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It’s late afternoon before Derek gets to the Beacon Hills Sheriff department. He smells like recycled airplane air, his clothes are rumpled, and he throws his duffle over his shoulder as he gets out of the cab. He’s exhausted.

It feels like he hasn’t stopped moving ever since Laura called him with a weary, “Derek, I fucked up,” nearly ten hours ago.

Inside the station, a honey-eyed waif with a shorn head and a long pale throat is clicking away at a pen and swinging his chair back and forth behind the receptionist desk. Derek plasters on his most charming grin and leans up against it, bracing a hand in front of the guy and sliding his sunglasses down to give him a once-over.

The guy blinks up at him and flushes. His mouth falls open a little and Derek clears his throat around the way he kind of wants to press his thumb to it.

“Hey,” Derek says, still grinning. “I’m here for my sister?”

“Um, yeah.” He flutters a hand in the air. “I’m not—”

“Laura Hale?” Derek says.

The guy freezes, eyes suddenly intense and interested. “I think she’s still in holding.” He leans forward. “Are you—”

“Derek,” he says, leaning closer too. It never hurts to use a little animal magnetism to move things along. Derek knows what he looks like. He might not enjoy that, most of the time, but he knows how to use it, anyhow. “And you are…?”

“Sixteen,” someone says. “Stiles, my office, now.”

A hand clamps down on the guy—Stiles’s—neck, and Derek jerks his gaze up to see a sheriff’s badge and a judging face.

Stiles’s shoulders hunch. He says, “Daaaaad,” and, “I was just keeping the seat warm for Tara, honest.” He flashes a cheeky grin at Derek. “Nice to meet you, Derek Hale,” he says, and then ducks out of his father’s grip and disappears down the hall.

*

Derek waits twenty minutes to see the sheriff, until he sees Stiles stomp past with a disgruntled but determined expression and hop into a beat up Jeep in front of the glass doors.

Then the sheriff is in front of him, feet braced apart and hands at the belt on his hips. “All right, Mr. Hale. Let’s have a little chat.”

*

“We found her in the woods with a mutilated animal corpse,” the sheriff says, staring at Derek from across his desk.

Derek forces himself not to fidget in his seat. Laura wouldn’t mutilate an animal; she’s one of the most controlled wolves Derek’s ever known. “That’s not illegal is it?” he says.

The sheriff gives him a disbelieving look. “Son, it’s not hunting season, and mutilation of anything is cause for concern.”

Derek grimaces. “Right, but. Can you prove it was her?”

“Your questions aren’t giving me any confidence in her innocence,” the sheriff says with a sigh. “But. At this point, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t her. “

Derek straightens up. “You are.”

“Vet puts the death in a pile full of other deaths that started well before your sister’s arrival in Beacon Hills.” He leans back in his seat and stares Derek down. “The problem is, I’m also sure she knows more than she’s saying about this whole mess.”

Derek keeps quiet, presses his mouth together in a frown.

“In fact, I’m starting to get the feeling you do as well.”

Derek frowns harder and just says, “Can I take Laura home now?”

The sheriff waits a beat. Then he says, “Sure.” He presses a button on his phone and says, “Tara, can you please ask Deputy Cahill to go get Ms. Hale?”

Derek stands up and the sheriff follows his lead, ushers him out the door and out into the lobby again. When he finally sees Laura, dirt-smudged and tired looking, her hair a wild tangle, he feels his entire body unclench; he hadn’t even realized he was that tense until he just wasn’t anymore.

“Come on,” Laura says tiredly, “Let’s go home.”

*

‘Home’ is apparently a shitty motel room on the outskirts of Beacon Hills.

Derek strips his leather jacket off and tosses it on one of the sagging double beds. He says, “You should’ve just let me come with you in the first place.”

Laura sighs and flops backwards, starfishing across the mattress. She says. “Why do you think I called you? There’s another wolf in town.”

Derek sits down across from her. “Yeah, we already knew that,” he says. That’s the whole reason she came back to Beacon Hills to begin with, some misplaced pride about territory that shouldn’t even be theirs anymore. He can understand it, though, where Laura’s coming from—right now it’s still their responsibility to keep the town safe from rogue omegas.

“Well, what we didn’t know, smarty pants, is that apparently this wolf is Peter.”

Derek stares at Laura. She has a frustrated scowl on her face, fingers curling and uncurling against the bedspread. “Peter is in a coma,” he says slowly. “The hospital would have called us if there’d been a change.”

“I know,” Laura says. “That’s what makes this so fucking bizarre. I swear, Derek.” She looks over at him. “It was definitely Peter’s scent all over that animal.”

Derek blinks, slumps down and then flattens out across the mattress. “Shit.”

“It could be a good thing,” Laura says after a few quiet moments.

“Right,” Derek says, skeptical. Right, because Peter has always been a bastion of good sense; he’s not at all manipulative or borderline sociopathic, Derek’s never had any issues with his uncle before in that respect. Right.

He feels an uncomfortable tightening in his chest. Just being in Beacon Hills makes his palms sweat, and his breath hitches.

“Hey,” Laura says. The bed dips next to him as she curls up into his side. “Hey,” she says again, “I know this sucks, I’m sorry you had to come back here.”

“I’m fine,” Derek rasps.

Laura takes one of his hands and presses the back of it against her chest. She says, “Breathe with me, Derek, come on.”

He says, “I’m fine,” again, but fills his lungs to match her breaths anyway, feels the strong thumping of her heart under his hand.

When he’s finally relaxed against the mattress, she says, “We’ll go to the hospital first thing in the morning, okay? We’ll figure this out, and then we can get the hell out of here again.”

*

It’s not that Derek hates Beacon Hills.

He steps out of the motel and takes a deep breath, lungs filled with the trees and animals of the preserve, and something settles in the back of Derek’s mind. His wolf wants to sit up and howl—but for the first time in a long while, not out of grief. There’s something perfect in the way the sun crests up over the woods, a fire in the sky that makes his eyes tight.

Laura comes up behind him and wraps her arms around his waist in a hug, leans her face into the center of his back.

This is home, and he doesn’t hate it, he just feels like he doesn’t deserve to have it anymore.

Laura squeezes him, hard, and then slips around him and heads for the car. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go see what Peter has to say for himself.”

*

At the hospital, Laura turns to Derek and says, “You don’t have to come in.”

“Of course I’m coming in,” Derek says, scowling at her. He hasn’t seen Peter in years, but that’s more from lack of proximity than actual avoidance of Peter.

As they pass the front desk, Derek sees that kid from before, Stiles, standing with a dark-haired nurse—he glances up, eyes widening when they catch on Derek, and Derek gives him a short nod before walking away.

*

Peter doesn’t respond to Laura—Derek watches her talk to him, watches her cup his hands in hers, and Peter’s just slumped over in his wheelchair, half his face covered in pink, shiny scars.

Derek stands in the doorway and thinks, maybe, that he’d been entirely wrong; he has been avoiding Peter, it’s strange to see him so still, so broken.

He backs up, and then backs up again, until the door falls closed in between them and him. He forces himself to take a few deep breaths, closing his eyes on the image of Laura’s head bent to Peter’s.

“Hey.”

Derek doesn’t startle. He shifts and opens his eyes and glares over at Stiles.

“You okay?” Stiles asks.

“Fine,” Derek says shortly, then turns away to glower at the door to Peter’s room.

“Are you sure, dude? Because you’re looking a little pale there, I’m sure we could find you a seat.”

Derek clenches his jaw and says, “Don’t call me dude.”

“You know, you were a lot nicer before,” Stiles says. He leans back against the wall, and Derek shifts his glower onto Stiles again. Stiles has his arms crossed, flannel shirt rolled up his forearms. His buzz cut makes him look like a big-eyed Bambi, and Derek bares his teeth at him.

“Oh, I get it. You’re only nice when there’s something you want,” Stiles says.

Derek stares at him. It’s not untrue, but it sounds worse than he’d thought out loud. Derek unwinds minutely and says, “We’re visiting my uncle.”

“Oh.” Stiles loosens his stance and steps forward, and touches Derek’s arm. “Oh, man, I’m sorry, that sucks.”

Derek’s gaze drops to Stiles’s hand. It’s big-boned and surprisingly warm on his bare wrist, and Stiles jerks away like he’s burned him, says, “Uh, sorry,” with a hard swallow and a sheepish grin.

Laura slips out of Peter’s room a second later with a shake of her head. She forces a smile for Stiles and says, “Sheriff’s kid, right?” She eyes him up and down. “Wow, aren’t you just adorable.” She arches an eyebrow at Derek and he struggles not to actually face-palm.

Stiles is bright red and also grinning like he’s won the lottery.

“Laura,” Derek says.

“What? Look at that face!” Laura is an embarrassment, she’s so lucky she’s the alpha.

“I like her,” Stiles says to Derek, then turns to Laura and says, “I like you, feel free to shower me with compliments and affection.” He tilts his head toward her. “My hair’s as fuzzy as it looks.”

Laura rubs her palm over Stiles’s head and Derek forces down a growl that starts low in his chest.

By the look Laura throws him, she heard it anyhow.

*

“He’s crafty,” Laura says, walking to the car. “I’m eighty percent certain he’s faking it now, I don’t know how he’s doing it, but that’s the only explanation.”

“Are you sure?” Derek says. He’s having a hard time imagining why Peter would fake it. Laura and Derek are the only family he’s got left. “Why wouldn’t he just tell us he woke up?”

“If he’s awake and not telling us,” Laura says, “it just means he’s got a plan that we’re not a part of.” She stops at the car, leans a hip against the driver’s side door. “He either doesn’t want us in the way, or wants to get us out of the way.”

Derek looks down at his hands and tries not to think about all the ways Derek deserves anything Peter could do to him, if he wanted to. Maybe that was his plan, get Derek to town and then—

“Peter is a lousy person, Derek. He’s family, and I love him, and I hate that he’s been through this, but he’s a shitty person.” Laura pats his cheek. “You were always his favorite, though, I can understand if you can’t see that.”

“I know,” he says. He knows, because he’s let Peter manipulate him over and over again throughout his life, Paige wasn’t even the first time, and sometimes Derek’s willfully blind to things he doesn’t want to think about—look at what happened with Kate—but he’s always known that Peter was a gigantic asshole. “I know, Laura, but this is still all my—”

“If you say that this is your fault I’m going to kick you in the nuts,” Laura says. “We’ve been over this. None of this is your fault.”

Derek doesn’t bother arguing. Laura never lets him win, anyway.

*

Derek avoids the old house until he can’t anymore. Peter’s scent trails circle around the Hale property line, spiraling in tighter and tighter until the burned out shell of Hale House is looming in front of them. Laura presses their shoulders together as they stand at the bottom of the porch steps.

The uncharred parts are weathered gray and climbing ivy has taken over the railings and it seems like it’s been much longer than six years.

An old curtain billows out of one of the upstairs broken windows like a ghost.

Derek shudders, and Laura shifts closer into his side.

And then a pair of voices cut into the silence, and they both lift their heads toward the north edge of the property.

Laura nudges his arm. “Go,” she says.

They aren’t far, and Derek doesn’t even have to run to cut them off before they reach the house. He says, “You’re trespassing,” and Stiles just grins wide, like he’s happy to see him.

“Derek, dude, you haven’t seen an inhaler around here, have you?” Stiles says.

The kid next to Stiles smells wrong, and it only takes a second for Derek to register wolf and pack and not-pack—he holds his ground and growls. This isn’t the wolf killing animals in the preserve. This is something that wolf made.

Get out,” Derek says. He clenches his teeth to stop his fangs from dropping.

Stiles stumbles back a step. He says, “Dude, what—”

“Go!” Derek roars, and he doesn’t even care if he’s flashing his eyes, because the kid with Stiles is a werewolf and he smells like family and that’s not possible.

Laura finds him on his knees in the dirt and leaves, claws curled into his thighs. “Derek, what happened?” she says, placing hands on his shoulders.

He leans back into her grip. He says, half bewildered, “Peter’s an alpha.”

*

“It’s not surprising,” Laura says, even though she sounds surprised, and a little shaken. “Our territory’s been empty for years; any other alpha could have been sniffing around. Peter could have ambushed them.”

Derek’s sitting on his motel room bed, back propped up against the wall. “That’s… unlikely.”

“Unlikely, sure, but it could happen,” Laura says, and then someone knocks on the door.

They both freeze and stare at it, and Derek picks up the familiar heartbeat just as Laura says, “It’s Stiles.”

Derek debates hiding in the bathroom—there are many things he isn’t good at, and being polite to Stiles seems to be one of them—but Laura says, “You get it.”

“You’re closer,” Derek says, but he gets up and starts moving to the door anyway.

Stiles has his hand raised to knock again when he pulls the door open. He’s got on a t-shirt and loose jeans and a slightly panicked expression.

Derek scowls at him, and Stiles says, “What the hell!” and pushes his way past him and inside.

He stands in the middle of the room and points from Laura to Derek and back before saying, “What the hell!” again.

“Stiles,” Laura says calmly. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” Stiles runs both palms over his scalp and then throws his arms up in the air. “Scott’s missing and everyone’s a werewolf!”

Laura sits up. “What do you mean Scott’s missing?” she says, just as Derek asks, “Who’s Scott?”

Stiles holds out his hand. “Chiseled good looks, puppy eyes, yay high, howls at the moon.”

Derek and Laura catch each other’s gaze.

Stiles says, “Not to mention the fact that there’s been a murder. Apparently mountain lions eat people now, but I’m more inclined to blame you two.”

Laura growls low in her throat, and Derek takes an instinctive and very stupid move in front of Stiles, he knows it’s a mistake the minute Laura shakes off her wolf and blinks up at him. Crap.

Stiles, oblivious, pokes at Derek’s back. “Which one of you assholes bit Scott?”

“Neither of us,” Derek says tightly, still staring at Laura.

Laura tilts her head, a considering look on her face.

It doesn’t mean anything, he thinks.

Laura says, “Stiles, sit down and tell us everything.”

*

They track Scott to the Argent house. It’s only—slightly terrifying for Derek, and he’s glad that Laura’s there to explain how bad an idea mixing it up with the Argents is, especially if Scott’s going to stalk the youngest one outside her bedroom window.

Stiles slaps Scott around the head when he gets in their car and then practically climbs into his lap to hug him.

“How are you like this?” Stiles says. “How is this a good idea even if you couldn’t climb up the side of her house with supernatural powers? Stalking is bad, Scott!”

Scott pouts and says, “She smells really good.”

“Scott,” Stiles says. He grabs his arms and shakes him a little. “Scott, listen to me. I have six different presents in my house for Lydia’s birthday, which is still months away. She’s a strawberry blonde goddess who smells like fancy peaches and has thighs I dream about fifteen hours out of every day, both awake and asleep. Even I—I! Me!—would not creep on her from her window and think that’s okay.”

Derek narrows his eyes and tries not to hate whoever the hell this Lydia is, because Laura’s shooting him amused looks as she pulls out onto the street.

Scott says, “But—”

“She would not think that’s cute!” Stiles says.

Scott slumps into the seat, frowning. He says, “I don’t know how to stop.”

Laura says, “Don’t worry. We’ll teach you.”

*

Scott is both a terrible werewolf and a really, really good one. He uses his heart more than his head, which Laura encourages and Derek tries to beat out of him with play-fighting.

“I think I’ve figured out what your creepy uncle is doing,” Stiles says, stumbling into the clearing where Derek and Scott have been throwing each other against trees.

Derek looks up from where he’s pinning Scott to the ground by his neck. “What?”

Stiles waves around a sheaf of papers. “Two criminals with arson in their pockets and a fire inspector turned bus driver—he’s picking them off.”

Derek stares at him. “Revenge,” he says, he lets up on his hold on Scott and Scott scrambles to his feet, rubbing at his throat.

Laura looks up from where she’s sitting cross-legged, propped against a tree. “Huh.”

Derek slowly stands. It’s not an entirely bad idea, but it’s not one that Laura would have gone for, if Peter had approached her before his killing spree.

“You’re going to stop him, right?” Scott says. “Right?”

Laura says, “Yes,” but her face is still speculative.

Stiles says, “Do we have to?”

Laura stares off into the middle distance, and Derek thinks how easy it would be, just to let Peter go. Peter has all the vengeful rage festering inside him that Laura never let Derek hold on to—how bad would it be, to let Peter finish what he’d started?

“Maybe we should get your dad involved,” Scott says to Stiles and Stiles says, “Absolutely not.”

Finally, Laura says, “I’m not going to let Peter bite anyone else.”

Scott seems immediately relieved, an easy smile blooming across his face. Stiles rolls his eyes in a huff, though, and Derek can’t help but think Laura’s left a big loophole in there for claws.

*

Derek feels a hot burning hatred for Kate Argent, but also a deep well of debilitating fear and panic, which is probably the only reason he pauses long enough to get shot.

It’s like acid in his veins, his body’s rapid healing prolonging the pain as the poison crawls steadily and slowly through his arm.

Stiles has a firm grip on his wrist. He says, “Tell me what to do,” even as he complains about him bleeding out all over his jeep.

Derek’s got extremely limited options here, if he doesn’t want to die. He never really realized, until this exact moment, how much he doesn’t want that to happen anymore. He says, “Call Laura,” through gritted teeth.

Stiles fumbles with Derek’s phone, and Derek listens with half an ear as Laura tells Stiles to get him to Deaton’s, that she’ll take care of everything else.

Derek presses his arm tighter to his chest, says, “You’re not going to the Argents,” and feels utterly helpless when Laura just laughs, strained, and says, “I’m the alpha, you can’t tell me what to do,” her voice tinny and weak from the cell speaker.

At the vet’s office, Stiles unrepentantly shoves a key from his keyring into the back door to unlock it, and then drags Derek inside.

Derek slumps onto a table in the exam room and idly thinks about how much he’s going to miss his arm. “Okay,” Derek says, and then hands Stiles a bone saw.

Stiles stares at, says, “What?”

Derek says, slow, “You’re going to have to cut it off.”

“What, your arm?”

Derek just stares at him.

“This is crazy, I can’t do this,” Stiles says. The saw drops to the table with a clatter, the sound makes Derek flinch, dizzy.

“If you don’t,” Derek manages, “I’ll die.”

“What about Laura?” Stiles says desperately. “She said to wait for her.”

Through bleary eyes, Derek watches the sluggish tracks of black spider-webbing out of the wound, halfway to his heart by now. It feels like fire, like his arm’s going to explode, and Derek’s not sure how he’s even still conscious. “Five minutes,” he bites out. “Five minutes, and you cut it off.”

“How about ten?” Stiles says. His fingers curl in Derek’s, thumb making oddly soothing swipes over the back of Derek’s hand.

“Five. Or I’ll rip your throat out.” Derek bares his teeth, but can’t even manage an intimidating fang, and Stiles scoffs.

“Yeah, right,” he says, and Derek says, “Five, or Laura will.”

Stiles eyes go wide, and Derek has a split-second of satisfaction before his arm spasms, he thinks he grips Stiles too tight, and then everything goes black.

*

He wakes up groggy, flat on his back on a metal table. Laura has her head down on his chest, an arm thrown across his waist.

He says, hoarse, “How…?”

Laura sits up slowly, rubs a palm over her cheek. “Chris Argent is not an unreasonable man,” she says. “It helped that his sister couldn’t resist bragging to my face.”

Kate. All of Derek’s nightmares wrapped up in a viciously pretty package. He can’t help it; whenever he thinks about her he’s fifteen again, trapped in guilt and fear, self-loathing, disgust.

Laura runs a hand across his neck, squeezes at the juncture of his throat and shoulder, like she knows what’s running through his mind. He wishes he’d had the balls to kill Kate six years ago.

“Does she know he’s coming for her?” Derek says as Laura helps him up. He swings his legs over the side of the table, sees Stiles slumped in a chair in the corner of the room, head tilted back in sleep. Something in his chest constricts at the thought of him staying there, waiting to see that he’s okay.

Laura grins with all her teeth. “Why ruin the surprise?”

*

Derek doesn’t know exactly why he’s at the diner with Stiles, but Stiles had said something about Derek owing him for almost dying on top of him, and that there were not enough milkshakes in the world to make up for giving him a bone saw.

Stiles sucks his glass dry and then Derek sighs and nudges his own chocolate milkshake into Stiles’s line of sight.

Stiles lights up and says, “You know, you look like a badass, but really you’re just a big ball of soft and squishy.”

Derek glares at him.

“I’ve seen you pass out in a manly fashion, dude, you can’t intimidate me anymore,” Stiles says, pointing a fry at him.

Not like Derek ever remembers being able to intimidate Stiles at all. Stiles has all the self-preservation instincts of a newborn kitten, the more Derek glares at him, the more Stiles looks like he wants to curl up in his pocket. It’s—Derek wouldn’t mind, is the horrifying thought.

“Want to tell me why Crazy Kate is so obsessed with you?” Stiles asks.

“No,” Derek says. No, he does not, never ever.

Stiles shrugs. He says, “It’ll get out eventually. I fully expect Kate to villain monologue at least once before you let Peter kill her.”

Derek jerks back as if he’s been physically hit, blinks at Stiles. “What?”

“Oh, come on, like you’re not tempted? Also, I overheard Laura at Deaton’s.” Stiles grins at him and stuffs a handful of fries in this mouth.

“You’re a menace,” Derek says.

“I’m charming,” Stiles says through his food, it’s disgusting, Derek definitely thinks it’s disgusting; it’s just that underneath it all Derek’s still fucking charmed.

*

“Stiles is a hot mess,” Laura says, “but he’s competent. He’s straightforward with you, it’s why you like him so much.”

“I don’t like Stiles,” Derek says through his teeth.

They’re staking out the hospital, waiting for Peter to make a move. Laura has a mouthful of popcorn, her feet up on the dash of the passenger side of the car, when her phone rings. She gestures for Derek to get it.

It’s Scott, but when Derek answers it Stiles is on the other end. He says, “Okay, I’m pretty sure we’re going to do something that you’ll think is stupid.”

“What, Stiles,” Derek says, already putting the car in gear and backing out of their parking space.

“Just meet me at your house,” Stiles says, and then hangs up.

Laura looks over at him as he screeches out of the lot and says, “What do you think he has planned?”

“I have no idea.” Derek has a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Definitely something really dumb.”

*

The house smells like wet ash and decay. Under the moonlight it looms ominous and dark, and Derek’s nose itches as they carefully walk up the rotting porch steps. He has no actual desire to step inside, but he follows Laura through the broken door anyway.

There’s a measured click of heels and a figure slinks out of the gloom.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t my two favorite werewolves,” Kate says, idly picking her way through the wreckage of the Hale living room.

Laura maneuvers her way in front of where Derek is frozen in the doorway. Derek’s heart is high in his throat, and he clenches his hands into fists, still feels the phantom ache of wolfsbane in his arm.

“What are you doing here?” Laura growls.

Kate waggles her cell phone in the air. “Got a hot tip from my favorite baby niece. Thought I’d see what you little monsters were up to.”

A howl echoes through the woods: Scott. And then, louder, a howl so fierce it borders on an all-out roar.

“Peter,” Derek says.

Those fucking idiots.

Laura just smirks. “Who did you say that message was from?”

*

Peter is a massive misshapen beast of rage. At the edge of the lawn, Laura has a grip on Scott’s arm, standing half in front of Derek, and Peter throws back his head and howls.

Derek has to fight not to look at Kate’s lifeless body on the porch next to Peter, her throat ripped out, her blood still dripping from Peter’s claws.

There’s no recognition in his eyes when he looks at them, deep, heaving breaths making his hulking shoulders rise and fall. Whatever lucidity he’d had to organize his revenge, whatever thoughts were driving him, they’re gone now. His eyes are a bright, blazing red, and he hunches down, gathering muscles to leap at them.

Arrows spin out of the trees in a barrage, making Peter stumble. He drops down the porch steps, shakes his head, and then stretches up again to tower over them.

Laura pushes Scott behind her and flicks out her claws. Derek feels the change roll over him, fangs breaking out of his gums; there’s blood in his mouth.

And then Stiles is hopping out of a thoroughly wrecked Porsche with a couple teenagers and some homemade Molotov cocktails.

Derek’s eyes water at the smell of singed fur and burning flesh as the glass bottles break against Peter’s chest and legs—he swallows back bile, watches another arrow land its mark high on Peter’s shoulder as he falls to his knees.

Laura shouts, “Stop!” at the top of her lungs, and everyone but Peter freezes—Peter’s half engulfed in flames already, his screams echo in the sudden stillness of the night, and Derek grabs Laura around the waist to keep her from going to him.

“You can’t,” he says, and, “That’s not Peter anymore.”

*

“Chris Argent is a dickweed,” Stiles says, sitting down next to Derek in the clearing.

Derek grunts. Chris Argent isn’t exactly Derek’s favorite person, either, even if he ended up acknowledging that Kate was an evil heinous bitch—although maybe not with those exact words.

In front of them, Laura’s teaching Scott how to anchor himself. It’s not going all that well, mainly because no one is willing to admit his anchor is a sixteen year old hunter-in-training with a dickweed for a dad.

It’s only been a few days. Laura keeps looking at him weird and soft, and they’re not saying it to each other out loud yet, but he knows. He knows, especially with the addition of Scott, that they’re not going anywhere. He’s not sure how he feels about that yet.

“I’m sorry about Peter,” Stiles says, nudging their feet together.

Derek ignores him and stares down at his hands.

“You two weren’t going to do it,” Stiles says stubbornly. “And I didn’t think it was right to make you do it, either.”

Derek takes a deep breath. He’s not wrong. He’d meant what he said to Laura, too. However much of an asshole their uncle had been, that wasn’t him, in the end. That was some demon wolf that Kate had created with her psychotic hate.

“It’s fine,” Derek says. It was what needed to be done, so it’s fine. It’s terrible and it’s just one more nightmare he’ll have, and Laura’s probably going to make him go back to therapy, but it’s… okay.

“Damn it,” Stiles says. “I missed the villain monologue didn’t I?”

Derek stares at him, wonders at how effortlessly tactless he is, and how he’s managing to survive high school.

“What?” Stiles says, eyes wide.

“You’re an idiot,” Derek says, and then kisses him.

*

Derek is quietly terrified and sitting across the table from the sheriff and he suspects the only reason he isn’t being shoved out the door is because the sheriff knows he’s terrified and he’s greatly enjoying this moment.

He’s got his arms crossed and an untouched cup of coffee in front of him, a hard look in his eyes even as one corner of his mouth is pulled up into an unassuming smile.

“So, Derek,” he says, and Derek tries not to crack his end of the table with his white-knuckled grip. “How old are you exactly?”

“Twenty-one,” Derek says, and he’s definitely not going to mention that he’s only one month away from being a year older than that.

“Mmm-mmm,” the sheriff says, and it’s a very meaningful sound; Derek knows exactly how much he can’t touch Stiles in certain ways, Derek is willing to forego these things in order to stare into Stiles’s eyes and hold hands in public.

Laura is going to make fun of him so much.

“Ready to go?” Stiles says, swinging into the kitchen, all long, lean limbs and bright eyes and hideous shirts.

“Have fun, son,” the sheriff says, and then gives Derek a not-at-all subtle finger gun as he gets to his feet.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles tells him. “He’s a pussy cat.”

“I heard that,” the sheriff says from the other room.

Stiles just grins. “Come on, take me out and woo me, dude. Smile at me like you want something—”

“Stiles!” the sheriff shouts, and Stiles ducks his head, grimacing.

“How about,” Derek says, ushering Stiles toward the front door, “I smile at you like I mean it.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “That works too.”