“So are you taking your Transformers sleeping bag to wolf camp?”
“Would you stop calling it that?” Scott grumbles. He’s hunched over his desk, back a line of tense misery so Stiles figures he’s trying to get through Mr Gunther’s essay assignment. Stiles is sprawled on Scott’s bed, flat on his back looking at the doofy glow in the dark stars and moon stuck to Scott’s ceiling that was Allison and Lydia’s handiwork.
“Dude, you’re traveling with your furry family to a field in the middle of nowhere with tents and no bathroom facilities to hang out with a bunch of other wolves. What do you want me to call it?”
“Just... stop talking about it. It’s bad enough I have to go,” Scott says and Stiles rolls his eyes. Even though he’s making fun of it, Stiles thinks the whole thing sounds awesome and, like most stuff these days, the experience is going to be totally wasted on Scott.
“I could come? Keep you company,” Stiles offers even though they’ve had this conversation before.
“I told you already that you can’t. It’s too dangerous.”
“There’s going to be other humans there though, right? I don’t get why it will be more dangerous for me.”
“I said no,” Scott snaps and Stiles levers himself upright, glaring at the back of Scott’s head.
“I thought you said that Derek said no, that you really wanted me to come but it was his call?” he asks slowly.
Scott’s shoulders hunch up, the way they do when he’s about to tell a big fat lie. “He-”
“No, no, no, no. Let me get this straight, it’s you that doesn’t want me to come?” Stiles scowls harder at Scott who is resolutely not looking at him, hunching further down over his books until his nose is almost touching his spiral notepad.. “What, am I not cool enough because I’m not in the club now?”
“That’s not it,” Scott says, spinning in his desk chair to finally face Stiles. “It’s just... you always get hurt.”
“I don’t always...” Stiles kind of grimaces. “Okay, I often come out of these things a little worse for wear, but this is just wolf camp right? You guys will be there and let me repeat, there are other humans. It’s not like I’m going to be rolling up all defenseless and the only awkwardly un-wolf bell of the ball.”
“I don’t even know why you want to come. I don’t want to go,” Scott whines.
“How can you not see how unbelievably and insanely cool this will be? We’ve really only ever seen Derek and the teenage mutant ninja chew toys get their wolf on. There will be actual good werewolves at this thing, people that don’t fall on their furry faces every time they have to do anything.”
Scott heaves a put-upon sigh, but it’s one of defeat. “I still don’t think this is a good idea, and Derek might still say no.”
“You’ll ask though, if I can come?” Stiles says, withholding the happy dance until Scott capitulates the whole way.
“You can come to the pack meeting tonight and ask for yourself. Then I won’t be responsible when you get horribly mauled,” Scott says.
Stiles jumps to his feet, does a one-two fist punch in the air then throws arms around Scott who laughs and tries to throw him off. “Thank you dude, this will be killer!”
“I really hope not,” Scott says morosely.
“Dude,” Stiles exclaims and Scott’s shoulders hunch up again, a guilty blush staining his cheeks.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” he says defensively.
“What’s this? Trouble in paradise?” Erica asks, eyes gleaming and Scott throws his backpack at her head. She bats it aside, unconcerned.
“It won’t be safe,” Derek says before Stiles can reassure Scott that he’ll be fine. They both turn to stare at Derek, who shrugs. “It’s a field full of werewolves. What exactly did you think would be safe about it?”
“I thought it was like a wolf holiday. You all put your claws down to barbeque and drink beer?” Stiles hazards, suddenly wondering if this is such a good idea after all.
“It’s... I mean yes, it’s supposed to be peaceful but... it’s not dangerous in the traditional sense. It’s just... there’s a purpose to these gatherings.”
“Gossip and frisbee?” Stiles guesses but he’s starting to get a little unsettled about how Derek is avoiding his eyes. “I mean, I bet the whole place will go insane the moment someone breaks out the frisbees, am I right?”
“Packs are fairly isolated most of the time. The gatherings are a chance to... mingle,” Derek says, expression a little tight and a lot uncomfortable.
“Mingle as in... oh my god, is this a werewolf single’s mixer?” Stiles splutters, delighted by the idea. He’s never heard of anything so ridiculous yet intriguing but it makes sense if what Derek is saying is true and packs don’t cross paths that often. He knows the Hale pack was made up of family members and if someone were to want to find a wolf snugglebunny then it wasn’t like there were any local werewolf bars.
“That’s a terrible way to describe it but... essentially yes,” Derek says.
“Why do we have to go then?” Scott asks, starting to look a little hunted. Stiles can imagine that Scott picturing himself being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“That’s not the only purpose of these gatherings,” Derek grunts. “It’s a good opportunity to forge ties with other packs, create alliances. If you hadn’t noticed, we’re pretty small but we have a large territory. We’ll need help if we’re challenged.”
“So we’re only going to make friends?” Isaac pipes up. Stiles has seen out of the corner of his eye Boyd and Isaac playing rock-paper-scissors, probably to see who had to ask that question.
“If any of you find a mate that will be willing to settle here, that would be good too,” Derek admits tightly.
“I knew it,” Scott says. “You’re trying to pimp us out to increase your pack and your power!”
“I don’t think-” Stiles starts to interject, but before he can finish with that’s what he’s saying, Derek reaches across and smacks Scott on the forehead, a flat palm that makes a lot of noise but probably didn’t hurt very much.
“Don’t be an idiot,” he says. “I’m not trying to do anything. If any of you find someone you like, that would be good. I’m not forcing anyone into anything.”
“You’re forcing me to go,” Scott grumbles, crossing his arms and raising his chin, ever the defiant teenager.
“I... well, yes, okay, I am forcing you to do that, but anything you do once you get there is totally your choice.”
“Hey man, maybe don’t tell Allison about the whole Werewolf Perfect Match aspect of the camping trip,” Stiles suggests and Scott groans and drops his head into his hands.
“You’re unlikely to get propositioned,” Derek says and when Scott looks up quickly at that, ready to be hurt even though he apparently doesn’t want to get hit on, Derek squeezes his shoulder. “You smell too much like you’ve got a mate already.”
“Oh, that’s... oh, okay,” Scott says, mollified.
“So, where’s the danger?” Stiles asks, because he can’t see why a wolf love-in would be any more risky than their day to day lives in Beacon Hills..
“If there’s a... disagreement or two wolves are interested in the same partner, things can get heated. Challenges can be issued, fights can happen.”
“Neat,” Erica says, smirking and Stiles knows she’s imagining bare-chested werewolf gladiators fighting for her attentions.
“It’s very easy for misunderstandings to occur, especially because there will be humans present.”
“Maybe Stiles should sit this one out,” Boyd pipes up and Stiles flips him off.
“Yeah, we don’t want to see him become a human rope in a werewolf tug-of-war,” Isaac adds and Stiles rolls his eyes.
“I think you guys are overestimating my appeal here. I’ll be fine. It’ll be just like school, all the hip, athletic wolves will get the play and I’ll sit on the sidelines, making cutting remarks.”
“We can’t risk that,” Derek says.
“Wait, are you saying I can’t come now?” Stiles demands.
“You should come so if another pack comes here they’ll already know about you. You just... you need to belong to this pack so there’s no overtures made that we’ll have to refuse and possibly insult a stronger pack.”
“Belong? Dude, I thought I already belonged,” Stiles says, trying not to feel the reflexive hurt that Derek's words bring. Stiles was pretty sure he was the lowest rung on the wolf totem pole, but for Derek to actually not even see him on the pole is-
"You need to belong to someone in the pack," Derek clarifies and Stiles feels his face heat.
"Oh... right, that's... um." He's lost for words for one of the few times in his life.
"The only humans that attend are spoken for by strong partners. You wouldn't risk taking an unattached human member of your pack, it's just asking for trouble."
"But I don't belong to anyone. Wouldn't all your peers with their super wolfy senses kind of pick up on that?"
"Yes, which is why it would have to be... convincing."
"Maybe he shouldn't-" Scott starts to protest again, bless him. Stiles is maybe rethinking his whole need to be included.
"If we had any packs visit here, we'd have to do this anyway," Derek says.
"Look, I know I'm awesome but I think again maybe we're overestimating my appeal," Stiles interjects.
"It's not about you," Derek snaps, cutting a hand through the air. "It's about a challenge, about another pack taking advantage of a weak point."
"A weak point, huh?" Stiles repeats, starting to feel more than a little pissed. Isaac bumps a knuckle against his knee and Stiles deflates a little, touched that Isaac has automatically sought to comfort him, much the same way he would any of the pack members. Tiny little reminders that the others think of him as one of them, even if Derek doesn’t, instead sees Stiles as nothing more than a troublesome dead limb being dragged behind, heartens him.
"It's totally about your appeal," Erica pipes up, then narrows her eyes at Derek. "Tell him it's about his appeal."
"Can we focus?" Derek says, rubbing a tired hand over his face.
"He needs to belong to someone? We're already pretty close so-" Scott starts to volunteer but Derek is already shaking his head. "Oh right,," he humphs.
"Thanks anyway, dude," Stiles says.
"It can't be any of the betas," Derek says. "That will leave the door open to another Alpha challenging."
"So, it has to be you?" Stiles asks, swallowing on a suddenly dry throat.
"Yes," Derek grunts, not sounding exactly excited about the prospect.
"But... don't you want to maybe make a wolfy love connection? Wouldn't declaring me as your one true honeybear kind of make that difficult, not only now but in the future?"
"Alphas have to make sacrifices to protect the pack."
"Wow, that's all any boy ever dreams of, being someone's sacrifice," Stiles grumbles. "I can't wait to write about this in my Strawberry Shortcake diary."
"No, it's fine, I get it. Good of the pack, yada, yada."
"I went on a road trip with some buddies the summer we graduated," his dad says from behind where Stiles is hopping from foot to foot just inside his door. He didn't want to wait on the porch like a dork, instead had enough willpower to stand just inside so that someone would have to come up and knock. "Good times."
"I'm sure, dad," Stiles dismisses. He's pretty happy that his dad has eased up with the disapproval when it comes to Derek and the pack, the way made smoother by some epically awkward dinners and the involvement of Lydia and Allison so his father stopped thinking Derek was some kind of cult leader who attracted teenage boys.
"I remember some of the stuff we got up to," his dad continues, then a hand lands on the back of Stiles' neck and squeezes, hard. "I remember the really dumb stuff we got up to."
Stiles turns slowly in his father's grip, offers him a scared little grin. "You didn't have a chaperone. We do," Stiles says.
"I don't think I would regard Derek Hale as a chaperone," his dad dismisses, obviously as not as far along on the I-distrust-Derek recovery process as Stiles thought..
"No, honestly, he really is. He's like, the most boring person on the planet and he makes sure we all are too. There's no shenanigans under the Hale regime." His dad's eyebrow arches at the word regime.
"Why do you guys hang around with him if that's true?"
"He buys the booze," Stiles says and when his dad's face turns stormy, he holds up his hands. "I'm kidding, geez."
"You're walking a thin line, kiddo," his dad warns and Stiles does the one thing he knows will deflect his father's ire.
He hugs him.
His dad goes stiff for a moment, but then returns the hug, a little too fiercely. "I just worry," he admits, pulling back only to grasp Stiles' head in his hands and lay a smacking kiss on his forehead. Stiles pulls a face because he's still a teenage boy and he's supposed to, but he's secretly pleased.
A car horn honks, impatient.
"That's my cue," Stiles says, turns to the door but his dad snags his sleeve before he can escape completely.
"I don't want to have to come and bail you out of a prison in Mexico," he warns.
"Enough said. Go have fun." His dad goes from holding onto him to shoving Stiles out the door and Stiles stumbles down the steps, seeing Isaac hanging out one of the motorhome's windows and Derek about the lean on the horn of the car again. No one else is in Derek's car and Stiles thinks that means he gets to ride shotgun, but when he makes for it, Derek just jerks a thumb over his shoulder at the camper.
"You're driving that."
"Aw, dude, really?" Stiles huffs, disappointed.
"Scott nearly ran into the back of me three times. Scoot," he says and Stiles looks at the motorhome, at Scott making faces at him through the window. He's so peeved that it doesn’t occur to him until later that he should have made fun of Derek for using the word scoot.
Jackson, Boyd, Isaac and Erica all hide in the back of the camper because wolves in general suck.
Stiles almost cries in relief when Derek leads them into a rest stop, is the first to stumble his way out of the motorhome and makes a beeline for the bathrooms, stopping off at the gas station's cashier to get the key attached to a half a brick because obviously bathroom key theft is rife in these parts.
Stiles has just zipped up when he hears someone enter the bathroom behind him. He spots Derek hovering in the rust flecked mirror over his shoulder are he washes his hands and raises an eyebrow at him. "I haven't been that long," Stiles complains, thinking that maybe Derek's come to herd him back into the van. "C'mon man, my ass is totally asleep. I need more than five minutes out of the van. I need to buy all the road snacks and run around a little."
"No that's... I'm not in here for that," Derek says and he looks a little uncertain but Stiles gets a whole lot uncertain himself when he hears the bathroom door lock click over.
"is this the part where you lock me in the bathroom and abandon my numb ass?" Stiles says.
"Stiles," Derek says, rubbing a hand over his face.
"You can't just leave me on the side of the road and think that'll get rid of me. My phone totally has GPS." Stiles puts a protective hand over his pocket, like he thinks Derek is going to snatch it off him.
"It's about another three hours from here," Derek says nonsensically.
"I know we didn't discuss the whole... how we fake it."
"Fake...? Oh, right, yeah, huh," Stiles says, laughing nervously.
"It's just, we can't really. Fake it I mean," Derek says and now he's honest-to-god blushing and Stiles would find it hilarious if he wasn't sure he was doing the same.
"Oh, right," Stiles says, all careful bravado because Derek looks almost pained, like the prospect of getting all up in Stiles' business, which Stiles thinks is what he's proposing, is physically hurting him. "Um, exactly how much non-faking do we need to pass muster?"
"We don't have to... look, maybe this was a bad idea. You can take the camaro back," Derek offers but Stiles is already shaking his head.
"No, it's fine, really. I can... we can do this. You were right, if we have wolves coming into Beacon Hills on the regular and I'm pack-"
"Stiles." Suddenly Derek is just there, right in front of Stiles with his hands gripping Stiles' hips. "We can figure something else out."
"It's not like it's a hardship, for me anyway," Stiles overrides Derek. "Look, I know I'm not exactly spank bank material but-" Stiles' words kind of trail off into a startled squeak when Derek's hands push up under his shirt, palming the skin of his belly. “Oh, um.”
Derek’s hands drop down and he tugs Stiles’ belt open, hooks it over his shoulder when it comes free of Stiles’ pants. “Just getting you off with my hand should be enough,” he says. “You’ll smell like me and like arousal.”
“Can you stop, like, explaining what you’re going to do and just do it, otherwise all I’m going to smell like someone who’s come in his pants.”
“Christ, Stiles,” Derek groans and Stiles flushes, can’t believe what he just said. It seems to have had the desired effect though, because Derek gets Stiles’ pants open and he’s got a hand in them, a fist around Stiles’ already hard length.
Derek drops his head, and for a moment Stiles thinks that he’s just hiding his eyes, doesn’t want to look Stiles in the face while he’s doing what he’s doing, but then Stiles loses his breath when he realizes that Derek is in fact watching what he’s doing intently, a low growl rumbling through him while he’s focused on Stiles’ cock sliding through his hand.
“Oh god, don’t judge me,” Stiles blurts a moment before his body lets go and he’s coming, way too soon. He slumps back, boneless. Derek has smacked his free hand against Stiles’ chest and then nudged up closer against him so he can hold him up with his body while he digs his other hand out of Stiles’ pants and into his own.
“Can I... do you want me to?” Stiles offers, not sure he’d be coordinated enough to be any help but Derek just grunts low down, a sound that is definitely spank bank material and then comes as well, slumping closer into Stiles’ space which he hadn’t thought was possible.
They hold there for a moment, both breathing hard before Derek gets his hand up under Stiles’ shirt again and-
"Ugh, dude, gross. Are you trying to make me a human wet patch?"
“It’s better if you’re...potent,” Derek says and Stiles makes a face but relents, grumbles when Derek marches him back outside without the opportunity to wash up.
Stiles thinks he’ll be embarrassed, stuck in a confined space with a bunch of wolves who will know exactly what he’s been doing, but it’s actually pretty hilarious. They all hide up the back of the camper, Scott holding his shirt over his nose and blinking large, horrified eyes at Stiles.
After about twenty minutes back on the road, Jackson surprises him by slouching into the passenger seat. “Well, it’s better than what you normally smell like,” he says when Stiles gives him a surprised glance.
“What do I normally smell like?”
“Desperation and candy,” Jackson says after a thoughtful pause.
“You have to smell like us, it’s the best way,” Derek huffs as Stiles looks at the pile of bedding and werewolves in the back of the motorhome, Derek gesturing at a sliver of space between himself and Isaac that apparently has Stiles’ name all over it.
“You guys are the worst.”
Derek catches him by the back of the shirt. "No," he says simply, turns Stiles so he's facing another table, one without a single person over about fourteen.
"Oh c'mon," Stiles says. "The kiddie table, are you shitting me?"
"Alphas break bread with Alphas, the betas eat together, then the bonded humans. The unbonded humans and children are what remains."
"I thought we, y'know, bonded," Stiles says, trying to pry Derek's hand off his collar.
"You're spoken for but we haven't done anything official. There's no other unbonded humans here so yes, you're stuck with the children."
"Bonded... as in married?"
"Ugh, you couldn't have whisked me off to Vegas for quickie nuptials to save me the embarrassment of the kiddie table?"
"That's not exactly how we do it," Derek says, but his mouth has turned up in one of his rare, amused smiles and Stiles gets caught on it long enough that he's been marched almost all the way over before he can argue further.
"Okay, fine, danced with me naked under the silvery moon, then," he says and when Derek's whole face twitches, Stiles almost forgets his impending humiliation. "Wait! Is there nude dancing?"
"Not exactly, but it's closer to the truth than having Elvis be a celebrant," Derek admits, pushing Stiles down onto a seat wedged between a small girl in plaits and an older boy with his face buried in a book. The boy is the closest to Stiles in age, but still maybe fifteen at the most.
"This sucks," Stiles grumbles when Derek pats him on the head and leaves him to it.
"Tell me about it," the boy beside him grumbles without pulling his head out of his book.
“How are you at chopping?” she asks, not waiting for an answer before she parks him in front of a chopping board with a knife in his hand and a bag of potatoes at his feet.
It’s a strange side effect of his hands being busy that Stiles’ mind calms, pausing in the usual manic swirl, dulled down from repetitive actions. He idly listens to the ebb and flow of conversation around him, thinking he could be at any campground in America, that it’s strange to think that some of the these people make a habit of running on all fours and howling at the moon.
Stiles has fallen into such a zen head space that he startles and nearly throws his knife in the air when someone darts into his sight line and says, “Well, aren’t you a cutie. Who do you belong to?”
“Derek Hale,” Stiles answers automatically, no real thought behind it. He knows werewolves can tell when you’re lying but the women gathered around him make no sign of having heard anything false in what he’s said, instead just smile and grin at each other.
He doesn’t want to read too much into the fact that stating that he belongs to Derek doesn’t ping anyone’s radar.
“Who’s Derek Hale?” a girl, maybe only a year or two older than Stiles with messy blonde hair asks.
“Jenna, where have you been burying your head? Honestly,” another woman with blue eyes and pale, freckled skin says. “That’s Derek Hale.” She’s pointing an onion-dip coated spoon where the betas are playing football and Stiles turns to see Derek has indeed joined them and has managed to lose his shirt and shoes in the process.
“Oh god, really?” Stiles huffs and the women laugh again, a couple of them that Stiles would lay bets are the wolves of the group giving him knowing, wicked smirks probably in response to the spike in his heartbeat at the sight.
“It’s just cruel to keep that all to yourself,” Edith says and Stiles sighs. Edith gets jolted forward then, her hand knocking a bottle over. She turns and barks, “Jason, watch where you’re going!” at a kid who looks about seven that prudently zooms off.
“If anyone has any craft supplies, I could probably corral them all long enough for you guys to get all this done,” Stiles offers.
“I have a whole storage tub of odds and ends you could probably use,” a woman says from behind Stiles.
"What do you think you were doing?" Derek grits.
Derek frowns even harder, but then when Stiles thinks he's going to be chewed out for being so mortifying, hopefully not literally, Derek scuffs a boot through the dirt and grumbles into his chest, "We never had Craft hour."
"Aw, Der-bear, I have some stuff left over from the crate Isabelle gave me. Do you want me to help you make some ears?" Stiles asks, but his amusement deflates when he sees Derek's expression grow stormy. "Or not?"
"Who did you say you got the supplies from?"
"Oh, um, Isabelle? That's her name, right?" Stiles says, cranes back over his shoulder and spots the older woman with long brown hair and a cluster of about fifteen of the biggest guys Stiles has ever seen around her. Stiles waves jauntily at her when her eyes land on him and she waves back.
Derek smacks his arm down. "Are you telling me you asked the Alpha of one of the biggest packs in the country for art supplies? Is that what you're really telling me?"
"I didn't approach her," Stiles squeaks when Derek must decide his glower isn't enough and wraps a big paw around the back of Stiles' neck. "I do listen to you when you're not being maudlin or crazy, when you talk about the etiquette stuff. I was asking around, humans and betas only and she approached me."
Derek relaxes his grip, but only minutely. He's breathing hard and he looks less angry and more worried, like maybe the etiquette thing isn't all he’s concerned about. "You've got to be careful about accepting anything from anyone you don't know," Derek says.
"The candy from strangers talk, really?"
Derek looks heavenward, like he's asking for strength. "You just said you listen to me about the etiquette stuff. Listen to me about the etiquette stuff."
"Wouldn't it be ruder for me to have not taken it?" Stiles asks and Derek looks a little stumped by that.
"...maybe," he finally relents. "The rules are a little... murky."
"You're telling me."
"Look, did she... oh crap, she's coming over," Derek rumbles into the side of Stiles' face, looking about as nervous as Stiles has ever seen him. Stiles has already talked to the woman so he doesn't think he would be breaking too many rules to smile and nod at her approach but then Derek's shuffling him backwards so Stiles is behind him, holding Stiles in place by a hand fisted in the fabric of Stiles's shirt at his hip.
"Derek Hale, right?" Isabelle says, approaching with a mild smile. Stiles is not naive enough to think that anyone on this entire field is harmless, but she certainly is able to give off that impression which must be a useful talent for her.
"Yes, ma'am," Derek says and Stiles stares at his ear, the only part of Derek's profile he can really see. He's never heard Derek sound so deferential.
"That's an old name on a not-so-old wolf," Isabelle observes. Her smile still says, trust me, I'm a soccer mom but when she turns her head slightly, her eyes catch the dying light of the day, a red that makes gooseflesh prickle along Stiles’ arms. "I was sorry to hear about your family. Your mother was good people."
"They all were," Derek says, polite yet with an edge of defiance.
"You're doing okay though. Little town surrounded by old growth forest. It's a werewolf dream really." Her eyes cut to Stiles over Derek's shoulder and then back to Derek himself. "Plus, this one is just adorable and so good with the kids."
Derek tenses and Stiles could really just punch himself, because he sees now that the woman used his ignorance to her advantage, for an excuse to approach Derek.
Stiles sees Scott and Isaac edging towards them, both looking like their hackles are up. Stiles wants to warn them away, but can't risk Isabelle catching him do it, thinking Derek's human mate has any power over his betas, holds any kind of sway that might destabilize Derek's own position.
"If we caused offense in any way," Derek starts to say and Isabelle waves a dismissive hand.
"Nonsense. I made the approach. You have him well trained."
Stiles tries not to bristle at being discussed like he's not even present, but when an Alpha is talking to another Alpha, he might as well not be. Derek's hand tightens in Stiles' shirt and he's not sure if it's in apology or a demand for continued silence. Stiles would like to believe it's the former but is pretty sure it's the latter.
"Well, Derek, come and see me after the evening meal, hmm?"
"Of course," Derek acquiesces, bowing his head again and Isabelle goes up on her toes to look over Derek's shoulder because Stiles has hunched down behind the protective curve without realizing it.
"See you later Stiles," she says and he jerks upright, gives her an awkward wave around Derek's body. She chuckles and retreats, back to the circle of her followers who fold around her as they disappear across the field.
"Should we be worried?" Erica asks, appearing from nowhere and making Stiles squeak in surprise. She gives him a comforting rub on the head.
"I won't know until we meet up," Derek says. His face has closed down, giving nothing away.
"Derek, I'm-" Stiles starts but Derek holds up his free hand so his fingers come to rest over Stiles' face which is still hooked over Derek's shoulder.
"Don't apologize, I don't think you did anything wrong."
"Are you sure?" Stiles gets out when Derek's hand drops and he finally relinquishes his hold on Stiles' shirt.
"She wasn't angry. She was... intrigued."
"You're still suspicious," Scott says, jostling Erica so he can nudge up against Stiles, a concerned weight.
"She might be wanting to propose an alliance, but our two packs are so imbalanced that she’ll need to ask for something extra from us."'
Stiles swallows, suddenly getting that meat-on-an-auction-block feeling.
"Probably closer to the latter one," Derek admits after a beat, and while Stiles kind of likes that he's been more honest lately, sometimes Stiles would prefer a little more sugar coating to help him sleep at night.
"What's going to happen?"
"Isabelle's going to propose an alliance but she's bringing a lot more to the table. She's going to ask for something extra she knows I won't be able to agree to."
"When I turn her down, she'll have an excuse to challenge me. She'll take our territory, the betas, everything."
"She can't just take people," Stiles says, automatically thinking of Scott, fearing for him.
"She's not taking people, Stiles, she's taking werewolves. When she kills me, they'll instinctively follow her. She'll make them submit if they fight it."
"He's stubborn but he's not immune. You already saw Peter call Scott out against his will. Imagine someone far stronger than Peter ever was."
"You can't win?"
"I can try."
"Look, we might be getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe what she asks for won't be so bad," Stiles says but Derek's face is telling him that his optimism is misplaced.
"She'll either want me to hand you over outright or at the very least demand I give you the bite," Derek says, cutting off anymore of Stiles' arguments.
"Like I said, something I can't give her.” Derek ducks his head for a moment, lets out a frustrated huff. “I'm sorry I brought you."
"Oh," Stiles says, small-voiced. He's staring at his own shoes now, only brings his head back up when Derek has fingers under his chin.
"What I meant was... it was selfish. I wanted you to come, for everyone to see that I..."
"That you what?" Stiles asks, swallowing on a suddenly dry throat.
"I'd better..." Derek hooks a thumb over his shoulder and Stiles wants to scream in frustration, grab Derek by the shoulders and force him to talk, but his mind has already skipped tracks.
"No, wait, I've got a plan."
Derek frowns at him, pretty much the same way Scott does whenever Stiles announces that he's scheming. "Stiles, this is serious."
"There's a power imbalance, she'll want something big. What if there's something you can counter-offer?"
"Which would be?" Derek asks, a little impatient but also hopeful, like he's beginning to trust that Stiles can think their way out of this.
"You stuck me at the kiddie table, but you have no idea who you plonked me down next to, do you?" Stiles asks. When Derek just gives him the I'm going to start punching you until the words fall out look, Stiles rushes to add, "Isabelle's son. Her human son."
"I mean, witches are real, like I knew they could be-"
"Sorry, right, so the very worst punishment this witch could come up with was to make sure that Isabelle's first born son was human, and stayed that way. He's immune to the bite. They've tried pretty much everything on him. The scars are a little unsettling to say the least."
"How do you know this?" Derek asks, a mixture of dubious and impressed.
"He thought maybe someone was withholding the bite from me, recognized a kindred spirit he could vent to."
"I know that," Stiles huffs because he does. He understands, despite the danger, that Derek would bite him if he really wanted it. "He doesn't and I didn't correct that assumption."
"I'm choosing to take that as a compliment. Isabelle's pack is old-school. No humans, constant jostling for position. Isabelle herself has been challenged three times in the last eighteen months. The older Stephen gets, the more danger he's in. Isabelle knows it, he knows it. She's going to have to give him the boot pretty soon just to save his ass. Her betas see him as a weak link to be exploited by others outside the pack but if he’s away from her protection then he becomes potential leverage for her own betas."
"So what are you saying?"
"You offer her son sanctuary. You already have human members of your pack, it's more of a family than a seething mass of egos, despite Jackson. While Isabelle is the Alpha of her pack, we look after her son. As soon as she isn't anymore, well, Stephen won't be at risk any longer either and we can send him on his merry way to live his life."
"You want me to just take in a disgruntled teenager?" Derek asks and when Stiles pulls an incredulous face, he rolls his eyes. "Okay, another one?"
"He's a good kid who doesn't deserve to have his throat ripped out."
"It's easy for you to suggest this. You're going to go off to college and leave me... leave him with us." Derek's whole face has gone tight and Stiles just blinks at him.
"Hey, I'm not going far. I've got a bunch of clingy werewolves to think about," he offers gently.
Derek reaches out, lays a palm against Stiles' face and he leans into the touch, is helpless not to. "How do you know what this kid has told you is the truth?"
"Look, I'm used to digging underneath hair and angst to get the real story, I'm friends with Scott."
Derek takes a moment to give Stiles the fair enough eyebrows.
"Trust me, this will work," Stiles says and Derek presses closer, rests his forehead against Stiles' and just breathes for a few moments.
"Okay," Derek agrees, and then he's striding across the field towards the circle of tents and SUVs that belong to Isabelle's pack.
They're all so busy watching Isaac and Erica's inevitable glitter fight that no one notices Derek's return until he pointedly clears his throat.
"Oh, hey!" Stiles says. "Which one?" He holds up both signs, one of which proclaims It's a Boy while the other simply says Run For Our Lives!.
Derek looks a strange mixture of pained and amused before he raises a finger and points at the first one.
"Yes!" Stiles says, punching the air and then making to rip the second sign in half. Jackson snatches it from him with a dirty look and very carefully rolls it up. Stiles grins at him, indulgent.
"You're right. That one will come in handy at some point."
"Hey, c'mon up, I have blanket to spare," Stiles invites to the part of Derek he can see, just hair and eyebrows.
Derek huffs, but he leaps up neatly and soundlessly, landing near Stiles' feet. Stiles pats the bit of blanket he's not lying on and Derek edges onto it, pulled into a less than delicate sprawl when Stiles gets tired of him being weird and tugs him down.
"Couldn't sleep?" Derek breaks the silence to ask.
"Nah, I'm dead to the world. This is just my astral projection," Stiles says, then waggles his hands around Derek's head. "Ooooeeeoooooo!"
"You're so bizarre," Derek grunts, shifting until he's in a more comfortable position, on his side with his head propped on one hand. "So, that stuff with Isabelle's son was a good idea."
"Thanks aren't necessary. It's all in a day's work to save your fuzzy butts."
"I wasn't thanking you. There wouldn't have been an issue if you hadn't been here."
Stiles sits up, looping his arms around his knees. "It's our last night. Can you maybe save the Stiles ruins our lives just by existing speech until we get home?"
"That's not what I'm saying."
"Uh, yeah, it is." Stiles looks away, across the field. It's quiet, the wolves who had been staying up through the dark hours most nights all catching sleep before they scatter in the morning. Stiles can feel Derek's frustration like a palpable thing behind him but he doesn't turn, doesn't want Derek to see that he can be upset so easily.
"You're always so sure you know everything."
"In this case, I did," Stiles snaps.
"You said that we were overestimating your appeal, but my mistake was that I underestimated it," Derek says and Stiles blinks a little before he turns back. "Isabelle wasn't the only one to approach me about you."
"You're joking," Stiles says, unsure what to think.
"I wish I was," Derek says, grimacing. "I had quite a few uncomfortable conversations, too many of them involving the word threesome."
Stiles can't help it, he dissolves into helpless giggles at the way Derek shudders. When he gets himself under control, it's to find that Derek's also sat up, is rubbing a warm palm up and down his spine and looking at him with a gentle smile Stiles doesn't think he's ever seen before. "Can I?" Derek asks, although Stiles isn't sure what he's seeking permission for.
It doesn't really matter. When it comes to Derek, the answer has always been yes.
The kiss is sweet, almost chaste when it happens. It's nothing like the desperate get it done of their previous encounter but Stiles is left similarly breathless by it, craving more. Derek lays back, tugs Stiles with him, comfortable and entitled.
"You're not going to pee on me, are you?"
Derek chokes a little, manages to croak out, "What?"
"Y'know, lift a leg? Make sure everyone knows I'm part of your territory?"
"I think they know that without me needing to relieve myself on you," Derek says, rubbing a hand over Stiles' short hair.
"How about the bite?"
"Have you changed your mind about wanting it?"
"It's not an issue."
"But it would make things easier," Stiles says. He doesn't want it, is the thing, but he doesn't want to give up the pack either and he knows it's risky keeping him close and human.
"Who says I want things easy? I didn't think that was an option with you."
"Har, har," Stiles snorts and feels Derek's arms around him tighten a little before relaxing again. "Dude, did you just give me a hug?"
"It was just an impulse, shut up," Derek says.
"That will change my whole world view, if you're a closet cuddler."
"I can pee on you if you'd prefer?"
"Shutting up," Stiles says. There's a noise from the edge of the van and then Scott appears, holding a blanket. "Have a bad dream, boo-boo?" Stiles asks. He's mostly kidding, but Scott just nods, rubbing one eye like a tired kid and crawls up onto the roof, sprawling mostly on Stiles when he reaches them. "Oof! I came up here to avoid werewolf-induced suffocation."
It's only maybe another minute before Boyd appears with Erica and Isaac close behind, all of them dragging the bedding that had been inside the van. It's a warm night and after Stiles stops people lying on him for the most part, it's strangely comfortable. Even Jackson comes to join them, trying to look hilariously casual about it like he just happened on them while taking an otherwise disinterested stroll.
"This is going to be my life right? Wolf-blocked at every turn," Stiles laments when he's surrounded by snoring and he's sure the only one left awake is Derek.
"You knew what you were signing on for."
"This is your fault," Stiles says.
"Really? I'm pretty sure everyone followed you up here," Derek says and Stiles tilts his head just enough that he can see Derek's profile in the moonlight.
"That's a scary thought."