“I don’t even know why I’m so surprised,” Stiles comments from his perch on the back of the couch in Derek’s half-renovated Hale House. The pack is there, having an emergency meeting after baby Liam had scented something sickly and bloody in the north side of the preserve while…doing something. Chasing rabbits or messing around with Mason, most likely, though their pack’s resident pup had been less willing to divulge those particular details.
Derek and Scott are arguing with their diplomat voices, all half smiles and fake-patient I see your point, but how about — the way they’d learned how to do after Scott’s Special Magic True Alpha genes came out and Stiles and Allison had bullied him into joining up with Derek’s pack after the whole accidentally bit a freshman fiasco.
Their pack had already been growing into a certifiable zoo of supernatural creatures, but now that Scott had grudgingly admitted that maybe he’d need Derek’s help to avoid turning into Derek-post-Peter (the first time), they were well on their way to becoming the new Alpha Pack, something that Stiles was always gleeful to announce during training days and that everyone else had gotten tired of hearing.
The only one who acknowledges that Stiles even spoke is Peter, though, which basically means that no one acknowledges that Stiles has spoken. He considers raising his voice, but vampires are apparently a serious issue that have Derek and Scott politely calling each other idiots way more than the normal supernatural-crisis-of-the-week amount.
“Do you think they sparkle?” Stiles asks instead, just to be aggravating. So he’s feeling a little ignored, sue him. At least Kira laughs, even if Lydia rolls her eyes and Derek shoots him the most severely unimpressed look he’s gotten all week. Malia just blinks big doe eyes up at him from her spot on the floor between Lydia’s legs and he’s forced to remember that they weren’t nearly as far along in the pop culture catch-up as he’d like to be.
Why did everyone in this damn pack have to be so mainstream media incompetent?
“I think,” Derek bites out, addressing Stiles directly for the first time since the meeting started and he’d snarled when Stiles’ sneakers had tracked mud inside the gutted living room. “That four bodies have been found, drained of blood, and your father running interference isn’t going to last much longer if we don’t figure out how to stop the coven.” Stiles pulls his meanest expression out of his repertoire and directs it at Derek, focusing hard on keeping the thrum-thrum-thrum of his heartbeat steady.
“We could always invite them to join our pack,” Jackson mutters, not looking up from his phone in a fairly good imitation of noninterest in the subject at hand. “It’s not like we’ve ever discriminated by species before.”
Five pack members laugh at that and Stiles tries not to show how obviously insulted he is. Jackson meets his eye and smirks like he knows and Stiles flicks his tongue like a reptile because it’s below the belt, but everyone knows that if you’re somehow losing an argument with Jackson, all you have to do is bring up the Kanima disaster.
“Do you think that’s possible?” Isaac asks, curled up underneath Allison’s arm the way great danes try and sit on laps because they think they’re the size of a teacup poodle. “Convince them to feed from other sources and join up?”
Scott drags a hand through Isaac’s curls and keeps his palm steady at the base of his neck, turns his gaze to Derek who looks incredibly incensed that his pack members are seriously considering asking a coven of vampires to join them for pack family dinner.
“I dated a vampire once,” Peter says, apropos of nothing, leering a little. Stiles gags at him and Lydia looks damn near ready to draw a knife out from somewhere on her person and stab it between Uncle Creepy’s eyes. He ignores Lydia and leers even more intensely at Stiles, but backs off when Derek makes some sort of sub-vocal growl noise. “There is, of course, etiquette when it comes to going to speak to a coven.” Peter continues, smiling pleasantly. And isn’t everyone in this pack just so damn pleasant today?
Derek figures he should have expected that, while Peter might have known the traditional vampire etiquette rules, the old geezer wasn’t going to give up the knowledge that easy. In his defense, when Peter had started talking, Stiles had stuck the damn remote into his mouth, uncaring of things like germs and boundaries. Remotes weren’t supposed to be sexy, Derek had tried to tell himself desperately, but he was beginning to think that everything Stiles did was somehow sexy to Derek. It really was quite exhausting, and not a little embarrassing.
Jackson, still the proud beta with the best nose, had shot Derek a severely displeased look when Derek started leaking feelings all over the room like he’d done when he was a teenager. The rest of the pack hadn’t noticed, but it didn’t mean that Derek’s fluffy gushy feelings weren’t affecting their behaviors anyway—once he’d moved on from thinking about Stiles’ mouth, he’d started thinking aggressively about his eyes and his loyalty and the way he sometimes grabbed Derek’s hand when the two of them were paired up during recon missions and something went south.
And once the feelings were leaking all over the room, the rest of the pack had started snuffling closer to their own loved ones, nuzzling and scenting like they were a room of damn cats and Derek only had himself to blame.
Of course, his preoccupation with trying to reign himself in led to him being unable to pay close enough attention to Peter so he could decide how much of what his uncle said should be taken with a grain of salt.
In the beginning, when Scott and Derek had lumped themselves together and decided to try the whole fake it ‘til you make it blended pack shtick, recon missions always ended up sticking a human with either alpha, to keep power imbalances steady. Lydia, who wasn’t actually a human, and Allison, who was likely the deadliest of the lot of them, had protested wildly and if he and Scott had rescinded that unspoken rule for the pair of them, it wasn’t like they’d ever be able to force Stiles into being babysat.
He didn’t usually need it, anyway, anymore. Derek suspected he’d been training with Allison’s father and Jackson on the sly—two people who wouldn’t go easy on him simply because of his human status, and it was common knowledge that Deaton was quickly running out of things to teach their resident Spark, since he was catching onto everything faster than anyone could have anticipated. Derek had always been impressed with Stiles, but this kind of indomitable determination to carry his own weight in the group had paved the way for something deeper than bald, grudging, admiration. He’d come a long way from the floppy sixteen year old he’d been when Scott had been turned.
But someone should have really thought twice before grouping up Isaac, Liam, and Stiles for a recon mission to go and spy on a coven of vampires.
“Are we certain they didn’t just off themselves?” Jackson asks, flipping through a car magazine, like he thinks the rest of them can’t notice the tension at his shoulders. Jackson was a dick, but he’d settled easily into pack life after they’d offed the kanima part of him. Lydia gives him a look, and even Peter looks vaguely concerned in a way that isn’t creepy, and Scott had had to be stopped from going after his beta and his boyfriend and his Stiles.
Malia slinks her way over to Derek as Lydia takes control of the rescue mission planning and presses her face against his knee, curling a hand around his other calf. “He’ll be okay,” she says, intuitive and understanding in a way she’d worked hard to learn after they’d rescued her from being trapped as a coyote for all of those years. Derek can tell she’s leeching away his anxiety, and he feels extremely bad for being such a complete disaster of an alpha, but Jackson had broken a mug and Allison had snapped an arrow and, it wasn’t like he was the only one freaking out, okay?
“We should tell Mason,” Kira says plaintively. “You know how he and Liam are—he’d want to know.”
“He’ll want to help,” Derek says, before anyone else can respond. “And he’ll do no one any good if he gets hurt.”
Stiles had been pushing to formally ask Mason to join their pack for months now, biting out a fairly bitter it’s near impossible for a human to know that had made Derek feel like crap. No one had asked Stiles to formally join, and Derek figures it’s mostly assumed he knows his place. But, well, what if he doesn’t?
“The coven likely took them to send a message,” Peter says, looking entirely too relaxed. “A mate from each alpha and the pack pup.”
“So we ditch the pack dinner and go straight to the stakes and fire,” Allison snaps, and everyone is basically ignoring how hot Derek’s face is getting—it’s not like he’d been under any illusions that he and Stiles would manage to keep whatever it was they’d been doing a secret. Not in a normal pack, and definitely not in his unhealthily codependent harem of nosy teenaged idiots. But, well.
Just because they’d known doesn’t mean they’d ever said anything. Derek’s not obtuse enough to believe they wouldn’t have brought it up the moment they figured it out if they’d had some sort of problem with he and Stiles messing around, since they’d called a formal meeting the second they caught wind that Liam had started sniffing after Hayden again.
Lydia rallies the troops, Jackson gets Danny to bring over blue prints of the conveniently abandoned bowling alley off of Main Street, Allison carves stakes, her eyes spitting fire. Derek tries not to think about the fact that Stiles is human and infuriating, being held up by a coven of vampires.
Stiles kicks at Isaac, pinches at the skin on Liam’s palm so that his claws extend and Stiles can use them to rip through his zip-tie bond. His head is throbbing and his vision is shaky at best, but it’s unlikely the vampires would have thought it necessary to drug him—he was just a human, after all, and it wasn’t like pack members left one another behind. He kicks at Isaac again, wonders how much wolfsbane the curly-haired brat had to have been given to keep him knocked out this solidly for this amount of time. They’d recently impressed a neighboring pack with their abnormally high wolfsbane tolerance, gleaned from years of being poisoned with it by everyone and his wife.
Mostly the wives, Stiles thinks to himself wryly. He barks out a laugh and instantly feels bad about it, since Victoria Argent was dead and it’d taken Allison a long time to accept that her mother genuinely hated werewolves that much. Stiles privately thinks taking a second werewolf boyfriend had helped her along the way, but he knows that’s insensitive and Allison could easily take him in a fight, so he tries to avoid saying it out loud.
Liam groans a little, pained and drowsy, and Stiles cups a hand at the back of his neck, wishing, not for the first time, that he could leech away pain like the wolves. Liam was a piece of work, had followed his beta-cousins’ lead in becoming a monumental tool when he’d first been turned, but he was also sixteen and more of a puppy than Scott. Even Peter tended to avoid making Liam cry.
“C’mon, Liam,” Stiles mutters under his breath, pinching at his palms again, trying to jump-start a bit of the shift so that his enhanced wolfiness can work the rest of the wolfsbane out of his system. The younger boy smacks his lips together and blinks bleary wolf-gold eyes up at Stiles, looking confused and frightened.
“We’ve just got to get Isaac up,” Stiles tells him quietly, “And then we’ll figure out what to do.”
Liam’s not much use until Stiles scents him enough that he can mostly ignore the overwhelming stench of blood and sickly-sweet death that permeates the air so thoroughly even Stiles can smell it. He waits patiently while Stiles works through the wolfsbane-drenched ropes, eyes watering at the pain but teeth implanted firmly in his lower lip so that he doesn’t cry, and then he scoots over to Isaac to scratch a few cuts into the taller boy’s arms so that he can bleed out some of the wolfsbane. Liam doesn’t hesitate to leech the pain out, looking guilty for causing Isaac any level of pain, even for his own good, and Stiles leaves them to it, clamoring to his feet, determined not to upchuck, and starts inspecting the cell they’re in.
When Isaac finally grunts and rolls over, snuffling against Liam for a second before letting out a long-winded groan of exhaustion, Stiles looks over at the pair of them.
“I think we should do Secret Santa this year,” Liam says shyly and Stiles marvels the idea that he might actually be the one in charge this time ‘round.
“That sounds like fun, Liam,” he says, with what he assumes is the appropriate amount of enthusiasm. “Will you come over here and see if you can bend this gate while I work on untying Isaac?”
Liam can, in fact, manipulate the bars enough that the three of them can squeeze through into the darkened hallway. There is no one around in any of the empty rooms that look to have once been offices of some sort, and the light is flickering at the end of the hall, because why wouldn’t it be, truly?
Stiles is almost beginning to psych himself up for an easy and painless escape when they slip through the door and find themselves in the old bowling alley birthday party hall. There are three bodies sprawled about the room, one on the long table, rumpling the dusty, faded birthday table cloth, and two slumped on the floor.
There are also two vampires, their Mick Jagger tape gone ignored now that they’re faced with three concussed teenage adversaries.
“So, it was nice meeting you guys—” Stiles starts, because someone has to man up and say something, but he doesn’t even get a chance to finish his fantastic sarcastic comment before there’s a vampire lunging at him.
Liam intercepts and the two of them go rolling, each grappling for the upper-hand, Liam’s shift phasing in and out. Isaac goes on the offense immediately, stalking towards the second vampire, his face already shifting, and Stiles looks around for something he can use as a weapon.
He’s not sure if wooden stakes are as deadly as they seem to be in the movies, but he can’t imagine it’s pleasant in any capacity to get stabbed in the chest by a giant splinter. He gets his opportunity after the vampire growls and bites into Liam’s shoulder before throwing him across the room into the seriously outdated stereo set. Everyone is distracted by an enormous explosion noise, but Stiles is an old pro by now, knows to fight the instinct to check on his own, knows not to flinch when something goes ka-boom. The vampire goes down with his broom-stick-handle stake to the back, his skin starting to crumple even before his body has finished falling. Outside of the room, somewhere, Stiles can hear Lydia’s scream as she senses the death he’s just caused, worries for a brief moment that the pack will think it’s one of them who’s gone and gotten themselves killed.
Isaac distracts him from that line of thought by ripping off the second vampire’s arm and starting to wallop him with it, only relenting when Liam, still clutching his shoulder, tosses over the splintered-off chair leg he’d snapped off.
“You think they’re fighting the rest of them?” Isaac asks after they watch the second vampire crumple. “Should we just wait here?”
That decision, however, is made for them by Liam, who sniffs around and shouts a garbled Mason! before darting out of the door.
“He’s technically your step-son,” Stiles tells Isaac, and the taller boy bares his fangs threateningly. They run after him.
The abandoned bowling alley is a disaster, half the back wall in a crumbling pile of smoking debris thanks to Lydia’s tried and true Molotov Cocktail. Even Peter had been pretty impressed when they’d figured out that the coven had eight vampires in it, since they apparently usually stuck to pairs or groups of three. One unlucky vampire had been standing too close to the wall when they’d blown it up, and when Liam comes bounding out from a door, bleeding a little but looking otherwise alright, Derek assumes the two vampires who had been unaccounted for were taken care of.
Derek helps Malia tear the arms from another vampire who’s snarling at them, and they throw the body into the lingering fire. He’s distracted, however, when he hears Stiles’ pained shout, and his head whips around until he finds him, one-on-one with half a mop as some kind of makeshift weapon. Stiles is bleeding from the back of the head and the vampire is clearly aiming to make a meal out of him, and Derek’s just about to charge over there when something blazingly sharp pricks him in the side of the neck and all he can feel is burning.
Derek wakes up on the floor next to the couch in the Hale house, which means he’s been out long enough that the pack managed to get rid of the enemy and drag him home. He’s a honestly a little annoyed he’s on the floor, probably has Jackson and Peter to thank for that, but when he manages to sit up, feeling woozy and weak in a way he’s not quite used to, he can see Stiles curled up on the couch, bruised across his jaw and head wrapped tight with white bandages. Stiles is awake, and watching him with hooded eyes the color of whiskey, and he looks contemplative in the same way he does after they have morning sex, the pale light washing through the windows up in Derek’s sorry excuse for a bedroom.
“Head count?” Derek asks, somewhat gruffly, and Stiles doesn’t even blink, apparently expecting whatever this is going to be to start off with a status report.
“Fourteen,” Stiles says, and Derek blinks, bewildered. Headcounts are always iffy, because, depending on who you ask, certain people should be included or excluded from the tally, but the highest number is always thirteen. Stiles smirks lazily, like he also expected Derek’s confusion, and says “Jackson made a friend,” with not an inconsiderable amount of fondness in his expression that he rarely, if ever, displays for either of Derek’s two original betas.
Derek considers asking for some sort of elaboration, but he figures it’ll come out, in time. Stiles still looks thoughtful, and injured and soft and warm, and he’s tilting his head to the side, looking like he’s cataloguing Derek’s features.
“I’m in love with you,” Derek says—blurts, really. Stiles barely blinks, his expression scarcely shifting. They’ve never said it before, but apparently it’s old news. The only reaction Stiles has is the near-imperceptible quickening of his already rabbit-fast heartbeat.
“I’m going to marry you some day, Derek,” Stiles says, casual, like he’s not currently in the process of dumping Derek’s entire world on its axis. “Now come here and kiss the shit out of me.”