctant high five. Hey, Stiles will take it.

“Come on, pull up some log.” He pats the space next to him invitingly.

Danny rolls his eyes, but sits anyway.

“So, how long has this werewolf thing been going on for you two?” Danny asks after a moment. “I only know Jackson’s side of it.”

“Well, the Pack stuff is new. We only really teamed up with Derek around the same time that Jackson did. Officially, I mean.”

Danny frowns at him. “Derek Hale was definitely shirtless in your bedroom before that.”

“Is that all you can think about?” Stiles grins.

“Oh, like I didn’t see you looking too,” Danny replies disdainfully. Which is, unfortunately, true.What, Derek is hot. Stiles dares anyone to think otherwise.

“We were just occasionally helping each other out. It was a mutually beneficial thing.”

“I’ve heard that before,” Danny leers, waggling his eyebrows.

“Oh my god, it’s not like that. What’s wrong with you!” Stiles shoves Danny off the log, but Danny just laughs.

“So, I’m guessing the thing with Scott started around the same time he became first string?”

Stiles makes a face. “Like, the day before. Is it that obvious?”

“If you know what you’re looking for. What about you?”

Stiles shifts on the log, uncomfortable all of a sudden. “What about me?”

“Where do you fit into this?”

“I’m Scott’s best friend. Like I always have been.”

Danny laughs. “That was never in question, Stiles. I mean, what are you doing here, in a pack of werewolves?”

“Mostly? Trying to keep Scott alive. Somewhere along the way, that turned into keeping Derek alive.”

“And somehow that turned into keeping everyone alive?”

“If I have to.” He shoots Danny a sideways look. “But you’re here, aren’t you. For Jackson?”

Danny shrugs. “As much as Jackson will let me. He’s a private kind of person.”

Stiles scoffs. “Yeah, good luck with that. Pack mentality and privacy don’t really jive together.’

“Jive? Really, Stiles?”

“It’s a thing!” Stiles protests.

They’re both laughing, and Stiles has never really talked to Danny like this before. It’s nice, he realizes.

The sight of Danny laughing, head thrown back and open like he’s never seen him before, is something that he’ll never forget. It’s such a contrast to the way he goes suddenly pale and falls back when the gunshot ricochets through the trees.

Chapter Text

There’s blood everywhere, running through his fingers, getting on his clothes, spilling onto the ground.

Stiles presses his hands over the growing red patch on Danny’s shirt and he’s yelling, but he’s not sure what he’s saying. He doesn’t have his gun on him, Derek’s going to kill him. If he gets through this alive, if he gets Danny through this alive. Oh god, there’s just so much blood.

He can see what must be the Hunter who made the shot, of course it was a Hunter, it had to be a Hunter, but Stiles can only focus on Danny. Danny, who’s making aborted little gasps, his body convulsing under Stiles’ hand.

Stiles takes off his shirt and presses it helplessly against the wound, words falling from his mouth in an unstoppable torrent. “Danny, stay with me, man. Just keep breathing, OK? The others will be here soon, they’re not that bad at tracking.”

He takes his eyes off of Danny for a moment to look around him, and he can’t see any of his Pack, just two men with guns trained on him, moving closer.

“I’m human!” he yells desperately, hoping that it will matter to them. “We’re both humans!” They’re far enough away that he can’t make out their faces, but their guns are still trained on him and Danny makes a weak little noise beneath his hand.

“Hang in there, Danny.” He presses his shirt closer onto the wound and Danny groans in response. “Come on, talk to me here!” He’s supposed to keep him talking, right? Keep him conscious? That’s a thing, he’s pretty sure.

He looks back to the Hunters and they’re still moving closer and where the hell are the others, they had to have heard the gunshot. They don’t look like they’re going to shoot Stiles though, and he isn’t equipped to fight them, so he just turns back to Danny. If they want to kill him, he won’t be able to stop them so all he can do is try to keep Danny alive.

“If you die, Jackson will kill us both, OK? Please don’t leave me alone with that maniac,” he says.

“He’s not. . .that bad,” Danny pants, face as pale as wax paper.

“Oh, thank god,” Stiles says. “I mean, you’re talking crazy talk here, but you’re talking. You should keep doing that.”

“It hurts,” Danny says weakly and Stiles feels like he’s going to cry for the first time in a very long time.

“I know. It’s OK. Don’t be a stupid tough guy like Derek. You’re going to be fine. Tell me more about how Jackson isn’t actually an asshole,”

“I didn’t. . .say. . .that,” Danny forces out and Stiles chokes on a laugh.

“Yeah, yeah, I know. You don’t have to tell me. Guy’s a lunatic.”

Which is about the time that Jackson bursts out of the trees to their left and takes down the Hunter in the lead like a special on Animal Planet.

“Holy hell!” Stiles exclaims, almost falling backwards in surprise. Jackson is in full on wolf-mode, tearing into the Hunter like he’s Sunday dinner and the other Hunter is recovering from his own surprise and levelling his gun at Jackson. Stiles calls out a warning but then Scott is there, already on top of the second Hunter and oh god, there’s so much blood.

He turns his attention back to Danny, who’s gotten even paler and Stiles hadn’t even known that was possible.

Lydia skids out of the forest and stops at Stiles’ side. “There are more coming,”

“That’s fucking great, Lydia, but we’re not moving,” Stiles snarls. He’s scared, so scared and he doesn’t think that Danny’s going to make it, but he definitely won’t if they move him.

Then Derek is there, looking ready to join the fight with the Hunters, but Stiles has an idea.

“Bite him!” he yells at Derek, who rounds on him with fangs bared and eyes a blood red.

“What?”

“You heard me,” Stiles says, softer, desperate because Danny’s blood is hot on his hands and cooling on his face, and he knows enough about wounds to know that he’s lost so much blood already. “Give him the bite.”

Derek hesitates, like this is actually something he has to think about.

“This isn’t up for debate!” Stiles shouts. “He’s dying, you asshole, give him the fucking bite!”

Derek’s fingers curl like he’s going to protest the way Stiles is talking to him, but then his eyes flick down to Danny, pale and bleeding and already breathing less than he was before.

“Move out of the way,” Derek says.

“Like hell,” Stiles snaps.

“There’s more coming, Derek,” Lydia warns.

Stiles can feel two others behind him and knows that it must be Jackson and Scott which means, oh god, it must mean the Hunters are dead.

“I didn’t want this,” Derek says, crouching down at Danny’s side, fangs looking viciously sharp and Stiles can’t figure out how something like that could go through human skin and leave a person alive.

“I don’t care,” Jackson growls. “If he dies, it’s your fault.”

Derek flinches and Stiles would protest because Derek already has too many death’s put on his shoulders, but right now Danny is all that matters.

Stiles carefully lifts up enough of his shirt, soaked through with blood and heavy, to bare some of his hip and stomach.

“Come on, Danny, you’re gonna be fine. You can’t die, you never even told me how hot you find me,’ Stiles says.

Danny makes a jerking, choking motion that could almost be a laugh, and Stiles keeps staring into his eyes when Derek’s teeth break through his skin.

--

They get back to the Hale house somehow, Jackson carrying Danny so carefully and growling at anyone who comes too close.

Stiles isn’t sure what’s happening, what’s going on and he feels like he’s in a weird haze. Shock, he thinks.

“We can’t stay here,” Allison is saying, her voice sounds distant and echoey. Someone touches Stiles’ arm and he jerks away.

“It’s just me,” Scott says carefully, moving closer into his field of vision. He has a wet towel in his hands and Stiles realizes that he’s covered in blood. In Danny’s blood.

Lydia and Derek are arguing about where they can go and Danny is still bleeding on the floor and Stiles is covered in his blood.

“We can’t go to my house,” Lydia is saying. “My mom works from home.”

Stiles shakes his head to clear it, distantly aware that Scott is wiping his hands clean of blood.

“My house is-” Allison starts to say, but Derek cuts her off.

“No. Absolutely not.”

Scott looks up from Stiles’ side. “We might be able to fit into my house,” he says tentatively. Stiles knows before he’s done saying it that it won’t work. The McCall house is too small and Scott still isn’t ready to tell his mom.

“No,” Stiles says before he can rethink this. “We have to go to a hospital.” A hospital is risky, a hospital will ask questions. But Danny will need blood and stitches and even if the Bite takes, he might die without proper medical assistance. “And then we go to my house.”

Scott puts a hand on his shoulder. “Stiles. Are you sure?”

Stiles gives a laugh that sounds hollow even to his own ears. “No. No, I’m really not. But what choice do we have? Every Hunter knows where this place is--they’ll have us surrounded if we don’t leave soon.”

“I have a hide-out,” Derek offers

“Is it somewhere we can take someone who’s bleeding out, without them getting infected?” Lydia asks disdainfully. Derek doesn’t reply, which is answer enough.

“Come on. We need to leave now.” Stiles stands and almost falls when his knees won’t support him. Scott catches him, slinging one of Stiles’ arms around his shoulder.

“Stiles, you take Danny in your Jeep. The rest of us will follow.”

“You’re not going without me,” Jackson says, standing like he’s readying for a fight.

Derek looks him over and nods. “Go. Now.”

--

The universe unequivocally hates Stiles, because Mrs. McCall is on desk duty when they get there.

“Stiles!” she says, practically shouting. “What the hell?”

“Danny,” he says. “It’s Danny.”

Jackson is still carrying him, and there’s no mistaking the blood on either of their shirts, or the waxy paleness of Danny’s skin.

Stiles loses track of what happens around him. Mrs. McCall is calling orders and Danny is being wheeled away. Someone takes Stiles and Jackson and leads them to some chairs. Someone is saying something about shock and Stiles can feel a blanket being dropped on his shoulders.

“Will he be alright?” Jackson asks after a couple of minutes.

“Lydia was.” Because saying that he doesn’t know is too much to handle.

They fall into silence, neither of them speaking until a commotion by the door catches their attention.

Which is about the same time that the Sheriff catches sight of them.

He’s at Stiles’ side in an instant, eyes flashing and mouth open. Stiles braces himself for a lecture, for a yelling match, for something.

Instead, his dad puts shaking hands on Stiles’ shoulders.

“Stiles.” His voice is shaking too, and Stiles hasn’t heard him sound this undone in years. In two years and five months, and Stiles hates that he’s the one who brought it back. “Stiles, what happened?”

Stiles opens and closes his mouth, then just shakes his head. His dad pulls him into a hug, gripping him almost too tight. “Tell me this isn’t yours,” he says desperately, and when he pulls back there are smears of blood on his uniform.

“It’s not, Dad, it’s not. I’m OK, I’m fine,” Stiles hastens to reassure him. His dad cups a hand over Stiles’ short cropped hair and raises the other to his eyes.

“What happened? I got a call about a gunshot wound. Stiles, what is going on?” He cups Stiles’ face between his hands, meeting his gaze steadily. Stiles looks away, eyes flicking sideways. “Stiles, look at me,” his dad says firmly.

“I can’t,” Stiles says weakly, “I can’t tell you.” He hesitates. “Not here.”

“What are you involved in, son?”

Stiles sighs and lets his head fall against his dad’s shoulder. “I’ll tell you. Just, just wait, OK? Please?”

His dad exhales slowly. “Yeah, OK.”

Stiles takes a moment to soak in his dad’s presence, then pushes himself off. “You should go check on Danny.”

His dad sighs, scrubs his hand over the top of Stiles’ head again, then stands. He moves slowly, ten years older than he actually is, and Stiles feels a pang of guilt for everything he’s put his dad through.

Jackson waits until his dad is out of sight before he turns to Stiles. “You’re going to tell him?”

Stiles drops forward, his head in his hands. “I think I have to. People are dying. He’s the Sheriff--he needs to know.”

“Derek won’t like it.”

“Derek might not have much of a choice.”

“Choice about what?” Derek asks directly into Stiles’ ear.

Stiles jumps almost a foot in the air. “Holy god!” Jackson snickers and Stiles glowers at him. “You knew he was there, didn’t you?”

Jackson just gives Stiles his douchiest smirk.

Derek places a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and leans in close enough that Stiles can feel his breath on his ear. “What do I not have a choice in?”

Right, because that’s not the least bit distracting. “I’m telling my dad,” Stiles replies. “Tonight.”

Derek moves to take a seat on Stiles’ other side, not taking his hand off of Stiles’ shoulder. “Oh, you’ve decided this have you?”

Stiles shrugs Derek’s hand off. “People are dying, Derek. There are dead bodies in the woods. Danny could have died tonight. He could still die. This isn’t optional anymore.”

Derek stares at him for a long minute. “You’re right,” he says finally.

Stiles stares at him. “Wait, what?”

“I said, you’re right. We need law enforcement on our side, not going after the wrong people and putting innocents in the line of fire. Besides, I know how much you’ve hated lying to your dad.”

Stiles almost sags with relief. “Thank you,” he says, deeply sincere.

Derek wraps a hand around the back of his neck. “You’re Pack, Stiles. You don’t always have to be there for us. Sometimes we can be there for you, too.”

“Thank you,” Stiles says again, softly. Derek gives him a light little shake and settles back. Jackson moves close enough that Stiles can feel his warm presence at his side.

Together, they settle in to wait.

--

Loathe though he is to leave Danny or the others who had shuffled in after, presumably, washing the blood off and changing clothes, Stiles lets his dad drive him home.

“Did they say anything?” Stiles asks as soon as the car starts. “Will he be alright?”

His dad sighs, throwing the car into drive and pulling out of the parking lot. “They said it’s a miracle he survived. Even if the shot hadn’t killed him, the blood loss should have. Stiles, what were you doing that you were being shot at?”

“Can we just wait until we get home? I’ll explain it there, I promise.”

“Who was the one who found Danny?” his dad presses. At Stiles’ look, he says, “I’m asking for the police report. Nothing to do with your explanation.”

“Oh, you have no idea, Dad.”

“Just tell me who found him? It must have been pretty fast, that they got him to the hospital so quickly.”

“No one found him, Dad. I was there when it happened.” Stiles has to grab for the handle above the door when the car swerves violently. “Eyes on the road, eyes on the road!” he shouts desperately.

“Were you messing around with fire arms?” his dad asks once he’s gotten the car back under control. His voice is tight and laced with tension. Stiles doesn’t know what his dad would do if that were the case, if his dad had to arrest his son or one of his son’s best friends for shooting someone.

“No. Dad, please.”

“Someone shot at you?” his dad asks, fingers clenching white on the steering wheel.

“Dad! I swear to god, I will tell you everything, just please get us home alive!”

His dad readjusts his white-knuckled grip on the wheel and clenches his jaw, but doesn’t reply. The drive home passses in tense silence.

His dad practically manhandles him through the door and into the living room.

“Alright, talk,” his dad says firmly.

“Can I get you a beer? Some whiskey?” Stiles asks desperately.

His dad glowers at him. “Sit. Talk,” he commands.

“Woof,” Stiles says grumpily, dropping down onto the couch. He looks up at his dad. “You might want to sit as well.”

With obvious reluctance, his dad takes a seat beside him on the couch. Stiles links and unlinks his fingers. “I don’t know where to start,” he says nervously.

A muscle in his dad’s jaw twitches. “How about you start with the fact that one of your friends almost died tonight?”

Stiles gives a hollow laugh. “I wish that were the best place to start.” He takes a deep breath. “Alright, do you remember the animal attacks a few months ago?”

--

It occurs to him later, sitting on the bed and shaking under the weight of all the truths he shared, to wonder why he never saw Scott at the hospital. Then he feels himself go pale as he remembers why Danny was the only one who was shot.

He hates to sneak out so soon after reconciling with his dad, but he does it anyway. To make matters worse, he has to take the squad car because the truck is still in the shop.

Stiles is no werewolf, but he ends up sneaking through Scott’s window like one anyway. When he lands in a pile on the floor, Scott is watching him carefully, eyes red and body curled up on the floor near the end of his bed.

It looks like Stiles was right. Great. He wins best friend bingo. And he would rather be wrong five times over than see that look in Scott’s eyes.

Stiles immediately takes a seat next him, pressing closer than he would have a year ago.

“It’s going to be OK,” he says softly and hopes that Scott is too distracted to hear the lie.

Scott curls into him and it has to be a werewolf thing, because Scott was never this physical before. “I killed someone,” he whispers, like the words are too heavy to say aloud.

Stiles wraps an arm around Scott’s shoulders and pulls him a little closer, letting Scott hide his face against Stiles’ shoulder. “You saved my life,” he replies carefully.

“I can still feel the blood.”

Stiles shudders all over, because even though he’s showered he can still feel Danny’s blood, slipping hot and fast over his fingers.

“I know,” he says. “But it was self-defence.”

“It was terrible,” Scott whispers, and Stiles can feel him shaking. Stiles squeezes his shoulder tightly and doesn’t reply. There’s nothing he can say to that.

They sit in silence for a minute. Scott isn’t crying, but his breathing is ragged and Stiles remembers having to run and get Scott’s inhaler when he left it in his locker one day, of helping him count breaths and puffs until he could breathe again. He doesn’t know what to do this time.

“It wasn’t even hard,” Scott says finally. “It was easy. They hurt Danny. They would have killed you. I wanted to hurt them.”

“That’s not your fault,” Stiles murmurs. “If I was, you know, physically capable of doing so, I would have wanted to hurt them too.”

“I killed someone,” he says again.

“For the Pack,” Stiles says into his hair. “To protect the Pack.”

They stay that was for a long time.

--

 

Danny is waxy pale and unmoving when Stiles goes to visit him the next day. There are tubes running into his arms and his chest is barely moving, even though the machines show a steady heart-rate. Stiles wishes he could hear the heart-beat itself, proof that this immobile body is still alive.

“You came to visit me, didn’t you?” a voice to his left asks out of nowhere. Stiles jumps almost a foot and turns to see Lydia delicately taking a seat beside him.

“A lot of people did,” he says evasively.

“But you were here everyday,” Lydia replies. “I could smell you.” Her lips quirk. “And hear you. I could always hear you.”

“It was my fault you were hurt,” Stiles says, shame at the memory rising again and clogging his throat.

Lydia moves to grab his hand. “Never say that again.” She squeezes almost too tight. “Never. I will know, and I will hurt you.”

Stiles swallows, because he believes her and she kind of scares him. “And I thought you needed company.”

Lydia gives him a small smile. “I did. Even when your endless talking got on my nerves, I was glad you were there.”

Stiles manages a tired grin and shrugs at her. “It’s a gift. And a curse.”

She cuffs him lightly over the head. “And now you’re here for Danny.”

“I was with him when it happened. Maybe it should have been me.” Lydia growls low in her throat and gets out her chair. Stiles immediately raises his hands in defence. “I’m sorry!” he says quickly.

Instead of doing something terrible, like he’d half expected, Lydia shoves him over in the narrow hospital chair and squirms in next to him, more than half on his lap. Then she wraps her arms around his head and pulls him so that his head rests on her shoulder.

“Stiles, not everything is your responsibility. It’s not even all Derek’s responsibility. This was no one’s fault but the Hunters. And we got them for it.” Even with his head against her shoulder, Stiles can hear the feral grin in her voice.

“There are more coming,” he replies.

“Then we’ll deal with them too,” she says, matter-of-factly. “We can take care of ourselves, Stiles.”

“And me?”

Lydia pulls back enough that she can look into his face. “And you can take care of us, too.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “That’s not what I meant.”

“It’s what you’ll do anyway,” she replies calmly. “And when you’re tired, we’ll take care of you. Because that’s what packs are for.”

--

Stiles ends up staying even after Lydia has to leave. He watches the machines beep and chitter, and waits for Danny to wake up.

After long minutes of silence, he pulls his chair closer so that he’s right next to the bedside.

“I am sorry,” he says softly. “We were both there. I don’t know why the Hunters went after you instead. I’m the one who’s been doing this for months, you’re new. It should be me.”

“Don’t be so stupid, Stiles.”

“Jesus Christ!” Stiles jumps about a foot into the air, turning to see Derek glaring at him. “Stop doing that!!”

Derek’s lips quirk into a small smile. “Why would I?”

“You’re a jerk,” Stiles mutters.

“Did you talk to your dad?” Derek takes the other chair, pulling it up to Danny’s bedside next to Stiles.

“You mean you weren’t listening at the window?”

“Do you think he’ll tell anyone?” Which is most definitely not a denial.

Stiles runs his hands over his scalp, skin prickling over his short hair. “I think he’ll need a bit more time to fully understand everything. I’m still not sure if he even believes me. I’ve lied to him so much already.”

Derek puts out a hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “You didn’t have a choice.”

“I always have a choice,” Stiles replies. “I just keep making the wrong ones.”

“Come on.” Derek grabs Stiles by the shoulder and pulls him up.

“Wait, what?”

“We’re getting out of here. Come on.”

“What about Danny?” Stiles looks back at Danny’s still, so still, body.

“You’ve been here for almost two hours and I don’t think your guilt trip is helping either of you. Besides, Jackson wants a minute.” Derek jerks his head at the door, and Stiles is surprised to see Jackson there, apparently waiting for them to leave.

Stiles sighes. “Yeah, OK.” He claps Jackson on the shoulder as they pass him, and Jackson gives him a small, tired smile. Progress.

The possible downside of this idea occurs to Stiles just before they leave the hospital, and he puts an arm out to stop Derek. “What about the Hunters?”

“I told you, I have a place. The others should be there now.”

“It better be cool,” Stiles replies with mock cheer.

--

It’s not cool.

“This is your hideout?” he exclaims when he sees it. “Could you have possibly found a creepier hideout, maybe one even more likely to give me hepatitis?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, should I have gone with the sunny, open-windows model of underground bunker? Maybe one in Hawaii. It’s a bit of a commute, but if it makes you happy.”

“It’s an abandoned subway station! Does Beacon Hills even have a subway? How is this even here?”

Allison comes up beside him and takes his arm. “It’s OK, Stiles. It’s not so bad when you get used to it.”

“That’s what people with Stockholm Syndrome say,” Stiles mutters. “Shouldn’t you be at home?”

Allison clenches her jaw. “You need me more,”

Stiles searches her face. “What happened?”

She looks away. “My parents say they won’t help us. They say that biting Danny violates the contract.”

Stiles’ jaw falls open. “Are you kidding me? Did you mention he was dying?”

“Of course I did! It’s the only reason they aren’t out hunting us themselves.”

“Us?” Derek asks softly.

Allison whips around to glare at him, eyes bright. “I’m with you guys, aren’t I? I’m Pack.” She hesitates, suddenly looking nervous. “Aren’t I?”

Derek steps forward, deep into her personal space, and puts his hands on her shoulders. “Of course.” He leans forward to rest his forehead against hers, sharing a quiet moment, before he pulls back.

“We need to decide what to do,” he announces.

“Why can’t we just stay here?” Scott offers.

Lydia gives him a withering look. “I’m not living in a cave the rest of my life. Besides, school starts in a few weeks. I’d love to not be dodging bullets while going to classes.”

“Do we even know how many of them there are?” Stiles asks.

“I smelled almost twenty when I went scouting last night,” Derek reports.

“You went scouting?” Stiles demands. “What the hell, man! You could have gotten hurt!”

Derek bares his teeth at Stiles. “I’m the Alpha. It’s my job to protect my Pack.”

“Not if you get killed in the process!”

“Mom! Dad! Please stop fighting,” Lydia interrupts coolly.

Stiles splutters at her. “Excuse me?”

“Fighting over who’s in danger isn’t going to help anyone. We need to come up with a plan. We can’t go on the attack by ourselves, and we can’t hide out here forever. What’s left?”

“We shouldn’t leave Danny alone either,” Scott interjects. “The Hunters may be looking for him.” Then, when they all turn to look at him: “What! I have ideas.”

“Yeah, but they’re usually terrible. Sorry, man,” Stiles says. Scott punches him lightly on the arm and they grin at each other.

“Scott’s right,” Derek says seriously. “None of us should be alone right now. From now on, we travel in pairs. Stiles, I swear to god, if you don’t keep your gun on you-”

“I have it!” Stiles says quickly. “It’s right here!” He brandishes the gun carefully, then puts it back into the holster at his ankle. Everytime he walks, he’s afraid he’s going to shoot his foot off, but he’s already been shot at twice, so he’ll take the risk.

“Good,” Derek says brusquely. “Allison, you have your bow?”

Allison holds up a small case wordlessly and Derek gives her an approving nod.

“Yes, yes, we’re all well armed and able to defend ourselves. But we still need a plan,” Lydia says carefully.

They all stare at each other wordlessly. None of them has a response.

--

Derek ends up driving Stiles home after the meeting. Stiles thinks that he would probably stay and like, watch him sleep or something, but Stiles reminds Derek that he’s not really going to get any more protected than at the Sheriff’s house.

His dad isn’t home when Stiles gets in, but Stiles knows that his dad had the early shift this morning. Which means he’s probably avoiding Stiles. Maybe even at a bar.

Stiles puts his head in his hands and wonders when his life got so out of control.

Then he makes a veggie burger with a side of thick, sweet-potato wedges that are almost like fries and leaves it on the table.

--

Jackson is the one with Danny when he wakes up, and he texts the rest of them. Scott ends up picking Stiles up.

“We have to get him out of here,” Jackson says. He looks like he’s fraying around the edges, concern and nerves unraveling his usually perfect appearance.

“Yeah, let’s add kidnap to our list of crimes,” Stiles says scathingly.

“The Hunters might come back for him!” Jackson argues.

“I can hear you,” Danny says, and they all turn to look at him. They’ve gotten used to him as a silent, non-contributing landmark in a beeping room of machines. “And I’ll just tell my parents I’d rather recover at home.”

“Will that really work?” Scott asks.

Danny shrugs. “My dad hates hospitals. He’ll understand.”

“How are you doing?” Allison asks. “Can you leave the hospital?”

Danny makes a face. “It hurts like hell, but if doesn’t feel like I got shot two days ago.”

Lydia, whose definition of barriers is apparently somewhat looser than Stiles’, leans over to pull on the neck of Danny’s hospital gown to reveal where the bullet had gone in.

The skin is raw and pink, but it looks like it happened months ago, instead of days. Then, ignoring Danny’s disgruntled noises, Lydia yanks down the blanket and pulls up the hem of the gown to reveal his hip. The bite mark is completely gone.

“Yeah, that’s going to be hard to explain.”

Derek makes a face. “Scott, I think it’s time you tell your mom. And then make sure she’s his primary nurse.”

“What, like, right now?” Scott asks, startled.

“Sometime today would be best,” Derek replies.

Scott breathes out a long, slow breath. Stiles knows how that feels. The others don’t get it, they haven’t had months on months of lying to the only other person in their family. Besides, Stiles doesn’t think that Lydia has been lying to her parents for a long time. He doesn’t even want to think about the mess of issues involved with Jackson’s family.

“Is it OK to tell this many people?” Jackson asks, like he wasn’t the one who had told Danny.

Derek gives him a hard stare. “Family is important.” Jackson drops his gaze first.

Which is, of course, when the entire Mahealani family, Danny’s parents and his two younger sisters, come in and stop dead when they see six strangers standing at Danny’s bedside.

“We were, uh, just leaving!” Allison says quickly. She glares at the rest of them until they reluctantly shuffle out. Danny’s father gives them all a weird look and very pointedly closes the door to Danny’s room.

“You think he’ll be able to break out?” Scott asks worriedly.

“Danny’s resourceful,” Jackson replies, but he looks just as worried as Scott does.

“We still need a plan to make sure that the Hunters don’t kill the rest of us,” Lydia points out.

Stiles bites his lips as he thinks, staring around the hospital for ideas. His dad had always told him to use his resources, to rely on what he already had.

Stiles almost jumps when the idea suddenly occurs to him.

“Guys! I have an idea!”

Use his resources. The things he’s always had. He can do that.

--

“I feel like this planning session is missing something,” Stiles remarks.

“A plan that doesn’t suck?” Jackson asks.

“I feel like we should be peering over some blueprints. Or a map, or something.”

“Well, unless you brought any of those things, you’re out of luck,” Derek says dismissively. “So can you limit yourself to comments that are actually helpful?”

“That’s really unlikely,” Scott says.

“Traitor,” Stiles mutters.

“Guys!” Lydia snaps. “Focus!”

Stiles makes a face at Scott, who makes a face back, but they fall quiet.

“Lydia and I managed to find out where the Hunters were staying,” Derek says. “They’re in the motel off of Elm St.”

Scott makes a face. “That’s a really shady place to stay.”

“Yeah, and they’re such upstanding people,” Stiles says sarcastically.

“Point taken.”

“Anyway,” Derek says pointedly. “They seem to be staying in the lower floor rooms. They’re the most defensible, so that makes sense. The last count was around fifteen of them.”

“You said twenty last time,” Scott points out.

“It was dark and I had to stay back. I figured it was best to overestimate them than to count too low. This time, Lydia and I were able to get closer and get a more accurate count. They’ve also got a large arsenal, with what smells like wolfbane bullets. Probably silver as well.”

“They’re most likely gearing up for another attack soon,” Lydia says.

“So we strike first,” Jackson adds.

“OK, now I don’t like this plan.”

“Shut up, Scott, no one asked you,” Stiles replies.

“What? We just walk up their room and knock?” Scott demands. “Seriously, the more I think about it, the stupider it sounds.”

“Don’t worry,” Stiles assures him. “I’ve got this.”

“We’re all going to die,” Jackson states firmly.

--

Stiles has always been able to rely on his ability to talk. It annoys most people, it amuses a rare few. But it has never failed Stiles.

“I just want to say that I hate this plan,” Derek says for about the tenth time.

“Noted,” Stiles says shortly. “But it’s the only one we have.”

“You have your gun?” Derek asks.

“Oh my god, Derek! Please, ask me that one more time. Yes. I have my gun. I have not taken it out of the holster for no reason in the past two minutes since you last asked me!”

“We’ve got your back,” Scott says.

“And you’ve got a bullet-proof vest on,” Lydia adds. Stiles finds her words a bit more comforting.

“Technically, it’s bullet resistant,” Stiles can’t help saying. “It depends on the type of gun and the distance and-”

“Just go!” Jackson interrupts, but he gives Stiles a comforting clap on the back.

Stiles takes a deep breath and knocks on the door to the motel where they worked out the majority of the Hunters are staying.

“I come in peace!” he announces.

He glances over his shoulder to see the others still clustered behind him. He makes a face at them and flaps his arms, telling them silently to get lost. With clear reluctance, they move to hide behind the vans and trucks filling the small parking lot.

The door creaks open slowly and Stiles finds himself eye to eye with the barrel of a gun. It occurs to him that a bullet-proof vest will do absolutely nothing if he is shot in the face.

“You’re the human freak who plays with the wolves.” Oh yeah, there’s probably someone holding the gun. Stiles swallows hard and meets the man’s eyes steadily.

“I just want.” His voice squeaks and Stiles has to pause to clear his throat. This is absolutely not the time for his voice to be dying on him. “I just want to talk to you.”

The gun moves down to his toes, then all the way back to his eye level. Stiles almost goes cross-eyed trying to keep it in view. “So talk.”

“I was, uh,” Stiles swallows again, “I was hoping that we could negotiate a truce. Wherein you don’t kill anyone, and we get to live here in peace and not kill any of you.”

The man barks a sharp laugh. “You hear that guys? This kiddo wants peace!” Stiles can hear laughter from deep inside the room and wonders if all the other Hunters are in there. The man turns back to Stiles. “If you wanted peace, boy, you shouldn’t have teamed up with the monsters.”

He cocks his shot gun and Stiles has enough time to think that this really was a bad plan when Derek grabs his arm and pulls him out of the way. By the time the gun goes off, Stiles is a good three feet away, his ears ringing as he watches the Hunter pull back for another shot.

“This was a terrible plan!” Jackson yells from where he’s running ahead of Stiles.

Stiles wants to yell back, but he’s not a werewolf, and most of his energy and all of his breath is going towards outrunning the Hunters. He can hear them following, can hear the crack-bang of gun shots, but none of them have hit him yet and he can’t waste the second it will take to look back.

“They’re all following us!” Scott calls. “All of them!”

“Stiles, if we survive this, I will kill you!” Jackson yells.

“Shut up, Jackson!” Derek commands, sounding imposing even at a full run.

The nice thing about Beacon Hills is that it’s about 70% woods once you get out of the main area. Before long, the Hunters have followed them into the trees and it’s easier to dodge the bullets that are still tearing after them.

Stiles is starting to lag behind, all the years of lacrosse practice are no match for a 20 minute sprint through the woods. He’s barely fallen even a foot behind the others, though, when Derek is beside him, grabbing his arm and pulling him ahead, almost faster than he can stand.

Somewhere to his left, Lydia cries out.

“Lydia!” Stiles shouts.

“I’m fine,” she replies, but she sounds out of breath in a way she hadn’t before.

The next spray of bullets cut dangerously close to Stiles’ head and he’s pretty sure he can’t run any further.

He can see a glow of light through the trees, bright in the increasing darkness. He takes a gulping breath and pushes himself forward.

Even so, it’s more of a stagger than a run that brings him into the clearing and it’s only Derek’s hand on his elbow that keeps him upright.

The others, fully human and unshifted, slow to a stop around him. Stiles forces himself to stand straight and turns to face the oncoming Hunters.

He can hear over thirty guns cocking behind him and it gives him the strength not to waver.

The look on the Hunter’s faces when they stumble into the clearing--lit by the headlights from over fifteen squad cars--and find themselves facing the entire force of the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s Department will stay with Stiles forever.

“By the way,” Stiles pants out, “my dad is the Sheriff.”

His dad comes up behind him, resting a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. Stiles leans back against him and takes a deep breath.

--

There is something deeply satisfying about watching the deputies who had practically raised him cuff the Hunters against the side of the squad cars and read them their rights.

One of the younger ones, who doesn’t even look like she’s old enough to drink, starts protesting loudly.

“We were doing you a favor!” she shouts. “They’re werewolves! Werewolves!”

Most of the deputies laugh and the one cuffing her rolls his eyes. “You may have a shot at the insanity plot, lady.”

“Check them! I’m telling the truth!”

Stiles has recovered his breath enough to have a sense of humor about this, so he strides over to her. “Prove it how? That’s a silver knife right?” He doesn’t wait for her answer and takes it from her boot top, pressing the flat of the blade against his wrist.

He holds it for a seconds, then pulls it back. “Hey, look! No injury. I must be human!”

“He’s the human one!” she protests. “There rest are all wolves.”

The deputies are laughing outright now, and the girl is turning an impressive shade of scarlet.

“Just shut up,” one of the other Hunters hisses to her. She clamps her lips together tightly, scowling.

The deputy rolls his eyes and pushes her into the car, slamming the door behind her.

Stiles’ dad pulls him into a hug. “I’m going to head back to the station. But then you and I are going to have a proper talk, alright?”

Stiles smiles up at him, feeling more relaxed than he has in a long time. “That sounds good, Dad.”

--

From what Stiles hears later, Scott takes advantage of twenty odd crazies being arrested for the attempted murder of six minors to tell his mom about the existence of werewolves.

Stiles doesn’t think much of his timing, but he supposes that’s why Scott’s grounded and he isn’t.

His own father had adjusted remarkably well to the whole ‘werewolves are real’ thing, but Stiles suspects that the full implications have yet to sink in. The fact that Stiles is not, himself, a werewolf probably helps.

Unfortunately, they still have to jail-break Danny out of the hospital before the staff notices that he’s healing ten times faster than usual. Luckily, Danny wasn’t kidding about how much his dad hated hospitals, and he gets approved for in-home care the next day.

Which, at the very least, makes it easier in turn for them to get Danny in time for the next full moon.

“I still can’t believe you guys dealt with the problem without me,” Danny complains the morning after.

Stiles lifts his head up and lets it thunk back onto Danny’s stomach in lieu of hitting him for bringing it up again. “You were unavailable,” he replies.

“I was the one who was shot!” Danny protests.

“Hence your unavailability,” Stiles retorts.

“Tell you what,” Jackson interrupts. “Next time we have to get chased by a group of crazed Hunters through the woods, you can be right beside us.”

“Maybe then you can be the one who gets injured,” Lydia says grumpily. She’s only been grazed by a bullet, but she hasn’t stopped whining about it in the past two weeks. Besides, Stiles was pretty sure she’d wrangled a date from the deputy who had helped her bandage the wound at the scene, so she really doesn’t have room to complain.

“I can’t believe we have to testify in court,” Scott says, completely disregarding everyone else’s conversation.

Stiles shrugs. “It’s not that exciting.”

Everyone turns to look at him in surprise. “What? My dad is a cop, my mom was a lawyer. I’ve seen a few court days in my time. It’s boring!”

“Except this time, we have a vested interested in the outcome,” Derek points out from around Stiles’ knees.

“I guess there is that,” Stiles admits.

“There’s no way they won’t get convicted,” Lydia says with her usual certainty. “They were caught red-handed.”

“Why isn’t your dad on this case?” Allison asks, nudging Jackson with her elbow. He lifts his head off of Danny’s shoulder to give her a baleful look.

“He isn’t a prosecution lawyer, for one. Not all lawyers are the same. And even if he was, it’s a conflict of interest.”

“Pshhhh, lame!” Stiles complains. “He should land their asses in jail.”

“Oh, I didn’t say he’s not involved,” Jackson says, and even without seeing his face, Stiles can hear the smirk in his voice. “He’s making sure that only the best lawyers are on our side.”

“Good,” Scott says with satisfaction.

“Can we stop talking about the stupid Hunters now?” Lydia asks. “Because I’m tired and I think we should have some quiet time now.”

They mumble their assent and fall quiet.

Scott makes a noise like he’s going to say something and Stiles reaches out with his foot to kick him lightly in the ribs. Allison, curled around Scott’s side, covers his mouth with her hand.

Stiles grins, and lets the steady breathing of the Pack lull him to sleep.

--

There’s a fight breaking out on the couch about which movie they should watch to break in their TV. Stiles will watch pretty much anything, so he slips out onto the porch to sit next to Danny.

They sit in silence for a long minute, staring out into the woods.

“What’s it like?” Stiles asks finally.

“It’s like being plugged into everything. Like I’ve been watching a crummy TV for years and suddenly I’m in IMAX 3-D.” Danny gives him a sideways look. “But you have Scott to tell you about that.”

“I meant, the Pack. You’re the only one who’s seen it from both sides.”

Danny thinks it over. “It’s like when you’re on a vacation for a long time, and even though you had fun, it’s nice to go home and sleep in your own bed and know where everything is. That’s what being with the Pack is like. But you also feel stronger, and faster. You feel like you can do anything, because they’re with you.”

Stiles makes a thoughtful noise. “I have that anyway. That’s not a werewolf thing. That’s just a Pack thing.”

Danny nudges Stiles with his shoulder. “Yeah, it is. So what are you asking?”

Stiles turns to face him fully. “For the love of god, will you please explain the cuddling thing to me? Or the smelling thing, at least explain the smelling thing.”

Danny laughs. “It’s just about belonging. You know, when you’re a kid and you have to write your name on everything and make sure that everyone knows that it’s yours. That’s all.”

“So it’s not like, some ancient werewolf voodoo?” Stiles asks, only half kidding.

“Not as far as I know,” Danny replies. “Come on, they decided on The A-Team.” He stands up smoothly and holds out a hand to help Stiles up.

Stiles takes it, and Danny pulls him up so strongly that Stiles almost stumbles when he suddenly has ground beneath him.

The others are pushing and pulling each other on the couch. Stiles is thinking about taking the floor to avoid conflict, but Danny pushes him over to the couch, close enough that Derek can grab him.

Derek tugs until Stiles settles in between him and Scott, making only the expected grumblings.

Lydia, Jackson and Scott are still fighting over the remote. Jackson pulls hard enough that Lydia, refusing to let go, falls forward across Derek’s lap.

He gives her an amused look and rolls her off of him onto the floor. She picks herself up with a huff, but in the chaos of her fall, Jackson ends up with the remote.

Stiles is laughing, watching them all fight like children, and he can tell even Derek is amused--the corners of his lips turned up slightly.

“You should smile more,” Stiles says, nudging Derek in the ribs with his elbow.

“Yeah?” Derek asks.

“Definitely,” Stiles replies. “It’s a good look for you.”

“I’ll work on that,” Derek says seriously. Stiles grins and rolls his eyes.

“So, is this all you hoped for, in a Pack?” Stiles asks, watching as Scott throws himself off the couch into the tussle taking place on the floor.

“It’s pretty great,” Derek replies, and there, at last, is a real smile. It makes Stiles’ heart do stupid things and he resolves to try and see that smile as much as possible. “I’m thinking of getting a couple new members,” Derek continues.

Stiles stares at him. “What,” he says flatly. Clearly, he needs to re-evaluate his thoughts about Derek’s smiles, because they apparently herald total insanity. “You’re kidding, right?”

Derek just smiles at him, dropping his arm over Stiles’ shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Stiles.”

“Because you’re kidding,’ Stiles says. “You are kidding, aren’t you? Derek? Please say you’re joking right now.”