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The Dating Game

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This was all Scott's fault. He was supposed to be the one up here, not Stiles. Scott. With his floppy hair and dopey grin. Scott was the one desperate to find his Alpha, the one who bitched and moaned about being so old-- they were barely twenty-- and still unclaimed -- like being claimed was the end all and be all of their existence. Stiles was the one who was perfectly happy with the way things were. He liked his no strings attached lifestyle. Sure, it sorta sucked still having to hole up with the other unclaimeds for his heat cycles, but that was once every three months or so and if he was claimed... well... look, having an Alpha around to tell him what he could and couldn't do and who he could and couldn't see and checking to make sure he ate properly and didn't cross the street without looking both ways just didn't appeal, alright? Alphas were bossy as shit and didn't like sass and yes, the sex was supposed to be amazing and wonderful but really? Was it worth it? Great sex was great and all, but claiming was for life and Stiles would rather just... not.

But Scott had wanted it. And Scott had thought that maybe he should try and expand his horizons so Scott had signed up as a contestant for some stupid Omega dating show and Scott had begged Stiles to do it with him because Scott couldn't do anything by himself. And then Scott had the gall to fall ass over elbows for some pretty little Alpha in his physics for non-majors class and run off into the sunset with her and leave Stiles to deal with the consequences of Scott's stupid Omega dating show idea all on his own.

Because that is just how Stiles's life works.

So here Stiles is, sitting backstage in a hot-box of a room trying his hardest not to sweat through his shirt while some overly perky Beta does a song and dance about the show's success rate and how happy all their previously-single-now-claimed Omegas are. Stiles rolls his eyes and wishes he was able to change the channel. A wish that just intensifies when he realizes that they've cut to his interview video.

"So I'm supposed to tell you all about me now, I guess," he hears his past self say, "so, well, here goes nothing. I'm Stiles, Stiles Stilinski. No, Stiles is not my real name. Only one person outside of my parents gets to call me that and I haven't met him or her just yet. So Stiles it is. I'm five eleven with brown hair and brown eyes, which, if you are watching this, then you probably already know. Uh, I'm about one forty seven soaking wet, which might not sound like much, but it works for me. I've got what you call geek-chic going on and tend to ramble about all things pop culture related, whether you want me to or not. Snark is my main form of defense and I've been told that I'm lippy. Which, come on. Lippy. What does that even mean?"

There is a jump in the tape, which Stiles is grateful for because, as well as he can recall, he sorta devolved into a minor rant about Alphas and their pushy, pushy ways and their inability to ever just listen to what he was saying, so what if he was "just" an Omega. He still has a brain. A damn fine brain. Which he felt honor bound to use, no matter how that might make some less brainy Alpha's pride smart. Actually, you know what, he's not happy that they cut that rant out. But then, he's not very happy about any of this.

He's pulled out of his thoughts by the sound of his own laughter. "What do I look for in an Alpha? Now that's an interesting question," his past self says. "I guess you could say that go for the classic tall, dark and tortured. You know, with a tragic back-story or a poet's soul or what have you. The strong and silent type who would let me babble, because lord knows I'm going to babble, but wouldn't be afraid to say 'shut up and kiss me' either. Someone smart. Got to be smart. Because that's hot. And, um, look, I'm kind of the comic relief, I get that. But I'm the smart comic relief and I want someone who is able to go toe to toe with me. And, well, claiming is for always or whatever so, you know, symmetrical facial features would be nice. Because I might want to have babies someday and if I do then I definitely want them to be, uh, cute babies.”

His past self sort of does a double take. “Wow. Babies. Dude. Let me just say right now that I’m totally not ready for babies. Someday, sure. Some far, far off day. But not right now. I'm too young for that sort of thing. Actually, I'm probably too young to be claimed. Scratch that, I'm definitely too young to be claimed. But whatever. Claiming is something that just sorta happens so I guess I’m okay with that. I mean, if it happened. Which I don’t think it will because, remember that bit about being lippy? Kind of a turnoff to most Alphas.”

His past self runs a hand over the back of his head. “Dude. I’m so not selling myself here, am I? Anyway. Any Alpha I end up with would have to be pretty damn chill. Because I'm not going to be down with being told that I can’t make choices for myself or any of that old fashion 'I'm the Alpha' bullshit. I’m an adult now, thanks. I already have a Daddy. I don’t need another one.” His past self shrugs. "Yeah. I'm never getting picked for this show, am I?" He laughs again and the tape cuts out.

"That's where you were wrong, Stiles," the perky Beta says, a smile on her pretty face. She turns to the audience, and gives them a wink. "What do you say, should we bring our Omega on out now?" The crowd goes wild and she laughs. "Alright, alright. I hear you. Mr. Stiles Stilinski, come on down!"

Cheesy music starts playing and some kid with an earpiece is tugging at Stiles arm, prodding him out towards the stage and fuck, fuck, fuck.

God damn that Scott.

*

Derek doesn't exactly understand how he ended up as a contestant on a dating show. He knows that it started with a lot of whiskey and a late night phone call to his sister and mockery. Lots and lots of mockery, because Laura never lets anything go, no matter how old she gets. He's been told that there was a questionnaire involved, which he didn't fill out, and a headshot, that he didn't provide. But Laura did, on behalf of her baby brother or some shit, which apparently all the Betas on the show's staff cooed over because of course they thought it was adorable. Laura typically comes off that way, never mind that she is pure evil disguised by a soft voice and sweet smile.

Sure, Derek could have said no. He did say no the first four times the show's talent scout came calling. But this time... This time the Omega contestant was Stiles.

Stiles, who Derek just happened to have the world's biggest crush on-- yet another thing Laura mocked him endlessly for-- and who didn't even know that Derek exists-- never mind that they grew up in the same small town. Yeah, Derek was a few years older than Stiles, but he had been around. Stiles could have noticed him. But he didn't. Instead the Omega that did notice Derek was creepy as fuck and couldn't take no for an answer, not even with a restraining order in place, so maybe it's a good thing that Stiles never picked up on what Derek was throwing down because getting rid of crazy Kate Argent had turned into the world's biggest clusterfuck without someone Derek was actually interested in being around to gum up the works.

And, no, he wasn't tragic and broken as a result of all that nonsense, no matter what Laura might have to say on the subject. He was just... cautious. Very, very cautious. So cautious that he never actually worked up the nerve to talk to Stiles before he graduated and hadn't even seen him since he went off to college. But Derek is seeing him now and Stiles still looks good, all long limbs and extra energy, flailing about on the interview video like it would hurt him to stand still. He sounds happy too, with a wide smile on his face and a mischievous glint in his eyes and the hell Derek is going to pass up this chance up.

Still, he feels sort of ridiculous to be sitting backstage with two other Alphas, watching Stiles roll his eyes and dodge the host's prying questions.

"He wasn't lying when he said he had a mouth on him," the Alpha on Derek's left says, lounging back in his chair, legs spread wide.

Derek snorts in agreement, but doesn't say anything.

"I like it when they push back. Makes things more fun," the third Alpha comments, smirking a bit too much for Derek's taste.

Derek growls in warning, which earns him another smirk from the curly-haired smirky Alpha and an eye-roll from the laid-back one. "He's not yours yet," the laid-back one says, crossing his arms over his chest.

"He will be," Derek replies, leaning forward to watch as Stiles licks at his lips and deflects yet another question.

The host is getting pretty hot under her collar now, her shoulders tense even as she smiles, and Derek can’t help but laugh. Because of course Stiles would be Stiles, mouthy and brash and not at all impressed with the idea of some big, strong Alpha coming to claim him. Derek wonders, not for the first time, what prompted Stiles to toss his hat into the ring on some dating show that panders to all the traditional stereotypes of the Alpha-Omega dynamic.

The Beta smiles another tight smile and then decides to give up on the show's format entirely, calling for the Alphas to come out before they've hit their first commercial break.

Derek pushes to his feet, then lets curly and laid-back head out in front of him. He takes a deep breath before following, telling himself to relax as he makes his way through the backstage area and onto the set.

*

"Alpha number one fits your strong and silent type to a tee," the Beta says, flashing him another fake smile. She tucks a strand of brassy blonde hair behind an ear and continues. "He comes from good, wholesome stock and is all set to provide for you and whatever little ones you may have. His annual income is quite healthy, he's a consultant on a number of daytime shows here in Hollywood and just might be a familiar face to some of our viewers at home. He's rather outdoorsy, listing hiking and camping as two of his favorite activities, and has season tickets for the Lakers. Say hello to our Omega, Alpha number one!"

"Hello, Stiles."

The voice is rich and dark with a hint of amusement in it and Stiles can't help but smile. "Hello Alpha One," he says, giving an awkward wave even though he knows the Alpha can't see through the screen dividing them.

"Alpha number two is more the starving artist type, though without the starving part. He's published four very successful books of poetry and is considered one of the leading voices of our generation. He is one of only two children, but both of them are male Alphas, and there is nothing wrong with having a small family. Lots of Alphas are doing that these days." She leans in close and gives Stiles a wink. "Something about not wanting to share their Omegas with too many little ones. And who can blame them. Am I right folks?" She turns that fake ass smile on the crowd, who whoop and clap in response. Stiles rolls his eyes, because really. But then, what did he expect? He's on a dating show that caters to stay-at-home Omegas with overprotective Alphas for mates. "Give us a hello there, Alpha number two," the host chirps.

"Hello there," he replies, his voice brimming with amusement.

Stiles laughs. "Do you always do what you're told?" he ask with a fair amount of flirtatiousness.

"Pick me and you'll find out," Alpha two replies in the same tone.

The crowd claps at the and the Beta fans herself with her notecards. "Boys, boys. We aren't that kind of a show," she says.

Stiles makes a face at that because, hi. They are exactly that kind of a show.

The host narrows her eyes in response, but her smile is still firmly in place as she says, "And now for Alpha number three. He's our best provider yet, coming from what can only be called Old Money. But did he sit on his duff, content to nurse on a silver spoon? No, he did not. Alpha number three took his trust fund and tripled it through a combination of smart investments and entrepreneurial daring. He has backed a number of innovative young CEOs and has profited greatly from it. Not only is he more than able to give you the house and home of your dreams, he is also family oriented and very close with his large, extended family. Say hi, Alpha number three."

"I'm very pleased to be here," the Alpha replies and Stiles freezes because he knows that voice.

Or, at least, he thinks he does.

"Do I know you, Alpha three?" he blurts out, hands gripping the sides of his chair.

Alpha three chuckles, the sound deep and masculine. "It's possible," he says, "I certainly know you. But then, that's the point of these things, isn't it?"

Stiles opens his mouth, but his cut off by a sharp look from the host. "Hey now, boys. None of that. You know the rules. No one is allowed to confirm or deny any identities until a winner has been picked." She shakes her finger at Stiles like he's being an unruly child. "I think now is a good time for our commercial break," she announces, smiling at the cameras for all she's worth.

She waits until the light on the camera goes red, then drops the stupid smile and gives Stiles a warning look. Stiles sort of shrugs as he chews on his bottom lip. "Sorry," he says, but he doesn't mean it. He's too busy panicking at the thought of Alpha number three being none other than Derek Hale.

Derek Hale, who, by the way, had featured prominently in Stiles's sexual awakening way back when and might, maybe be the reason that Stiles has always had a thing for the tall, dark and tortured type. Because that description? Yeah, it fits Derek to a tee. A very tight tee, if Stiles remembers Derek's fashion choices correctly. But what is Derek Hale doing on an Omega dating show? Didn't he have some sort of crippling emotional manpain when it came to Omegas? On account of some nutcase who tried to burn his house down or something? Stiles wasn't exactly clear what had gone down, his father being the sheriff somehow meant that he was always out of the loop on the good gossip, but he definitely remembered everyone whispering about Derek needing space and cautioning the Omegas in town to keep their distance.

But that was years ago, right? So maybe things had changed. Or something.

Stiles isn't sure.

*

The intro music plays and the crowd hushes. "Welcome back!" the host says, her voice upbeat in a way Derek finds immensely annoying. "We are here with our Omega contestant, Stiles Stilinski. He's a promising young Omega working towards a degree at UCLA with little time to go looking for love." Derek hears a snort, no doubt from Stiles, and grins in response.

"No interest in looking, I'd bet," he says under his breath. Alpha number two, the curly-haired one, gives him a questioning look, but Derek just shakes his head and tunes back into what the host is saying. She's midway through some spiel about how the question and answer session works, which, really, ought to be self explanatory. But then, given the target audience is middle America at its worst, maybe that's asking too much.

"How about it, you guys? Are you ready for some Q-and-A?" she asks. "Huh? Huh?" The crowd goes nuts, cheering and clapping, and Derek has a moment to regret his life choices before Stiles's voice breaks through the noise.

"This question goes out to all the Alphas," he says, "given what you know about me, what would be your ideal for our first date?"

"Alpha two here, Stiles," the curly-haired one says. "My ideal for our first date would be you and me and the first season of Buffy. I'm thinking pizza, beer and an all night marathon. What do you say to that?"

Stiles lets out a delighted laugh. "Well, I'm more of a season five guy myself, but hey. I've still got love for season one. And you can never go wrong with pizza and beer. So, yeah. Great date, Alpha two. What about you, Alpha one?"

Alpha one rest his arms on the back of the white couch they are sitting on, head tilting back thoughtfully. "I'd take you to the boardwalk at Santa Monica. We'd do the rides and games thing until the sun set, then we would walk down the beach to this little Mexican joint I know that is overlooking the ocean. After that, I'd take you back to my place for some desert."

"Oh I bet you would," Stiles says, his voice wry. "Let me guess, you'd have something sweet for me to lick?"

Alpha one laughs at that. "How'd you know?"

"I'm just clever like that," Stiles shoots back. "Anyway. Moving on now. Alpha number three?"

Derek lets himself smile, because he's got this one in the bag. "Comic-Con."

Stiles lets out a little whoop of disbelief. "What? Seriously? That's in, like two weeks. No way you have tickets for that. Badges sold out ages ago."

"You pick me, Stiles, you got yourself a first class, all expenses paid trip to Comic-Con. All four days."

"Wow. That's, wow." Stiles lets out a huff of air. "All four days." He gives a stunned sounding laugh. "Pretty intense for a first date."

"I'm a pretty intense guy," Derek replies.

"Yeah, I'm getting that." Stiles laughs again. "Seriously, though. You legit have tickets?"

"Yes, Stiles, I do."

There's the sound of rustling, like Stiles is shifting in his seat. "Must have pulled a lot of strings to get them on such short notice. I only agreed to come on this show a week ago."

Derek nods, even though Stiles can't see him. "A few strings might have been pulled, yes. But what's the point of having connections if you don't use them? I am very determined man when it comes to what I want, Stiles. And I want you. So, yeah. I'll pull any string I have to."

Stiles lets out a nervous laugh, but whatever he was going to say is cut off by the host, who is announcing another commercial break. Derek leans back on the couch, bringing one leg up so that his right ankle is resting on his left knee, his hands clasped in his lap. He's feeling pretty confident now, what with Stiles's enthusiastic response to his date idea. The curly-haired Alpha is side-eyeing him and Derek can't help but give him a shit-eating grin.

"I told you he would be mine," he says in a soft undertone.

Curly rolls his eyes. "To quote my friend here, he's not yours yet."

“But he will be,” Derek promises. “He will be.”

*

Derek Hale wants to take him, Stiles Stilinski, to Comic-Con. Repeat: Derek Hale wants to take him, Stiles Stilinski, to Comic-Con. In freaking style.

Stiles know that he should be listening to whatever the host is saying, should be trying to come up with some off the wall, non-boring questions for the Alphas, but all he can focus on is that Derek Hale wants him and wants him bad. And what an ego boost that is.

It's quite possible that Stiles puts the commercial break to good use by combining the powers of his Google-fu and his smartphone to find out that Derek Hale is as delicious looking an Alpha as he remembered. He's still living in Beacon Hills, though not at the family estate, and is worth way too much to be sitting on the other side of an opaque screen, taking his chances on some random Omega.

But somehow he is here, sitting on the other side of an opaque screen, telling Stiles that he's willing to move heaven and earth to make things happen between them.

And... well... that's a lot for Stiles to process, okay?

Which is why the next few questions sort of spin fast him in a blur. He knows that he asked them and he knows that all three Alphas replied, but who said what skips completely out of his head without bothering to stop and become part of his long term memory. Before he even realizes it, the tables have turned and it's the Alphas's turn to question him.

Alpha number one asks about Stiles's favorite outdoor activity, and Stiles has to admit that he doesn't have one. Unless you count sitting on a bench and watching other people play sports. Because he's great at that. The Alpha sort of laughs at that and tells him that having an fine looking Omega cheering for him is alright in his book. Which... is perfectly nice and all, but Stiles isn't really the cheerleader type. Then it's Alpha number two's turn and he's all about the pop culture aspect, probably because it's clear that Derek's Comic-Con gambit was a success. But as nice as it is to have a reason to rant about why Batman is the best superhero to ever superhero, Stiles has to admit that Alpha number two isn't in the running at all. Because, well. Alpha number three is Derek Hale.

And when it's Alpha number three's turn to ask Stiles a question, Derek Hale opens his mouth and says this, "Stiles, I'm fairly certain you know who I am by now and I'm hoping that a good thing. Because then you know that this is more than just a thirty minute bid for your affection. Yes, I want to be the Alpha you pick at the end of the show, but I've wanted to be the Alpha for you for years. I have my reasons for not saying so sooner, and some of them are better than others, but when I saw you on that interview tape, well. Let's just say that I realized that you were still the one and that I had better get off my ass and make something happen already. I know I'm supposed to be asking you a question right now, and not confession a years long crush on you, and that my fellow contestants probably want to rip my throat out with their teeth for doing so, but if I'm honest, there is only one question I have for you. And I'm not sure you're willing to answer it yet. So how about we save that one until you are. Sound good?"

Stiles somehow manages to croak out a "yes" and the audience goes wild, cooing and cheering and clapping up a storm while the Beta seated beside Stiles fumes underneath her smiles.

*

When Stiles's says yes, Derek literally jumps out of his seat, fists raises up in triumph and a giant smile on his face.

He thinks he hears curly muttering something unflattering about him, but laid-back is clapping along with the audience, smiling and laughing nearly as much as Derek is. The opaque wall separating them from Stiles and the host lowers and Derek doesn't even wait for the host's go ahead before he's crossing the space between them, catching Stiles up in his arms and lowering his head for a kiss.

The audience loses their collective shit at that, cat-calling, stomping their feet and whistling loud enough to wake the dead, but Derek doesn't care. Derek can't focus on anything other than the feel of Stiles in his arms, the way the other man's body presses tight against his own. Stiles's hands clutch at his shoulders, his lips parting to let Derek in and god. The way Stiles tastes. Derek licks into his mouth, chasing down that flavor, trying to get more. Stiles moans a little, rocking his body against Derek's and Derek never wants it to end. Wants to stay locked in this moment forever.

Then the host says, "And that's how you claim your Omega," her voice brittle with forced cheer and Derek can't help but growl as he pulls away from Stiles.

They are both panting when they break apart. Stiles's eyes are dark and his lips are swollen and Derek wants to be a million miles away from the prying eyes of the audience. His hands cup Stiles's cheeks, thumbs brushing agianst his cheekbones, his heart feeling light as a feather.

"Not claimed yet," Derek says, softly, because Stiles is the only one who needs to hear. "But soon, I hope."

Stiles nods at him, eyes bright with happiness. "Yes," he says. "Yes to all of it."

And Derek can't help but kiss him again.

*

So here's the deal: being claimed? Not really that bad a thing at all. Because having an Alpha around didn't mean having someone trying to parent him constantly. Derek wasn't fussed about where Stiles went or who Stiles saw. He didn't care if Stiles didn't check his phone or reply to his texts. Because Derek is chill as shit. He isn't bossy or demanding. He doesn't insist on Stiles fitting into the stereotypical houseomega role. And, best of all, Derek thinks sass is sexy.

Did Stiles mention that the sex is awesome too? Because the sex? So awesome. And hot. super-mega-foxy-awesome-hot. Times ten. Which... yeah.

Stiles is very, very happy, thank you very much.

And it's all Scott's fault. Scott, with his floppy hair and dopey grin, who looked absolutely ridiculous in the suit he borrowed for Stiles and Derek's claiming ceremony, but was thrilled as can be to stand up with Derek's sister, Laura, as their witnesses, which sort of made Stiles super proud to have him as his best friend.

Of course he went and ruined it by spending the whole reception talking loudly about his and Allison's attempts at baby making. But Scott is Scott, after all, and Stiles is sort of use to his fail. Besides, all that talk about ovulation cycles was enough to put anyone off the topic for a good ways. And that meant that Derek and Stiles didn't have to deal with awkward "so when will the baby make three" questions. Which, p.s. is not happening anytime soon. Stiles is way too young for babies. Even if being claimed turned out not to suck after all.