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The More My Prayer (the lesser is my grace)

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Stiles couldn't get his mouth to close. Cora was studiously avoiding looking at him, her hands folding clothes with a precise dedication that might have been amusing if he hadn’t been so horrified. “Wha...but...but you can’t! did you even talk Derek into this?”

Cora’s head snapped around, her eyes flashing a brilliant gold as she bared her fangs at him for a moment before she snapped. “What makes you think this was my idea, Stiles?”

“The fact that Derek came back on his own, while you waited until you heard that someone - some supposed family member who could have been anyone, you didn’t even know - was making a new pack here.” Stiles kept his voice calm; there was no accusation, just simple fact. Getting aggressive with a werewolf - particularly a Hale - was usually a bad idea; Stiles had learned that the hard way.

Pressing on, he added. “This is Derek’s home. He was finally settling in. He has an actual apartment, instead of just squatting somewhere, which took months. And he and Scott are finally getting along, which is great. He’s got a truce going on with the Argents, despite the history there, and that’s a huge step for everyone, believe me. If you’d been here six months ago, you’d never believe it, seriously, it’s crazy. Hell, he was even dating again! Not just, like, sleeping around, but actually dating.”

Stiles stuttered to a stop for a second, then continued quickly. “I mean, she turned out to be a crazy killer druid, which isn’t good and might cause a potential setback or two in his already severely damaged emotional capabilities, but that’s not the point! Actually, it’s another argument for why he should be here. He can’t just go running off and risk regressing. It’s not good for him!”

“Yeah, well, sometimes people make bad choices.” Cora jerked one shoulder roughly, chucking a shirt angrily into her open dufflebag before sighing and grabbing it back out to fold it carefully. “Look, Stiles, you mean well. I get that, I do. And I’m grateful you saved my life.” Her wide, dark eyes lifted to meet his and the sincerity in her gaze was glaringly obvious, even as her hands continued their work. “But whether you believe me or not, this wasn’t my choice. This isn’t just Derek’s home, you know. It was mine, too.”

“Then why didn’t you come back?” Stiles decided it was worth the risk of disembowelment and moved closer, tugging the latest article of clothing - a pair of jeans - out of Cora’s hands. “If this was home, why didn’t you ever come back? If you had, you’d have known Laura and Derek were alive. Someone even could’ve told you they were in New York. You could’ve been with them.”

Cora’s mouth went tight, lips thinning as she glared at Stiles. He didn’t back down, just looked back levely, and eventually she sighed, her shoulders rounding forward as she sunk dejectedly onto the bed. “It wasn’t that simple, you know, despite whatever you’ve got in your head about how it was. I was fleeing hunters, at first. After that...well, after that it was just...habit, I guess, to keep going; keep moving. I was a child, Stiles. I was eleven when I started running. And yes, I’m a wolf. We know how to find others like us, and Mom’s name made a difference when it was mentioned to other packs if I really needed help, but...but Laura and Derek were flying under the radar, and it’s not like they were in contact with any other packs. There were whispers of Hales surviving, but the only one anyone could find was Peter, and he was catatonic in a hospital in the place where my family had been burned alive. was I supposed...”

Her voice broke and she growled before biting out harshly. “How could anyone be expected to go home considering those circumstances, let alone a child? The second I heard that one of my family was alive and here, I came. I came running and I almost got myself killed doing it, several times over. But it was worth it if it means having my brother back, so if he wants to go...if he wants to leave behind the taste of ash that still coats our throats and the smell of death that never leaves our noses and the overwhelming weight of loss that lives here, then that’s fine. I’ll go with him, anywhere he likes.”

Stiles swallowed hard as he sank onto the mattress beside Cora, but he wouldn’t - he couldn't - let this go. For a lot of reasons. “He’d stay, if you asked him to. If you told him it’s what you want to do, and I think that it is. It is, isn’t it? You want to be regular for once, don’t you? High school, with homework and prom and and dating. And whatever else being a normal teenager entails. You’re seeing us - me, Scott, Isaac, Lydia, even Ethan and Aiden - all managing it. School, and the preternatural stuff, all mixed together with family and friends and going to the movies or out for burgers, and you want that. You can have it, here, if you’d just ask Derek to stay.”

“Stiles, you’re very sweet.” Cora reached out, pulling her jeans out of Stiles’ twisting, fretful grasp. She folded them up and set them to the side, then grabbed the fidgety teen’s hands in hers, face somber. “I might want to be a teenager, just this once,’s not really fair of me to ask Derek to stay here. He’s got no reason to. No fond pack...”

“That’s not true!” Stiles jerked back and jumped up, pacing agitatedly in the small space of the room. “There’s always been this stupid divide - this stupid line - between Derek and Scott, okay? And it’s dumb. It’s the dumbest thing in the world, because Scott has always needed Derek’s help and he just wouldn’t ask. He needed an alpha and Derek wanted to be his, but Scott’s stubborn and annoying and he holds grudges, even though Derek only killed Peter because he didn’t want blood on Scott’s hands, and there was no guarantee it would’ve cured Scott anyway, and...and it was just stupid, okay? But that’s gone now, because Scott’s an alpha, not an omega, and Derek’s a beta which is probably better because he wasn’t exactly good at being an alpha, so there’s no reason to just...leave. Not when everyone can be one pack finally.”

“ Derek’s alpha.” Cora looked incredulous and Stiles couldn't exactly blame her, except...except it made sense if you just stopped to think about it. “Stiles, are you insane?”

“Maybe.” Stiles flailed his hands a bit and added. “And I maybe took too much Adderall, but that’s not the point here, okay? The point is, Scott barely knows how to be a werewolf, let alone an alpha. The twins are alphas, but they aren’t leaders. They’ve never had to run a pack and, let’s face it, their alpha was crap and Deucalion was fucking psychotic by the time they joined him, so they’ve got no examples. And, honestly, I don’t think they want to lead anyone. Isaac needs a pack, though, and an alpha. So do you. So does Derek. And Derek might have been a crappy alpha, but he’s been a beta before - he was a beta his whole life - and he knows what a good alpha does. He had your mom for an example, and your sister. He knows werewolf stuff that no one else does. With him and Deaton to help, Scott might actually be able to pull off leading a pack. But he can’t do it alone.”

Cora made a noise somewhere between a sigh and an exasperated exhalation, her hands making some sort of aborted gesture that wound up with them lightly fisted near her shoulders before she dropped them back into her lap. She shook her head, looking almost annoyed, and her voice was disbelieving. “Stiles, Derek makes bad choices, okay? He’s not exactly a prime candidate for pack advisor! Besides, who says Scott would even want Derek in his pack? Or me, for that matter? Not to mention, we sort of come bundled with my uncle.”

“Okay, well...creepy uncle aside, I can handle Scott.” Stiles looked thoughtful for a moment, then said. “Actually, even with Peter thrown in, I can handle Scott. I just need you to convince Derek. Tell him you want to stay, and that you want to join Scott’s pack. I swear, I can handle the rest.”

Seeing Cora’s resolve waver, he added temptingly. “We can work on your brother’s bad decision making as a pack, you know. Maybe find him someone not crazy to date. It’ll be, like, a group effort. A collective rehabilitation of his shitty romantic life or whatever. Don’t you want him to be happy?”

Cora rolled her eyes, ignoring the commentary on her brother’s love life and happiness and instead saying pointedly. “You are aware that you’re human, aren’t you, Stiles? Because the way you include yourself in pack-statements, I think you forget."

“Hey, I’m human by choice.” Stiles snapped back. “I was offered the bite and I said no, but that doesn’t make me any less a part of Scott’s pack. I’ve been in this since the day Scott was bitten, every step of the way. I fought Peter when he was a psycho alpha, I fought Jackson when he was a kanima, I saved your brother’s ass - and the rest of the pack’s collective asses - multiple times. Hell, I even got tortured by Gerard Argent, all in the name of keeping my pack safe. So human or not, I’m not excluded from things. Besides, your family had humans, too. Didn’t you consider them pack?”

Cora blinked, then a small smile curved her lips and she inclined her head. “Touche. I concede the point. But do you really think Scott will allow this? Because if I convince Derek to stay and we’re not welcome...”

She trailed off, but Stiles could hear the fear in her voice. “It won’t be a problem, I promise. You let me worry about Scott and the rest of our ragtag bunch of misfits. You just corral your brother.”

“Fine.” Cora gave in at last, looking exasperated and worried and relieved, all at once. “Fine, fine, fine. I’ll talk to Derek. Now could you just...go away? I apparently have to unpack now, thanks to you.”

Stiles grinned, holding his hands up in a gesture of peace. “Sure, sure. I’m going, right now. I’ll talk to you after I’ve talked to Scott. Bye!”

Cora watched him rush from her room, then glanced around with a sigh, even as part of her brain tracked the sound of Stiles’ flight from the apartment building. She didn’t know how this was going to end, but she silently prayed she was better at making decisions than Derek was. Or, if she wasn’t, then maybe at least Stiles was. Surely someone had to be capable of making the right choice, right?

One could only hope.


Scott, contrary to what some might have said, was not completely awful at being an alpha. It had been a month since Stiles had convinced Cora to ask Derek to stay in Beacon Hills and, since then, Scott had proven himself capable against all odds. Stiles figured there was some level of instinct involved, given that he was what the others called ‘a true alpha’ and had seized his power from nothing, on instinct alone, mid-battle. Stiles, however, chose to give credit where he felt it was due, which meant it was split pretty evenly among several different sources. Scott’s instincts were obviously somewhat responsible, as was Scott himself and his determination to live a balanced life with minimal chaos, which required a well-controlled pack. Deaton and his influence and knowledge were also helping. Have an emissary for their pack was incredibly useful, from what Stiles could tell, and Deaton was less cryptic than he had been previously, at least when speaking to Scott...and Derek. Which led, of course, to the final reason Stiles thought Scott was doing so well.

Derek Hale.

Well, Stiles supposed Peter had probably earned some of that credit as well, as he’d been surprisingly helpful during the last month. He had taken over training Isaac and Scott to fight, with Cora joining them as well, and he was good at it. He had a patience to him that Derek lacked, and while he still sort of creeped everyone out he had at least stopped giving off major serial killer vibes. Mostly, anyway. Scott’s little pack was probably the most random bunch Stiles had ever seen, but it was working and a lot of that was because of Derek. He talked Scott through old traditions, and inter-pack-interactions, and pack dynamics, and whatever he didn’t know Peter or Deaton was typically able to fill in. It worked, somehow.

Stiles was mostly ignoring the movie playing and the group watching it - amassed in Stiles’ living room for the time being - and puzzling over the how of their pack working, just at the moment. Three alphas, two of whom were twins that melded into a sort of giant super-alpha and still somehow deferred to Scott. Four betas, two of whom had been alphas at one point. A hunter, because Allison and Scott weren’t dating but they were getting along and working together and somehow - Argent or not - she’d become pack as much as anyone else. A banshee who was still learning to control her powers - and god, watching the wolves cringe when she screamed was hilarious, though Stiles valued his life enough to never say that out loud - because Lydia was still dating Aiden and that meant she was pack, too. Not that having a banshee around was a bad thing, exactly, but it certainly wasn’t normal for most wolves.

Then, of course, were the humans of the bunch. Not that Allison wasn’t human, but...well. ‘Hunter’ had somehow become a category all its own.

Melissa, as Scott’s mother, had somehow become the officially-unofficial ‘Pack Mom’. In between patching up the injuries of those who didn’t super-heal and running interference at the hospital when it came to those who did, she had taken to helping provide food for pack meetings and get-togethers as well as just generally mothering all of them. No one was complaining. Stiles’ father was kept in the loop and had often conferred with Scott, Deaton, and Derek about goings-on in the last month. He was pack in the same way Melissa was - on the outskirts, but assisting and considered family by their alpha. Danny had somehow gotten integrated into things, by benefit of dating Ethan, who had asked Scott’s permission to fill the poor guy in. There had been a debate between Scott and Derek over it, but surprisingly enough Derek had been the one arguing in favor of telling Danny. He had pointed out that dating an alpha was dangerous if you didn’t know you were doing it, and that it was important for them to protect the ones their packmates cared for. Scott had eventually caved.

And then, of course, there was Stiles himself. Not an insignificant member of the group, considering he was the first one Scott had really considered pack and the first of their humans to be in-the-know. He spent a lot of time training with Allison these days, so he’d be less of a liability in a fight and also because Peter had pointed out that even the human members of the Hale pack had known how to defend themselves, which had made Scott’s decision easier to enforce when some people had grumbled over it. Allison had been happy to have someone to train with, though she despaired over Stiles’ inability with a bow. He wasn’t bad at hand-to-hand, though, and he was handy enough with a gun because as the son of the Sheriff he’d known how to shoot by the time he was twelve, so he was far from helpless.

Stiles, Allison, and Lydia were also compiling a new bestiary, using Peter’s knowledge combined with the Argents’ bestiary and whatever they were able to squeeze out of Deaton. Stiles had also taken to quizzing Deaton about magic, working on learning what else that little spark he had could be used for. Mountain ash circles were all well and good, as was knowing about wolfsbane and mistletoe poisoning werewolves, but there was so much else to know and he wanted to learn it all. There were different ways to use wolfsbane, for instance; different varieties that had a variety of effects and it was important that someone knew them all and could identify them. Someone other than Deaton, who was sometimes MIA when they needed him most. So Stiles’ life was full, between school and lacrosse and pack-related-things and he had honestly never been happier. Especially not with his living room full of incredibly awesome people who all seemed to like him well enough and who considered him smart and valuable and not a nuisance. It was a nice feeling, to belong somewhere.

Stiles was snapped out of his inattention by Cora’s hand squeezing his knee; they were sharing the loveseat, though he had forgotten she was that close as she wasn’t normally as tactile with him as some of the others. “Hmmm?” He glanced up over from where he’d had his eyes - unfocused on a blank section of the far wall - and realized no one else was watching the movie anymore either. “I missed something...what?”

Cora’s lips twitched up and she rolled her eyes. “You’re an idiot, Stiles. We were just talking about Derek, and I asked what your thoughts were, but you weren’t listening so I guess you can’t weigh in.”

“What about Derek?” Stiles asked, frowning. He didn’t like the idea of the pack talking behind someone’s back, not even their surly former-leader/enemy.

“Nothing bad.” Lydia chimed in from the circle of Aidan’s arms; she was leaning heavily against him, but given the way they were squeezed onto the sofa with Ethan and Danny as well, that wasn’t surprising. Stiles’ living room furniture wasn’t really built to hold an entire werewolf pack, even with some of them sprawled across the floor at his feet. “I just mentioned how he’s still being kind know, reclusive.”

“Like how he’s not here right now.” Isaac pointed out softly, which was a good point. The rest of the pack - minus Scott’s mom and Stiles’ dad - was assembled for this little get together. And they were only absent because they were both working.

There were murmurs of assent, then Peter spoke from the armchair Stiles’ dad sat in most of the time. Peter claimed the chair more often than not primarily because no one wanted to sit with Peter snuggled up close to them, except occasionally Derek; even Cora was uneasy around the guy. “Considering how things ended with him and Julia, it’s not exactly surprising, is it? Not to mention how he shoved Isaac away out of fear of being forced to hurt him, or how Isaac retaliated by heaping guilt and shame on him over Julia.”

“I didn’t...” Isaac looked like someone had kicked his puppy out into traffic, and Stiles sighed, reaching down and petting the other teen’s hair. Isaac whined softly and pressed closer to Stiles’ legs, looking miserable as he whispered. “I was hurt, and angry, and I...I felt abandoned by him. I didn’t mean it...”

“No one’s blaming you, least of all Derek.” Cora promised, leaning over Stiles’ lap and tangling her own fingers in Isaac’s curls beside Stiles’. If there was one thing Stiles had learned during the last month, it was how physical werewolves were within a pack. “But Uncle Peter has a point. Derek makes bad choices. It’s not like this is the first time he’s screwed up a relationship. I mean, Paige died, then there was Kate, now Julia...”

Cora trailed off and the rest of the pack fell silent, considering. It was Stiles who finally made the suggestion, though he didn’t think he was the only one who was thinking about it. It was just that he’d already made it once before, to Cora when he’d convinced her to stay, so it was easier for him. Or maybe it was just that he was used to blurting out every thought he had, even if it wound up being terrible or stupid or insane. So this particular thought tripped off his tongue with an ease that was a bit worrying, considering the topic.

“We should totally set him up with someone.”

Silence and stunned expressions followed his announcement, so Stiles pressed on, stopping his petting of the teen at his feet so he could gesture with the appropriate level of energy necessary to defend himself. “No, no, don’t look at me like that. It makes perfect sense! Between all of us, we can totally fill out an online dating profile for him, right? Like, we know him well enough. And someone here has to have a picture or two of him on their phone where his eyes aren’t doing the freaky glowing thing, either because he’s not looking right at the camera or because he’s got his eyes closed or whatever. Then we can weed through potential matches and, like, pick one for him and set it all up. Then we just tell him he’s going on a blind date and let it go from there. It’ll be totally perfect, and then maybe he’ll stop moping around and actually hang out with us more.”

Cora made a small sound of amusement, but it was Ethan who spoke up. “Wait, but how is a dating site a good idea, Stiles? We’re werewolves. There’s stuff that makes it hard to date just some random person from the internet, or even a bar or a cafe or whatever. The number of times I almost gave myself away to Danny before he knew...” He shook his head. “No, it has to be someone we can trust with the secret.”

“I agree.” Scott - who had his head on Isaac’s lap while Allison was on her side, her head on Scott’s stomach and her left leg hooked over Isaac’s shins - reached up and tugged on Stiles’ jeans to make sure he had his best friend’s attention. “After everything he’s been through, Derek needs someone who can accept every part of him. He’s a born wolf and it colors a lot of his behaviors, especially in a relationship. He’s not good at hiding it, and he really shouldn’t have to.”

Stiles hummed thoughtfully and watched as Danny nudged Lydia, whispering something to her that had her nodding thoughtfully. “No secrets!” He called out in a half sing-songed voice. “Share with the class, please, or there will be detentions handed out.”

Lydia rolled her eyes, but answered readily enough. “Danny was just pointing out that it should be someone we, the pack as a whole, vet. Someone we believe can like Derek despite his brooding and sourness and all of his issues, including the werewolf thing. Someone we won’t mind having be pack, because if they’re dating Derek then they’ll be pack eventually. So, it’s better if it’s someone we choose with all of that in mind. A dating site doesn’t really allow for that.”

Stiles nodded slowly, his mind already turning over possibilities. “Okay, so we have to pick someone we already know. Someone we think might be able to handle this whole thing. Okay, okay. Well...alright, so we should make a list, right? Then everyone can discreetly meet the candidates and maybe talk to them a bit and sort of feel them out, because between everybody’s freaky senses and natural intuition and all of our collective experiences, we should be able to feel out anyone murderous and-or creepy and-or who might freak out and run away screaming into the night. Then we should vote. Majority rules. If there’s a tie between two candidates, we cast a vote between just those two to try to break it. If it can’t be broken, then Scott as alpha gets final say.”

“I bet my mom knows at least one nurse at the hospital who’s single.” Scott chimed in from the floor, looking pleased at the idea. “And she’d know if they’d be likely to freak out over something weird, since there’s plenty of weird that goes through there. Especially recently.”

“Wait, what’s Derek’s type?” Allison asked, frowning. “I mean, Aunt Kate was blonde, but Julia was a brunette...what was Paige?”

There was a tense moment before Peter said softly. “She had dark hair. A bit curly. A very sweet face. Innocent, would be the best way to describe it. She was beautiful. But then, Derek’s always had exquisite taste. A thing for psychotic people, perhaps - Paige excluded - but they’re always beautiful.”

“But no preferences for hair or eye color?” Lydia asked and Stiles had to bite back a laugh because she’d pulled a small notepad and pen out of somewhere - her purse, most likely - and seemed to be taking notes. “Or even personality traits. Anything he seems to favor. We want to get this right, especially because if we screw up Derek’s unlikely to give us a second chance at picking someone.”

“Someone with a sense of humor.” Cora said, and when several people made amused sounds she growled. “No, I’m serious. Derek is funny. He doesn’t show it much, and his sense of humor is maybe a bit skewed and a little mean, but he’s really good at being, like...sarcastically funny. Someone who won’t cringe back from his form of teasing is important. Someone who can give it back would be even better.”

Peter was nodded, looking thoughtful as well. “Someone affectionate. Derek hides it well, even now, but he’s one of the most tactile people I’ve ever met. Someone who can help draw out that side of him would help. He needs to relearn the fact that touching people is an important part of forming bonds. He needs to remember that it doesn’t always result in pain.”

Scott chimed up from the floor. “Not a pushover. Derek’s too snarly and we don’t want someone he’s going to just run right over. She’s got to be able to stand up to him when he’s wrong.”

“Does it have to be a she?”

Everyone blinked at Danny in surprise, even Ethan. Shrugging Danny said. “What? It’s a legitimate question. I don’t really get a gay vibe from Derek, but he’s never shied away from me and Ethan or seemed bothered by our PDA or anything. Does anyone know if he’s ever had a thing for guys, too?”

Everyone turned to look at Peter, even Cora. Peter raised an eyebrow. “Well, I don’t know why you’re all looking at me. If anyone would have known that, it would’ve been Laura. I only ever saw Derek with Paige when he was a teenager, but who knows what he was doing in the six years after Kate. I will say, he has never seemed angry or disgusted by a man checking him out or hitting on him. I can’t say I’ve seen him take a man up on an offer, but then, he’s not exactly taking women up on their offers, either. So it’s hard to say.”

“So do we stick to women for the sake of safety, or do we include men and hope Derek doesn’t flip if a guy wins the vote?” Lydia’s pen was poised on the paper, and she had an eyebrow arched questioningly at the room at large. No one answered and she huffed in annoyance. “Well, don’t all chime in at once.”

“I say we include men.” Aiden shrugged when everyone’s eyes shifted from Lydia to him. “What? I don’t think it’ll be an issue, is all I’m saying. I think whether or not the person can handle the secret of werewolves and all that is way more important that what’s in the person’s pants.”

“I agree.” Lydia pressed a kiss to Aidan’s jaw, then went back to writing, saying. “So we need someone who’s smart, because Derek’s not stupid himself. And someone funny and preferably sarcastic, to match Derek. Someone who’s attractive because as gorgeous as Derek is he deserves a partner of equal hotness, obviously. Someone we can trust and get along with, since they’ll be pack. Someone who can stand up to Derek, even when he’s snarling and at his worst. Someone affectionate, who won’t be off-put by Derek’s surly, broody behavior. Am I missing anything else?”

Cora started to say something, stopped herself, then blurted out. “Someone who can take care of themselves in a dangerous situation.”

Allison reached up to touch Cora’s knee and shared an understanding look with the other teenage girl before nodding at Lydia. “She’s right. Derek’s really overprotective so whoever it is has to be able to handle themselves in a fight or he’ll do nothing but worry. He needs someone who can be useful when things are bad; someone who can hold their own and even watch his back. Not someone he has to coddle and protect, because that would just make him more likely to push the person away. He’d be too afraid of losing them.”

Lydia hummed again, pen still moving rapidly across the page. “Okay, well...I think we’ve got enough to go on for the initial candidate list. Everyone should try to think of at least one person, so that we have a good pool to sort through and choose from. We can talk about our options, say...” She paused, thinking. “What’s today, Saturday? So we’ll say, Tuesday at school we’ll share candidates. Then we can vote on Friday when we get together to hang out, since we know Derek always bails on us - as today proves, hence our little endeavor - and we can tell Derek our decision at Saturday’s pack meeting.”

When everyone had agreed, attention turned back to the still-playing movie (which all of them had seen before anyway). Stiles was busy turning people over in his mind - there was a deputy who might be a good fit for Derek, or else the nighttime dispatcher at the station; they were both used to weird stuff and weren’t likely to freak out, plus his dad could help explain werewolves to them. Or maybe the new part-time librarian. Stiles had seen her admiring Derek’s ass (and who could blame her, given the tight jeans Derek tended to wear?) when they’d been doing research a couple of weeks ago and she hadn’t seemed put off by his terseness. In fact, she’d laughed when he’d made a snide comment to Stiles about his research methodology which was, admittedly, a bit chaotic.

If he’d been less-distracted, Stiles might have noticed the way Peter was staring at him, but he didn’t. Cora, Lydia, and Allison did and exchanged looks of their own. Peter had something up his sleeve and they were going to find out what, sooner rather than later, even if they had to torture it out of him. The grin on the older wolf’s face - the full-on serial killer smile that showed off way too many teeth - was, in their collective experience, a reason to be wary.


Stiles was pacing back and forth across the loft, ignoring the eye rolling and sighs the rest of the pack was giving him. He had somehow been elected to tell Derek about their plan, though he wouldn’t be the one announcing who the chosen candidate was. Lydia and Danny had demanded the honors and Stiles was more than happy to let them do it. Even telling Derek the broader aspects of what had been decided was nerve-wracking and he was more than willing to leave the final blow to the others. He didn’t even know who’d won the vote, though he had wound up casting his vote for the deputy he’d suggested on Tuesday. He didn’t know who everyone else had voted for, because the pack was clinging to the protection of the “anonymous” votes. Harder to cast blame if it all went up in smoke, or so Stiles figured.

He froze in place when Derek came down the stairs, following Peter who was apparently muttering something amusing under his breath - voice too low for Stiles to hear - if the way Derek and the other wolves were grinning and rolling their eyes was any indication. Derek quirked an eyebrow at the way Stiles was fidgeting as he grabbed a bottle of water off the table and quickly chugged half of it. Stiles could feel a flush creeping over his face and down his neck and silently cursed his fair skin, knowing there was nothing he could do about it. Derek’s other eyebrow winged up to join the first and he twisted the lid back on the water while studying Stiles’ - most likely anxious - face with open curiosity.

“Cora said you have an announcement to make.” Derek rumbled, glancing around in surprise as the rest of the pack murmured their agreement almost in-unison. “So...wait, this is a pack announcement? Why...why wasn’t I included in whatever this is?”

Stiles could practically feel the waves of hurt rolling off of Derek and blurted out. “It was a surprise!”

“A...surprise.” Derek’s brow furrowed and he frowned at Stiles. “For me?” Stiles nodded and Derek’s face smoothed out though there was still a wariness around his eyes. “Oh. What kind of surprise?”

“One we’re hoping you’ll like.” Scott smiled. Seeing Derek’s hesitancy, Scott let his eyes bleed red for a moment as he said. “Sit down, Derek, because like it or not we’re getting through this today. I don’t want to force the point, but I will if I have to.”

“Come on, brother.” Cora nudged Derek down onto the loveseat - black leather, like the couch and twin recliners all crowded around the coffee table and flat screen TV that made the space perfect for hanging out after pack meetings - and then stepped back, smiling gently. “Make this easy on yourself and just go with it, okay? We’re doing this because we love you.”

Peter snorted, sitting on the empty recliner as Cora curled up on the larger couch, tucking herself snugly against Scott’s body while Allison resettled herself around Cora’s body, sandwiched between the other girl and Isaac. Ethan and Danny were sharing the other recliner while Lydia and Aidan were curled up in a small nest of blankets and throw pillows at their feet. Stiles had resumed pacing, though he tossed Peter a dirty look when his snort continued into full-blown laughter.

“If he wasn’t worried before that little declaration, he is now.” Peter rolled his eyes, then waved at Stiles. “Go on, then. Give my nephew the good news. Tell him how much we all care.”

“Right. Okay. So.” Stiles cleared his throat, muscles tensing and relaxing over and over again in a show of restless energy and nerves even as he started speaking. “We - like, the whole pack - realized that you’re sort of...well, holding yourself apart from us. Like, you don’t come to pack hang outs. You barely attend training now that Peter’s running it. You don’t stick around when official pack meetings are over, even if we have them here and this is where you live so I don’t really know where you run off to, but you do. Every time. And it’s not healthy, dude. Like, you can’t keep hiding yourself away from everyone. You need to connect.”

Derek’s eyebrows were drawn together in a frown, but he didn’t seem angry. If anything, he looked confused. “Is this an intervention?”

For a few seconds no one moved, then Stiles nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes, it is. Derek, we are having an intervention because you make bad choices, okay?”

Something dark passed behind Derek’s eyes and Stiles hurried on. “Not that we’re blaming you! Okay? No one is blaming anyone for anything right now. No guilt! This is a...a guilt-free, shame-free, judgment-free zone right now, so don’t...don’t worry about it. Just, you do. Make bad choices, that is. And we want to help you to make better choices, because we care. So.

“So we decided - like, together, as a pack, with Scott’s magical alpha blessing...”

“For the last time, Stiles, that’s not a thing!”

Stiles ignored Scott’s exasperated interruption, raising his voice a little to discourage further such interruptions as he continued. “ - to help you make your next major decision in regards to romance. Because you’re, like, extra terrible at it. Which considering the rest of our collective love lives is really saying something. That’s not the point, though. The point...uh...the point is, that...that we want you to be happy. And, like, bond with other people. So, the pack, obviously, but also other people.

“More specifically, a person who could, potentially, become pack eventually.” Stiles smiled and it was nervous and edgy and too-wide but he couldn't seem to make his face cooperate anymore. Derek was staring at him with an intense, haunted look in his eyes and Stiles was beginning to hate this plan, even though it was his. “So, basically, we want you to go out on a date. With someone.”

“The last two people I dated tried - and even succeeded in - killing large percentages of the people I know and care about.” Derek bit out furiously, and his eyes flashed a deep blue. “I don’t want to date anyone else. It’s not worth the risk.”

Cora huffed and untangled herself from the others on the sofa to stand beside Stiles, showing her support. “He just said you make bad choices, Derek. That’s the point of this. We know you’re crap at picking a partner, so we did it for you.”

“ said...what?” Derek was gaping at his sister now, eyes flicking around the room in growing horror as the pack members nodded, one after another. “What...I...what?”

“It’s not that big of a deal.” Isaac’s attempt at soothing didn’t work very well, but Stiles had to admire the fact that he’d tried. “We know you pretty well, collectively. So we talked about it and suggested people, then we voted. So now you just have to go on a date.”

“And not screw it up.” Peter added, grinning in that creep-tastic way he had. Derek growled at him and Peter tsked softly, shaking his head, his smile never wavering. “Now, now, nephew. Don’t be like that. We worked very hard to choose the perfect person for you. Be grateful.”

Scott gave Derek what Stiles thought was supposed to be a stern look but which fell far short of the mark. It was okay, though, because Allison, Lydia, and the twins were all giving properly-stern looks to Derek and that would more than likely suffice in place of Scott’s stupid puppy-dog face. “Look, we’re doing this because it’s what’s best, for both you and the pack as a whole. We want you to be able to be a real member of the pack, and part of that is you having a life outside of us as well as feeling relaxed and comfortable enough to join in when we’re doing pack get togethers. So you need to at least try dating.”

The rest of the pack had stood during Scott’s little spiel and Stiles nodded rapidly when Derek’s eyes came back to his, probably because he was the closest to where Derek was sitting. The pack was crowded behind Stiles and he basked for a moment in the solidarity before realizing it was more-likely a show of force to ensure Derek complied with their wishes. Which didn’t exactly engender the same warm-and-fuzzy feelings as his initial thought, but Stiles shrugged it off because there were bigger concerns. Like wrapping this disaster of a meeting up so Derek could go on his date. They’d agreed that an immediate date was the smartest choice; they didn’t want to risk Derek trying to get out of it.

“Right, okay. So. You...have a date tonight. Isn’t that exciting?” Stiles tried for a charming smile, but had a feeling it wound up looking a bit manic instead because Derek had a weird expression on his face. Pushing on - because that was what he did, dammit - Stiles babbled and gestured a little wildly at the same time. “As has been stated, we gathered a list of suitable candidates and then voted on them to find you the best possible option. Someone you can be your usual grumpy sourwolf self with, right down to the wolfy bits, because we only chose people we’re sure can handle the secret. Or,, at least 95% sure. Maybe 87%. Definitely no one we’re less than 79.5% sure can handle knowing. So. We voted and,’s...right. Right, I don’t...I mean, I didn’t count the votes, so I’m not exactly sure who...”

Stiles cleared his throat awkwardly, then snapped his fingers a few times, rather quickly. “Guys? Lydia? Danny? You two want to, uh...say it? it? I don’ we have an envelope or something? It’s not like this is an award show or anything, so I don’t...what the fuck?!”

Stiles couldn't help half-shouting the curse as he felt two pairs of hands - strong ones he had a feeling belonged to Danny and ones that had the telltale press of perfectly manicured nails digging into his skin through the layers of his shirts which were obviously Lydia’s - shoving him forward. Graceless and spastic at the best of times, Stiles’ arms pinwheeled a bit uselessly as he staggered forward and essentially face-planted. Not onto the floor, no; that would have been a mercy, all things - including humiliation - considered. No, Stiles somehow found himself with his face pressed into Derek’s chest - ow, dammit, his nose - and his body in an ungainly sprawl across the loveseat and Derek’s lap, both on top of the werewolf and also in serious danger of falling onto the floor. It was mortifying.

He heard the rest of the pack running - pounding footsteps and giggles and the apartment’s door opening as they all escaped - and then Peter’s voice. Because Stiles’ life sucked that badly. “Enjoy your surprise, Derek. Oh, and be gentle with him. He’s human, after all, and our pack is rather fond of him.”

The door closed and Stiles managed to brace his hands - one against the couch beside Derek’s hip and the other against Derek’s unfairly toned abs. He lifted his head and chest off of Derek and glanced up at the older man, eyes wide and more than a little uncertain about what had just happened. For a long, tension-filled moment, no one moved or spoke or even breathed.

Then, Stiles jerked backwards as though he’d been burned, falling off the sofa and bruising his shoulder against the coffee table in the process. He groaned in pain, silently cursing his supposed - no, his former - friends for doing this to him. Was this supposed to be funny or something? Were they hinting at the fact that maybe Derek wasn’t the only one who needed to try putting themselves out there and dating? Because that was just grossly unfair. Stiles did put himself out there. He just got shot down. A lot. Like...all the time. And now he was just depressing himself, which wasn’t helping.

Stiles blinked - rapidly and repeatedly - when Derek leaned forward, staring down at him from where he was still sitting on the loveseat, one eyebrow raised questioningly. “Don’t look at me like that.” Stiles griped, not bothering to hide the sour look he knew was on his face. “This is so not my doing. I voted for the deputy guy who works with my dad. He seems nice.”

“You...voted for...why would you...” Derek took a slow breath, then shook his head before letting it out. “No, I changed my mind. I don’t want to know what your thought process was when you decided any part of this plan was a good idea to go along with. Go home, Stiles.”

“Hey!” Stiles’ sour expression turned into a full-blown pout and he flicked Derek’s ankle, even though he knew it would barely even register to the werewolf. “My plan was fan-fucking-tastic, thank you very much. It’s not my fault that the pack decided I should be the one dating you. Hell, I didn’t even know I was on the candidate list! Which is way too sneaky for Scott, so it had to have been, like...Lydia’s idea. Or Cora’s. Your sister is evil.”

Suddenly, Stiles sat bolt upright, gasping, eyes wide and horrified. “Oh my god, dude.”

“Don’t call me dude.”

“Shut up and listen to me.” Stiles snapped, hands waving chaotically around. “Dude, evil. Right? Like, it’s...oh, and that snide bastard with that parting commentary! It was totally Peter’s idea. That fucking asshole.”


Stiles was furious, his whole face flushed and his hands curled into fists. Derek couldn't really blame the kid because he was pretty pissed off himself and it had to be about a thousand times worse for the teen. Derek at least had the security of knowing his packmates were just trying to help him. If Stiles was right and it had been Peter’s idea to nominate Stiles for this...well. That meant it was mostly a joke at Stiles’ expense, even if the rest of the pack hadn’t realized it at the time. Peter was far too good at acting innocent; at making people think things were their own ideas as he steered them in the direction he wanted them to go. Peter was devious and underhanded and he seemed to take a strange amount of pleasure in tormenting Stiles, particularly.

Derek wasn’t sure why, and he hadn’t bothered to ask. Peter probably wouldn’t tell him anyway.

Still, seeing Stiles’ lip curl up in a snarl - a surprisingly menacing one, given the lack of fangs - sent a spark of amusement through Derek. He had never realized just how fierce a human could be, let alone one as young as Stiles still was. “Want me to rip his throat out again?”

“Yes, please.” Stiles spat, then seemed to consider something before shaking his head. “On second thought, no, I don’t. I want to kill the smug douchebag myself. This is all because I said no when he offered me the bite, I’ll bet you anything. Arrogant fucking bastard, I swear. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kick his nuts so far up into his throat he’s going to choke. Fuck. Fuck, this sucks.”

Derek had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing, and it took an extra minute before he was sure he could speak without laughing, though he made a mental note to ask when the fuck Peter had offered to bite Stiles, because that was not okay. “Bloodthirsty little brat, aren’t you?” Stiles shot him a dirty look, and Derek huffed and rolled his eyes. “Honestly, are you that offended at the idea of dating me that you have to resort to homicide? I didn’t think I was that bad.”

Stiles opened his mouth - no doubt intending to say something biting and sarcastic - but he met Derek’s eyes and hesitated. Derek quickly smoothed out his face, shutting away whatever glimpse of emotion Stiles had caught and hoping Stiles would let it go. Because he did not want to sit here and talk about feelings. Especially his feelings, for Stiles or otherwise. Ever. Derek was aware that there was probably something fundamentally wrong with him, if the only people who were attracted to him either wanted a quick fuck or to slaughter innocents for kicks, but that was no reason to sit around and cry about it to someone. Especially not to a teenager. Derek was a lot of things, but he sincerely hoped ‘pathetic’ wasn’t one of them.

“You’re not seriously worried about that, are you?” Stiles waved a hand in Derek’s general direction, adding. “I mean, have you seen yourself, man? That’ ought to be illegal. You probably are in some places.” And Derek had to clamp down hard on a wave of hurt because it sort of sucked that most people thought his only redeeming quality was an accident of genetics that had resulted in his - admittedly attractive - face and form. Stiles carried on, oblivious. “That’s so not why I’m pissed. I’m pissed because I was trying to genuinely help you and somehow Peter managed to turn it into a big fucking joke. Let’s just mock Stiles and how no one wants him and how he couldn't possibly get a date on his own, hahaha.

“I can’t believe Scott went along with this.” Derek watched silently as Stiles flopped backwards onto the carpet again, wedged between the coffee table and the love seat, his hair just barely brushing Derek’s socked feet. “I mean, some of the others, sure, because they don’t really know how it feels to want someone so badly you can fucking taste it and then just...get shot down. Over and over and fucking over again. But Scott? He does know and I can’t believe he’d let them make fun of me this way. Like we don’t all know you’re so far out of my league that it’s laughable and you’d probably rather join a monastery and be a monk than touch me.”

Stiles managed a wry grin and added. “Not that I think that’s fair to me, mind you. I just know people don’t seem to see how fucking awesome I am. Including you. You’re a blind, blind asshole, Derek. But that’s not the point. The point is, this is a cruel joke and I’m getting new friends cause this batch is fucking awful. I should’ve just let them all die horribly instead of saving them at various points in time.”

Derek frowned, then said softly. “If you start killing them off, it’s going to convince me I’m cursed and that I somehow turn everyone who dates me into a serial killer.”

“Ha-fucking-ha.” Stiles rolled his eyes, sitting up again and resting his folded arms on the edge of the loveseat beside Derek. He propped his chin on his arms and blinked up at Derek, golden eyes halfway between amused and hurt as he added. “Sure, poke the open wound, why not. I know this isn’t a date, Derek. I get it. You and me? It’s a terrible idea, obviously. I don’t know how Peter convinced them of it. But you don’t have to be a dick to me, just because you’re pissed at everyone else. I’m kind of in this boat with you, you know.”

“I was trying to make you laugh.” Derek muttered, looking away from Stiles’ face.

His hands curled into fists and he clenched his teeth against the urge to drop fang and howl because of how fucking dismissive Stiles was. Like there was no way he could ever even consider a date with Derek. Like the very idea was so unbelievably laughable that he couldn't take Derek seriously when he tried It wasn’ didn’t matter. Because Stiles was just a stupid kid anyway and it shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference, one way or the other, if he thought Derek was worth dating.

Except that it did.

Because Stiles was pack, and Stiles was fierce and funny and clever. Because Stiles had the biggest eyes Derek had ever seen and they showed everything he was thinking if you just bothered to look and Derek didn’t even have to listen to Stiles’ heartbeat most of the time to know what the teenager was feeling because he could just see it, all the time. Because Stiles was known to stay up for three days straight, running on Adderall and nerves and Redbull he couldn't even stand the taste of, trying to research how to solve whatever monster-of-the-week problem they were having. Because he’d once held Derek up in a pool for two hours and gotten pissed when Derek said he didn’t trust him - which had been a lie - and he’d molotov’d Peter to save all their asses and handled it when the man came back from the dead. Because Stiles made his father eat vegetables, and hid his junk food better than he hid his porn (though Derek knew where to find both, which somehow seemed less-creepy than one would expect, given the amount of time he’d spent alone in Stiles’ room) just to make sure the Sheriff didn’t eat any of it, and left flowers on his mother’s grave regularly because he knew his dad couldn't bear to go and do it himself, and Derek had caught him leaving flowers on his mother’s grave once and had wanted to cry, dammit because no one ever left flowers for Talia anymore and it was the sweetest damned thing. Because Stiles had a heart too big to be believed and he didn’t wear it on his sleeve so much as hold it in outstretched hands to pretty much everyone, utterly open and vulnerable and determined to keep trying and giving and loving no matter how many people hurt him or rejected him. Derek had been raised to admire strength in any form, and Stiles was one of the strongest people he’d ever met.

And the idea of Stiles laughing at him if he put himself out there - if he let Stiles know that, hey, maybe the rest of the world couldn't see how completely amazing Stiles was, but he did - was enough to make Derek’s eyes glow blue and have his claws and fangs extending. He wanted to run. To turn tail and take off, out into the woods, where he could throw back his head and just howl until the pain burned away and anger took its place. Anger he could handle. Pain, on the other hand...

He was just so tired of hurting. But running would give away too much, because Stiles didn’t focus well but he was too damned perceptive for Derek’s peace of mind and he couldn't - wouldn’t - risk it. So instead he locked his eyes on the far wall and growled. “If you’re that pissed off about being shoved at me, go chase them down and tell them. Otherwise, shut up about it."


Stiles opened his mouth to explain that he’d get the pack back later - because revenge took planning and he was going to make them suffer, the bastards - when he noticed the bright blue glow that had overtaken Derek’s normally multi-hued color. Part grey, part green, part blue...Derek’s eyes were unfairly gorgeous, just like the rest of him, and Stiles was never going to admit to noticing it but he had. Of course he had. Just like he’d noticed that even when his eyes were doing their freaky supernatural blue glow - hell, even back when they’d glowed alpha red and even now when he knew what that blue color meant - they were still beautiful. Talia had been right when she’d told Derek that. His eyes were almost hypnotic in their color, which was somehow a much more vibrant shade than Peter’s - or even Jackson’s - had been. The question, if Stiles could focus long enough to ask himself it, was why was Derek doing the freaky-glowing-eyes thing.

And, he noted a moment later, the claws-and-fangs thing. His face hadn’t shifted - yet, anyway - but it was clear he was restraining himself based on the way he was breathing. Stiles’ mind raced, faster than any sane or normal person could possibly handle but Stiles was mostly used to it. He’d sorted through possibilities in a matter of seconds, discarding each one as he determined them to be unlikely until there was only a small pool of options left to choose from. The most-likely (if one didn’t factor in that the people involved were Derek Hale and himself) was so implausible that Stiles almost discarded it on principle. Practicality and self-preservation had never been Stiles’ strong suits, though, and he somehow got stuck on the idea.

Deciding to test it, Stiles said as casually as he could manage. “I don’t feel like tracking down a bunch of idiots right now, but believe me, they’ll hear it on Monday. I can’t believe they were stupid enough to let Peter convince them that we should be dating. It’s ridiculous! I can’t think of a less-likely couple, excluding, and Peter. Because that’s just nasty.”

Stiles gave an exaggerated shudder, but he never took his eyes off Derek. The werewolf’s hands curled into fists and Stiles could see blood leaking out between his fingers as Derek’s claws punctured the skin of his own palms. He felt his own heart speed up - thundering loudly in his own ears, and holy shit it had to be deafening to Derek - as Derek’s lip briefly curled up into a snarl, baring his fangs for an instant before he tried to smooth his features back down. Stiles watched as Derek took three deep, slow breathes and the fangs and claws receded, the blue glow fading from his eyes. He watched Derek deliberately uncurl his fingers and flex them twice before wiping his palms against the black denim clinging to his thighs in a way that really shouldn’t be allowed in public. Stiles swallowed hard, mouth unaccountably dry all of a sudden, as he tried to understand what this meant.

Derek’s voice was low and even, betraying nothing, as he said. “Peter’s a good storyteller, Stiles. I’m sure he was able to convince everyone of our...compatibility, with very little trouble.” He paused for a moment, then muttered almost too low for Stiles to hear. “You should go home.”

“I...” Stiles could talk about absolutely nothing - about anything and everything - for hours on end, without pause. It was a rare talent and one that always seemed to flee right when he needed it the most. So, for a moment, he just stared at Derek, mouth moving and no sound coming out, trying to figure out how to say what he wasn’t even sure he wanted to say in the first place.

Derek turned to look at him and something must have been showing on Stiles’ face that gave away his sudden epiphany. Or maybe Derek had finally picked up on the way Stiles’ heart was pounding away, jackrabbit quick, against his ribs. Or, Stiles thought a bit frantically, maybe his scent had changed with all of the emotions racing through him, chasing the realization through his mind. Whatever it was that gave him away, Derek’s eyes went wary and hunted. His mouth thinned and his jaw tensed up and he swallowed so loudly that even Stiles could hear his throat click, despite his lack of preternaturally heightened senses.

Seconds. That what Stiles had to work with here, as much as that sucked. It put the pressure on, all the way up to a thousand, because if he screwed this up - if he couldn't fix this fast enough - he had a feeling it was over and done with before it began. Because right now, in this moment, Derek wanted him and Stiles couldn't let that go; couldn't let it just pass him by. He’d never thought about Derek that way before, but not because there was anything objectionable about the former-alpha. It was just that, after so many years pining for Lydia, Stiles had sworn to himself that he would never again let himself like someone who was desperately out of his league. Getting shut down hurt like a bitch and Stiles wasn’t a masochist. If Derek wanted him, though...well, Stiles was more than willing to get onboard with that. So he didn’t have time to think about this; to decide on the best plan of attack for going forward; to try to use words. Because if Derek changed his mind before Stiles even got a chance to try to make this work, it would kill him.

Before he could over-analyze, Stiles launched himself into Derek’s lap and crushed their mouths together, silently praying he wasn’t about to get his face clawed off, thinking desperately. ‘Please don’t push me away...’


Derek was a lot of things - he was surly, and moody, and - on occasion - volatile to the point of physical violence. He was also intelligent - though that didn’t always show - and affectionate and funny. Or he had been, once up a time, before monsters wearing human skin came and ripped away everything he’d ever been or ever hoped to become, all at once. Left with only his sister - who was barely older than him and grieving just as much all while struggling with the weight of alpha powers she wasn’t ready for - Derek had lost a lot of himself in the days, weeks, months, years that followed the fire. His laughter had vanished, as had his smile, leaving sneers and smirks and biting sarcasm in their place. His casual affection - always eager for a puppy pile, as his mother had teasingly called the pack’s group-cuddles, and always the first to reach out and touch just because he could - melted down and resolidified as walls that made him flinch away when Laura tried to wrap herself around him; walls that had made him push his new pack too hard with too little of the physical reassurance and comfort an alpha had to give their pack or risk losing them. Even having accepted Scott as his alpha - even with Cora and Peter back in his life - he still couldn’t rip those walls back down; still held himself apart.

As for the hopelessly romantic side his mother and sister had teased him about when he was a teenager - back before Paige; long before Kate - well. Whatever had survived the death of the girl he’d honestly believed was going to be his lifemate (in the way teenagers always believed such things, passionately and immediately) had met a swift and bloody end in the flames and smoke and ash that consumed Derek’s past. Derek hadn’t been a romantic - hopeless or otherwise - in far too long. He could still remember the words he’d shouted at Scott so many months ago - their taste still bitter on his tongue - about how he was a child who couldn't possibly know what love was, which was absurd, because the wolf was meant to guide them in choosing their lifemate and surely Scott would have angsted long and loud if his wolf wasn’t just as fond of Allison as he was.

That had been Derek’s mistake with Kate.

In the wake of Paige’s death - the gaping hole left in Derek’s heart after her death - there was Kate. Older, far too beautiful, and dangerous. Derek had known she was bad news, because his wolf had bared his teeth even as Derek bared his throat; his wolf had howled in enraged fury while Derek’s blood had heated with desire; his wolf had whined and whimpered and protested while Derek and thrown himself into her with reckless abandon. He had convinced himself that this was all he deserved, because listening to his wolf’s demands of forever and mate and mine had gotten Paige killed. Talia had never reprimanded him - only dried his tears and howled mournfully beside him to help ease his pain - and Derek had felt like he needed to be punished for what he’d done; for the mistake he’d made. Being at war with himself in a way he never had before - he had always heeded his wolf’s instincts - was the only punishment he could find for himself at the time. It had resulted in the loss of too much to catalog and he had sworn to never get close to anyone else again. It wasn’t worth the risk; the pain.

Stiles...Stiles had been unexpected. Derek had known the moment he’d seen him in the woods - searching for an inhaler Scott would never need again - that this was who he was meant to be with, in a way he’d thought he’d understood after Paige. The feeling of rightness he felt looking at a gangly, trespassing teenager with too-wide eyes that rivaled a werewolf’s for color had put what he’d felt for Paige to shame, showing him just how little he’d known at fifteen; just how little he’d understood his wolf and its desires. Which was absurd, because the boy was barely more than a child and Derek didn’t even know him. The wolf, however, was adamant. Stiles smelled like all of the best parts of Paige all his favorite things about Laura’s the strongest memories of his mother...and like something else that was unique to himself, which wound around teenage boy and hormones and eagerness, but also around things like loss and grief and loneliness, scents Derek knew all too well. Stiles smelled like home and pack; he smelled like he was Derek’s and always had been. It was maddening and Derek reacted in the most predictably stupid way imaginable.

He snarled at Stiles, and flashed his fangs, and slammed the teenager into things. Stiles, however, never ran; never submitted; never gave into fear even when the scent of it was so thick Derek could taste it in the air. Stiles glared back, and flailed around in the most absurd manner, and stood toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with Derek in a way he’d never imagined anyone doing. Especially not a human. Stiles was laughably breakable, something he knew Stiles knew, but the teenager never let it hold him back. He rushed into fights beside those he viewed as pack and he held his own. He honed the spark of magic in his blood and used his strategist’s brain - combined with Lydia’s whenever possible - to tackle problems in the most unique ways imaginable. Stiles was a suitable mate for the son of Alpha Talia Hale, if there had ever been one, and Derek - or the young man he’d once been - would have been proud to introduce them. Talia would have loved Stiles. Derek was sure of that, even if he was certain of very little else these days.

None of which meant that Derek had ever intended to make a move on the younger man. He absolutely did not plan on doing that. Losing a single potential lifemate - which he would always view Paige as, even if he knew now that Stiles had more right to that position that she ever had - was bad enough; Derek had no intention of letting another one in only to lose them as well. No, Stiles belonged far away from Derek, no matter what his instincts said. So Derek snapped and flashed red eyes and when Jennifer - Julia; whatever - had opened her arms, he’d sunk in without a thought, seeking solace any way he could find it. He often wondered, after all was said and done, if she’d done something to him, magically speaking. He had never trusted that easily - not anyone other than Stiles - and emissaries had a gift for soothing wolves, assuming they had the power to back to push. Julia had certainly had the power. Derek didn’t like the idea; that he’d been conned into letting someone close. That he’d been magicked into giving trust and affection meant for his lifemate to someone random; someone he probably would have rejected under any other circumstance. It wasn’t a pleasant thought, and there was no way Derek was going to ask Deaton - or, heaven forbid, Stiles - if it was even a possibility, but he had his suspicions and it was enough to turn his stomach.

That most-recent violation of his emotions had only enforced Derek’s ‘Keep Away’ policy when it came to others, and he knew it was preventing him from bonding with his new pack. He hated the sad look in Cora’s eyes when she reached out to draw him in and was rebuked. He hated the knowing sympathy - edged with just a hint of the pleasure he took in Derek’s pain - on Peter’s face when Derek excused himself immediately after pack meetings, while the others settled in close for bonding time. He hated the way Stiles’ scent turned sour and sad when Derek refused to let them close; refused to open up; refused to belong.

Seeing Stiles realize...seeing Stiles know that he wanted more...more than he had any right to ask for; more than he had any right to even want...

It was like someone had ripped all of the air out of the room. There was Stiles, espousing how perfectly terrible the idea of them together was, and there was Derek, giving away his heart. He was going to run. He was going to get up, go out the door, and run. He would run until he was too far away to feel Scott’s alpha pull; until he was too far away to catch even the faintest hint of Stiles’ scent; until he was too far away to make coming back the easier option. He couldn't do this. He couldn't watch Stiles’ eyes soften with pity, and what else could he hope to expect after the way he’d treated him? Pulling pigtails the way he had with Paige had been one thing, but Derek had been downright cruel to Stiles at times and there was no excuse for it. None at all.

Before Derek could move - rooted in place with his own fears the way he was - Stiles did. He threw himself forward, a wild flailing of limbs driven by the frenetic energy that encompassed the teen like a cloud, and then lips were being mashed against his.

Derek’s eyes widened, a sharp breath pulled in through his nose an instant later, and every muscle in his body tensed in confusion and disbelief. Stiles mouth was too-hard against his, and their noses were smashed into cheekbones, and Stiles was squirming and flailing against him, unable to settle in such an awkward and ungainly position. It should have been hilarious.

It wasn’t.

After a long moment, Stiles managed to right himself and pulled back, blinking those tawny eyes at him from far too close. Derek wasn’t breathing, and he didn’t think Stiles was either, and after a long moment Stiles’ control broke and so did his voice as he spoke. “Der...please say something.”

“Wh...” Derek started to ask ’Why?’ but stopped himself because the answer was written across Stiles’ face. There was hope, and fear, and a wild sort of desperation that made Derek’s palms sweaty and had his heart racing. So he changed his question at the last second, asking instead. “What was that, Stilinski?”

The words gave Stiles pause for a moment, but Derek’s voice had been low and even; his tone had been calm and just a bit teasing at the edges. So Stiles bit his lip for a moment, teeth worrying his lower lip in a way that was maddening, then his shoulders relaxed and a cocky grin slid into place. It was mostly bravado, and Derek knew they both knew it, but Stiles was about 80% bravado in most situations so he decided it was okay; it wasn’t false or a lie so much as it was Stiles being Stiles. Determined, stubborn, and refusing to give in to fear.

“That was a kiss, Hale.” The last name came out with a bit of a sneer, but Derek heard the little skip in Stiles’ heartbeat that gave the tone away as pretense; as teasing. “I know you’ve got some issues with your love life, but you aren’t seriously telling me you don’t know what a kiss is, are you?”

“Of course I know what a kiss is.” Derek rolled his eyes, even as his breath tried to freeze in his lungs because holy fuck, Stiles was adjusting himself so he was sitting on Derek’s lap. Straddling Derek’s thighs, really, if he was being completely honest with himself, and...

And Derek had planned on joking his way out of the awkwardness, because he didn’t want to hurt Stiles - he never wanted to hurt Stiles - and then retreating, like always. He had a slew of excuses, too - the age difference, the fact that Stiles was still only seventeen, the fact that Stiles’ father was the Sheriff...any number of things, really - in case Stiles protested. Now, however, Stiles was a warm and reassuring weight on his lap, and those gorgeous eyes were staring at him with hope and longing and something that looked terrifyingly like it could be something a whole lot more than like, and Derek’s hands had somehow found their way to Stiles’ hips, his thumbs sliding under Stiles’ tee-shirt to brush against skin and...

And whatever Derek had been planning to say went out the window, because his wolf was howling and straining forward, practically feral in its desire to claim the one Derek had been denying them, and Derek was so tired of fighting.

So in place of excuses and gentle let-downs, Derek growled. “I think you’re the one who’s a bit unclear about what a kiss actually entails, because that - whatever the hell that was - was not a kiss.” Stiles’ mouth opened - no doubt to snark right back - but Derek cut him off by adding. “This is a kiss.”

A second later, one of his hands had curled around the back of Stiles’ neck and dragged the younger man’s mouth down to his.

Derek wasted no time in deepening the kiss, because Stiles’ lips were so conveniently still parted. He tasted the plush curve of Stiles’ lower lip, then licked past Stiles’ teeth to taste everything. In the span of a few heartbeats, Derek was doing his best to memorize every inch of Stiles’ mouth. From the satiny feel of the inside of his cheeks, to the odd lack of ridges on his palate, to the slick heat of his tongue, Derek filed it all away for further assessment at a later date. He growled when Stiles’ hands slid into his hair, clinging eagerly, and let out a sound embarrassingly close to a whine when Stiles sucked greedily on the tongue invading his mouth.

By the time Stiles raised his head, they were both panting and the scent of Stiles’ arousal had Derek’s head swimming. He buried his nose behind Stiles’ ear the moment their mouths were separated and breathed deeply before nuzzling that spot and mixing their scents together. Stiles huffed out a soft laugh and used the fingers still threaded through Derek’s hair to pull his head back, letting their eyes meet. “I...Derek, I...”

“Shhh...” Derek tried to keep Stiles silent, though he knew it probably wouldn’t do much good. There was something in Stiles’ eyes that he didn’t like. “Kiss me again.”

“Like I’m going to argue with that.” Stiles laughed. He leaned in and touched their mouths together, but this time it was soft and sweet and it made something inside Derek ache. When he lifted his head a minute later, Stiles said softly. “I’m sorry I didn’t realize,’re not exactly obvious, you know. How long?”

Derek debating lying - reasoned that Stiles wasn’t a werewolf and would never know - but he found he didn’t want to lie. “Since that first day in the woods, when I told you that you were trespassing.”


“Holy shit, and I call Scott oblivious...” Stiles let his head drop to Derek’s shoulder and let out the nervous laughter he could feel clawing its way up his throat. Shaking his head a little, he muttered. “You were never going to tell me, were you?”

There was a pause, but Stiles was used to Derek taking a few minutes to speak. Verbose, Derek was not. “No. I didn’t plan to, no.”

Stiles huffed and this time it was equal parts annoyance and anger, because seriously, what the fuck. “Any particular reason why you were going to just...keep on keepin’ on with the whole...alone and miserable and angsting and manpain thing? Because I know I’m not exactly a prime catch or whatever, but there has to be something you like about me or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So why...why would you not just...tell me? Like, you didn’t honestly think I’d say no, did you? You’ve seen yourself, right? have to know that you look...well. Right. Anyway. Why?”

And Stiles had missed it the first time - the flash of hurt on Derek’s face when Stiles mentioned his devastatingly good looks - but he caught it the second time and immediately backpedalled without giving Derek time to answer the question he’d asked. “Derek, no.”

Stiles was shaking his head emphatically, his hands shifting to cup Derek’s heartbreakingly beautiful face in his hands and he said earnestly. “No, okay? Just...don’t. Don’t do that to yourself. Yes, okay, you’re one of the most ridiculously hot people I’ve ever had the good fortune to be able to look at, but that’s...that’s not...”

“You are so much more.” Stiles finally said after a moment of floundering for words, one hand leaving Derek’s cheek to flail around in what was meant to be an all-encompassing gesture. “You’re sarcastic and protective and you care so much it’s a wonder no one notices, except you’re not really good at expressing it and it usually comes out in snarls and violence when someone’s done something reckless, but still. And you’re smart. Like, I know you don’t go showing it off, but it’s true. You were a straight A student before the fire, and you somehow remember all these details from years ago, and it’s obvious how smart you are if someone just takes a second to look. You’re...god, okay, this is going to sound stupid, but...”

Stiles chewed on the inside of his cheek for a minute, like he was steeling himself for what he was about to say, then blurted out in a rush. “You’re a good person, okay? Like, you’re one of the most genuinely good people I’ve ever met. You give people all these chances, and you just keep trying to help people and bind them together into family units - into pack - no matter how many times they resist or betray you or whatever, and it’s so freakin’ amazing that you’ve got all this hope inside you despite everything you’ve been through. And yeah, you act all cold and whatever...” Stiles huffed a little in amusement when Derek’s eyes narrowed, and gave Derek a reassuring smile as he added. “But you’re so strong. Like, I lost my mom and I wound up with panic attacks and nightmares and I’m completely paranoid about losing my dad to the point that it took almost a year and having literally no other choice before I told him about any of this supernatural stuff and I still wasn’t happy about it at all. But you just keep going, and you don’t stop caring even though you try to act like you have, and it’s just...”

Derek’s mouth stopped the rest of what Stiles had been planning to say. Which...he couldn't even remember after a moment, and really, it probably hadn’t been that important anyway because he was pretty sure he’d gotten all of the important bits out already. Plus, he wasn’t going to complain about the way Derek’s tongue was sliding against his, tasting like ketchup and red meat and ginger ale...and Stiles hadn’t known Derek liked ginger ale but he didn’t think he’d ever forget it now that he’d tasted it on the older man’s tongue. And Derek’s hands were at his waist, shoving his shirt up, and Stiles went with it because right then, in that moment, there was simply no room for embarrassment or self-doubt.

Derek wanted him, and Stiles wanted Derek, and nothing else mattered. Not even the questions he still had, burning and important and definitely needing to be addressed at some point, but not now.


Derek knew he needed to answer Stiles’ questions; he knew he needed to explain why he hadn’t said anything and why he was allowing this now. They needed to talk about what this meant - for Stiles, for Derek, for the pack - and they needed to talk about expectations and Stiles’ age and...and a million other things. But Stiles thought Derek was strong, and smart, and loving; he thought Derek was good. So Derek figured everything else could wait until he’d staked his claim. It could wait until any werewolf who got within a hundred yards of Stiles would know that he was taken; that he belonged to Derek. He threw Stiles’ shirt across the room, not caring where it landed, and broke the heated kiss to press his face against the curve of Stiles’ neck and shoulder.

As he rubbed his face there, Stiles made soft sounds in the back of his throat and tipped his head further to the side. He was baring his neck; he was submitting to Derek. Not, perhaps, in the same way or with the same meaning behind it as if he was a werewolf, but Stiles knew what he was and there was no fear in his scent; his heart raced from desire alone. It was still a gesture of absolute trust and it meant everything it needed to mean, even if it didn’t mean everything it could. Derek’s tongue darted out, tasting salt and sweat and soap and, underneath those, something that was purely the taste of his skin; the flavor that was uniquely Stiles.

Stiles was panting heavily - the sound was loud and harsh and it made Derek want to grin. Seeing no reason to fight the urge, Derek pressed a smile into Stiles’ shoulder before setting his teeth to the tendon where shoulder and neck met. Stiles keened softly, and his hips rocked down in a stuttering thrust as his hands fisted in the soft fabric of Derek’s Henley. Derek growled and sucked on the skin he’d bitten down on, determined to leave a bruise; to mark Stiles’ pale skin until there was no doubt as to what had taken place between them.

“Off...” Stiles hissed urgently, hands still tugging frantically at Derek’s shirt even as he moaned and rocked down again when Derek’s mouth shifted a little higher on his neck and began making another mark; Derek savored the uncoordinated desperation Stiles was slipping into. “Fuck...Derek,, now!”

Derek chuckled - couldn't resist, because Stiles sounded frantic and it was lovely - but he lifted his mouth from the skin he’d been working on and obligingly stripped of his shirt. The greedy appreciation on Stiles’ face was more than worth the effort, as was the feeling of long-fingered hands sliding over his shoulders and down his chest in teasing strokes. Growling again, Derek curled his hands under Stiles’ thighs and stood up. With a sound that was halfway between a yelp and a screech, Stiles wound his arms tightly around Derek’s neck and locked his ankles at the small of Derek’s back, clinging like an octopus. Derek grinned, shifted his grip a little to accommodate the new position, and headed for the stairs.

“Uh, Derek...where...?” Stiles’ voice was right in his ear, breathless and confused.

“Upstairs.” Derek rumbled back, taking the stairs easily despite Stiles’ added weight and the slightly awkward positioning of the teen’s body in his arms and around his torso. “Bed.”

There was pause, then Stiles let out a soft moan and Derek could feel him nodded rapidly against his shoulder. “Oh, yeah, okay. Bed. Right. Sounds good. Great. Perfect, even. Carry on.”

Derek rolled his eyes and gave Stiles a slight bounce in his arms. “You can let go now. I wasn’t going to drop you, you know.”

“Oh, right. Werewolf strength.” Derek rolled his eyes again as Stiles let out a stuttery laugh and unwound his limbs from Derek. “Sorry...instinct, I guess.”

Derek dropped Stiles onto the bed, watching with amusement as the teen bounced twice before settling. Stiles stared up at him with those too-wide eyes, cheeks flushed with rosy color. Stiles’ slim chest was moving quickly as he sucked in rapid, panting breaths, dragging air past kiss-swollen lips that Derek was eager to taste again. He wanted that tempting mouth against his own; against his skin; wrapped around him. Just the thought of it - of Stiles’ full lips parting to allow Derek’s cock entrance to the hot, slick cavern of his mouth - was enough to have Derek’s eyes flashing blue while a low growl escaped.

Unable to resist any longer - not now that he’d had a taste of Stiles - Derek did his best to keep his voice non-threatening as he ordered. “Strip, Stiles. Now.”

And maybe there was a bit more growl in his voice than most people would find acceptable, but Stiles didn’t seem to mind in the slightest if the way his hands flew to the button and zipper of his jeans was any indication. Derek’s own hands dropped to the front of his jeans as he watched Stiles eagerly shimmy out of his remaining clothes. He could feel Stiles’ eyes on him like a caress as he pushed the tight denim down his legs, smirking when Stiles whimpered.

“So...Sourwolf goes commando.” Stiles’ voice was breathless and his eyes had darted to Derek’s cock only once before they’d flitted away, his blush spreading down his neck and chest while he stared intently over Derek’s shoulder and added weakly. “Lydia owes me twenty bucks. She thought you seemed like a briefs kinda guy.”

Derek slid his knee onto the bed, right between Stiles slightly-spread thighs, and rumbled. “Why are you betting on my underwear, Stiles?”

“Oh, well...” Stiles laughed a little, sounding less nervous by the second. “We’re teenagers and you wear tight jeans and your ass is kind of a hot topic at pack meetings. Like...after you leave, obviously. Scott tried to discourage us, but...we don’t listen well and Cora refused to go through your underwear so we couldn't settle the bet and it just kept coming back up. Not the point.”

Derek huffed even as he leaned forward, nuzzling at Stiles neck briefly and using his knee to nudge Stiles’ legs a little further apart. He was a bit surprised when Stiles complied easily, going so far as to draw one knee up until his foot was flat on the bed. Stiles glanced down the length of his own body, then quickly looked away again. Derek was holding his weight up - his hands braced on either side of Stiles’ ribcage and both of his knees now wedged neatly between Stiles’ slim thighs - which meant his body was fully visible when Stiles peeked. He glanced down at himself, trying to see it from Stiles’ - incredibly innocent, physically speaking - perspective, uncertain why the teen seemed unembarrassed about his own body but was blushing over Derek’s.

Deciding to make a stab in the dark, Derek asked softly. “Are you...nervous? I won’t hurt you, you know. I know what I’m doing and I’ll be careful.”

Stiles lips curved up and his eyes softened. “I trust you.” Stiles glanced down between them again, eyes lingering a little longer this time before darting away again as he murmured. “You’re’re just...”

“Big?” Derek asked, trying to keep his voice soothing. He figured Stiles was feeling a bit intimidated at the idea of being fucked for the first time and he wanted to do whatever he could to make Stiles feel comfortable.

“No.” Stiles’ eyes widened almost comically the second he said the word and he hastily added. “I mean, yes, obviously, but that’s not what I was going to say.’re’re know...” Stiles wiggled his eyebrows and made a weird sort of scissoring motion with his one hand before saying. “You know?”

It took Derek a long minute to figure out what the hell that was supposed to mean, and then he felt his own cheeks heating up. “Oh. You mean the fact that I’m...uncut.”

Stiles nodded rapidly, teeth worrying his bottom lip. “I, uh, I’ve never...seen one. In person, I mean, because porn doesn’t exactly count. Can I...” Stiles took a deep breath, then asked in a slightly-squeaky voice. “Can I touch? It, I mean. You! Can I...can I touch you?”

“You can do whatever you want.” Derek leaned in and nuzzled against the curve of Stiles’ jaw, rumbling. “All you have to do is ask.”

Stiles nodded, and Derek generously didn’t mention the way the teen’s hand was trembling when he dragged it down Derek’s chest. Slim fingers pressed lightly against Derek’s stomach, then petted tentatively at the thin trail of hair leading down from Derek’s navel to his groin. Derek whined softly when Stiles’ hand slid further down, the tips of his fingers dragging teasingly over the base of his cock. As Stiles ghosted brief touches over Derek’s length, Derek began to press sucking kisses up and down Stiles’ throat and over the curve of his shoulder. Stiles didn’t mind, if the soft sounds he was making in Derek’s ear were anything to go by.

With each sweeping pass of his fingers over Derek’s erection, Stiles’ touch grew firmer; more confident. Derek groaned as Stiles’ long fingers curled around him and gave a careful stroke. It was too dry and too much friction and not enough pressure and Derek had never felt anything half as amazing with anyone else. He nipped at Stiles’ shoulder, then rested his forehead against Stiles’ collarbone so he could look down at what Stiles was doing; so he could see as well as feel. He could tell - from the caution in Stiles’ motions - that the teenager was watching as well; studying intently the way Derek’s foreskin slid back and forth, covering and uncovering the leaking head of his cock with each slow stroke Stiles gave. Derek could only take the torturous motions for a few short minutes before he was circling Stiles’ wrist with strong fingers and dragging the younger man’s hand away.

“Hey!” Stiles pouted up at him, looking worried as well. “Was I doing something wrong?”

Derek shook his head, ducking his head to kiss the pout off of Stiles’ face, licking into Stiles’ mouth with growling urgency. When they broke apart again, Stiles was panting and his eyes looked glassy and dazed. “Oh. So...I did something right?”

Rather than dignify that smug-sounding question with an answer, Derek licked slowly down the center of Stiles’ chest. When he reached the bottom of Stiles’ sternum, he nipped and sucked for a moment, loving the way Stiles’ gasped and writhed beneath him. He slowly worked his mouth lower, licking and sucking and nipping his way down Stiles’ smooth stomach one teasing inch at a time. He catalogued which spots made Stiles mewl, and which ones made him giggle and gasp out ‘Ticklish, don’t!’ and which ones made him moan and thrash. Derek fully intended to learn exactly how to best take Stiles apart with pleasure, and he was looking forward to doing so again and again, but right then he had another goal in mind.

Derek shifted backwards, nuzzling lightly at Stiles’ hipbone, setting his teeth there when Stiles whined softly and savoring the way Stiles’ hips jerked beneath his mouth. Turning his head, he nuzzled into the wiry curls at the base of Stiles’ cock - long and slim and flushed, just like the rest of Stiles - and breathed in deeply, savoring the musky-sweet scent of arousal and innocence. Stiles made a strangled sound in the back of his throat as Derek curled his fingers firmly around the base of Stiles’ erection and dragged his tongue lightly over the head.

Biting back a grin, Derek closed his lips around the leaking tip and sucked. Stiles reacted like he’d touched a livewire; his whole body jerked and his hands made an aborted grab for Derek’s hair before he seemed to stop himself and fisted them in the sheets instead, just for a moment, before simply waving them around. Derek let out an almost sub-vocal rumbling growl that he refused to call a purr - for obvious reasons - and took a little more of Stiles’ length into his mouth before hollowing his cheeks around it again. Stiles’ hips stuttered up for a moment, then he jerked backwards, pressing his ass firmly against the mattress as though trying to move away from Derek’s mouth.

Surprised, Derek lifted his head and asked. “Is this...okay?”

“What? Oh, yeah.” Stiles nodded, then shook his head, then nodded again, hands twitching restlessly against Derek’s bed sheets. “No, it’s fine. It’s...different? New. It’s new. I don’t...I can’t predict what you’re going to do, so it’s not know, when it’s just me. So...but no, it’’re fine. Everything’s good.”

Hesitantly, Derek lowered his mouth again, keeping his eyes open and locked on Stiles’ face. He dragged the flat of his tongue over the head of Stiles’ cock, tasting the bitter-salt tang gathering there, and Stiles squirmed, hips making another aborted thrust towards Derek’s mouth before backing off again.

”Sorry, sorry...I didn’t mean’s fine. Sorry.” Stiles sounded breathless and agitated, so Derek decided to try something a little different, hoping it would work better.

He moved his mouth a bit lower, uncurling his fingers just enough to slide his tongue from the base up to the tip, watching warily as Stiles’ hands jerked towards his head again before he seemed to stop them, bringing them up to fist in his own hair momentarily before dropping them to his sides again. Every muscle in Stiles’ body was tense and twitching, thrumming with too much energy and making Derek feel wound tight as well, by extension. This was easily the least relaxed Derek had ever seen a person be when his mouth was on them and it was worrying.

Derek tried for another minute to let Stiles adjust to what was happening, hoping the teenager would simply be able to let go and enjoy himself, but after several more anxiety-inducing, aborted hip-stutters and hand-flails, Stiles finally gasped. “Derek, stop...just...stop. I can’t...”

Derek immediately shifted backwards, taking care that no part of him was touching any part of Stiles, and began apologizing. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to push, Stiles. We don’t have to do anything.”

“What?” Stiles blinked slowly, then shook his head. “No, no. I just...I want you” A dull flush spread across Stiles’ fair skin and he twitched for a moment before mumbling. “I want know, all the way. Like, I want, in. In me. If...if you wanted to, I mean.”

And part of Derek was insisting that he stop for the moment - that he apply the brakes right now - because clearly Stiles was tense and uncomfortable and not-quite into this. Or at least, not enough into it to be enjoying himself properly, though obviously enough that his erection hadn’t faded at all. The rest of Derek was a touch-starved, highly tactile werewolf who could smell very little beyond Stiles’ skin and sweat and arousal, and who could taste nothing beyond the boy’s lingering flavor on his tongue, and how in the hell could anyone reasonably expect him to turn down an offer to sink into someone he’d wanted for as long as he’d wanted Stiles? So there wasn’t much of a choice involved, though Derek did his best to offer Stiles one.

“Of course I want to, but if you’re not ready it’s okay.” Derek reached out and touched Stiles’ cheek - not quite trusting himself with the rest of Stiles just yet - and keeping his eyes firmly locked on those amber eyes. “I’ll still want you tomorrow, or next week, or in however long it takes for you to be comfortable with this.”

Stiles huffed, and the sound seemed out of place given how annoyed it was. He rolled his eyes, his mouth pinched, and asked. “Where’s your lube? And don’t try telling me you don’t have any, because you’re a twenty-two year old guy. You have lube.”

Derek hesitated for a few seconds, then jerked his chin at the nightstand. “Drawer. Left side.”

“Thank you.”

Stiles rolled over and fumbled with the drawer for a minute before managed to work it open. It would have been easier if he hadn’t been hanging halfway off the bed like an idiot. He grabbed the bottle of lube, then stared down at it for the span of several heartbeats. There was a funny uptick to Stiles’ heart and Derek wondered what it meant even as he watched Stiles’ long fingers turn the the small bottle over several times.Derek waited, barely breathing, wondering if Stiles was going to change his mind.

Finally, Stiles stood up - an abrupt, jerky sort of movement - and nodded towards the en-suite bathroom that was the only other thing on this floor of the loft. “I’m just...I need a minute. Okay?”

Derek nodded slowly, because he wasn’t going to deny Stiles anything at this point, and watched as the teenager slipped through the door and locked it behind himself. It was only when he heard the soft pop through the wood that he realized Stiles had taken the lube with him and was clearly using it in the bathroom. Derek growled, for several reasons. One being that he was now picturing Stiles using the lube on himself - opening himself up with those long, dexterous fingers. Another being because he had fully intended to be involved in the aforementioned process of opening Stiles up, and he wasn’t particularly pleased at this unexpected change in plans. And lastly because he wasn’t exactly sure why Stiles was prepping himself in the bathroom, with a locked door between them, or what it said about Stiles’ emotional/mental readiness for this whole thing.

The door to the bathroom opened quicker than Derek would have expected it to, and he wondered if Stiles had changed his mind at last. But Stiles was walking back to the bed, and he tossed the lube to Derek with a small smile that Derek tried to pretend wasn’t tighter than normal at the corners. “Don’t forget to slick yourself up, sourwolf. I don’t want this to hurt.”

Derek watched as Stiles climbed back onto the bed on his hands and knees, settling himself back in the spot he’d been earlier, albeit in a different position. Stiles stayed that was for a minute, then glanced over at Derek with a haughty eyebrow raise he had to have learned from Lydia and which had no place in the bedroom as far as Derek was concerned. “Well? Are you going to do this or not?”

And there was a tense sort of bite to Stiles words that made Derek wonder if the younger man was trying to prove some sort of point by doing this. And the whole thing should have put him off - should have made him too uncomfortable to go through with this, when it was quickly dissolving into a farce - but Derek was too far gone to even consider backing down now. He had Stiles in his bed, slicked up and stretched open - though how well was still up for debate, given the speed Stiles had done it at - and he was not walking away from this.

So Derek used his knee to nudge one of Stiles’ ankles as he slid into place behind him, and watched avidly as Stiles obligingly spread his legs further apart. Derek curled his palms around the silky, firm curves of Stiles’ ass, his thumbs slipping into Stiles’ crack and pulling gently, spreading Stiles’ open to his gaze. Stiles’ body tensed and relaxed and tensed again, the same way it had earlier, like his muscles were on a continuous loop. But Derek could see his pink hole, slick and shiny and wet, twitching and obviously stretched enough for what they were about to do and that seemed like a more pressing matter than Stiles’ apparent - if unexplained - love-hate relationship with sex. Or maybe just sex with him, Derek wasn’t really sure.

Pushing it out of his mind, Derek let go of Stiles long enough to grab the bottle of lube he’d dropped almost as soon as Stiles had thrown it to him. He flicked open the lid and poured some into his hand, quickly coating his cock and biting back a hiss of discomfort as the cool gel hit his fevered skin. After a perfunctory couple of strokes - just enough to be sure he was slick enough - Derek’s hands found Stiles’ hips and he shifted forward a bit. He was just close enough that he could slide himself up and down the cleft of Stiles’ ass, the head catching on Stiles’ rim with each rolling undulation of Derek’s hips.

Each time it happened, Stiles jerked forward slightly and Derek watched as the muscles in his back contracted beneath pale skin dotted with moles; dark points he wanted to trace with his tongue, forming patterns and constellations and promises, all without words. Instead, Derek’s fingers tightened against Stiles’ hips, ignoring the low keen that might have been pain that slipped from Stiles’ mouth. He knew there would be bruises before morning, because Stiles was human and Derek was not and he wasn’t being nearly as careful as he should, but it was too hard to even try when faced with the reality - however strange - of Stiles Stilinski during sex.

Derek took a breath, trying to steady himself for just a moment, then pushed forward against the slick resistance of Stiles’ entrance. There was a heartbeat where Stiles’ body was too tense - too tight - for any progress to be made without more force than Derek was using. Then Stiles’ muscles continued their pattern, the resistance vanished, and the head of Derek’s cock slipped inside. He paused, breathing harsh not from exertion but from pleasure, and wondered if Stiles was hating this as much as he’d seemed to hate being sucked off. Derek wasn’t given very long to dwell on the thought.

Before he could take three full breaths, Stiles was letting out the most pornographic sound - somewhere between a keening whine and a moan - that Derek had ever heard and arching his back. He dropped his weight from his palms to his forearms, lowered his head to rest against them, and pushed his ass back with a needy desperation so intense it seemed to suck all the air out of the room. Derek growled, feeling his eyes flash blue, as Stiles did his best to impale himself on Derek’s cock. Tightening his grip on Stiles’ hips, he stilled the teenager’s movements and tried to regain control of himself before he wound up sinking his claws into Stiles’ skin by accident. The way Stiles was squirming against his hold, trying to thrust further back - trying to take more of Derek - was distracting as hell, though, and he didn’t know how long he could fight the shift.

Derek growled again, snapping. “Stop moving, dammit! You’re going to hurt yourself. You’ve never done this before and you were barely stretched.”

“Fuck...fuck, Derek...” Stiles keened again, pressing his head harder against his arms and arching his back in a way that looked excruciatingly painful and devastatingly obscene at the same time. “More. Derek, more. Now. I need...fuck, please, doesn’t hurt...move, Derek, please...”

The babble slid from Stiles’ lips as easily as words always seemed to, but his voice was dripping with desire and desperation and want so thick Derek was practically choking on it. Feeling his claws extend and his fangs drop at the scent of Stiles’ need - so strong he could literally taste it, heavy and cloying and almost-sweet - Derek hastily let go of Stiles’ hips, some part of Derek’s mind still coherent enough to be worried about hurting him.

“Yessss...” Stiles hissed the word like a victory as he pressed himself back quickly; too quickly. Derek was sure Stiles had to be hurting himself, but his mind was taken over by hotslicktightSTILESfuck and he couldn't focus on anything else. He was fully sheathed inside Stiles a few short seconds later, his hips snug against the firm curve of Stiles’ ass, and Stiles was practically sobbing, tears thickening his voice as he ground himself back as though trying desperately to get Derek even deeper inside of him. “Please...please, Derek...”

Derek didn’t know what the hell had come over Stiles all of a sudden, but he was helpless to resist that begging tone of voice. Leaning down to press a kiss to the center of Stiles’ back, Derek rumbled pleadingly. “Tell me if I hurt you, Stiles. Tell me if I need to stop.”

“Don’t. Don’t stop, please...”

Stiles made a devastated sound low in his throat as Derek held his hips still and slowly, carefully, withdrew from the clinging heat, until only the head of his cock was still encased in - slicktighthot - the teen’s body. As Derek pushed back in - a little too fast and a little too hard, considering Stiles was a human and a virgin - Stiles moaned and writhed and begged. His voice was thick with lust, his words were filth and obscenities, and his body opened for Derek’s cock with every thrust like it was greedy for it. Unable to resist Stiles’ pleas - his voice like a siren’s call to the werewolf, turning everything hazy and senseless and red-tinged at the edges - Derek found himself helpless to do anything but obey each demand. Stiles’ words spilled out, his tongue no more stilled by sex than by anything else. If anything, it seemed to make him more vocal, and the words chased themselves around Derek’s head, driving him on.

More, harder, faster, don’t stop, fuck me like you mean it, need your cock, don’t hold back, Derek please, give me everything, come inside me, fill me up, bite me just fucking do it, yes just like that, want you so much, use me, please come please, want you so deep in my ass I can fucking taste you at the back of my throat when you come, fuck Derek right there...

When Stiles threw his head back and screamed, his body clenching repeatedly around Derek’s cock as he spilled sticky heat over the sheets beneath it, it was too much and not enough and just fucking right all at once. With a snarl he couldn't contain, Derek grabbed Stiles around the middle and hauled him backwards and upright, grip tight as he moved Stiles’ limp - but still twitching - body like it was a doll; a toy to be used. He lifted the teen’s weight like it was nothing, pulling him back down onto his cock with brutal force, and it took only a few moments - a few slick strokes using Stiles’ body in lieu of his hand - to finish himself off. As he spilled himself inside Stiles, cock as deep as it could go, Derek fought back the urge to throw his head back and howl. He stifled the sound with vicious, too-sharp teeth sunk deep in the tender flesh at the base of Stiles’ neck, his nose buried in Stiles’ soft hair, breathing in the scent of him like a soothing balm after the intensity of what had just happened.

Panting around the flesh he was still gripping tightly with his fangs, Derek let himself fall to the side, bearing Stiles’ weight down with him. He instinctively kept Stiles from jostling around too much as they moved, not even his wolf wanting to cause the teen unnecessary pain. Stiles let out a low moan as Derek settled them, but otherwise didn’t move. It took Derek a few minutes of listening to Stiles’ slowly calming heartbeat to settle down enough to be able to retract his fangs and claws. Stiles whimpered softly and the scent of blood - coppery and sharp - flooded his senses, jarring him from his post-orgasmic haze.

Jerking backwards, Derek felt his slowly-softening cock slip out of Stiles at last, making the younger man whimper again. Stiles reached behind himself, groping for Derek, who was off the bed before Stiles hand got anywhere near where he’d been just moments earlier. His eyes were locked on the back of Stiles’ neck - dark red staining milk-white skin, matting dark hair, and dripping down onto Derek’s pale blue sheets. Derek’s head began to swim and he realized he wasn’t breathing. His lungs were aching as the need for oxygen grew but he couldn't move, not even to breathe. Stiles turned sluggishly over and Derek’s eyes went to the livid purple-blue spots on Stiles’ hips, the color seeming to darken even as he watched, perfect matches for Derek’s fingertips. An instant later his eyes were drawn to the streaks of red blossoming across Stiles’ belly, not deep gouges but claw marks nonetheless, just enough for broken skin and small beads of blood producing stark contrast to the fair skin surrounding it. And Stiles’ eyes, dark and wary, locked on Derek’s face, were like a punch to the gut.

He finally sucked in a sharp breath, dizzy with guilt and shame and lack of air, and took a staggering step backwards, towards the stairs. He had to go. If he could just get outside - away from those too-wide eyes that always saw more than anyone else - then Derek knew he could vanish into the woods until he’d worked off everything flooding his system. He could run until he no longer remembered what Stiles smelled like, or the taste of his skin and blood and arousal, or the sound of his voice when he climaxed, or the way he felt in Derek’s arms - perfect, like that was where he was meant to be, always. He could run all the way to New York if he had to, or to Canada, or to Brazil. He could run anywhere at all; anywhere that wasn’t Beacon Hills; anywhere that wasn’t this room, with Stiles in it.

“Don’t!” Stiles’ voice broke on the word and it had Derek - who’d still been inching towards the stairs - jerking to a stop, head swinging back around even as he told himself he didn’t want to see the mess he’d made of the human boy; didn’t think he could handle seeing it again. “Derek, please don’t leave. wasn’t...I mean, I wasn’t that bad, was I? That you...that you have to run away?”

Derek’s mouth fell open in shock, his brain trying to process what Stiles had said; what Stiles was asking. Even as he struggled with that, more words were pouring out because Stiles wasn’t patient; never let anyone take a moment to process something before he was adding to it. “I’m sure I’ll get better at it, right? Like, with practice. I can do better. I can...I can be good for you, I think? I mean, I make you laugh. Sometimes, sort of. And I’m already pack, and I know the werewolf secret, and...and it’s...we can work. I think we can work, I mean, if you’d just...” Stiles’ voice wavered again and he cleared his throat before continuing.

“You can’t just run away whenever someone gets close.” Stiles bit his lip for a second, then blurted out. “If you don’t...if you don’t want me, I won’t...I won’t push. Just...don’t leave. I won’t...I won’t ask for more than you can give, I swear. I won’t cling or...or whatever. I’ll tell the pack we tried and it didn’t work and no one will blame you and we can just...just forget it, if that’s what you want. But please don’t make me into the reason Cora loses you, or loses another pack, because if you go she has to choose and then Isaac loses you too, and...and I lose you, and everyone loses you and...and we’ve already lost too many people. Don’t make it my fault that we’ve lost someone else. Please.”

Derek’s throat was tight and his tongue felt heavy in his mouth; thick and clumsy and he knew if he tried to speak the words would come out wrong. They always came out wrong. But Stiles was staring at him, eyes full of hurt and hope and fear and Derek had to say something. His mouth moved silently for a minute, because words didn’t come easy at the best of times and this was far from that. He wanted to reassure Stiles; to promise him that he hadn’t done anything wrong, and that he was wanted, and that he’d been amazing and it was - as always - Derek who had screwed up. That Stiles had, in fact, been so perfect that Derek had lost all control and that that was why he had to go; why he couldn't possibly stay.

What came out was none of those things. What came out was the single thought that was occupying most of Derek’s brain just then. “I hurt you.”

“You...” Stiles blinked, frowning, then pushed himself up to sitting very quickly. His eyes widened and a pained sound escaped his mouth, one hand flying up to the base of his neck even as his face contorted in pain. “Oh, fuck, owww. Yeah, okay, that hurts.”

Derek watched, feeling sick to his stomach, as Stiles brought his hand down in front of him, staring at the blood on his fingertips. “Well, okay, that’s going to need some first aid. Do you have a kit, or...probably not, right, because of the whole werewolf thing?” Stiles glanced up, a small grin tugging the corner of his mouth up as he added. “Guess it’s a good thing Dad’s the sheriff, ‘cause I’ve got one in the jeep. He insisted, the second he found out about all of the werewolf stuff. Want to run and grab it for me? Then you can help me clean this, ‘cause I don’t know if I can do a good job when I can’t see it.”

Derek took a half-step towards the stairs, torn between running away and doing as Stiles’ asked; getting the first aid kit was surely the least he could do, considering he’d caused the injuries in question. Stiles snickered and Derek glanced back at him as he asked. “You, uh...planning on giving all your neighbors a show there, Derek? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great view, but my jeep is over in the visitor parking spaces and that’s a bit far to walk with your, uh...entire self on display.”

Derek growled, embarrassed, and silently jerked on a pair of sweatpants before fleeing down the stairs and out of the apartment. He was back in less than two minutes, because Stiles’ jeep was surprisingly organized for a teenager and finding the first aid kit hadn’t been hard. It helped that it was actually a huge - bright red - plastic box, almost like a toolbox or tackle box, with the words EMERGENCY FIRST AID KIT written in black Sharpie in rather large block letters. Derek figured Stiles and the Sheriff had wanted it easy to locate in the event of an emergency, which made sense given the chaos of Beacon Hills. He hesitated at the bottom of the stairs, torn between leaving the first aid kit at the bottom of the stairs for Stiles to find and fleeing, or going up to help...

Stiles took the choice from him by appearing at the top of the winding metal spiral, dressed in a pair of Derek’s boxers and looking far too unsteady to be on his feet. “Oh, there you are. I thought I heard the door.” Stiles gave Derek a crooked smile and started down the stairs, hands curled tight around the railings to steady himself. “I think the kitchen’s the best place to do this. Lots of light, and counter space, and a sink.”

“Stiles...” Derek’s voice was hoarse and pained; anguish was ripping at his chest from the inside out. “You shouldn’t be walking. Or even standing. You’re hurt.”

“It’s not that bad.” Stiles laughed, using one hand to nudge Derek back when he reached the bottom of the stairs so he could slip around him and head towards the kitchen. “It’s just bleeding so much because it’s basically a head wound. I mean, I know it’s actually the back of my neck, but...well, you get what I mean. It’s fine. The rest is just normal sexy-time stuff, including me being a little weak in the knees. No worries.”

Derek followed Stiles into the kitchen, feeling his eyes flash blue as a low growl rumbled up from his chest. Stiles turned and raised an eyebrow at him, clearly unimpressed. “Dude, what is your damage?”

“You!” Derek snarled, slamming the first aid kit down on the counter and snapping it open, trying to ignore the way his hands were shaking and fighting back his claws and fangs; fighting to stay human, just for a few more minutes while he did his best to fix his mistake. “Dammit, Stiles, this is not normal. You’re bruised, and clawed up, and bleeding everywhere because of me. None of this is normal.”

“Eh.” Stiles shrugged, looking completely unconcerned. In fact, he actually looked a little relieved. “Is that what you’re freaking out about? I figured it was, you know, the whole...” Stiles gestured to himself, tilting his head to the side for a second to study Derek. “You know, me thing. But it’s not, is it? It’s because you think you hurt me.”

“I did hurt you.” Derek bit out from between his teeth. He reached out and turned Stiles around, his touch gentle despite the harshness of his voice. He pushed lightly on the back of Stiles’ head, tipping the teen’s head downwards and exposing the punctures he’d made with his fangs. “For fuck’s sake, Stiles, if I’d bitten like this somewhere else...hell, just and inch or so to either side and I could have killed you. You’d have bled out in minutes.”

Stiles hissed in pain as Derek used an alcohol wipe from the kit to clean the marks which were still bleeding a little, but very sluggishly; Stiles apparently clotted quickly. Stiles didn’t speak as Derek used a handful of paper towels - wet from the nearby sink - to clean the blood off his upper back and to get the worst of it out of his hair. He held relatively still - and remained silent - as Derek pressed several layers of gauze to the back of Stiles’ neck and used the little roll of medical tape to keep it there, protecting the wound from dirt. Then, Stiles slowly turned around and Derek’s eyes took in the other marks he’d left - hickeys, yes, but also bruises from too-strong hands and the vicious looking marks from his claws - before he jerked his gaze away and wondered if he could reach the door before Stiles started talking again.

“Hand me another one of those alcohol wipe things.” Stiles said softly and Derek flinched before scrounging around in the kit for one.

Stiles ripped it open with his teeth, then flicked his wrist a few times while holding one corner to shake the wipe out to full size. He sucked a sharp breath in between his teeth as he cleaned the claw marks that slashed horizontally along his lower belly, the uppermost one actually bisecting his navel. Derek wanted to look away. He wanted to pretend those marks didn’t exist; that he hadn’t put them there. But that wasn’t fair. He didn’t deserve absolution through denial. He had done this; had hurt Stiles when all he’d ever wanted was to keep him safe. So he wouldn’t run, no matter how much he wanted to. Whatever punishment Stiles decided on - or, more likely, that Scott and the pack decided on - would be more than justified and Derek would accept it with grace. Hell, hadn’t Peter warned him on his way out the door not to hurt Stiles; reminded him that Stiles was a highly breakable human and he needed to be gentle?

Derek never had been good at listening.


Stiles watched guilt and shame and remorse chase themselves across Derek’s face as he balled up the used alcohol wipe, rolling it restlessly between his fingertips before tossing it onto the counter, still trying to decide what to do about the tension bleeding off of Derek. The former-alpha had seemed on the verge of fleeing since..well, since he’d noticed Stiles was bleeding, most likely, though Stiles wasn’t sure how the werewolf hadn’t realized sinking his fangs into someone would result in bleeding. Except, of course, that Derek was a werewolf and not a turned one like Scott. No, Derek was a born wolf and that meant his instincts had to be a lot different than a human’s, and a werewolf would have healed in a matter of minutes from the sex-inflicted injuries Stiles was now sporting. Proudly, if he was being honest with himself. He’d never had sex-related injuries before, not even a measly hickey to show off. It was kind of nice, even if his neck did sort of hurt.

Derek’s face slid into resignation all of a sudden and Stiles watched as the werewolf’s shoulders slumped and his head bowed slightly. Ah...there it was. Derek’s typical ‘I will stay and punish myself by facing the ruination I have caused everyone around me.’ mentality. Good. Not that Stiles thought he needed to punish himself, and not that he intended to let him, but at least he didn’t have to worry about Derek running away anymore. Not for the moment, anyway. Probably not until he felt suitably chastised, likely by the entire pack or, at the very least, by Scott. Derek had taken to having an alpha again with an ease that came from spending nearly all of his life as a beta and it was almost cute.

Shaking his head, Stiles turned to drag the first aid kit closer to himself, asking. “Can I get some water? I want to take a couple of aspirin or whatever.”

Derek nodded silently and walked over to the fridge. Stiles came up with a bottle of Excedrin migraine and figured it couldn't hurt. He shook two into his palm and tossed the bottle back into the kit, accepting the bottled water Derek pressed into his hand without speaking. After swallowing the pills - and half the bottle of water - he twisted the top back on and gathered his courage. Forcing Derek to talk about feelings wasn’t something Stiles was particularly eager to do, but his only other choice was to let this all go; to let Derek go. Stiles wasn’t willing to do that. So he nodded towards the living room and finally found his voice again.

“We need to talk.”

Derek nodded once - short and jerky - and Stiles let him lead the way. When Derek sank into one of the armchairs in a blatant attempt to keep some space between them, Stiles’ mouth twitched up reluctantly. It was such a Derek thing to do. “There’s my sourwolf.” He muttered, ignoring the way Derek looked at him sharply, his eyebrows doing their ‘confused’ thing.

He debated letting Derek get away with the bid-for-space thing for a long moment, then discarded it. His dad always said to begin as you meant to go on, and Stiles figured it was pretty good advice for the most part. So he boldly settled himself on Derek’s lap, fairly confident - okay, at least 45% confident - that Derek wouldn’t shove him off for fear of injuring him further. Sure enough, Derek stiffened under him and pressed himself back in the recliner, his hands clutching at the armrests as he did his level best to not touch Stiles at all. Which was pretty impossible, considering Stiles was on his lap, but whatever. Points for effort and all that.

“Stiles...” Derek sounded like he was being tortured and Stiles felt bad for him for a split second before remembering why he was doing this in the first place. “You shouldn’t be...I...” Derek took a measured breath, then said firmly. “Go sit on the couch.”

“No.” Stiles smiled sweetly, but his voice was all stubbornness and steel. “Now, Derek, I know you’re a bit allergic to feelings and communication and all, but we’re going to talk about this because I am not letting you fuck this whole thing up. Our friends - our pack - went to a lot of effort to set this up and you don’t get to just run away, tail between your legs, and spit in the face of their love and concern just because talking about stuff makes you feel constipated. I don’t care if feelings give you hives or whatever, you’re going to suck it up and deal. This is too important for you to be allowed to do that.”

There was a pause, then Derek said coldly. “Always so ready to hurt yourself for the good of your pack, aren’t you, Stiles. Tell me, were you really surprised when they decided to sacrifice you to the big bad wolf or was it your idea in the first place?”

For a moment, Stiles could only stare at Derek, shock and pain and shame clawing at his throat because holy shit, was that what Derek really thought of him? That he would spread his legs to keep Derek’s sour mood from negatively affecting the pack? That, what, Scott would order Stiles to ‘take one for the team’ so to speak and Stiles would just do it? The very idea was insulting and offensive and made bile climb his throat, hot and sickly-sweet, ready to burn away the taste of humiliation and hurt clinging to his tongue. But Stiles had known Derek for long enough to notice the way Derek’s eyes were flat; the way his mouth was pinched at the corners; the way that small muscle in his jaw was twitching as he clenched his teeth. Stiles might not have had werewolf super-senses, but he could tell when Derek was lying. And maybe his question wasn’t a lie, exactly, but it was close enough for Stiles to realize what he was doing.

Anger chased away everything else in an instant.

“That’s a douchey thing to say.” He snapped, narrowing his eyes and taking in the slight widening of Derek’s eyes and the way his jaw relaxed ever-so-slightly; sure signs of surprise. “What, didn’t think I was smart enough to figure out what you were pulling? Thanks for the vote of confidence, you asshole. Sorry, not sorry, but that shit’s not going to work on me, tough guy. We both know I wasn’t in on this whole thing, and we both know I wanted you just as much as you wanted me, and you will not turn my first time into something dirty and sordid because you don’t want to talk like a normal fucking person. Are we clear?”

Derek’s cheeks flushed and his eyes flashed blue, but he nodded meekly. After a moment of Stiles glaring heatedly, he mumbled. “Sorry.”

Stiles let his face relax back into a smile and leaned forward just enough to press a light kiss to the corner of Derek’s mouth. He ignored the way Derek jerked away from him, growling, and said simply. “Thank you for apologizing. I appreciate it.”

They both fell silent again while Stiles tried to figure out the best way to tackle the mess their situation had become. He was surprised when Derek spoke, though the older man’s words had him scowling. “You said, upstairs, that we could pretend this had never happened. I think that would be for the best.”

“Well, it’s a good thing you’re not allowed to make decisions then, isn’t it?” Stiles’ tone was maybe a little sharper than was strictly necessary, but he didn’t think he could be blamed considering he’d had his very first afterglow ruined by this bullshit and it didn’t look like he’d be getting that mood back easily. “I said we could forget it if you didn’t want me. You do. So, it’s a moot point. Now shut up and let me think for a minute so I can properly explain all the ways you’re twisting this shit up in your head and getting it wrong.”

Derek’s mouth thinned and his eyebrows did that thing they did when he was angry and trying to shower you with doom non-verbally, but Stiles was pretty damned immune to it at this stage of the game and just ignored him, trying to figure out where to start. Part of him wanted to shout at Derek that he was being an idiot and that Stiles was fine; that his injuries were minor at worst and that he was being an overprotective ass. But Derek’s fears of hurting Stiles weren’t groundless; they weren’t unreasonable, all things considered. Dismissing them as such seemed insensitive and wasn’t likely to get him anywhere. So he needed to figure out how to soothe rather than dismiss. It took him a little while, but eventually he figured it out.

“Okay, so I’m not the only human in the pack anymore and that’s great, obviously, because I don’t get pushed aside the same way, but I’m still pretty much the weakest of us.” Stiles was comfortable with his role in their pack; with everyone - even Allison and Danny - trying to protect him when push came to shove, because he didn’t let them and that was what mattered. “But I’ve also got the best track record for saving everyone’s collective asses and I think that goes to show that, human or not - weak or not - I’m hardly a pushover and I’m not content letting anyone bench me over my vulnerabilities.”

Derek opened his mouth, but Stiles held up a hand to stop him. “Don’t interrupt. You’ve heard everyone jokingly call me Red, I’m sure, especially the twins. And I get it. Who goes into the woods and stands toe-to-toe with the big bad wolf when everyone insists it’s a bad idea, right? So fine, I’m okay with that. I’ll be Little Red Riding Hood in this fucked up fairy tale I somehow stumbled into.

“But unlike the girl in the story, I don’t need some woodsman - some hunter - to come along and save me from the wolves surrounding me.” Stiles gave Derek a pointed look. “I’m not being devoured, I’m running with them. And I accepted months ago that running with werewolves means I’m going to get hurt. There’s not a damned thing anyone can do about that. There’s a reason Dad put that industrial size first aid kit in my jeep. It was my choice to be a part of this; to be pack. It was my choice to remain human when I was offered the bite. It’s still my choice to remain human because if he thought it would keep me safe and I asked, Scott would bite me in a heartbeat, but that’s not what I want.”

“That’s why this is a bad idea.” Derek said, apparently sick of listening to Stiles’ demand for silence. “You’re a human, Stiles. You can’t...I could kill you if I lose control. I could snap your leg by putting the slightest bit too much pressure. I could dislocate your shoulder by turning you too roughly. I could have sunk my claws into your belly and gutted you and not realized until it was too late, or bit the wrong spot and had you bleed out against my mouth before either of us could call for help.”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t mean you get to go all Twilight on my ass and be an overprotective douchebag about this whole thing.” Stiles shrugged, because there wasn’t much else he could do. “Because let’s face it, I could step off a curb tomorrow and get crushed by a bus. Does that mean I shouldn’t ever go outside again? It’s a stupid concept; hiding because of what might happen.”

Derek growled and there was a soft ripping sound as Derek’s claws punctured the buttery leather arms of the chair, his hands clenched tightly into the ruined material. “It’s about minimizing risks.”

Stiles snorted. “Fuck that. I run with werewolves, Derek. There’s no minimizing that. You don’t think it’s a concern that Isaac might break one of my bones when we’re sparring? You don’t think Scott worries that Peter might lash out during training and hurt Allison? You don’t think all of us spent weeks and weeks agonizing over the possibility that Ethan and Aiden might hurt Lydia and Danny during sex, because hey, alphas and humans. Or, well...not quite human in Lydia’s case, but she still heals the same, so fuck it if the point’s not still relevant.”

Stiles waved his hands in a dismissive sort of flail, shaking his head and continuing heatedly. “No, see, that’s the point, though, right? We - the non-super-healing faction of our little group - have made our choices. We want to be a part of this pack, and those of us dating wolves accepted the risks. I am accepting the risk. You might hurt me, yeah, okay. Fine. I’ll have bruises a lot until you learn how to control your strength with me. Probably even after that, because,

“That’s okay, though.” Stiles curled long fingers around one of Derek’s hands, ignoring the shredded chair and focusing on trying to stroke the tension out of the tightly curled fingers. “It’s okay if you scratch me up a little while we work out how to keep your claws in when we’re together. And if you bite me again, then fine. I can handle a few puncture wounds until you can manage to bite with human teeth instead. And if I wind up with a bigger injury at some point, then we’ll deal with that, too. I’m willing to take the chance.”

“What if I’m not?” Derek snapped, but he looked defeated and the bite in his voice was mostly for show from what Stiles could tell. He let go of the chair and turned his hand over beneath Stiles’, linking their fingers loosely together.

Stiles stared at where Derek’s claws stood out against his own skin; the tips dragged lightly against his flesh and he shivered at the thought that they could flay him apart in a matter of seconds if Derek chose. “What if you’re not what?” Stiles’ question was absentminded; he was busy thinking about how hot it was that Derek was so dangerous and yet so damned gentle most of the time.

“What if I’m not willing to take that chance.” Derek’s words brought Stiles’ head snapping up, eyes wide at Derek’s serious tone. “Stiles, if I hurt you...if I kill you..."

“You won’t.” Stiles promised. Derek’s mouth opened and Stiles leaned in quickly, kissing him quickly, a hard press of mouths meant to silence him. When he drew back, Stiles said firmly. “If anything goes wrong when we’re together, you call Scott. He and I have already talked about it and if necessary he knows I’ll take the bite rather than die as a human. So if something happens, you call Scott and he’ll fix me. But you won’t because if you’re this worried about it than I’m betting your wolf is, too. Right?”

“I...” Derek blinked slowly, then nodded. “I think so. I could still lose control. Stiles, you have holes in your neck and claw marks on your stomach. You look like you got in a fight with a wild animal.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, a smirk curving his full lips upwards. He let go of Derek’s hand to stretch his back out, arching and putting himself - still unclothed save for a pair of Derek’s boxers - on display as he did so. “Well, regardless of how I look, I feel fantastic. So who gives a shit? Nobody I care about is going to think you’re abusing me; they all know you’re a werewolf and most of them either are one themselves or have dated one. So everyone gets it, and everyone figured this was safe enough for me all things considered. If they didn’t think that, they wouldn’t have let me alone with you for a ‘date’.”


Derek couldn't help laughing a little as Stiles’ made air quotes around the word date. It was adorable and incredibly dorky and Derek felt something in his chest unfurl, warm and soft and spreading. Stiles wasn’t afraid of him, despite how dangerous he was. Stiles didn’t mind if he lost control now and then, or if he couldn't always hold onto the facade of human that his mother had tried so hard to instill in all the members of her pack. Stiles was willing to dedicate himself to Derek the same way he’d dedicated himself to Scott, and to Scott’s pack. Stiles was willing to apply his, ‘I do dangerous shit and damned the consequences.’ attitude to being with Derek. How could Derek be expected to stand against that?

“You’re not going to give up on this, are you?” He asked, his voice a quiet rumble.

“Nope.” Stiles locked those gorgeous eyes of his - all golden and bright and full of hope and determination - with Derek’s own grey-green eyes, his chin coming up stubbornly. “I will keep pushing this until you give in, so you might as well just cave now and save us both a lot of time and effort.”

Derek’s lips twitched up at the corner and he raised one eyebrow. “Well, in that case...would you like to tell the pack or should I?” He shifted forwards and let his teeth - human for the moment - scrape teasingly down the front of Stiles’ throat, breathing in deeply and savoring the scent of Stiles’ skin and the sound of his racing heart.

Stiles’ voice was a little high - a little thready - when he answered. “Fuck. Um...we can...we can tell them tomorrow.” He keened softly, tipping his head to the side as Derek nuzzled into the curve of his neck, tongue darting out to taste skin. “I’ll bake them thank you cookies or something. Later. Not now.”

“Oh?” Derek lifted his head, smiling wolfishly at Stiles’ flushed face and glassy eyes. A pleased growl slipped out, then he asked. “And what should we do in the meantime?”

“Have sex.” Stiles blurted out, nodding vigorously when Derek threw back his head and laughed. “No, no...I mean it, Derek. I want to try that whole blowjob thing again and see if I can relax better this time. I took too much Adderall earlier and it was making me twitchy. Well, twitchier than normal. But I think it’s mostly cleared my system by now, so. Sex. Then snuggling, because you totally cut off the snuggling last time with your angsting and that is so not cool, dude.”

“Don’t call me dude.” Derek admonished, without heat.

Stiles laughed, then slid off of Derek’s lap, holding out a hand. “Make me too sleepy to talk and you might have a shot at that happening. At least for a few hours.” He wiggled his eyebrows and it looked ridiculous but Derek couldn't help loving it anyway. “Come on, sourwolf. Love me.”

Derek’s lips curved into a soft smile and he slid his hand into Stiles’. “Forever.” He promised, a serious answer to Stiles’ teasing plea, and let himself be pulled to his feet and up the stairs.

Derek knew he made bad decisions, so just this once he’d let Stiles do the deciding. If anyone was with the risk, it was this seemingly insignificant human who ran with wolves.

~The End~