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Love Thy Neighbor...He's Hot

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Derek and Laura seriously lucked out with their New York apartment. The property manager was an old friend of Laura’s and was about to quit, so he rented the unit to them for dirt cheap (at least cheap by New York standards). Bless rent control.

They lucked out with their neighbor, too. Stiles was in his early 20s, loud, and worked mostly from home. The walls were thin and with wolf hearing, Derek and Laura could hear absolutely everything. He was always quiet at night though. Starting at 9:00 or 10:00 pm, the music and TV turn off or way down, until the only sounds were Stiles’ fingers flying over his laptop keys and the steady beat of his heart.

Stiles was also an amazing cook and always made way too much, so they ended up with Stiles at their door, hands full of deliciousness, at least twice a week. The homemade meals went a long way to endearing the Hales to Stiles. They hated to admit it, but Stiles was a comforting constant in the shit storm their lives have become since the fire.

This week, Stiles was on his Asian food kick and Laura yanked open the door as soon as Stiles knocked. Stiles smiled wide, thrusting the covered bowl into Laura’s waiting hands.

“Shrimp friend rice,” Stiles said. “A little spicy, so have a drink ready.”

“How did you know the way to my heart is through my stomach? Oh Stiles, my culinary hero,” Laura said dramatically, fluttering her eyelashes at him.

Stiles snorted. “The way to your heart is through ice cream and Iron Man.”

“What can I say, I have a Robert Downey Jr. thing,” Laura said, shrugging.

“Don’t we all. Speaking of unfairly attractive people, where’s that broody brother of yours?” Stiles asked.

“Work. Why, I’m not good enough company?” Laura teased.

“Nope,” Stiles said blithely. “But nah, Cassie has roommate issues so she’s staying with me for a week or two. So don’t call the cops if you see someone coming or going.”

“I don’t know, getting your girlfriend arrested would be a great welcome-to-the-building hazing,” Laura said, tapping her chin.

Stiles rolled his eyes and walked back toward his apartment, yelling, “Why do I put up with you?” over his shoulder.

“You love me!” Laura shouted back.

“Like a familiar boil!”

Laura chuckled and closed the door.

The pull of Stiles’ fried rice was too strong to resist. When Derek got home twenty minutes later, Laura had eaten 80% of the bowl. Derek raised his eyebrows.

“Really?”

“The man has a gift, sorry,” Laura said completely unapologetically.

“Mmhmm,” Derek said, grabbing the bowl and falling onto the couch next to her.

“His girlfriend is going to be staying with him for a bit,” Laura said, eyes never leaving the TV screen. Derek frowned.

“I don’t like her,” he said.

“I know,” Laura said.

“She smells weird.”

“I know.”

“She complains a lot-”

“I know.”

“-and Stiles is too nice to tell her off.”

Laura sighed, finally turning to look at him.

“I know, baby brother, but Stiles cares about her and it’s not our place to tell him what he should do,” she said. “He’s our neighbor, not pack.”

“He could be,” Derek muttered.

“No, he couldn’t,” Laura said firmly. “We don’t need anyone else. Just you and me.”

-

Cassie showed up the next day, lugging a big suitcase down the hall right when Derek was leaving for work. She looked up expectantly, but Derek only gave her a little wave and continued down the hall. He had to get to work, after all. Drinks don’t pour themselves. He heard a muttered “asshole” to his back. He smirked, he day getting a little vindictively better.

That mood evaporated that night when he knocked on Stiles’ door to return the fried rice bowl. As soon as Stiles swung the door open, Derek was punched in the nose with the stink of Cassie’s strong perfume. He tried not to grimace but Stiles must have caught it because the first thing he said was, “There are those grumpy eyebrows, I was wondering when I’d see that sparkling face.”

Derek rolled his eyes and forced his expression into something more neutral.

“You see me all the time.”

“In passing!” Stiles said. “That’s doesn’t even count! We haven’t had a Stilinski-Hale movie night since last month.”

Despite the smell of Cassie, Derek found his lips quirking up. “Well we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?” Just don’t remind Laura that it’s her turn to pick the movie.”

Stiles laughed and it warmed Derek in a way he didn’t feel like exploring.

“You guys can finally get to know Cassie,” Stiles said. And that nice feeling dropped right out of him.

Derek nodded, carefully keeping his face calm. “This weekend?” he asked.

“Sure.”

“Mind if we do it at your place? Laura’s art has taken over the apartment again.” Derek lied. The idea of Cassie in his home, her scent clinging to his furniture, made his wolf restless.

“Sure,” Stiles said with a shrug. “Can’t disturb the creative process, can we?”

“Not if we want our limbs to stay in our sockets,” Derek agreed. “See you Saturday.”

-

Derek was torn. On the one hand, he was excited to see Stiles. It’d been a long time since he, Stiles, and Laura had had the same weekend off. On the other, he and Laura had never been in the same room as Cassie for more than thirty seconds and Derek wasn’t especially excited at the prospect of spending hours with her.

Laura had absolutely no sympathy.

“Suck it up, buttercup,” she said, digging through the cupboard for popcorn. Derek threw his empty water bottle at her head. “Seriously, if you’re sullen all night, you’re going to have a crappy time.”

“Fine,” Derek grumbled.

“Keep that insane jealously down, bro.”

“I’m not jealous,” he snapped.

Laura snorted.

“Right, this has nothing to do with your massive crush on Stiles.”

“You – I don’t have a – shut up!”

“Well put, totally proved me wrong there. That’s what you get when your brain’s full of Stiles,” Laura said in that sing-song voice that drove Derek crazy.

This time he threw a full water bottle at her.

-

Laura seemed perfectly at ease, sprawled in a big, overstuffed chair in Stiles’ living room. Derek glared daggers at her from his spot on the couch, right next to where Cassie was draped over Stiles. Laura just smiled cheekily and turned her attention back to the screen.

“This is a boring movie,” Cassie said, nose scrunched.

“It only started,” Stiles said, frowning down at her.

“Why can’t we watch something else?” she asked.

“It’s Laura’s turn to pick,” Derek said through gritted teeth. Laura sent him a look as Cassie hmphed.

“Come on, giant, radioactive ants, how cool is that?” Stiles said loudly.

Cassie turned her attention to her boyfriend, face morphing into a smile. “You’re adorable,” she said, leaning in and pressing a kiss to Stiles’ lips.

Derek stood up fast, mumbled something about the bathroom, and all but fled the room. He gripped the edge of the sink and stared at himself in the mirror, shocked to see his fangs were out. His wolf was snarling in his head, hackles raised, and ready to rip the interloper off Stiles. He…crap. Laura was right, he was jealous. Which meant he had feelings for Stiles. Derek contemplated trying to flush himself down the toilet.

His phone buzzed with a text from Laura that said You got it under control?

“Yes,” he murmured, knowing she would hear from the living room. “Just surprised.”

Derek jerked as someone knocked on the door, uncomfortable with the fact that he was so out of it that he didn’t hear Stiles approaching. And it was Stiles, of course it was, he’d know that heartbeat anywhere.

“Derek? You okay?” Stiles called through the door.

Derek grunted, took a last look at his now fang-less face in the mirror, and pulled the door open. “Just not feeling great,” he said. It wasn’t a lie.

Stiles frowned. “Was it the chicken? I was iffy on trying the new sauce but it seemed okay. Do you need anything? Water, Pepto, Tums?”

Derek dropped a hand to Stiles’ shoulder, cutting off the other man’s rambling.

“I’m fine, Stiles. I wasn’t feeling great before I got here,” Derek assured him.

Stiles’ eyebrows were still drawn and Derek had the sudden urge run his thumb over his forehead, easing the crease. Instead, he pulled his hand back and stuffed it into his pocket.

“I think I’m going to head home,” Derek said. “Try to sleep it off.” Stiles’ face dropped with disappointment for a moment before pulling back.

“Okay, feel better, man,” Stiles said.

Derek nodded and brushed past Stiles, making his way to the front door. He shook his head when Laura made to stand, and motioned for her to stay. One of them might as well enjoy themselves.

As soon as he got into his room, Derek flopped face down onto his mattress. This was ridiculous. Derek hasn’t felt anything like this in years, not since he left Beacon Hills. Not since Kate. He growled at that, not wanting Stiles and Kate associated in any way, not even in his own head. Taking a deep breath into his pillow, he hoped it’d suffocate him in his sleep.

-

No such luck, though. Derek woke up the next morning perfectly alive, if a little disoriented. It took him a minute to figure out what woke him up until he heard a soft knocking on the front door. Dragging himself out of bed, he made sure his pajama pants weren’t falling off and made his way to the front door. He pulled it open, not caring that he probably looked like he was just dropped out of a wind tunnel, to Stiles whose eyes raked down Derek’s bare torso.

“Oh my god, sleepy-you is fucking adorable!” Stiles blurted out then blushed bright red.

“Huh?” Derek blinked, brain mostly still offline from sleep.

“Uh, here,” Stiles said, thrusting a covered Tupperware container into Derek’s hand. Derek just raised an eyebrow. “Uh, it’s soup. Chicken noodle soup, because you were feeling sick last night and I thought maybe you still are so, uh, I made Stilinski’s classic chicken noodle soup. My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid and got sick and it always made me feel better, so I thought it might make you feel better and, yeah,” Stiles finished, rushing the words out.

“You made me soup,” Derek repeated dumbly.

“Yeah, so I’m gonna go, have to actually head into the office for a meeting with some fancy pants investors.”

The only thing Derek could think to say was, “And you’re wearing that?”

Stiles squawked indignantly, looking down at his jeans and button down plaid shirt.

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing? It’s my nicest plaid! I usually work from home, they know coders don’t do ties!”

“If they didn’t, they sure will now,” Derek said.

“Gee, thanks. Yeah, so feel better,” Stiles said and turned on his heel, headed to the stairs.

“Stiles,” Derek called out.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked, turning back.

“Thanks for the soup,” Derek said, holding up the Tupperware. A soft smile covered Stiles’ face that Derek felt himself mirroring.

“You’re welcome.” Stiles turned and made his way out. Derek watched his back until he disappeared into the stairwell.

Derek closed the door and leaned heavily against it, unable to wipe the smile off his face. Stiles had made him soup. Stiles had been thinking about him. Stiles wanted him to get better. Derek’s wolf rumbled with approval at Stiles’ actions, the care he gives Derek, the nurturing nature that is such a great quality in a mate…

Derek groaned and let his head thunk back against the door.

-

Despite Derek’s wariness of Cassie, life went on in pretty much the exact same way it had before she started staying with Stiles. Derek and Cassie apparently had opposite schedules, so he barely even ran into her in the halls. There was on memorable day when he passed Stiles and Cassie at a bus stop, kissing like they were trying to crawl down each other’s throats. Derek was perfectly happy to duck around the couple, turn tail and run, but Laura called out to Stiles. Damn traitor.

“Stiles!” Laura called, fighting her way through the crowded sidewalk to get to the bus stop. Stiles pulled away from Cassie, smiling and waving at the Hales. Derek followed Laura and couldn’t help the small smile that escaped when Stiles casually touched his arm. Cassie didn’t notice but she did frown a bit when Laura pulled Stiles in for a hug.

“What’re you guys up to?” Stiles asked, throwing an arm around Cassie’s shoulders.

“Just heading home,” Laura said. She held up a paper bag in her left hand. “We got a little carried away at the bookstore.”

“Without me? Rude,” Stiles teased. “Cassie and I are heading to lunch, wanna come? Thaaaaai food.”

Derek shifted a bit.

“Uh, I think we need to head-“

“Hell yeah, we’ll come!” Laura interrupted. “You know I can never said no to pad thai.”

Stiles absolutely beamed at them and Derek, powerless in the presence of that smile, couldn’t bear to protest.

That’s how Derek ended up on a bus, squished between Laura and Stiles. Stiles’ body was pressed against Derek’s from shoulder to knee and Derek was having serious issues ignoring the line of heat pressing against him. Stiles was chatting animatedly next to him, hands brushing against Derek every once in a while and Derek desperately tried to think unsexy thought. Dentists, puppies, moldy bread.

Apparently it wasn’t working because Laura smacked him in the thigh and muttered, “Gross,” just low enough for only Derek to hear. That helped, if only because all the blood was currently rushing to his face instead of…elsewhere. Derek kept up the litany of unpleasant thoughts until they were actually seated at the restaurant, Derek and Laura across from Stiles and Cassie.

Laura and Stiles kept the conversation going for the most part, though Cassie and Derek occasionally got a word in when Stiles and Laura’s mouths were too stuffed to form words. It was during one of those brief periods that Cassie launched into a lengthy explanation of her dissertation.

Turned out, she was in a master’s program at the same school as Stiles, with a focus on something related to biological engineering. Begrudgingly, Derek had to admit that Cassie was actually pretty smart and managed to make the topic of cellular structure sound interesting. Stiles obviously thought so, too, going by the enraptured look on his face.

A sinking sensation settled in the pit of Derek’s gut. Stiles was getting his master’s in computer science, his girlfriend was getting her master’s in molecular biology, and Derek…Derek was a mechanic and worked weekends at a bar. He wasn’t on Stiles’ level, he wasn’t even close. An irrational wave of jealousy smacked him in the face while he watched the couple interact excitedly. Cassie had the shared experiences, a similar intelligence level, the same enthusiasm as Stiles. She could keep up with him in a way that Derek, with only half a history degree, couldn’t.

His claws itched to come out, to rip Stiles away from the threat to his wolf. That was when Laura stomped on his foot hard enough that he could hear the bones in his foot crack under her boot.

“Ow!” he shouted, kicking at her calf. The entire table was looking at him in a way that plainly said he’d missed a question aimed at him. “Er, what?”

Stiles shook his head with a slight smirk and said, “I said NYU has a pretty good history program if you ever wanted to finish your degree.”

Cassie jumped in before Derek could answer, with, “You didn’t finish your degree? In history?” The sneer in her voice made it clear exactly what she thought of that. Laura’s hackles rose next to him, a sub vocal growl rumbling in her chest.

Stiles hissed, “Cassie!”

“No,” Derek snapped. “I was taking classes at the community college when I was still in high school, but I took time off after a death in the family.”

“And never went back,” Cassie said primly. “Who died?”

“Cassie, shut up,” Stiles said, frantically looking between his girlfriend and the Hales.

“Everyone,” Derek said coldly, giving her a look that clearly said he wished she would evaporate on the spot. “Everyone died.”

Laura gripped his hand, coaching open the fist he hadn’t realized he’d made. Cassie’s mouth was hanging slightly open. Derek could smell the regret wafting off of her but he was so far beyond caring.

“Oh,” Cassie said, voice small. “I didn’t-“

“We need to go,” Laura said, throwing two $20 bills on the table.

She grabbed Derek by the hand and dragged him out of the restaurant. They made it to the end of the block before Laura pulled him in to a fierce hug. He hadn’t even realized he was shaking until it stopped. The smell of pack and safety enveloped him and he leaned down into Laura’s neck, chasing the scent. Laura made a deep rumbling sound in her chest, the one he knew as one of her alpha sounds, and he relaxed minutely.

His alpha was holding him tightly, whispering reassuring words in his ear when the familiar heartbeat of Stiles approached. Derek pulled away, facing the other man as he got closer.

“Hey!” he called, slightly out of breath from jogging down the sidewalk to them. “Derek, Laura, I am so sorry. I don’t know why she did that, but it’s not okay. Seriously, I’m so sorry.”

Stiles’ eyes were so soft and sad. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before laying a hand on Derek’s arm. Derek was hit again with that feeling of homepacksafety. He vaguely wondered when he started thinking of Stiles as pack as he gripped Stiles’ arm back, relaxing at the touch.

“It’s not your fault,” Derek heard himself say.

“Still,” Stiles said with a frown.

Derek nodded, absently running the skin of Stiles’ arm with his thumb. Stiles’ heartbeat ratcheted up but Derek attributed it to anxiety over whether or not he was going to rip off Stiles’ head.

“We’re just going to head home, okay?” Laura said, lightly pulling Derek from Stiles. “We aren’t mad at you, sweetie, I promise.” Laura flashed Stiles a small smile and turned to hail a cab. Stiles waited until they drove away before starting to walk back to the restaurant.

-

That night, Laura and Derek overheard the third fight between Stiles and Cassie in the whole nine months of their relationship. The first had been something small, some miscommunication. The second had been about Cassie getting a little too close and personal with a guy in one of her classes. This one was about the Hales, or more specifically, her attitude toward them. It all snowballed from there.

“Jesus, I’m sorry I offended your neighbors, okay? It was a mistake!” Cassie’s voice cut through the wall Derek and Laura shared with Stiles like it wasn’t even there.

“Okay, A. They’re not just my neighbors, they’re my friends!” Stiles’ voice echoed.

“Be still my heart,” Laura simpered from the kitchen. Derek snorted and tried to keep watching the baseball game.

“And B. This isn’t just about them, that was seriously fucked up, though. This is about how you treat people! You act like no one else is as important as you so you treat them like shit.”

“I do not!”

“Not always, but you do,” Stiles said. His voice was a little hoarse from yelling but he wasn’t even close to done. “You aren’t the sun and the world doesn’t revolve around you.”

“You’re supposed to take my side!” Cassie yelled. “No matter what, I’m always supposed to have you in my corner!”

“You do!” Stiles said. “I’m on your side and it’s in YOUR best interest to not go through life acting like a bitch.”

“YOU DID NOT JUST CALL ME A BITCH!”

“I said you’re acting like one.”

“Semantics!”

“You have the potential to be the awesome, Cassie, and you usually are, but you get this seriously bitchy streak that is a ridiculous turn off,” Stiles said, anger now tinged with tiredness. “Really, why do you do it? Is it a power trip thing? Do you idolize the rich and asshole-y who think they’re better than everyone else? What about me, Cass? Am I just a stepping stone boyfriend until you find someone who’s better than me?”

“What?” Cassie actually sounded shocked at that. “Stiles, no, I-“

“Because you act like everyone is nothing but scum on the bottom of your shoe. Is that what I am? Just an amusement until you find someone better? How do I know I mean anything to you when it seems like you don’t care about anything?”

“Stiles…” Cassie said, soft voice trailing off.

“Really? Nothing to say?” Stiles sounded so, so tired.

Laura and Derek exchanged a look, the Mets game on TV all but forgotten. The sound of Stiles’ sigh was the only noise from the neighboring apartment.

“Feel free to sleep on the couch tonight,” Stiles said, followed by footsteps and the slam of what Derek assumed was the bedroom door. Cassie clunked around the apartment, grumbling too low for the wolves to hear.

“What a bitch,” Laura said finally, turning up the TV volume to help drown out the noise from Stiles’ apartment.

“No shit,” Derek said deadpan. “It’s almost like I’ve told you that from the start.” Laura shoved him playfully with shoulder.

“Shut up and watch the game. And stop brooding.”

Derek elbowed her, but did what she said. He tried to remember his family as they had been; happy, gathered together, relaxing with the comfort of pack. Just like he and Laura were trying to do. The twisting in his gut he used to feel when he thought about his family was lessening slowly over time as he learned to focus on the better things, like his little brother’s Transformers-themed bedroom and the look on his little sister’s face when she lost her first tooth. Remembering his family didn’t make him immediately spiral into a pit of depression and self-loathing anymore. His therapist called it progress.

-

Derek woke up earlier than usual the next morning, courtesy of the sunlight flooding the room from between the curtains he’d forgotten to close the night before. Groaning, he rolled out of bed, knowing he’d never be able to get back to sleep, and stumbled to the kitchen. He stared at the coffeemaker for a good thirty seconds before remembering he needed to turn it on.

He jumped when he heard Stiles’ front door slam closed. By the click of the heels on the hallway’s floor, he knew it was Cassie leaving, probably for work. A few minutes later, he heard Stiles moving around the apartment, getting ready for his Sunday morning run. Derek made a split second decision and bolted to his room, yanking on his workout clothes as fast as he could. The lightweight shirt and basketball shorts weren’t the best for going on a run, but they’d do. Grabbing a water bottle from the fridge, he all but flung himself out the front door. Derek shoved his key into the lock, hoping it looked like he was just leaving his apartment, when Stiles opened his front door.

Stiles startled when he saw Derek, accidentally slamming his elbow on the door frame. “Ow! Shit, fuck Derek!”

“Stiles,” Derek answered, sending a smirk to the younger man. Stiles smiled back but it wasn’t as bright as normal. Derek’s wolf shifted restlessly at that. “Going for your Sunday run?” Stiles cocked his head to the side at that.

“You know I run Sundays?” he asked, not sounding angry, merely curious. Derek just quirked the corner of his lips up. “Okay, okay Mr. Mysterious McCreeper,” Stiles said with a snort. “Gonna come?”

Derek, with great effort, refrained from making any innuendoes. “That okay?” he asked. This time when Stiles smiled, it was the usual grin that warmed Derek.

“Very,” Stiles said. “Come on.” He briefly gripped Derek’s arm when he walked by, leading them out.

Despite the fact that Derek was a wolf, running with Stiles actually gave him a bit of a workout. He made a mental note to add more cardio to his usual regimen. They ended up taking a break in a small woodsy park a few miles from their building. Derek was flopped on his back, basking in the warm sun. Stiles let out a soft chuckle from next to him.

“You tired?” Stiles asked.

Derek grumbled back. Stiles swatted him on the arm.

“What are all these muscles for if you’re just gonna tap out? Where’s the stamina, man?”

“I’ll show you stamina,” Derek muttered, standing up. He didn’t think he’d said it loud enough to for Stiles to hear, but judging by the way his heartbeat sped up and the blush on his cheeks, he was wrong.

“Well then,” Stiles stuttered. “I’ll just have to believe you on that because our walls aren’t that thin. Not that I was trying to hear anything like that from you or, ew, Laura – oh shit don’t tell you I said ‘ew’ or she’ll kill me.”

“Stiles,” Derek interrupted, clasping a hand on the back of the other man’s neck. Stiles stilled immediately, but he didn’t stop reeking of embarrassment and adrenaline and arousal. It was then that Derek realized how intimate of a position he’d put the two of them, how very pack-like the gesture was.

He slowly removed his hand from Stiles’ neck. His wolf immediately whined at the loss of skin to skin contact, at the loss of feeling Stiles’ pulse beneath his fingertips. Derek was inclined to agree with his wolf.

Stiles was still flushed but managed to shake himself and take a deep breath that Derek would never know was shaky if it weren’t for his wolf hearing.

“Yeah,” Stiles said absently, answering a question no one asked. “Uh, should we head back?” he asked and started to jog the path back, not waiting to see if Derek would follow. Of course, he did, setting off at a leisurely pace behind Stiles. He didn’t try too hard to catch the other man; the view of Stiles’ muscles playing beneath his thin shirt, the wide shoulders that narrowed at his waist (a swimmer’s body, Derek’s mind supplied)…yeah he didn’t mind the view at all.

Intellectually, Derek had known that Stiles was fit. He’d seen the strength in his forearms, and knew he worked out, but knowing and seeing are two very different things. Now, he was able to watch Stiles’ lithe body move in front of him, showing the strength usually hidden beneath his clothes. Derek never thought he’d be the kind of guy that stared at someone’s calves, but here he was, enjoying the way Stiles’ calf muscles bunched and relaxed. His eyes traced the path up the back of Stiles’ legs, hesitating on his thighs before coming to rest on his ass. Now, Stiles’ ass was something Derek was used to staring at.

Derek’s wolf was loving this, the illusion of chasing Stiles through a river of the other man’s pheromones. He was ready to take Stiles, to claim him and mark him up…Derek willed his thoughts away, wanting nothing less than to get hard while running in a public park.

With a small burst of speed, Derek caught up to Stiles, valiantly keeping his eyes staring straight ahead and trying to ignore Stiles’ sweet smell. Derek breathed through his mouth the rest of the way back to their building. He was so fucked.

-

By the time Stiles and Derek were climbing the stairs to their floor, Derek wanted nothing more than a cold shower and a nap. Apparently, Laura had other plans. Stiles and Derek stared at the door of the Hales’ apartment. Or more accurately, the tie hanging from the doorknob. Derek hadn’t even thought that either of them owned a tie.

“What.” Derek glared at the door like it had personally offended him. The music blaring and the smell of incense seeping from under the door were effectively blocking his werewolf senses from hearing or smelling anything.

“I think that’s pretty self-explanatory,” Stiles said with a laugh. “What, neither of you have ever brought anyone home before?”

“No,” Derek said.

“What? How?!” Stiles almost yelled.

“How what?”

“You’ve never brought anyone home? Have you SEEN you? You like, won the genetic lottery!” Stiles said, then started stumbling over his words. “Er, both of you. You and Laura, uh, genetic lottery winners!”

Derek snorted, shaking his head. “Sure, Stiles.”

“Anyway, extracting foot from mouth,” Stiles muttered. “Wanna come in and shower?” Stiles unlocked his door and waved his hand with a flourish.

“Yeah,” Derek said, walking past Stiles, trying desperately not to imagine them showering together.

“Towels are under the sink, I’ll try to find clothes that’ll fit your whole…” Stiles flailed a hand in Derek’s general direction, “muscle-ness.” Derek quirked and eyebrow and lifted the corner of his mouth in a smirk. “Shut up,” Stiles grumbled and Derek let himself be bodily pushed into the bathroom.

Derek stripped methodically, turning the shower onto the coldest setting, and stepped in. The shock of the cold water pushed all thoughts from his head, letting him wash himself in peace. All too soon though, his body adjusted to the temperature and Derek was suddenly painfully aware of the fact that he was naked in Stiles’ shower, covering himself with Stiles’ body wash, becoming saturated in the scent of Stiles.

Derek’s cock started to fill, thickening between his thighs where he was rubbing Stiles’ soap into his skin. He grasped his length, stroking himself to full hardness before he could even think about if it was a good idea or not. The smell of Stiles mixing with Derek’s own stench of arousal become too much for his self-control and he stroked himself faster, brushing his thumb over the flushed head of his cock. Gathering more soap, he lathered himself up more until his dick reeked of Stiles’ body wash.

Almost of its own volition, Derek’s hand moved faster, drips of pre-come escaping every time he put pressure on that one spot right underneath the tip. He was gasping, working himself closer and closer, his orgasm quickly building. Close, he was so close to coming, making his mark on Stiles’ home, coating the room with his scent in a way that Cassie would never be able to erase.

“Stiles,” Derek groaned, one hand stripping his cock desperately, the other gently massaging his balls before dipping back, running over his perineum.

“Derek?” Stiles’ voice came through the door and that was it, Derek was spilling over his hand at hearing his name on Stiles’ lips. White hot pleasure burned through him, shaking him as he emptied himself until he smelled nothing but come and himself and Stiles.

“Derek?” Stiles called again. “You all right?”

“Yeah,” Derek rasped, then cleared his throat. “Yeah, uh, just slipped a little.”

“Okay…” Stiles said before the sound of his footsteps retreated from the other side of the bathroom door.

Derek took a few minutes to pull himself together before he gave himself a perfunctory wash, careful of his sensitive cock, and turned off the shower. He toweled off quickly, hoping to get out of the bathroom before the smell made of Stiles and come and Derek made his dick hard again.

The towel was hung low around his hips when he stepped into the living room, his skin still beaded from water from how hastily he’d dried off. Stiles’ eyes zeroed in on his chest immediately from where he was sitting on the couch.

“That’s, wow,” Stiles said, unable to stop staring.

Derek frowned and stared down at himself in worry, but there was no evidence of what he’d just done.

“Wow what?”

“Nothing! Nothing, just you, there, with all the – you know what, never mind,” Stiles said, unsubtly dragging his eyes over Derek’s chest and torso before yanking his eyes away. He grabbed a stack of clothes from the end of the couch and tossed them at Derek, who caught them easily.

“I’m gonna shower,” Stiles said, tossing the remote to Derek. “I have sandwich stuff in the fridge, get that protein! Not that your muscles need it.” He muttered the last part under his breath.

“What was that?” Derek asked, feigning innocence and toying with the hem of the towel around his waist.

“Nothing!” Stiles said and all but fled to the bathroom, a faint scent of arousal trailing after him.

Derek smirked and waited until the bathroom door locked before pulling off the towel and patting himself dry. The clothes that were left out for Derek were going to fit on the small side, but he figured they’d work.

The sweatpants actually fit Derek well, which meant Stiles probably swam in them, but the t-shirt was a bit tight across his chest. Eh, he thought. He’d worn worse; there was that time in high school when he’d spilled chocolate sauce all over his shirt and had had to wear an extra shirt of Laura’s that had just happened to be a deep v-neck with a flowery trim. Yeah, Stiles’ slightly tight Mets t-shirt would work just fine.

The fridge wasn’t overly full, but Stiles didn’t get paid until next week (Derek had a completely legitimate reason for knowing that, okay?) so he wasn’t surprised. He pulled out a few handfuls of sandwich ingredients. His inner-wolf preened at the idea of preparing food for Stiles, of showing how he could nurture and care for him. Derek wished he could kick his wolf in the nose.

Derek was spreading mayo on the bread when he heard the first whimper. He froze, immediately on alert for danger. Ears straining, he took a few cautious steps towards the bathroom. Wild scenarios flew through his head; someone could have broken in (rationally, Derek knew he’d have heard that), Stiles could be having a stroke (unlikely, he was 24), or maybe Stiles fell. Or maybe it was nothing and Derek was about to burst in on his naked neighbor for no reason.

Derek took a deep breath, searching for any trace pain and – nope, that wasn’t pain he was smelling; that was the salty tang of Stiles’ pre-come. Derek jerked back from the door, rushing back to the kitchen. He studiously tried to give Stiles some privacy, though it was hard to drown out the bitten off breathy moans. Derek continued to violently make sandwiches until he realized the bread had disintegrated under his knife from the half inch of mayo he’d been spreading for the last two minutes.

The noises finally stopped with a bitten-off gasp and Derek sighed in relief. His self-control had already been tested enough today.

When Stiles walked out of the bathroom in only a towel, the smell of his come and a bit of Derek’s trailed after him. Derek had no idea what he’d done in his past life to deserve this kind of torture, and as he watched Stiles’ slim but muscled back retreated to his room, he hoped it had been worth it.

Stiles didn’t take long to get dressed, popping back into the main living area of the apartment less than five minutes later, hair mussed and wet. Derek focused on the TV and munched on his lunch.

“Food,” he grunted, gesturing to the plate he’d put out for Stiles on the coffee table.

“Caveman Derek, make Stiles food,” Stiles grunted and flopped next to Derek on the couch with barely three inches of space between their bodies. Derek rolled his eyes, an easy default for interaction with Stiles.

It took a few minutes for Derek to realize that something was off and a few seconds more before he figured out that it was because Stiles was quiet. He looked over to see Stiles starting at the sandwich in his hands.

“Stiles?” Derek asked tentatively. “Is something wrong? I can remake it if you want.”

“No!” Stiles said. He turned to Derek with a look of soft surprise. “It’s just, you know how I like my sandwiches.”

“Yeah,” Derek said slowly, frowning in confusion. “I do. And?”

“It’s just, Cassie doesn’t even remember that,” he said quietly. Derek shifted uncomfortably.

“It’s just a sandwich,” he said, though he was pleased he had something up on Cassie.

“No, I know,” Stiles said quickly. “Still though, it’s…I…I like it this way because that’s how my mom used to make them.”

Derek stilled. He’d heard Stiles voluntarily talk about his mom maybe six times. He didn’t know the sandwich was a big deal; he’d seen Stiles meticulously stack his sourdough bread with mayo, provolone cheese, then turkey, lettuce, and cucumbers, roast beef, and Swiss, then the last piece of bread with a thin layer of honey mustard, at least once a week for the last few months, never having any idea something so simple had such a complicated reason.

“Uh,” Derek said, feeling the sudden urge to share something with Stiles to repay his openness. “My mom used to make peanut butter Oreo cookies. They were really weird and delicious and I’ve been too much of a chicken to try to make them,” Derek said. There was a weight gone from his chest that he hadn’t even realized he’d been carrying.

Stiles smiled, recognizing the offering for what it was. He reached over and squeezed Derek’s thigh before turning up the TV and focusing on the movie, completely unaware of the state in which he’d left Derek.

There was warm spot lingering on his thigh from where Stiles had touched him, and a lightness to him that he hadn’t felt before after talking about his family. It didn’t hurt to talk about them with Stiles, just a dull ache and fond memories. He settled back in the couch in shock, not paying attention to whatever was on. His therapist had told him this day would come. He hadn’t believed her.

Stiles and Derek made it through a movie and a half before Derek’s phone buzzed. It was a text that only said You’re welcome, little bro. Derek rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Thor. He’d forgotten that the whole reason he’d spent the majority of his day with Stiles was that he’d been sexiled. Now that he focused, he couldn’t smell any incense from next door, nor hear the music that had been blasting earlier. He could go home now, partake in his Sunday ritual of reading and sit-ups.

“Hey, salted caramel ice cream?” Stiles offered.

Or he could stay here.

“What was the point of running this morning?” Derek teased. Stiles scoffed.

“I run so I can eat ice cream and pizza and maintain this sexy body,” Stiles said, hopping over the back of the couch and heading to the kitchen. “I noticed you didn’t say no.”

“No, I didn’t,” Derek agreed. He didn’t think he’d be able to say no to anything Stiles asked.

-

Hours later, Derek was sleepily reclining on Stiles’ couch, Stiles nearly unconscious next to him with his eyes closed. There were dishes in the sink, their feet rested on the coffee table, and soft, evening light was seeping through the cracks in the blinds. At some point, Stiles had shivered, so Derek had pulled the blanket off the back of the couch and thrown it over both of their legs and now they were both barely awake with Iron Man playing in the background. It was so domestic it made his heart ache.

Derek wanted to reach out, to run his hand through that soft, fluffy mess of hair. He wanted to trace patterns on the fair skin and find out if it was as smooth as it looked. He felt sleep-drunk, the tiredness and pure contentment flowing through his blood lowered his inhibitions and he reached out, fingers so close to Stiles…And of course, that’s when Cassie came home.

The sound of metal on metal jerked Derek and Stiles out of their lethargy. Cassie’s keys jingled outside for a few more seconds until there were a few clicks and the door opened. Stiles’ body was no longer soft and lazy next to him, but tense as if he was waiting for a blow to fall. But maybe that was just Derek projecting.

Cassie paused just inside the doorway, blonde hair falling sleekly around her shoulders. She and Stiles stared at each other for a few moments before she said, “Hey,” and shut the door behind her.

“Hey,” Stiles answered, getting up from his seat hesitantly.

Derek got up, too, edging away from the couple. Gone was the comfortable atmosphere from minutes before, evaporated with the presence of Cassie.

“I’m going to head out,” Derek said, moving around where Stiles was rigidly standing. He couldn’t resist brushing his fingers across Stiles’ wrist when he passed by, a gesture that helped calm other werewolves. He wasn’t sure how Stiles would take it, and felt a surge of satisfaction when Stiles did relax a bit.

“Yeah,” Stiles said, turning his attention to Derek. “Wanna run again later this week?”

Despite the awkwardness in the room, Derek couldn’t help but smile.

“Yeah. I’ll talk to you later, Stiles.”

Derek left Stiles and Cassie to their own devices, only realizing he was still wearing Stiles’ clothes when he walked into his living room and Laura smirked at him over the top of her book. He flipped her the bird and sank into the chair across from his sister.

“You didn’t have anyone here, did you?” Derek asked.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Laura said, idly turning the page.

“I can’t smell any trace of anyone at all,” Derek pointed out.

Laura yawned dramatically, throwing her arms out to the side. “I’m tired, I think I’ll go to bed.”

“It’s 8:30.”

“Can never have too much beauty sleep,” she countered and all but sashayed to her bedroom.

“You’re a menace, you smug brat,” Derek called lightly to her. Her laugh cut off when she closed her bedroom door.

Derek knew though, that he lucked out in having a big sister that used her meddling powers for good instead of evil. And if he slept in Stiles’ t-shirt and sweats that night, well that was his own business.

-

After that day, Derek and Stiles started running together at least twice a week. Sometimes they stopped for a late breakfast after, Stiles claiming, “Protein is important after a workout! Keeps those muscles all muscle-y.” Slowly, they started to share bits of their family with each other, something Derek hadn’t been able to do since the fire. He learned things about Stiles that Stiles swore he’d never talked about with anyone, not even Cassie.

Derek learned that Stiles’ mom’s name had been Claudia and that she and Stiles’ dad met in college. Stiles still had a blanket she’d crocheted when he was eight. He’d cried and spent two hours scrubbing it when Cassie had spilled wine on it. The stain was mostly gone. Claudia Stilinski had been an art and sociology double major at NYU. That’s why Stiles had ended up in New York in the first place.

When Stiles mentioned he was from Beacon Hills, Derek almost tripped over his own feet. He had no idea - he’d grown up barely ten miles out of Beacon Hills. He wasn’t too surprised that he didn’t remember Stiles, he was a few years older and he and Laura had left when they were pretty young. How their hometowns had never come up in the ten months they’d been neighbors, Derek had no idea. When he thought about it, Derek vaguely remembered a deputy named Stilinski trying to comfort him after the fire. Stiles said he personally felt like an idiot for not making the connection sooner.

“My dad’s the Sheriff! I’ve been snooping through case files and sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong since I turned five! I’m slipping!”

Derek slowly started telling Stiles about his siblings. His younger sister Cora had collected stuffed frogs and loved to throw tea parties for them and her X-Men action figures. Derek had always insisted he was too old for tea parties. He’d give anything for one more.

Derek told Stiles about his older cousin Jeff taking it upon himself to redecorate the whole Hale house. He talked about how his cool but weird uncle Peter, the restaurant his parents always went to for their anniversaries, and about the time Cora pushed their little brother Timothy off the roof. He backpedaled at Stiles’ horrified expression, saying it was the roof of the playhouse and that Timothy hadn’t been hurt.

He’d forgotten Stiles was a non-pack human, someone that didn’t know about werewolves and hearing about people being shoved off of roofs wasn’t normal for him. That’s when he found himself considering telling Stiles about him and Laura, an idea that only grew a few weeks later when Derek told Stiles about the fire that killed his family. Stiles had known that his family had died, but that’s all. Derek said that someone with a vendetta against his family had trapped them inside and burned them alive. His voiced cracked when he told Stiles how he’d been used as a means to get to his family, how he had given her (he still refused to say her name) all the information she’d needed to murder every Hale besides Laura and him.

Derek didn’t realize he was crying until Stiles was wrapped around him, pulling Derek against him. He felt something wet against the side of his head and realized Stiles was crying, too. He cupped the back of Derek’s neck, giving a small squeeze that help soothe Derek. Stiles probably didn’t know it was a very wolf-like gesture, but Derek didn’t care. He buried his face in the crook of Stiles’ neck and took deep breaths, letting Stiles’ soothing murmurs wash over him.

“It’s not your fault, Derek. It’s okay, I’ve got you. Let it out, you did nothing wrong. Breathe for me, Der.” Stiles carded his hands through Derek’s hair, scratching at his scalp. Neither man cared that they were sitting on the grass in the middle of a park and probably drawing stares. It was New York, people had seen stranger things.

“Laura and I were supposed to be home but we went to a lacrosse game. Why’d they let us go? Laura and I were supposed to be there,” Derek whispered into Stiles’ neck. Stiles just held him closer.

They jogged back silently, too emotionally exhausted for their usual lighthearted banter and snark. When they parted at their front doors, Stiles gripped Derek’s arm and gave him that look of solidarity they sometimes shared that said the other understood. Derek nodded back.

Derek walked into his apartment, steeling himself for Laura and sure enough, the second the door clicked shut, she was on him. She pulled him in close and wiped at his cheeks, trying to erase the long-dry tear tracks that she’d probably smelled through the door.

“Derek,” she said, pleading with her eyes to tell her what was wrong.

Derek cleared his throat, raw from earlier, and said, “I talked to Stiles about…about the fire.”

Laura’s eyebrows flew nearly to her hairline and Derek was very aware of what Stiles meant when he said they had their own Hale Eyebrows Communications System. He could understand her shock, though. It’d taken Derek a year to truly talk openly with Laura about the fire.

“Are you okay? No, stupid question. What can I do, Derek? Please, tell me,” Laura begged, clutching his hands to her chest. This wasn’t his alpha asking, this was his sister.

Derek squeezed her hands back and leaned down to rest his forehead on hers. “You’re already doing it,” he said, giving her a small smile that he hoped was reassuring. “You’re doing such a good job, you’re an amazing sister and perfect alpha and – oof!” Derek was cut off by Laura’s hug squeezing the air out of him. Had he really not told her that before? He made a mental note to work on that.

Derek hugged her back and let her scent him, though he noticed she didn’t totally cover the scent of Stiles. In the back of his mind, he wondered if Laura was even aware that that was what she was doing. Normally, she’d cover any scent that wasn’t pack. He didn’t know what it meant that she let Stiles’ scent linger, but he wasn’t ready to ask.

Derek and Laura spent the rest of the day cuddled on the couch in a perpetual pack hug. Stiles periodically texted Derek with little things he thought would make Derek laugh. First was a picture of a bunny with a fez on its head, followed by a video of Stiles’ own kitchen floor that was covered in broken eggs, then panned to Stiles’ unimpressed face, an empty egg carton in his hands. The later it became, the more ridiculous the texts became until Stiles sent him a photoshopped picture of Derek’s head popping out of Mary Poppins’ handbag.

To: Stiles (8:02 pm)
What does that even mean?
Derek texted Stiles back. Stiles’ response was nearly instantaneous.

From: Stiles (8:03 pm)
It’s a metaphor

To: Stiles (8:05 pm)
A metaphor for what?

From: Stiles (8:08 pm)
Uh, you come from a place made of magic and sugar?
Then a second later, Oh god I didn’t think that through, I just meant you’re what Mary Poppins would bring to get kids to behave? And, okay, there was no meaning behind it, photoshop is just fun, okay?” The last text was accompanied by a picture of Stiles’ face surrounded by flower petals.

Derek snorted then snapped a picture of Laura asleep on his shoulder, a string of drool connecting her mouth to his shirt. He wrote sleeping beauty under it and sent it to Stiles.

From: Stiles (8:30 pm)
OH MY GOD I’m making that her contact picture. It’s almost good as yours

To: Stiles (8:53 pm)
What’s mine?

From: Stiles (9:02 pm)
Don’t worry about it

To: Stiles (9:14 pm)
You worry me.

Stiles sent a picture of a chicken sitting on a dog’s head, then a second later:

From: Stiles (10:45 pm)
Goodnight Derek.

To: Stiles (10:4 pm)
Goodnight, Stiles.

-

Derek was not ready for work the next day. He was never a morning person, but Mondays especially tended to punch him in the face. He spent fifteen minutes in the shower just letting the hot water run over him before actually starting to wash himself. As usual (well, usual as of lately), his morning wood was very present, but he was too tired to give his cock more than a few half-hearted tugs before giving up. A half hour later, he stumbled out of the shower, drying off and pulling on the boxer briefs and jeans he’d brought in with him.

When he walked out of the bathroom, he heard Laura in the living room, closing the front door. Her scent was confusing, a mix of confused excitement and a tinge of sadness. He walked into the living room to find her standing in front of the door with a dazed look on her face and a Tupperware container in her hands.

“What’s wrong?” Derek asked, immediately at her side.

“Nothing, it’s, Stiles brought these,” she said. She carefully, reverently, handed Derek the container. There was a note from Stiles on top.

Derek and Laura,
I hope it’s okay that I did this, if not, let me know. I know they’ll never be the same as your mom’s and I’d never try to replace hers or anything, this was a bad idea, huh? You were right though, Derek. They’re strangely delicious. So…yeah.
Stiles

Derek folded up the note and stared at the container in his hands. Laura’s eyes were a little wide, looking at the Tupperware, too. He popped the lid off and they were hit with the familiar smell of peanut butter and Oreos. Derek’s hand shook a little as he grabbed a cookie and broke it in two, handing half to Laura just like when they were kids.

“To Mom,” Laura said quietly, toasting him with her cookie half. Derek saluted her with his cookie and exhaled hard, then raised the cookie and took a bite.

Stiles was right, it wasn’t quite the same as his mom’s, but he wouldn’t want it to be. Stiles used a little more peanut butter than his mother had and the chunks of Oreos were bigger. They were amazingly delicious. Judging by Laura’s face, she thought so, too. They had a unique Stiles-like flair.

Derek grinned at Laura. She smiled back, pieces of Oreos stuck in her teeth. Derek laughed and kissed her cheek, then took the container to the kitchen. He put two cookies in two plastic bags, one for Laura’s lunch and one for his. Just like their mom had done in the mornings before school.

He sent stiles a simple text that said the only thing he could think of.

To: Stiles (7:26 am)
Thank you.

-

Laura made steak and red potatoes for dinner that night, the meal she always made when she wanted to discuss something. Derek ate slowly, waiting for Laura to say whatever she needed to say.

“The full moon is this Saturday,” she said fifteen minutes into dinner. Derek nodded.

“I know,” he said. Of course he knew, he could feel the pull just like she did.

“The Hardwick Pack invited us to a full moon run ritual weekend.”

Derek’s eyebrows flew up at that. The Hardwick Pack ran the part of New York where Derek and Laura lived. They’d had to seek permission to move into the area. A pack of two was hardly a threat, so they’d be allowed to live with the Hardwick Alpha’s blessing.

“They barely tolerate us. They don’t even acknowledge we exist,” Derek said. “Why’re they inviting us to a lunar gathering?”

“They invited a lot of area packs. It’s the first weekend full moon this year and they want to take advantage,” Laura said.

Derek narrowed his eyes. “And?” he prompted. Laura gave a sigh.

“How do you always know when I’m holding something back?” she asked.

“I’m your brother. What aren’t you telling me?” he asked.

Laura groaned and ran a hand through her hair.

“I think they’re looking to…diversify their pack.”

“Diversify,” Derek said flatly. “You mean they need new blood for breeding.” Laura nodded.

“At least that’s what the rumor mill says. It makes sense, they aren’t exactly social with others, why invite so many packs into their territory?” she said.

“So they probably want us to mate or...breed with their pack members,” Derek said, voice still flat.

“I think they will probably try to negotiate for you,” Laura said heavily.

“For me.”

“Do you remember when Mom was negotiating with that pack from Portland?” Laura asked. “You were only seven or eight.”

“Vaguely,” Derek said with a frown.

“They basically wanted to take Peter to be the alpha’s daughter’s mate and they’d send us someone to mate with cousin Jason,” Laura said.

“We’re wolves, not baseball cards,” Derek said, annoyance coloring his voice. “Are we going?”

“It’d be rude to refuse,” Laura said. “Don’t worry, just enjoy the run. I promise not to trade you for a hottie.” Derek rolled his eyes.

“You’d miss me.”

“Eh,” Laura said with a smile. “We’ll go, run in the woods, and abuse their hospitality for free food. It’ll be fine.”

“You’re a menace.”

-

Derek texted Stiles later that night, telling him he couldn’t go running this weekend because he and Laura would be out of town.

From: Stiles (7:20 pm)
=( It’s our tradition!

To: Stiles (7:27 pm)
I don’t think weekly jogs count as a tradition.

From: Stiles (7:30 pm)
Fine, it’s our routine! We’re like an old married couple!
Derek ignored the swooping feeling in his stomach when he read that. An old married couple that NEEDS their routine. Have you seen old people when they don’t get their weekly brunch, Derek? It’s not pretty!

To: Stiles (7:35 pm)
We can still go Wednesday before we leave.

From: Stiles (7:47 pm)
Sacrilegious! I need twice weekly Derek time!

To: Stiles (8:01 pm)
You’ll live.

Derek couldn’t keep the grin off his face. Stile tended to have that effect on him. That little asshole.

-

Stiles graduated to full-on asshole during their Wednesday run. He pegged Derek with pebbles and twigs the whole time.

“Are you just carrying a pocket of rocks?” Derek asked through gritted teeth. Stiles had been pelting him at random intervals for that last half hour.

“Nope,” Stiles said. He was barely even panting from the run. Derek would have to make sure to push him harder next time.

“You’re making it hard to miss you,” Derek said, speeding up a little bit.

Stiles tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and Derek reached over and automatically steadied him with a hand to his elbow.

“You’ll miss me?” Stiles asked. It was hard to tell if Stiles’ face was red from the run or from another reason.

“Yeah,” Derek said simply, keeping his running pace steady. Stiles smiled and didn’t say anything. Three minutes later, a twig hit Derek in the side of the head.

-

It wasn’t hard to get the weekend off from work for the lunar run. He put so much extra work in that his boss practically pushed him out of the door.

“I’ve been telling you to take a vacation for two years! Go!” Derek’s boss insisted. He was a short, skinny man with a Vincent Price moustache and a bald head. If Derek didn’t know he was harmless, he’d look terrifying.

“It’s Thursday,” Derek pointed out. “I don’t leave until Friday, Frank.”

“Go anyway!” Frank insisted.

Derek rolled his eyes and walked over to his station, pulling out his tools. “Friday.”

He called the bar where he worked every few weekends and told them he would be out of town. The bar manager said a bachelor party was coming up so he had ladies with cleavage working anyway.

-

Derek was going back and forth on how he felt about the lunar run. Half of him was excited to go on a real run in the woods for the first time in years. The other half of him was apprehensive. He’d never been comfortable with inter-pack politics and he’d gotten even rustier over the years of it being just Laura and him. When he’d mentioned this to Laura, she’d just ruffled his hair and smiled.

“It’s okay, it can’t be worse than the first time you met Stiles.”

Derek punched her in the shoulder, scowling. When Stiles had moved in next door to the Hales, Derek had somehow ended up implying that Stiles smelled like a fish and had intimacy issues. He still had no idea how that happened, but Stiles had found it hilarious.

Derek and Laura were packed and on the road by noon on Friday. Laura had insisted they leave early so she could give the Camaro a chance to stretch its legs.

“You know it’s stupid to have a car in New York, right?” Derek said, putting his foot up on the dashboard.

Laura shoved it back down and cheerily said, “Shut the fuck up.” She rubbed the dash soothingly. “It’s okay, baby, he didn’t mean it. Ignored the crabby werewolf with no sense of fun.”

Derek rolled his eyes but sat back into the seat, relaxing to the ambient sounds of the road noise and Laura loudly singing along to an oldies station. It was her own way of calming her nerves and Derek found he didn’t mind. The more relaxed his alpha was, the more he was as well.

The drive to the Hardwicks’ lunar celebration grounds took two hours longer than it should have due to Laura’s detours and joy riding, but Derek couldn’t find it in himself to care.

-

The Hardwick compound (according to the big, carved sign at the beginning of the long, wooded driveway) reminded Derek of a summer camp. The tree-lined driveway eventually opened up into a large clearing with a central lodge smack dab in the middle. Looking around, Derek could see cabins nestled in the surrounding trees. Werewolf summer camp. He snorted and mentally blamed Stiles for warping his sense of humor.

They parked and made their way to the lodge, leaving their bags in the Camaro’s trunk, just in case they had to…just in case. There was a table right inside the front door with a smiling woman standing behind it.

“Welcome. I’m Christina Hardwick,” she said, raising her chin. The alpha’s wife, Derek remembered. She was either a well-preserved 40-something, or a weathered 30-something years old. Her bleached-blonde hair that was primly pulled back in a knot behind her head contrasted strongly with the casual jeans and t-shirt. She flashed her eyes gold in greeting. Laura and Derek flashed theirs in return. Christina raised her eyebrows at Derek’s blue eyes, but said nothing.

“Laura Hale,” Laura said. “My brother, Derek.”

“Alpha Hale. Here’s your schedule and information packet,” Christina said, handing Laura a manila envelope. “You’re in cabin D. There aren’t any locks because what’s the point?”

She was right; locks wouldn’t keep a determined werewolf out and they’d be able to smell if anyone had snuck in anyway.

“You just missed lunch, but the lunar eve dinner starts at six. Feel free to explore until then,” Christina said and turned her attention back to the papers in front of her. Laura and Derek took that as the clear dismissal it was and left the lodge to grab their bags and find their cabin.

Cabin D wasn’t very far into the woods, either because the Hardwicks wanted to keep an eye on them or they didn’t seem them worthy of a more private and beautiful place. Probably both. Derek didn’t care, it’s not like he was going to be spending much time indoors. He checked his phone one more time, still no service. The last text he’d received from Stiles had told him to have fun on his spa weekend. Laura and burst out laughing when he read it to her. Apparently, she’d told Stiles they were having sibling bonding time with mud baths, massages, and seaweed wraps.

Derek tossed his phone onto the bed and went outside. Taking a deep breath here was so different than in the city. There was no smog or poison. When he breathed, he didn’t feel his lungs struggling to heal the damage.

Laura came up next to him and rolled her shoulders, cracked her neck, and took off into the woods. Derek followed, weaving between the trees and over rocks and roots and fallen logs. His wolf burst through, fangs and claws descending, then into his full beta shift. Adrenaline flowed through his veins, full of excitement and joy and freedom.

This is what he’d needed; he’d almost forgotten what it was like to be aware of all the nature around him. There were rabbits burrowed twenty yards away, an eagle perched in a tree to his left, and god this was perfect. He and Laura ran for miles, not realizing how long it’d been until they stopped, breathless, by a small lake. The Hardwick land wasn’t nearly as large or beautiful as the preserve in Beacon Hills, but it was still incredible.

“It’s like waking up,” Laura said quietly, staring at two ducks that were swimming in circles in the center of the lake. “It’s like waking up and not even knowing you’d been asleep.”

“Yeah,” Derek said, not knowing anything else to say.

They stood in silence, letting the forest wash over them. Derek felt a deep sense of calm down to the marrow of his bones. It was like his wolf had swallowed the soul of the forest around him and was filling him, all the empty spaces in him that he hadn’t even known were there. His nerve endings and even blood cells were singing to him, making him aware of everything around him, his body, and his very soul. There were jagged holes inside of him that were stitched closed by Stiles, his imprint seared into Derek’s very being. Stiles had healed parts of him without Derek even seeing it.

When Derek was a kid, his parents had told him how they’d met. They were childhood friends from neighboring packs, seeing each other every few months, then one day it was as if their wolves saw the other inside themselves. They said there’d been a blank spot inside his mother that was shaped like his father, and vice versa. It hadn’t made sense to Derek until that moment.

There was a brand that screamed of Stiles on Derek, a part of Stiles that Derek had taken into himself. It made him better, stronger. It also made him weaker, gave him a vulnerable spot a Stiles wide. This was what his parents had tried to explain to him. This was how it felt to find your mate.

Derek vaguely thought the he should be freaking the fuck out. Romantic entanglements with a human were dangerous; it was a human who’d used him to burn his family alive because of what they were. Stiles was a human that who didn’t know about werewolves and wasn’t affiliated with a pack. How would he react to learning the truth about him? He could run, he could react in fear, or violence. Derek and Laura would have to run again.

So yes, Derek should be panicking, but the calm of the woods around him and his alpha and Stiles was too great a pull. The half-formed mating bond, because that’s what he realized it was, was too strong. He was a cup and he was already overflowing with more positive emotions in this one moment than in the last two years combined. He had no room left for fear.

Laura looked over when he shakily exhaled and he could tell she knew. An alpha’s connection with their pack was strong and the good, powerful alphas could feel their pack members, feel what they needed. And Laura knew.

Laura flashed her eyes and nodded to him, pulling him in for a hug. Their scents were pretty well mixed, but she scented him anyway.

“Okay, little brother,” she said, turning from the lake’s tranquility. “Let’s go meet and greet. I promise not to give you away, no matter how pretty the dowry.”

Derek snorted. “I can’t promise the same.” Laura punched him in the shoulder and took off back toward the main lodging area and back to dozens of moon-happy werewolves.

-

So, Derek really, really hated parties. Always had. He’d much rather be reading back in the cabin or out in the woods, communing with nature. Derek shook his head. He really was starting to sound like Stiles. Laura had refused to let Derek stay and sulk (her words, not his), so here he was, standing in the middle of a group of New York wolves.

Unfortunately, unlike humans on the streets of the city, they weren’t at all intimidated by his ‘face-melting glare’ (once again, Laura). Instead of being given a wide berth, his forearm was in Christina Hardwick’s grip, while her other hand was gesturing to the group of people in front of Derek. He vaguely felt like he was being auctioned off.

It seemed like he was being introduced to everyone in the Hardwick pack. Well, every female. Even some that Derek was certain were underage and that alone made him queasy and even more wary of the pack’s matriarch.
“This is my daughter Alexandria, and our ward, Erica,” Christina said, motioning to the last girl in the row of wolves and an older girl to her right with wild blonde hair. Unlike her sisters and cousins who’d looked at Derek like he was an injured gazelle that they were ready to take down in a bloody mess, Alexandria gave off nothing by annoyance and vague embarrassment. The blonde next to her, Erica, just looked gleefully amused.

Alexandria reached out and shook Derek’s hand, another thing the others hadn’t (they’d all stuck their faces next to his an inhaled). Her handshake was firm and she shot him a small, apologetic smile. Erica just shot him a cheeky salute, not even trying to touch him, for which he was grateful.

“Alex,” she said, ignoring her mother’s exasperated look.

“Alexandria, Erica, that is not how we greet new wolves,” Christina admonished.

“It’s better than circling and basically sniffing his asshole like a dog,” Erica said.

“Language!”

“English.”

The other Hardwicks started drifting away, distancing themselves from the conversation.

“I’m Derek,” he interrupted before Christina blew a gasket. “And I appreciate it.”

Alex shot her mother a triumphant look before turning her attention back to Derek. “We tried to explain to my madre that it’s a wee bit old-fashioned to pimp out her family members, especially, underage ones, but we were ignored.”

“Inter-pack betrothals are an established part of pack laws,” Christina said through gritted teeth. “And I would never encourage my underage daughter to take a mate.”

“No, just put me on layaway for one until I’m 18,” Alex muttered.

“Beta Hale,” Christina said, reverting to the formal titles. Derek wasn’t sure if it was an attempt to remind him of older pack customs or to take control of the situation. “Excuse my daughter. I trust you’d never believe we invited you to a lunar gathering simply as a prelude to a mating courtship.”

“Of course not,” Derek said smoothly. “That would be an extremely discourteous and egregious breach of inter-pack etiquette.” He fought not to smirk at the forced smile on Christina’s face or at Alex’s expression of glee. My might not enjoy playing politics but that didn’t mean he wasn’t good at it.

“Of course not. We would never want to offend a member of the once-great Hale Pack,” she said in a falsely sweet voice. Erica and Alex’s eyes were darting back and forth between them. Derek fought against the rising of his hackles, letting his own fake smile stretch across his face.

“No, you wouldn’t,” he said, holding eye contact with Christina. To her credit, she held his gaze in silence until it was broken by Alex.

“Mom,” she said, interrupting what could have been a very long stare down. “Use your nose, he already has a claim started.” Derek fought not to blush as Christina leaned in and took a deep breath, frowning. “See? No hormone-honing pheromones going on. He isn’t casting his net anymore, he’s already got someone in mind.”

“An incomplete claim,” Christina said, waving her hand like it didn’t matter. To her, it probably didn’t.

Mom,” Alex hissed. “Doesn’t Dad need your help for the presentation?”

“Of course,” Christina said, straightening her back. “Beta Hale, please excuse me.” She melted back into the crowd and Derek finally felt able to relax.

“Sorry,” Alex said, shaking her head. “I’d say she isn’t normally that bad, but I’d be lying my ass off.” Derek raised his eyebrows.

“Your mother usually tries to set you up with complete strangers?”

“No, that one’s new,” she admitted. “But I’ve sat through a lot of lectures on the importance of breeding, maintaining wolf genetics, and strengthening the pack.” Her nose wrinkled in disgust while Erica mimed gagging next to her. “And I thought sex-ed in high school was bad enough.”

“How old are you?” Derek asked.

“17,” Alex answered. “I have six more months until my parents try to marry me off to an eligible, virile wolf.”

“Try?” Derek asked. Alex grinned, fangs dropping slightly.

“Try.”

Derek talked with Alex and Erica for most of the night, trying to get a feel for what the Hardwicks’ lunar runs were like. He was surprised to learn that Erica was from a different pack originally. Her parents had kicked her out after an alpha bit her to cure her epilepsy. The alpha had abandoned her and the Hardwicks had taken her in, a decision Derek got the feeling they regretted.

“They wanted new breeding stock,” Erica said. “They aren’t happy I haven’t popped any out yet.”

“How old are you?”

“22. I have a lot more shit to do before anything comes clawing its way out of me.”

Derek got the impression he was in for a weekend of pretention and werewolf bloodline preservationists (muggle-hating purebloods, as Laura put it). Or maybe his opinion was being clouded by Erica and Alex’s disdain, but he doubted it. Luckily, Erica and Alex seemed to be something of oddities in the pack, and not many people tried to approach with them by his side.

An hour into the werewolf social hour, a large man with gray at his temples stood and cleared his throat. The chatter died nearly instantly. The man was big all over, from his thick neck down to his barrel chest and tree trunk legs. He wasn’t fat, just large. Though he was clean-shaven and wearing nice jeans and a t-shirt, Derek could easily picture him looking just as at home in lumberjack plaid and a wildman beard.

He introduced himself as Andrew Hardwick, alpha of the Hardwick Pack, and introduced the four other alphas present. Of them all, only Laura didn’t cross her arms and glare, or puff out her chest with her chin raised. She inclined her head respectfully when her name was called, with a small smile on her face like she was finding something mildly amusing. As always, the ones who showed off the most tended to be the weakest. Of the alphas present, Derek knew the easy confidence of Andrew and Laura made them the two to watch. Judging by the calculating look on Erica’s face, she saw it, too.

Andrew Hardwick outlined the weekend, from activities available (yoga, who knew?) to the run parameters, ending on the all-day Sunday feast and recovery day. It was completely different from the runs the Hales had done when he was younger. The full moon had been about family, extended and immediate. It was about connecting with your pack and your wolf. This was about grandstanding and showing off.

Derek wasn’t interested in werewolf yoga or basket weaving or water balloon tosses, whatever summer camp group activities that were planned. Derek wanted to shed his skin, let his wolf roll over him in a tidal wave of wildness and animalistic instinct. The thrill of the chase.

“Ridiculous,” Erica said, shaking her head when Andrew was done talking. “Word of advice, avoid the yoga if you don’t want a bunch of asses in your face. They tend to favor the downward dog position.”

Derek had a brief image of Stiles, face down with his ass presented up in the air before he forced the thought aside. He did not need the smell of arousal wafting off him in a room full of breeding-happy werewolves.

Erica, Alex, and Derek went their separate ways when Laura came over and Christina beckoned the girls to her. Derek had never been happier to see Laura.

“You’re not leaving me alone for the rest of this weekend,” he hissed on the way back to the cabin, ignoring the curious glances of the others when they passed.

“Didn’t have fun?” Laura asked innocently. Derek shoulder checked her into a tree.

“You suck,” he said. Laura laughed.

“Come on, it’s not that bad. We’re through the worst of it, tomorrow is the run.” She threw an arm around his shoulders companionably.

“’We’,” Derek muttered, but didn’t shake her off. She was right, though. The more he opened himself up, the more he could feel it. He lost himself in it, barely registering the rest of the walk to the cabin or getting ready for bed.

The moon was tugging at Derek’s instincts, demanding attention, yanking his wolf to that surface. That included his increased awareness of what he now could recognize as a half-formed mating claim branded on him that he hadn’t even realized he’d made. It pushed and pulled at him like the moon-driven tide, nudging at everything Stiles. Stiles’ smile, his scent, the way his lithe body moved, it all screamed of mate and demanded Derek take, protect, to complete his claim. He didn’t even realize he was hard until he was hit in the face by one of Laura’s pillows.

“Wha-hey!”

“Derek, I swear to god, I do NOT want to smell that,” Laura growled. “Make it go away, put it away, now, now - ” She was cut off midsentence when Derek chucked the pillow right back at her.

“It’s common courtesy to ignore things we smell that are out of our control,” he grumbled, burrowing under his blankets.

“It’s common courtesy to not get a boner where your sister can smell it,” Laura said. “Think of Santa in a thong, whatever, I don’t care, just knock it off!”

“It’s not that easy!” Derek hissed, but he did what she asked. Though it turned out that Santa in a thong just served to remind him that Christmas was coming up in a few months and wondered what Stiles did around the holidays. He could spend them with Derek and Laura if he wasn’t going to fly out to see his dad or if he and Cassie weren’t…Cassie.

Someone might as well have dumped a bucket of ice over his head. Stiles was with Cassie. Had been for the better part of a year. Stiles was in a relationship and he didn’t know anything about werewolves and wouldn’t feel any mystical mating bond like Derek did. He didn’t want Derek as a man, let alone as a monster.

Derek pulled his pillow tighter to him and tried to will himself to fall asleep, desperately trying to ignore the feeling that his ribs had turned frozen and brittle and collapsed, stabbing into his chest. If Laura smelled the difference on him, she was kind enough to say nothing.

-

Laura and Derek woke up early, like they always did on the morning of a full moon. They ate a huge breakfast in the lodge, then ducked out when they saw Christina walk in, flanked by a few women. Derek ran out so fast, he still had scrambled eggs in his mouth and Laura was still carrying a few strips of bacon.

As per Erica’s advice, they avoided the yoga session like it was the plague. Instead, they made their way to the lake they’d found the day before. After a few laps around, Derek managed to sneak up behind Laura and toss her bodily into the lake.

“Derek!” she screamed, sputtering when she breached the surface. She struggled toward the beach, her tank top and shorts soggy on her slim frame.

“My alpha,” Derek said solemnly before he doubled over in laughter. With his head between his knees, he couldn’t see the soft look that replaced Laura’s glare. He couldn’t see how floored she was that he was so openly laughing, something she’d only recently seen on a small scale and only with Stiles. And he didn’t see her until she was right in front of him, grabbing his wrist and swinging him into the water.

“Alpha strength, bitch!” she yelled when his head popped up.

She launched herself into the water next to him, splashing him in the face. Derek splashed her right back and thus began the Hale sibling water fight. For a blissful half hour, Derek’s mind wasn’t on mates or werewolf breeding or guilt. It was on pulverizing his sister.

When they’d finally worn themselves out, they swam to the lake’s floating dock and climbed up, sprawling onto the wood. It was mid-fall in New York, so not exactly the nicest time of year, but it was unseasonably warm so Derek was sure their clothes would dry soon. Laura had been right, they’d needed this. The city was fine, he liked where they lived, but the woods, especially the woods on the full moon, was something he knew he needed to make room for in his life.

The Hardwick land was nice, but it wasn’t Derek’s. He wasn’t going to be running on his family’s land. He’d had idle thoughts about going back, dreams of the preserve. They still owned the land, but the pain that lanced through him when he thought too hard on Beacon Hills had always kept that to be no more than an errant thought. But now, maybe he could do it. Maybe he could run on the Hale land and reclaim the home he’s lost. Maybe rebuild it…

Derek woke up a few hours later when Laura kicked him into the lake. He’d tried to drag her in after him, but her “alpha reflexes, sucker!” kept her dancing out of his reach until she eventually dove into the lake. They slogged their way back to the cabin and got ready for an early dinner.

Derek and Laura pulled on the ratty old clothes they’d brought for the run, not bothering to shower (“That’s disgusting, Derek!” “We’re about to run through the wet, muddy, possibly bloody woods all night.” “…Fine.”) before heading to the lodge. It wasn’t quite full yet, but there were people scattered at the tables. Derek and Laura took a seat next to Erica who, by the look of it, was polishing off her third rack of ribs, and Alex, who somehow had barbeque sauce in her hair.

“Keep those judgey eyebrows down,” Alex said while Erica licked her fingers. Laura snorted.

“Remind you of Stiles?” Laura asked. Derek glared at her and dug into his own food.

“Ooh, Stiles,” Erica said, leaning forward with her elbows on the table. “Who’s Stiles?”

“No one,” Derek said.

“Oh, is this the girl you started the claiming bond with?” Alex asked.

“The guy,” Derek corrected before he could stop himself.

“What?”

“Stiles. He’s a man, not a woman,” Derek said through gritted teeth.

Alex blinked.

“Oh,” she said, then grinned. “Oh! Oh this is amazing, Mom’s gonna be so pissed!”

“What.”

“Losing good breeding stock like you to the same team,” Erica said, punching his shoulder good-naturedly. “This is fantastic. Can you imagine the look on her face when I casually mention that you like dick?”

Laura snorted mid-drink and coughed, sputtering liquid all over the table. “You got tea in my sinus cavities!” she gasped. Derek couldn’t help but laugh.

“Still remind you of Stiles?” he asked.

“God, even more than before. May they never meet,” Laura said. She dabbed tea off her face with a grimace.

“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Erica said, going back to sucking barbeque sauce off the ribs in front of her. “Considering you’re pining over him, and all.”

“I’m not pining,” Derek said.

“Hella pining,” Alex said.

“You’re kind of pining,” Laura said.

“He has a girlfriend,” Derek hissed. “He’s been with her for months. He doesn’t want…” He cut himself off but from the looks on Laura, Erica, and Alex’s face, they knew what he was going to say.

“Derek,” Laura said gently, reaching out to him. He managed not to jerk away from her touch, but only just. “Derek, look at me.”

He hated when she pulled her alpha voice out. He met her eyes, though he let it show just how unhappy he was about it.

“Did you know Dad was engaged to someone else before Mom?” Laura asked in a soft voice. Derek jerked, startled.

“No, I – what?” Derek asked. Erica and Alex looked away and started talking in low voices, trying to give them the illusion of privacy.

“He was engaged to a girl he went to college with. He and Mom had been friends as kids and one day he said it just made sense and he knew he needed to be with Mom.”

“And how much of that was werewolf biology?” Derek muttered, but his mind was reeling with the new information about his parents.

“Derek Samantha Hale – “

“I hate you.”

“ – you know damn well what Mom and Dad had was more than wolf pheromones,” Laura said sternly. “You’re just using Cassie as an excuse to not say anything and wallow in your man-pain.”

“Laura, that’s not how it works.” Derek was having a hard time not snapping at his sister. “I don’t want to be the kind of person that tries to break up a relationship, okay?”

“At least tell him,” Erica said, apparently done pretending that she wasn’t listening. “Then you’ll actually have something to angst over.”

“You guys are horrible.”

Luckily, Derek was saved by Andrew Hardwick’s loud voice calling for attention. More people had trickled in while the four of them had been talking and it was like an electric current was jumping from person to person, and finally, it hit Derek. All thoughts of his family and Stiles slipped away in the presence of the full moon’s pull.

Hardwick kept it short, reminding them all of the territory’s boundaries, before sending everyone outside with a grandiose, “Let the lunar run commence!”

Derek didn’t really remember the walk outside, but he and Laura were at the trees’ edge. He’d never had issues pulling up the wolf, but this shift flowed better than it had in years, surging to the surface. The alphas were all in their alpha forms, some huge and monstrous, some sleek and quick-looking. All but Laura, who was looking at Derek and biting her lip.

“Go,” Derek said, nudging her shoulder with his own. They usually ran in beta form together, Laura not wanting Derek to feel like she was trying to pass him by. Derek didn’t think anything of the sort. “You deserve it, go ahead.”

Laura grinned, eyes red and canines extending. One second she was there and the next, he was standing next to a large, dark wolf with splashes of copper red in her fur. She was the only alpha who was in a full wolf shift. Derek could smell the envy wafting off of the other alphas and he didn’t even try to hide his smug grin.

They waited until the Hardwick alpha stalked into the trees, then everyone took off. Derek trailed close to Laura, not letting that brown and red fur out of his sight for more than a few minutes. He’d been vaguely worried that his wolf would be unsure in the unfamiliar territory and sluggish from being in the city for so long. He’d had nothing to fear. Derek flowed over roots and wove through trees and underbrush like water running through cracks in the ground.

The pack bond was wide open. Derek could feel Laura in front of him, like a tug at the end of a long, shining thread of light. Another golden thread led away from him, back toward New York. Derek fought the sudden urge to turn and follow it. He followed Laura.

A few wolves from other packs popped up every once in a while to play and romp around with the full-wolf alpha. At one point, Derek and Laura were chasing after a few deer and one unruly coyote when Derek caught a familiar scent. Two seconds later, Erica crashed into him with a mess of blonde hair and carefully positioned claws.

They tumbled to the forest floor, scrabbling with claws and teeth until Erica came out victorious, pinning Derek. Laura, who’d lain down nearby to watch, let out an unimpressed snort. Derek grunted and kicked Erica off of him and smoothly rolled to his feet. They romped around for a while more before Laura jumped into the fray, playfully snapping her jaws at them. Derek felt like a pup again.

They could’ve been at it for hours, Derek had issues keeping track of time on the full moon, but eventually Erica cocked her head to the side at one of the howls that were ringing through the forest. She gave them one last playful shove before bounding into the trees, answering her alpha’s call.

Laura butted her head into Derek’s side and they took off again, chasing animals and reveling in being surround by the woods. Pure contentment radiated between them through the pack link.

It was nearly dawn when everyone started trudging out of the woods. Some looked like Derek, clothes torn and filthy, skin covered in dirt. Some had shed their clothes, their nude bodies just as encased in grime as Derek’s exposed arms and face. A few parents were carrying exhausted children against their chests.

Derek absentmindedly scratched Laura behind the ears on the trek back to their cabin. As soon as he made it to his bed, he collapsed face-first into the blankets. He heard the rustling that indicated that Laura had shifted back and was pulling on clothes before her hoarse voice called, “Shower…y’r gross.”

Derek just grunted and let his bone-deep fatigue drag him to sleep.

-

Laura woke him up at 1:00 pm. She was showered, dressed, and entirely too perky. Derek just grunted at her and shoved his head further under his pillow.

“I hate you,” he grumbled, voice muted.

“Not as much as you’re gonna,” she said. Laura wrapped a hand around his ankle and tugged, trying to yank him out of bed. Derek made a noise that he absolutely refused to admit was a squawk and kicked out with his other leg, breaking her grip.

“Up!” she said cheerily. “We’re gonna go take advantage of their ‘parting feast’ then blow this popsicle stand.”

“Or, you know, just sleep,” Derek said through a yawn.

“Nope, food. Free food.”

Derek’s rumbling stomach seemed to agree with Laura so he dragged himself out of bed and through the shower. The water flowing down his body was tinged brown with dirt and a little bit of blood. So he had to admit that Laura had a point about him needing a shower.

The lodge was half empty by the time Laura and Derek had filled their plates and sat down. The wolves scattered at other tables looked just as ragged as Derek felt. They sat next to Erica again, who was half asleep over her plate of scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, and steak. Derek raised an eyebrow at her.

“Shut up,” she said, rubbing her eyes. She dug into her pocket for a moment before producing a piece of paper and shoving it to the Hale siblings. “My number. You guys are the only ones from this soiree that are worth keeping in contact with. And not because my wolf mama has an unhealthy fixation on Derek’s dick; I actually like you.”

Derek was too tired to even blush, but Laura reached forward and pocketed the number. Talking seemed to have taken all of Erica’s energy and she let her head fall forward onto the table with a thump.

“How adorable,” Laura said, ruffling Erica’s messy hair. “Have a little moon hangover?”

Erica turned enough to glare at Laura and ask Derek, “Is she always this goddamn peppy?”

“Only when she feels like being an asshole,” Derek said. Laura smacked the back of his head.

“Eat your food,” she said.

“Yes, Mom,” he grumbled. Laura gave him a soft smile before starting on her own lunch.

They ate their way through what felt like half their weight in food over the next two hours. Erica woke up a little when Alex and a few others from the Hardwick Pack joined them. They all made their pleasantries but were too bone weary to do anything but eat as much as they could.

This at least was similar to what Derek’s family had done when he was young. His mom and dad always made sure to have enough food to feed a small army (or a medium-sized werewolf pack) for the ravenous family. The full moon took a lot out of a wolf, even an alpha, and his mom had always stressed that they all needed a lot of nourishment the day after a full moon run. Derek smiled into his pork chop.

-

Laura and Derek thanked Andrew Hardwick before leaving. They barely managed to escape Christina, though that was partly due to Erica ‘accidentally’ knocking over a plate of wings at the buffet right onto Christina’s shoes.

Laura let Derek drive them back to the city. When they were twenty minutes away from their apartment, Laura placed a hand over Derek’s where it rested on the gearshift. She let her emotions bleed through the reenergized bond. The contentment, love, and pure happiness that Laura was radiating was enough to make Derek’s heart stutter.

“I know there were some parts that were less than fun, but, worth it?” she asked.

Derek paused. Besides Christina’s bizarre behavior, there was a newly strengthened bond between them, thanks to the first true run in years, and the conversations about their family that had ended in fond nostalgia instead of painful longing. Derek turned his hand over and laced his fingers with Laura’s, giving her hand a tight squeeze.

“Yeah,” he said, glancing away from the road to look at her. “Yeah, it was worth it.”

Laura practically beamed.

-

Monday morning shifts were the bane of Derek’s existence. That coupled with his lingering exhaustion from the full moon made him less than thrilled when he dragged himself out of bed the next morning. His bad mood darkened significantly when he walked into the living room/kitchen area and was immediately assaulted by loud grunts, gasps, and the distinctive banging of a headboard coming from the wall the living room shared with Stiles. Laura shuffled out a few minutes later to the sight of Derek hunched over the counter, glaring at his bowl of Fruity Pebbles.

She shook her head at him and said, “Go to work. Try not to kill anyone.”

Derek didn’t make any noise other than a grunt, but he did stand up and stalk out of the apartment.

“I’m not putting your Fruity Pebbles away!” she yelled after him. Derek just grunted again and slammed the front door behind him.

-

Derek managed to keep himself from killing anyone at the garage, but only just. There was a tense moment when he was sorely tempted to throw a tire iron at his shitty coworker’s head (said coworker almost dropped a car off its lift, right onto Derek’s head), but he refrained. Maybe he’d yank the other man’s carburetor out later.

He had a shift at the bar later that night, which managed to wipe out what little energy he had left. It was past midnight when Derek finally got home. When he walked into the apartment, Laura was sitting on the couch, sketching something on the drawing pad Derek had given her for her birthday. She looked up and waved when he closed the door.

“What’s up, little bro?”

“Dinner?” he asked.

Laura was on her feet in half a second. “Oriental Garden is open until 1:00 am,” she said. She grabbed her bag and met him by the door. “I’m starving, let’s go.” She shoved Derek out of the door and into a very startled Stiles.

“Whoa!” Stiles threw a hand out to Derek’s chest. Derek was eternally grateful that Stiles wasn’t a werewolf and couldn’t feel the way Derek’s heart sped up at the contact. “Hey, still all buff, okay,” Stiles said, his face heating up. Derek smiled.

“Yes, Stiles,” Derek said. “Just like when I saw you three days ago.”

“Yeah, well, whatever,” Stile muttered. “How was your guys’ bonding, woodsy spa weekend?”

“Really good actually, we – “

“Communed with nature?” Stiles interrupted. “Meditated at sunset? Basket weaving? Hair braiding?”

“You know it,” Laura said. “You seemed to have a good weekend too if yesterday is anything to go by.”

“What do you mean?” Stiles asked, cocking his head to the side. Derek tried not to groan. He didn’t need to talk about Cassie and Stiles’ sex life.

“I think the headboard-shaking, ear-splitting sex indicated a good weekend,” Laura teased.

Stiles stilled, face twisting from confusion to pain, before going carefully neutral. It was then that Derek really took in Stiles’ appearance. His clothes were rumpled and smelled like stale, plane cabin air, and his eyes were a little bloodshot. In his white-knuckled grip was a large duffle bag.

Derek’s stomach dropped when Stiles’ scent curdled with sadness. Stiles lifted the bag wordlessly to Laura and Derek’s matching looks of slack jawed horror.

“Stiles…” Derek said.

“Last minute weekend conference,” was all Stiles said. “Work sent me to Chicago.”

Derek’s wolf bristled and it wasn’t with jealousy but with anger. The sour smell of despair swirling around Stiles was wrong, so different than his usual warm scent. This was a Stiles in distress and it was killing Derek. Laura gave a sub vocal whine and made an aborted motion toward Stiles. He didn’t seem to notice, gaze on his front door. Derek was horrified to see Stiles’ eyes glassy with threatening tears.

“I’ll, um, I’ll talk to you guys later, okay?” he muttered and turned to his front door, fiddling with the keys in his fingers.

“Yeah, I – yeah,” Laura said, cheeks red. She dragged Derek into their apartment, closing the door with Stiles still standing in the hall. “Oh my god,” she hissed, slapping at Derek’s shoulder. “Oh my god, what the hell?” Derek batted her hands away.

“I don’t know,” he said. His heart was aching for Stiles. Yeah, he hadn’t wanted Stiles to be with Cassie, but he’d never wish that on Stiles. The look of hurt and betrayal on his face, it pained Derek. It actually physically hurt him somewhere around his sternum and it hit him then that he was actually feeling Stiles’ pain. He looked at Laura and her wide eyes mirrored his own shock.

“What…” Derek said.

“It’s the pack bond,” Laura said quietly. “I didn’t even know. I don’t, he isn’t…when did Stiles become pack?” Derek shook his head.

“I don’t know,” he said. He felt Laura shut down the pack link, cutting off the flood of Stiles’ emotions. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Laura said, shaking her head. “What a bitch.”

That’s when the yelling next door started.

”In my own bed? Are you shitting me Cassie?!”

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean for it to happen!”

“So what, you just fell down and happened to land on a dick?” Stiles shouted. Cassie sobbed.

“Stiles, it was a mistake!”

“No, me wasting eleven months with you was,” Stiles said coldly.

“Go Stiles,” Laura said.

”You ass! Look, I get it, I was wrong. You have to know that he didn’t meant anything to me, he was just some stupid guy from class!”

Stiles exploded.

“I took you in! You’ve lived here rent-free for two months and you fuck someone in my home, in my BED?” Stiles’ voice was shaking with rage, deeper and harsher than Derek had ever heard it. “Either he meant enough to completely destroy everything we had, or he meant nothing and you’re just selfish and bitchy enough to do whatever you want and I just don’t matter. So, which is it?”

“I just, I don’t know Stiles.” Cassie broke off, crying softly. “Stiles, you know I care about you. I was weak, okay? We can get past this, we can be okay!”

“You are weak,” Stiles said coldly. “I can’t trust you. You’ve shit all over our relationship and you need to leave.”

“What?” Cassie gasped. “No, Stiles, we can – “

“We can’t,” he interrupted. “You fucked up and I’m not forgiving you. You need to go.”

“Stiles…”

“Now.” Stiles’ voice was hard and final. There was no wiggle room, no indication that he’d be swayed. Cassie seemed to know it, too because it was quiet for a few moments, then a shuffling that sounded to Derek like a bag being packed, then the opening and closing of the front door.

“Damn, don’t mess with Stiles,” Laura said, then seemed to realize they’d been standing just inside their front door for five minutes, listening to Stiles and Cassie fight. “Come on, let’s at least pretended we aren’t eavesdropping douches,” she said, clasping Derek’s shoulders and steering him deeper into the apartment, dinner plans forgotten by both.

Derek huffed but let her push him into the living room. He turned on the TV to a Golden Girls rerun just to piss off Laura. He never watched that show on his own, no, of course not. Laura just curled on the couch and pulled him down next to her. A pack member was hurting, even though it was a member they hadn’t realized they’d had, and it was instinct to physically comfort. Since Stiles wasn’t there, well, they had each other.

They were halfway through the third episode, Laura half asleep on her shoulder, when a soft, tentative knock came from the front door. It was quiet enough that if Derek weren’t a werewolf, he wouldn’t have heard it at all. He carefully extracted himself from Laura, who called him an asshole, and answered the door. Stiles was on the other side. His eyes were rimmed with red and he was wringing his hands.

“Hey, um, I didn’t wake you up, did I?” he asked.

“No,” Derek said. “You’re fine.”

“Oh good, yeah, that’s good,” Stiles said, still rubbing his hands. “Um.”

Derek reached out, covering Stiles’ hands with one of his own. Stiles stilled, starting at Derek.

“Did you want to come in? Laura and I are watching Golden Girls,” he said without thinking, though the shocked laugh it got from Stiles was worth it.

“Yeah, I’m always down for some Bea Arthur,” Stiles said, following Derek inside.

“She’s Derek’s favorite, too,” Laura said from the couch, rubbing at her eyes.

Stiles snorted and looked at Derek who shrugged but didn’t deny it. Laura patted the space on the couch next to her and squeezed Stiles into a fierce hug as soon as he sat down. Derek sat on Stiles’ other side and, after some eyebrow signals from Laura, hesitantly put a warm palm on Stiles’ back, right between his shoulder blades. The tension in Stiles’ body melted and he gave a shuddering sigh.

Derek had about five million emotions swirling in him, fighting for dominance. The two that came out on top were anger on Stiles’ behalf and a deep need to comfort and protect. Derek rubbed soothing circles on Stiles’ back, his wolf preening when the other man relaxed further under his touch. Laura was petting Stiles’ hair, making low, soothing noises.

This was pack, something they’d been missing for years. Derek didn’t know how a pack bond affected a human but Stiles was calming down. His breathing and heart rate were evening out and the stench of anxiety faded until there was nothing but Stiles’ usual scent mixed with a bit of sadness.

Stiles pulled out of the hug and shifted so that he still had his head on Laura’s shoulder. The movement forced Derek’s hands off of Stiles’ back, but the smaller man stayed pressed up against him. Derek’s hand hovered uncertainly for a second before he gently placed it on Stiles’ knee. Stiles hummed contentedly, not tensing under the touch. Derek squeezed Stiles’ knee lightly and let his hand stay there as he settled back into the couch, Dorothy yelling at Blanche on TV.

Three episodes later, Laura was completely dead to the world, head lolling on the arm of the couch. Stiles was tucked into Derek’s side, warm and pliant, with Laura’s feet under his thighs.

“You know,” Stiles said softly, “it’s like…I know it’s over, and I’m sad. But I feel like I should be a lot more upset.”

Derek hummed and dropped his arm to Stiles’ shoulder from where it had been resting across the back of the couch. He gave Stiles’ shoulder a brief but tight squeeze and said, “You’re not supposed to feel any specific way. There’s no guidebook; you experience your feelings in whatever way is natural to you.”

Stiles turned his head slightly to meet Derek’s eyes.

“That’s one of the longest sentences I’ve ever heard you say,” Stiles teased. “Seriously though, that’s very wise of you.”

Derek glanced to the side, eyes focused somewhere over Stiles’ shoulder.

“My therapist told me that,” he said, fighting off a blush of embarrassment. He’d never told Stiles about his therapist.

But Stiles smiled softly. “Wise of you to listen to her, then,” he said, no trace of judgement in his voice. Derek felt a surge of affection for Stiles.

“I guess so,” Derek said, a little lost as to what to say.

“I know so,” Stiles insisted. “My dad made me see someone for a while after my mom died, but I just sat there and didn’t say anything. So, seriously, it’s great that you go. And that you listen.”

“Laura made me,” Derek admitted.

Stiles snorted and leaned his head back so his neck wasn’t craning to look at Derek anymore, and turned his eyes back to the TV.

“Sounds like her battering ram personality,” Stiles said. “Well I’m still glad you went.”

“Yeah, me too.”

They both faded into sleep a few minutes later. Derek dreamed Stiles was wearing Dorothy’s clothes, slapping Laura, who looked suspiciously like Blanche but in a dog costume, with a rolled up newspaper.

-

Derek woke up obnoxiously early on the couch. He was the only one still there. When he got up and walked into the kitchen, Laura was already clunking around as if she actually could cook.

“Morning,” she said. Derek grunted, pulling granola and a bowl out of the cupboards. “Stiles had to go to work. He said he’d text you later.” Laura waggled her eyebrows.

“Oh,” Derek said. “Good.”

“You ‘oh’ all you want,” Laura said, pointing her spoon at him, “but tell me that wasn’t the best you’ve slept in a while.”

Derek shrugged and focused on his cereal, but he knew Laura was right. He didn’t know if it was a pack thing or a Stiles thing, but his wolf was curled up and content in a way it hadn’t been in years.

-

Stiles more or less became a permanent fixture in the Hales’ lives. They used to see him a few times a week, tops, with a movie night in between. Now, it was rarer for Derek not to see Stiles everyday than the other way around. Some nights Stiles and Derek spent with just each other, trying new recipes or just lazing around, but they spent most of their time in the kitchen or living room, joining Laura for dinner or a game of Uno or whatever.

Stiles’ scent started to seep into the walls and furniture, his smell lingering long after he left. It calmed Derek; he hadn’t even realized just how well he hadn’t been sleeping until he woke up one morning refreshed and well-rested, comforted by Stiles’ scent. Laura stared at him like he’d grown a second head when he walked into the kitchen, already showered and dressed at 7:00 am without any grumbling, swearing, or threatening. He actually gave her a small smile as he poured granola into his yogurt.

“What?” he asked. Laura still gaped at him. He looked down at himself. “Seriously, what? Do I have a stain somewhere?”

“You haven’t thrown anything,” she said, eyes wide. “Or threatened to kill me.”

“Yeah?”

“No doors have been slammed, nothing broken…”

“Your point?” Derek asked, irritation slipping into his voice.

“Aha!” Laura said triumphantly, wildly brandishing a finger in his direction. “There’s the normal, early morning grump Derek I know and have come to tolerate.”

Derek just rolled his eyes and ate his breakfast.

“Seriously? Not even a growl? Did you swallow a bottle of Valium?” Laura asked, poking him in the ribs. Derek twisted away from her finger, dumping his dishes in the sink and heading to the door. “This is unnatural!” Laura yelled.

“I love you, too!” he called before shutting the door.

-

They were in the middle of an MCU movie binge, a few months post-Cassie, when Derek noticed that Stiles’ scent had evened out, all traces of the lingering sadness that had tinged it were gone.

Derek was sprawled on Stiles’ couch, the other man’s feet in his lap. Laura was in the overstuffed chair nearby, texting. They were about to start Iron Man 2, Stiles’ least favorite (“No one wants self-destructive Tony! And losing his friends, like what the hell?”) but he insisted it needed to be watched for the sake of completion.

“Stop squirming,” Derek said, curling a hand around Stiles’ ankle when he shifted for what felt like the hundredth time in five minutes.

“I can’t help it,” Stiles whined. “They made me give a talk at a high school today. Hours of standing, Derek, hours! My feet are going to be bruised!”

“You run at least three times a week,” Derek pointed out. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, I run in running shoes! Not those stupid dress things Lydia made me wear to Scott’s wedding! I swear I’m gonna – hnnng!” Stiles cut himself off with a deep groan when Derek pressed his thumb into the arch of Stiles’ foot. “Oh my god, dude, oh my god.”

Derek rolled his eyes but kept at it, rubbing Stiles’ feet with a firm, solid pressure. A low, spicy hit of arousal started emanating from Stiles. That wasn’t really anything new, Derek had smelled Stiles’ arousal before, but that combined with the absolutely obscene moan that Stiles let out when Derek hit a particularly sore spot, Derek was having a lot of trouble keeping his mind above the waist. He shifted Stiles’ legs slightly away from the growing problem pressed against the front of his jeans.

Laura threw a dirty glare at Derek, who shrugged helplessly back. He moved to Stiles’ ankles, rubbing his hand up the soft skin. Stiles shivered and muttered, “You are my king,” his arousal spiking. That seemed to be the last straw for Laura. She pushed herself out of her chair and made a beeline for Stiles’ front door.

“If I wanted to watch foot porn, I’d be on PornHub,” she said.

Stiles flushed but yelled, “You’re just jealous you don’t have a sexy massage partner!”

Laura flipped him off before slamming the door. Derek’s hands stilled.

“Sexy massage partner, huh?” Derek asked.

“Uh, yeah, you’ve seen you,” Stiles said, his fading blush coming back in full force. “Speaking of, you’re slacking, chop-chop!” Stiles wiggled his feet in Derek’s lap for emphasis. Derek huffed but continued his ministrations.

“Massage partner implies this goes both ways,” Derek pointed out mildly. It was becoming more and more difficult to ignore his own arousal, especially with the smell of Stiles all around him and the racing pulse under his hands.

“Oh it will,” Stiles said, waving his long fingers in front of him. “Trust me, the magic fingers got this.”

Derek’s mouth went dry. He stared at Stiles’ long, thin fingers, imagining what they’d feel like on him, wrapped around his dick, or slowly opening him up. Derek swallowed and jerked his eyes to Stiles’ face just in time to see Stiles’ gaze follow the movement of Derek’s throat.

Stiles pulled himself up into a sitting position, knees slightly bent so his feet were still in Derek’s lap. Derek gripped them tightly as Stiles leaned toward him, gnawing at his lower lip. Derek unconsciously licked his lips, a movement Stiles’ eyes tracked.

“Derek,” Stiles said lowly, covering Derek’s hand with one of his own. There were only inches between their faces. “Tell me I’m not reading this wrong.”

Derek twisted his hand and linked his fingers with Stiles’.

“You’re not reading this wrong,” Derek said.

That was all Stiles needed. He closed the distance between them, nudging Derek’s nose with his own, before pressing their lips together. It was chaste, tentative, like he wasn’t quite sure if he was allowed to. When Stiles pulled back, his eyes were slightly wide and questioning.

Derek traced a finger over Stiles’ lips, cupping his jaw with one hand, then grasped the back of his neck with the other, yanking him into a kiss. This one wasn’t chaste; it was passion and violence, Derek nipping at Stiles’ lips. Stile groaned and opened his mouth, letting Derek explore every inch of his mouth, working to chase away Stiles’ insecurity and fiercely claiming him.

Stiles scrambled into Derek’s lap, Derek’s hands settling on Stiles’ hips. Stiles braced himself on Derek’s shoulders and all but attacked the other man’s mouth, grinding down into his lap. Both gasped when their clothed erections dragged against each other, Stiles’ hair grasped in Derek’s fist.

“Wait,” Derek gasped, pulling back, though it killed him to do so. “Wait, Stiles.”

“Why?” Stiles asked, immediately stopping. “What’s wrong?”

“I just – I can’t,” Derek stuttered, struggling to find the words while his wolf of howling at him for stopping. “I don’t want to just be a rebound.”

Stiles’ eyes softened at that. He leaned in, giving Derek a gentle kiss, then rested their foreheads together. “Impossible,” Stiles whispered. His hands on Derek’s shoulders were balled in fists in his shirt, like he could physically keep Derek there by the fabric. “It’d be impossible, Derek. You could never just be a rebound to me.” Derek shifted, jostling Stiles in his lap and making him let out a whimper.

“You just got out of a long relationship and I’m…not the easiest person – “

“Derek,” Stiles said firmly. He took Derek’s face between his hands, rubbing his thumbs over Derek’s cheekbones. “I know what, who, I want. Just because my thing with Cassie was long…length is no measure of emotion, okay?”

Derek nodded, nuzzling into Stiles’ touch. “Okay,” Derek said.

“I was never excited with her. I cared about her, but it was never thrilling or passionate. And I never looked at her and saw a life or love or anything.” Stiles paused, making sure Derek was listening. “I’ve never had this frantic, fervent feeling or any of that ‘til now. I really want this to go somewhere.”

Derek smiled.

“Yeah,” Derek said. “Me, too.” Stiles grinned.

“Oh thank god I didn’t just scare the hell out of you,” Stiles said and threw himself forward, wrapping himself around Derek and latching onto his mouth.

“Never,” Derek said between kisses. Stiles wanted him back. Not just for a night, but really wanted him. Derek’s wolf howled in joy.

Derek trailed his mouth down Stiles’ neck, nipping and sucking at the sensitive skin. He nuzzled at the crook where Stiles’ neck met his shoulder, nudged the shirt aside, and started sucking an impressive mark onto the skin.

“Guh,” Stiles gasped, throwing his head to the side to give Derek better access. He might not know what baring his neck did for Derek, but Derek did his best to show his appreciation. Pushing Stiles back until he was lying on the couch, Derek covered Stiles’ body with his own. Biting back a gasp, Stiles rolled his hips up, grinding his erection against Derek’s.

“Too many clothes,” Stiles said, yanking at Derek’s shirt. “This, off.”

Derek yanked his shirt over his head and Stiles’ hands were immediately on Derek, roaming over his chest and shoulders and back. Leaning up, Stiles ran his mouth lightly over Derek’s chest, teeth grazing a nipple. Derek’s breath hitched and he tightened his grip on Stiles’ hips.

“God,” Stiles whispered against Derek’s skin. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do this.” Lips trailed down Derek’s chest, hands joining Stiles’ mouth. “Running with you is torture, Christ.”

It’d been an embarrassingly long time since Derek had gotten laid, and between Stiles rutting against him and his litany, Derek was about to lose it. He pulled back just out of reach of Stiles’ mouth, which immediately turned down in a pout, and tugged at the hem of Stiles’ shirt. Stiles raised himself enough for Derek to yank the shirt off then settled back onto the couch.

Derek couldn’t decide where to look, so his eyes raked over every inch of that pale skin, dotted with little moles. He licked his lips, overwhelmed with how much he wanted Stiles. The look on Stiles’ face, looking up like he was the lucky one, lucky to be there with Derek, made Derek’s heart clench.

Stiles blushed under Derek’s scrutiny, smelling vaguely like embarrassment. He moved his arms as if to cover himself but Derek grabbed him by the wrists, pinning his hands above his head.

“No,” Derek growled. “Don’t.” Stiles nodded, arousal spiking. Derek smirked and pushed on Stiles’ wrists once, said, “Stay,” then let go. Stiles stayed.

It was like Derek’s hands had a mind of their own, ghosting down Stiles’ sides, making the other man shiver. Derek took his time, touching every inch of Stiles’ skin. Stiles nearly bucked Derek off of him when he tweaked one of Stiles’ nipples. Derek bared his teeth, grinning.

“Sensitive?” Derek asked mildly, then pinched the firm nub, rolling it gently with his fingers.

“Fuck you,” Stiles gasped, writhing under Derek.

“Next time,” Derek said, fingers toying with the waistband of Stiles’ sweats and boxers.

“Come on, Derek, come on,” Stiles whimpered, shifting under Derek’s touch.

“Impatient,” Derek tsked, but he was easily as affected as Stiles, dick straining against the front of his pants. He lifted Stiles’ hips and eased his sweats and boxers down in one go. Stiles’ dick hit his stomach with a wet noise, making Derek bite back a moan at how much pre-come Stiles was already leaking.

“At some point, we’re going to go slow,” Derek said, tracing the vee of Stiles’ hips. “And I’m going to take your apart, piece by piece, for hours. Until I’ve milked out every last scream and ounce of pleasure from you.”

“Derek,” Stiles moaned, pushing his hips up in a desperate search for friction.

“Next time, I’m going to make you forget everything,” Derek growled, voice deep and almost as wrecked as Stiles’. “But right now, I need to get inside you.”

Stiles let out a long, obscene moan as Derek took his cock in hand. He jacked Stiles slowly, teasing his slit with his thumb before stroking him again, all tight, slick heat.

“Tell me,” Derek said, squeezing the base of Stiles’ dick, who sobbed in response. “Tell me this is okay.”

“Wha-?” Stiles asked, his chest heaving.

Derek leaned in and kissed Stiles, long and filthy, before pulling away to say, “I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to, so tell me now.”

“Oh! Fuck, yes Derek. I am 100% ecstatically consenting,” Stiles said. His arm twitched like he was about to reach for Derek, but kept it where Derek had told him to. “Yes, fuck me, please.”

Derek yanked Stiles up by his shoulders and kissed him, licking his way into Stiles’ mouth before hissing, “Bed.”

Stiles scrambled off the couch, tripping over his discarded pants before Derek righted him. Stiles grabbed Derek’s hand and pulled him into his room, somewhere Derek had never been. It was eclectic, like the rest of Stiles’ place, and had pictures and art everywhere, but that’s as far as he noticed before Stiles was kissing him again like he was trying to climb into Derek’s mouth.

“Not fair,” Stiles muttered against Derek’s lips. “You, you need to be naked, too.” His long fingers deftly undid Derek’s jeans and slid them down his hips, followed by his black boxer briefs. Stiles sucked in a breath at the sight of Derek nude before him. “Fuck, you’re perfect,” Stiles whispered in awe.

Derek rolled his eyes but blushed anyways. His pants pooled at his ankles as he stepped out of them, pushing Stiles back onto the bed in one smooth motion. For his part, Stiles scrambled to the head of the bed, rifling around in the nightstand before pulling out a bottle of lube and a condom. He threw it at Derek and the bottle would have hit him in the face were it not for werewolf reflexes.

“Oops, shit, sorry!” Stiles flailed back, hands up in surrender.

Derek just tossed the bottle back onto the bed and crawled up the mattress, all predatory grace. Stiles’ dick was flushed deep red and just begging to be tasted. Derek obliged, licking up the shaft and swirling his tongue over the head. Stiles swore and his hips bucked up, but Derek threw an arm over his waist to hold him down.

The sounds coming out of Stiles’ mouth were absolutely obscene; long, drawn out moans, bitten off whimpers, and sobs that echoed around the room, even over the loud, sucking noises of Derek’s mouth. When Derek glanced up, Stiles was staring down at him, pupils completely blown, like Derek was the 8th wonder of the world. That was it, he needed to be in Stiles immediately. Stiles made a protesting sound when Derek pulled off but turned it into a groan when he saw Derek reach for the lube.

It took a few tries but Derek managed to coat his fingers completely. He circled Stiles’ hole slowly, slicking him up. Mouthing at Stiles’ cock, Derek slid a finger in, surprised at how easily Stiles opened up for him, his ass grasping at Derek’s digit.

“You do this to yourself, don’t you?” Derek asked. Stiles whimpered. With a twist of his hand, Derek found Stiles’ prostate, making Stiles shout. “Tell me.”

“Y-yes,” Stiles stammered. Derek eased in a second finger, Stiles’ hole clinging to his thick digits so greedily. “Fuck, Derek!”

“Soon,” Derek promised. He worked his fingers quickly, scissoring and twisting to stretch Stiles as fast as possible. It was only took a couple of minutes until Derek was up to three fingers, thrusting into Stiles over and over, spurred on by Stiles’ grunts.

“Look at you, taking it so well. You’re doing so well, Stiles,” Derek said with a hard thrust, nailing Stiles’ prostate.”

“God, fuck get inside me, I’m ready, I fucked myself with a toy earlier, please, Derek I – “ Stiles’ babbling was cut off when Derek pulled his fingers free with a low groan, ripping the foil of the condom package and slipping it on.

“Shh, I got you,” Derek said, lining himself up, dick just nudging Stiles’ loose hole. He pushed forward just a little, the ring of muscle stretching around his head. Derek watched the tip of his cock disappear into Stiles, he pretty little hole stretching around him.

“Does your toy fill you up?” Derek asked, stopping with just his tip inside. He had no idea where this was coming from; he’d never been vocal in bed before, never had the urge but fuck, Stiles brought this out in him, this possessive need. “It is enough or do you need this? A dick inside your tight little ass? Does your toy fuck you raw?”

Stiles canted his hips, trying to fuck himself onto Derek but Derek held his steady with firm hands on his hips.

“Please, Derek,” Stiles begged, voice completely wrecked. Exactly how Derek wanted him.

“Since you asked so nicely…” And he slammed in, Stiles screaming in pleasure under him. The pace he set was brutal but Stiles was loving it, meeting Derek’s thrusts when he could but mostly he was just along for the ride. This was what Derek’s wolf had been craving, a way to claim Stiles as his own. Mark Stiles as his in a way that any wolf with a nose or eyes wouldn’t be able to miss.

Stiles would have fingertip-shaped bruises on his hips from Derek the next day, but Derek needed more. He pushed Stiles’ legs to the sides, spreading him further and pressing his body to Stiles’, attacking the hickey he’d started earlier on Stiles’ neck. There was a flush spreading over Stiles’ neck and shoulder from Derek’s stubble; dark, beautiful, and angry-looking.

Their bodies were pushed flush together, trapping Stiles’ cock between his stomach and Derek’s, each vicious thrust sliding the older man’s abs against him. Stiles thrust his hips up in time with Derek, forcing him deeper.

“Derek,” Stiles moaned. “Derek, fuck, I’m gonna come, I need…”

“Stiles,” Derek said, worming a hand between them to grasp Stiles’ leaking dick. He stroked him, hard and fast, tilting Stiles’ hips up and nailing his prostate. “I’ve got you,” he said over Stiles’ mewling whimper, teeth dragging against the shell of his ear. “Come on, Stiles. Come for me.”

Stiles screamed when he came, his nails raking down Derek’s back. Stiles’ hole clenched and spasmed around Derek’s dick, forcing his orgasm through him. He stilled, pulsing inside Stiles with his dick pressed against Stiles’ prostate, milking the other man’s pleasure. Stiles sobbed out Derek’s name, his cock spilling between them, coating their stomachs. He was caught in wave after wave of pleasure, the firm pressure on his prostate pushing him until it was almost too much. Right before the edge of pleasure became too much, Derek pulled back just enough to take the pressure of that spot inside, but didn’t pull out.

Panting, Derek rested his forehead against Stiles’, all but collapsing on top of the other man, his cock still twitching inside Stiles. Stiles, loose-limbed and pliant, wound his arms around Derek’s shoulders, clutching the werewolf to him. They spent a long time like that, their sweaty bodies pressed together as they breathed in the same air, waiting for their heartrates to return to normal.

Derek ran his hands up and down Stiles’ flank and nuzzled behind his ear, scent marking him, as if he wasn’t already soaked in Derek’s scent. Stiles didn’t seem to mind the extra attention, humming his contentment and petting Derek’s hair. His low rumble of approval made Stiles shiver, then both of them gasped when the movement made Stiles’ hole flutter around where Derek was still buried deep.

Derek eased out of Stiles, earning a low groan, and rolled to the side, deliberately tangling his legs with Stiles’ while he pulled off the used condom and tossed it into the trash by the bed. His wolf was delighted at finally taking its mate and Derek couldn’t resist dragging his hand down Stiles’ torso, coating his finger in the cooling come pooled there, and farther down to Stiles’ loose and abused hole. A low whine escaped Stiles’ lips as Derek probed at his puffy rim, then dipped in two fingers, feeding Stiles’ come into his hole. Stiles’ cock tried to give an interested twitch.

“Are you okay?” Derek asked, fingers stilling inside. Stiles nodded with a content sigh. Derek took that as permission and kept scooping come from Stiles’ stomach and pressing it into his fluttering hole, which tried to grasp at Derek’s fingers, but was too slack and fucked open. He kept his face buried in Stiles’ neck, lips ghosting over his throat, until he eventually withdrew his fingers. Stiles made a protesting noise at the loss, a sound that Derek swallowed down, covering Stiles’ mouth with his own. When Derek pulled back, he was pleased to see Stiles’ eyes glassy with a blissful look on his face.

“Look at you,” Derek said softly, running his fingers, the same fingers still tacky with come, down Stiles’ jawline, cupping his face. Stiles leaned into the touch, nuzzling Derek’s hand in a gesture so wolf-like that Derek had to close his eyes to make sure they weren’t flashing. “So perfect.”

“How are you even real?” Stiles asked, his voice hoarse.

Derek kissed Stiles softly before rolling out of bed. Stiles raised his eyebrow, biting his lip like he actually thought that Derek was leaving him. As if Derek actually could. He made a shushing noise and leaned back down to kiss Stiles’ forehead.

“Just getting a washcloth,” Derek said. Stiles relaxed back against the sheets.

“Continue,” Stiles said, waving his hand in the direction of the door.

It only took a few moments for Derek to come back, a warm rag in his hand. He wiped Stiles down, gently running the cloth between Stiles’ cheeks, before cleaning himself. He tossed the rag to the side and crawled back into bed, pulling Stiles’ warm body to him. The air stank of sex, the mingling smell filling the room.

“That wasn’t you taking me apart?” Stiles asked. His voice was slightly muffled from his face being pressed into Derek’s chest. Derek chuckled, the vibration running through Stiles.

“Oh no. You’ll know when I do,” he promised. Stiles shivered, burrowing deeper into Derek’s arms.

“You’re a maniac” Stiles mumbled, his eyelids drooping.

“Sleep,” Derek said, kissing Stiles’ temple.

“You’ll be here when I wake up?” Stiles asked.

Derek smiled against Stiles’ skin, eyes closing.

“I’ll be here.”

-

Derek made Stiles breakfast the next morning, pleased to see the mark he’d left where Stiles’ neck met his shoulder, dark against the pale skin. Stiles kept rubbing at it absently with a smile while he ate. Stiles kissed him when Derek left. He didn’t want to, but he seriously needed to get ready for work. Derek’s heart clenched at how perfectly domestic it was. Then Stiles smacked his ass on his way out of the door.

A grin threatened to spread over his face all day. He coworkers gave him hell.

-

Dating Stiles was simultaneously exactly the same and completely different from what he’d expected. He’d expected the affection, Stiles had never really been quiet about what he thought, and he definitely didn’t skimp out on showing just what he thought about Derek. Whenever he could, he told Derek how lucky he was to have Derek in his life. He told Derek how beautiful he was, how smart.

Stiles was also very tactile, almost like a wolf, always bestowing little touches when he walked by, or when they were eating, in bed…Derek expected to fall hard, he’d known he was probably ruined for other people because of Stiles. What he hadn’t expected was for Stiles to seem to fall nearly as hard. Laura called them both disgusting.

Derek didn’t care. This was happiness in its purest form, something Derek had firmly believed could never exist for him. His therapist was thrilled for him and made him promise not to do something stupid, like leave Stiles “for his own good, or some other bullshit.” Derek thought Stiles would like Dr. Cane.

It was weird, honestly. Derek wasn’t used to the constant happiness. Waking up with Stiles wrapped up in his arms or starfished across the bed was probably the best part of Derek’s day. At least until he and Stiles went out, or argued over movies, or when Stiles was buried deep inside Derek, panting against his skin. Every moment with Stiles was the best part of his day. Laura punched him. Repeatedly.

“If you two get any more Hallmark movie on me, I’m going to puke on you.”

She was right, though. They still argued and snarked back and forth, but they always came back with that soft look in their eyes and quiet kisses. Laura was right, they were absolutely disgusting.

“You’re beautiful,” Derek murmured into Stiles’ ear when he was almost asleep. “You’re perfect, brilliant, gorgeous, just, god Stiles, you’re everything.”

The first time he’d told Stiles this, Stiles had wiggled in closer to Derek’s chest, tucking his head under the larger man’s chin, and said, “Der, I’m not –“

“Shh,” Derek interrupted, pressing a kiss to the top of Stiles’ head. “Sleep. You’re everything.”

Stiles slowly stopped protesting when Derek told him all of this. He kept blushing, but stopped arguing. Derek hoped that meant that Stiles was starting to believe him.

Sex…Derek had never loved sex as much as he did with Stiles. He’d found a new kind of nirvana when Stiles’ long fingers were buried deep in Derek’s ass. And with his cock in Stiles’ mouth. And the taste of Stiles on his tongue. He could admit that he was a little addicted, but he loved rolling out of bed in the morning, legs like jelly from orgasms, leaving Stiles smelling like he’d bathed in Derek’s come, just as he loved going to work reeking of Stiles.

Things were actually great. Derek was shocked.

Derek had been a little worried that living next to Stiles would be a problem. Maybe Stiles would get tired of him, realize he could do so much better. He’d see Derek when he was coming home from work, dirty and grumpy, see everything. If he wanted to break from Derek, Derek would be SOL with Stiles one thin wall away.

Against all odds, in Derek’s opinion, none of that seemed to bother Stiles. His company finally made him come into the office instead of working from home (“Those comfort-hating bastards”), so their schedules didn’t always mesh up. Sometimes he’d see Stiles rushing out the door, arm tangled in his shirt as he tried to put it on and lock the door at the same time. That was only when Stiles was late, though. He always kissed Derek anyway.

Luckily enough, Stiles’ office was only a few miles from the garage where Derek worked. Derek didn’t usually like to do it, but he pulled rank on the other mechanics at the garage (besides the owner, Frank, Derek had been there the longest) and took a long lunch. Well, a regular lunch, just long for him since he never took a lunch.

Stiles’ company had two floors in a tall, pretentious looking building. It didn’t have a doorman, which Derek was kind of disappointed by (he would have love to see their face when they saw him and his grease-covered hands) but there was a little administration booth in the middle of the lobby. The middle-aged woman behind the desk eyed him warily when he walked into the lobby, but he ignored her and pulled out his phone to call Stiles.

”Derek! Stiles said. ”You have amazing timing, I just started lunch.”

“I know, you always have lunch at 12:30,” Derek said, smiling at just hearing Stiles’ voice.

“Aw, boo,” Stiles cooed.

“Don’t call me that,” Derek said. “And come downstairs so we can have lunch.”

“Downstairs…Derek are you here?”

“Your lobby lady is looking at me like I strangled her puppy.”

“Helen is a bitch,” Stiles said dismissively. “But yeah I’ll be down in a second!”

Derek smiled softly down at his phone before putting it away, looking up just in time to see Helen blush and look away quickly, then glance over to the security guard stationed by the door. Derek rolled his eyes. Laura said it was his resting bitch face that made people think he was going to murder everyone. Stiles said his cheekbones of death made women and men question their lives and awaken their libidos. Helen looked a little constipated, like she was trying to decide which reaction to have.

Before she called the security guard over, though, Stiles came bursting out of the elevator, charging at Derek. Derek had a split second to prepare before Stiles was launching himself at him, trusting Derek to catch him. Derek could just barely see Helen’s mouth drop over Stiles’ shoulder before Stiles was kissing him, hands clasped around the back of Derek’s neck.

“Hi,” Stiles said, pulling back and grinning.

“Hi,” Derek answered. “So, do you have time to have lunch with me?”

“I will literally always have time for you,” Stiles said. “Seriously, 3:37 am and you have a spare five minutes, I will have time for you.”

-

“You’re evil,” Stiles said when he answered the door. Derek was dressed in his running clothes, a shit-eating grin on his face. Stiles, on the other hand, was still in his baggy sleep pants, his hair tousled from sleep. “Seriously, it’s 8:00 am. On a Saturday.”

“Perfect time for a run,” Derek said. “No one will be out.”

“Because they’re all smart enough to still be in bed,” Stiles said.

Derek just spun Stiles around by the shoulders, pushing him into the apartment, and said, “Go change.”

“Bossy,” Stiles grumbled.

“Go change and I’ll blow you on the trail.”

Stiles tripped over the edge of the living room rug running to his room.

They were running for a half hour before Derek stopped suddenly, yanking Stiles off the path and into a slightly secluded patch of trees. They could barely see the jogging path but if anyone happened to be running by, they’d definitely be heard, a fact that Stiles pointed out.

“Guess you’ll just have to keep quiet then,” Derek said, dropping to his knees with a predatory grin. “I know how much you love that.”

Stiles sent Derek a dirty look that quickly turned to one of surprise as his shorts were tugged down to his thighs. The cool air hit Stiles where he was half hard, making him hiss.

“Derek,” he said, still slightly breathless from the run. “Derek, we’ve been running. I’m sweaty and not going to taste, er, good, oh god!”

Derek swallowed Stiles down, ignoring his protests. He hummed around Stiles, now totally hard, not caring at all about Stiles’ taste or smell. With werewolf senses, Stiles’ scent was simply stronger, the heady musk Stiles normally produced was amplified, as was the taste of his skin.

Stiles was making small, muffled mewling noises, the hand that wasn’t twisted in Derek’s hair was clapped over his own mouth, desperately trying to stem the flow of sounds. Derek hollowed his cheeks, laving the underside of Stiles’ cock with his tongue as he bobbed up and down. He’d been working on deepthroating and wasn’t quite there yet, but he could get down pretty far, only an inch or so left. He pulled back almost all the way, sucking on the soft head and running a hand up Stiles’ inner thigh. Ghosting over Stiles’ balls, he dragged his fingers over Stiles’ perineum, pressing that spot that made Stiles gasp.

“Fuck Derek, your mouth,” Stiles said, voice ragged. He cupped Derek’s jaw, rubbing at his cheeks. “God you’re amazing, look so good like this.” Derek hummed again and moved his fingers to circle Stiles’ hole. Stiles cried out and bucked his hips forward, gagging Derek. “I’m sorry, shit, Derek, I’m sorry.” Derek pulled off, nuzzling at the base of Stiles’ dick. His lips were red and swollen.

“It’s okay, Stiles,” he said before running his tongue back up Stiles’ length. Swirling his tongue over the tip, he teased Stiles for a bit before sucking him down. He grabbed Stiles by the hips and pulled him forward, urging him deeper into the wet heat of Derek’s mouth. Stiles groaned.

“Derek are you sure?”

Derek loved how wrecked Stiles sounded, could feel the tension in the other man’s body and knew he was close. He nodded, pulling Stiles to him again until he got with the program, feeding him dick into Derek’s mouth over and over.

After only a few minutes, his pace quickened, his snapping forward harder and faster until his body seized, breath stuttering as he came down Derek’s throat. Derek swallowed every drop, cleaning Stiles’ dick with his tongue until he was batted away.

Derek stood, pulling Stiles’ shorts up as he went. Stiles was leaning heavily against the tree, a dopey grin on his face. He pulled Derek to him for a filthy kiss, working a hand between them to wrap around Derek’s hard, leaking cock, something Derek hadn’t bothered to touch while going down on Stiles. He grinned when Derek moaned into his mouth, hips jerking forward into Stiles’ hand.

The friction was just this side of too much, so Stiles quickly licked his hand and reached down again, stroking and teasing the head in the way he knew Derek loved. Derek dropped his head to Stiles’ shoulder, breath already ragged.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek gasped, setting his teeth into Stiles’ shoulder. He shuddered, embarrassingly close to coming already. Stiles’ hand worked over him like magic, pulling whimpers and whines from Derek’s throat that he’d later deny.

This was perfect, Stiles was perfect. The pleasure was building in the back of his spine, tingling up through his whole body. He only had a few seconds of warning before he was coming in Stiles’ hand, dick pulsing. Nuzzling Stiles’ neck, he took a few moments to collect himself before pressing a kiss to Stiles’ neck and pulling back to tuck himself away

Stiles wiped Derek’s come from his hand onto the grass at his feet as best he could, groaning when that just got blades of grass stuck to his hand.

“Eurgh,” Stiles said, wiping his hand on the leg of his shorts. “Glad I didn’t wear black, it’d be pretty damn impossible to hide jizz – mph!”

Stiles was cut off mid-sentence by Derek slapping a hand over his mouth, motioning for the other man to be quiet. Stiles raised his eyebrows and licked Derek’s palm, who just rolled his eyes. A few seconds later, they could both see two pairs of running shoes through the thick bushes and could hear the soft footballs and huffing breath and they jogged by. When he was sure they were gone, Derek removed his hand from Stiles’ mouth, rubbing his spit covered palm on Stiles’ shirt.

“Dude,” Stiles said, letting out a shaky laugh. “That would’ve been awkward. How did you even hear that? I barely heard them when they were five feet away!”

Derek stiffened for a second before forcing himself to relax and shrug, saying, “Good hearing.”

“No fucking kidding,” Stiles said.

Stiles yanked Derek back to the trail by his arm and they set off again, albeit at a somewhat shaky, post-orgasm pace. Stiles bounced down the path, energized from the back bowing orgasm, but Derek was more sedate.

Derek had come so close to revealing his big, furry secret, something he hadn’t shared with anyone since Kate. Logically, he knew Stiles would never betray him like Kate had. That wasn’t what worried him. It was that he was keeping something from Stiles and it wasn’t something small like hating Stiles’ chicken parmigiana (which he definitely didn’t), but it was a huge chunk of who he was.

Effectively, he was holding half of himself back from Stiles, half of what drove his life. Stiles wouldn’t, couldn’t, understand the animalistic desires and instincts Derek carried. He was nearly silent the whole way back, the cold rock of unease in his gut growing heavier with every step.

-

Laura noticed, because of course Laura noticed, and cornered him in the bathroom a few days later.

“We need to talk,” Laura said easily, as if her brother wasn’t hastily yanking his pants up over his hips.

“Laura!”

“It’s about you and Stiles,” she continued, blithely ignoring Derek’s protests. “Is something wrong?”

“I have to pee and you won’t leave,” Derek gritted out between his teeth. He tried to push Laura out but she barely tilted on her feet. Damn alpha strength.

“What I think is, you’re about to sabotage yourself,” Laura said, voice still deceptively cheerful, but Derek could see the seriousness in her eyes and smell her worry. That alone made him sigh, accepting that he was going to have to listen to what she had to say.

“And why’s that?” Derek asked.

“Because you haven’t let yourself have nice things since the fire,” Laura said.

Derek stiffened.

“Laura,” Derek said slowly.

“Shut up, baby brother,” she said, but there was no bite in her tone. She took his hand, squeezing it and sending love-calm-support down the pack bond. “It’s been twelve years. It’s time for you to stop blaming yourself for something that wasn’t your fault. It was not!” Laura’s voice raised about Derek’s when he tried to disagree. “Tell me something that we both already know the answer to. Does being with Stiles make you happy?”

“Yes,” Derek said without hesitation.

“And do you believe you deserve to be happy? Or has all your work with Dr. Cane backslid?”

Derek sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“I believe I deserve to be happy,” he said quietly. Laura’s grip on his hand tightened. “It just feels…I feel guilty, I guess, that I’m moving on with life. I don’t want to disrespect them.”

Laura took Derek’s face in her hands, flashing her red eyes at him.

“Living a half-life of guilt and anger disrespects them more. Repeat after me. My family would be pissed if I weren’t happy.”

Derek snorted, but despite himself, said, “My family would be pissed if I weren’t happy.”

“Again.”

“My family would be pissed if I weren’t happy,” he said again, compelled by his alpha. Laura’s eyes faded back to their usual hazel and she smiled, patting his cheek before pulling her hands away from his face.

“Can I please pee now?” Derek asked, shifting his weight slightly.

“Fine,” Laura said dramatically, like Derek’s bladder was the biggest inconvenience ever, and slammed the bathroom door shut behind her. Derek has a blissful ten seconds of quiet when Laura banged on the door, making Derek jump, accidentally getting piss on the toilet seat. “I know that’s not all that’s bothering you!” she yelled through the door.

You’re bothering me!” he yelled right back. Laura just laughed, footsteps fading as she walked away.

Stiles laughed for a full minute straight when Derek told him.

“You and Laura get along too well,” Derek grumbled.

“Would you rather we didn’t?” Stiles asked. “She’d probably interrupt every time she tried to have sex, which I mean wouldn’t really make me stop unless she actually got the door open. I mean, that could just get awkward.”

“There’s something wrong with you,” Derek said.

“Yep,” Stiles said easily. “She does actually like me, right? Because dude, I’ve spent more nights here that at home in the last couple months and if she actually hates me, wow I’ve seriously overstayed my welcome.”

“She does like you, calm down,” Derek reassured him. “You know Laura, do you really think she’d wait months after we started dating to tell you she didn’t like you?”

“Oh…yeah.”

-

Derek didn’t mean for it to take over his life, but once he got something on his mind, it was hard to force it out. The cold clench right under his sternum grew heavier and heavier. Some days with Stiles would be completely fine, amazing, really. But some days his wolf’s instincts would be a little stronger and Derek would go from being ridiculously happy to quiet and tense. Stiles would try to tease him out of it and Derek would put on a smile, force himself back into whatever they were talking about or doing, but he knew Stiles could tell.

Anxiety would start to radiate off of Stiles when Derek was in these slumps, which made Derek’s wolf whine, demanding to comfort its mate. Derek would pull Stiles into his arms, running his nails over Stiles’ scalp and murmuring how special he was to Derek. He’d press kisses behind his ear and on his neck until the sour tang of anxiety faded.

Laura dragged it out of Derek eventually, pestering and threatening and watching until she put it together. When she did, they were out shopping and she slapped him in the back of his head.

“Ow! Laura, what the hell?”

“That’s what you’ve been angsting over? Jesus, Derek! You need to tell him,” Laura said. “This moping is getting ridiculous.”

“I’m not moping,” Derek said, frowning at her over a round rack of clothing.

“You’re doing it right now!”

“This isn’t moping, this is annoyance at being dragged out for six straight hours of shopping,” Derek said.

“When the sales hit, you have to strike back, little bro,” Laura said, cheerfully ignoring her brother’s misery and tossing another pair of jeans onto the growing pile in Derek’s arms. He growled, which of course made absolutely no difference.

“Seriously though,” she continued, dropping her voice so the lady a few racks over didn’t hear, “as your alpha, I’m giving you permission to tell Stiles about us. Hell, I’ll give him the bite if he wants it.”

Derek reared back, eyebrows up and eyes so wide that Laura’s lips twitched, but she managed to keep the laugh in.

“You, what?” Derek asked. “The very idea of Stiles being pack pissed you off and now you want me to tell him? You never even would talk about expanding, you said you’d never give anyone the bite.” Whenever Derek had tentatively brought it up in the past, Laura had shut him down with her alpha snarl, saying they didn’t need anyone else. Laura’s gaze softened.

“Derek, he’s your mate. If it would make you guys happy, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she said.

Derek grabbed Laura with his free hand and yanked her into a one armed hug, pressing his cheek against hers. She subtly rubbed her cheek against his, marking him as discretely as possible before pulling away.

“He’s your mate, Derek. Something I – I can’t even imagine how that feels,” Laura said. “That makes him pack, and we protect pack.”

“If he wants to be,” Derek said.

Laura hit him in the face with a shirt to add to the pile in his arms.

“That’s why you should tell him, you dipstick,” Laura said.

“If I do it now, he’s going to freak out and leave. We haven’t been together for that long and he might decide to just cut his losses and run,” Derek said. His chest constricted at the thought. He hadn’t let himself even think that and now that he said it out loud, he knew it was true. He would scare Stiles off, he’d want nothing to do with him.

“Okay, A. Four months is plenty of time to get attached to someone. B. Does the work ‘mate’ mean anything to you? C. If you wait even longer, he’s going to be pissed that you’ve been keeping a secret like that for so long,” Laura said. She flicked her eyes over his shoulder and grinned. “And D., which is really just a point of interest, he’s right over there in bedding.”

Derek didn’t even get the chance to look before Laura grabbed him by the arm and started dragging him toward Stiles, who was arguing animatedly with a pretty redhead, gesturing wildly with the throw pillow in his hands.

Derek blamed the perfume lady who’d sprayed him in the face with Armani or something for the fact that he hadn’t smelled Stiles when he was so close to him. He was embarrassed for not recognizing Stiles’ heartbeat though. That was something to work on.

“Stiles, you know you won’t win,” the redhead said. She somehow managed to sound bored, threatening, and annoyed all at once. Derek was suddenly dreading her and Laura meeting.

“I don’t care that they ‘brighten my eyes,’ no one is going to compare my eye color to throw pillows,” Stiles said, waving the green and yellow pillows for emphasis. “My apartment will look like the inside of a crayon box!”

The girl rolled her eyes and yanked the pillows from Stiles, tossing them into the cart that already had at least four other pillows in varying shades of blue and green.

“Of course they’re not. The pillows are accents for your home. They’ll tie in with the throw, ottoman, rug, and mantelpiece, which will pull the whole room together,” she said. “We’ve gone over this.”

“Lydia,” Stiles whined and Derek suddenly knew who Stiles was with; the ‘strawberry blonde goddess of knowledge and beauty’ that Stiles had been in love with all through high school. Derek’s heart thudded painfully as his wolf growled, pacing in the presence of the perceived threat.

Before he had the chance to stop her, Laura had called out, “Hey!” to Stiles. He turned, grin lighting up his face as soon as he saw Derek. Derek’s wolf relaxed a bit at that.

Stiles stopped trying to pull the pillows from the cart and launched himself at Derek, latching onto his lips.

“Haven’t seen you in two days,” Stiles mumbled against his lips. “Not cool.” Derek smirked, kissing Stiles’ nose.

“We had opposite schedules, definitely not my fault,” Derek said.

“Fine,” Stiles muttered. “Oh! Derek, Laura, this is Lydia, a friend from high school. Lydia, that’s Derek and Laura, my boyfriend and his terrifying sister, which come to think of it, you two meeting might cause the world to implode in sheer, mass panic from both of your evil brains-“

“Lydia Martin,” Lydia said, cutting Stiles off mid-rant. She stuck her hand out to Derek, then Laura, her grip firmer than Derek had expected. There was something in her scent, a slight smell of ozone, that made Derek’s wolf uneasy and he forced himself not to snarl, a neutral face being all that he could manage. Though he was busy assessing Lydia, trying to convince himself that she wasn’t a threat, he still noticed the way Laura’s gaze raked down the other woman’s body before dragging up to meet her eyes.

“So, Lydia, what brings you to town?” Laura asked, her smile straddling the line between flirty and predatory. Lydia flipped her hair over her shoulder, the picture of nonchalance, but her scent betrayed her interest.

“I’m taking a few days off from working on my PhD to see Stiles. I’ll be presenting in Europe on his birthday, so now is the perfect time,” Lydia said.

“You’re getting your PhD?” Laura asked, eyebrows raised. “I’m impressed. You’re what, 25?”

“24,” Lydia said with a smirk. “And it’s my third.”

“Third? Third doctorate?”

“Yeah, Lydia is literally a genius, by the way,” Stiles said fondly. Derek’s eye twitched. Beautiful and smart, great. He knew he wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t PhD smart. “Laura’s an artist and Derek works as a mechanic, part-time bartender, and teaches self-defense classes once in a while.”

Derek winced, not at all pleased with how he sounded compared to Lydia, but she cocked her head, eyes narrowing at him like she was seeing through Derek’s soul and into his very atoms. He was about to snap at her when she said, “Good. People always manage to undervalue trades and physical ability. White tower academics and snotty executives can look down their noses all they want, but if it comes down to it, none of them who have a clue what a six barrel carburetor is or have the strength to defend themselves when the moment comes.”

Derek just looked at her a little stunned. He’d been completely convinced that the petite girl was about to rip him a new asshole.

“Uh, thanks?”

Lydia nodded and turned to question Laura about her influences.

“That’s as close to a compliment as you’ll get from her,” Stiles said, worming his way under Derek’s arm. Derek rolled his eyes but tightened his grip and kissed the top of Stiles’ head. “Sooo…since we haven’t seen each other in a few days, what do you say you and I get reacquainted tonight?”

“Reacquainted? Stiles, we talked on the phone yesterday,” Derek said. Stiles just smirked, prompting an inelegant snort from Derek.

“Exactly, it isn’t the same as having you inside me,” Stiles said. Derek choked on his own tongue, coughing over Stiles’ laughter.

“Jesus, Stiles, you can’t just say shit like that.”

“Totally can. Anyway, come over tonight?”

“What about your…guest?” Derek asked, jerking his head to indicate Lydia who was a few yards away in deep discussion with Laura.

“Oh, she’s not staying with me. A couch isn’t dignified enough for Lydia Martin, and she almost bit my head off when I offered her my bed,” Stiles said. “She called it a depraved pit of semen and testosterone. She’s staying at the St. Regis.”

Derek preened a little, satisfied that Lydia knew of his claim on Stiles’ bed, then actually processed what Stiles said.

“Wait, what? The St. Regis is like $600 a night.”

“Not in a suite, honey,” Lydia said. She and Laura came back to the two others. “Closer to $1,100.” Both Hales’ mouths were hanging open, but Stiles looked completely unfazed. “Anyway, Stiles and I have a lunch reservation across town. I could call and change it if you two would like to join us?”

“No thanks, we actually have to get going,” Laura said. “It was nice to meet you, though.”

“You, too,” Lydia said, her eyes lingering on Laura before she turned on her four inch heel and started off in the other direction. Stiles hurriedly kissed Derek goodbye and chased after her.

Derek watched the redhead purposefully stride away, heels clicking violently and he was completely unsure whether to like her or want to throw her through the storefront window.

Stiles turned around halfway across the store and yelled, “Tonight!” and gave a few pelvic thrusts before jogging away.

“That was aimed at him!” Laura said loudly to the curious onlookers. Derek groaned, covering his red face with his hands. “Hey, you’re the one who’s dating him, you have no one to blame but yourself.”

“Don’t remind me,” Derek grumbled. “Why’d you say no to lunch?”

“Because I wasn’t sure if you were going to try to kill Lydia,” Laura said. She yanked the clothes out of Derek’s arm and headed to the nearest fitting room.

“I wouldn’t kill her,” Derek argued.

“Maiming is probably frowned upon, too.”

-

It seemed to Derek that they day was crawling by just to spite him. There was an itch under his skin that he couldn’t get rid of, no matter how hard he’d tried. He’d gone for a run, refusing to stop until his lungs ached. The burn faded too quickly, so he went to the gym where he sometimes ran the self-defense classes and pushed himself so hard that even his werewolf healing couldn’t stop the ache. That’s when he’d finally gone home and showered, deeming it late enough to go to Stiles’.

Derek’s wolf was still restless from missing Stiles, and the presence of an outsider. The human part of Derek pushed that aside, reminding himself that Stiles was his. Lydia was just a friend, not a threat to his relationship. He wished he 100% believed that.

It was Lydia who answered Stiles’ front door when Derek knocked. She gave Derek a once over from head to toe and he felt a surge of gratitude to Laura for making him buy the jeans and black button down. He’d been annoyed at the time, especially when she said that they made his ass look great, but now that he was under Lydia’s scrutiny, he was grateful his sister had insisted.

He refused to squirm and Lydia eventually stepped aside so he could enter, apparently deeming his appearance acceptable. She sat down primly in the living room’s nicest chair (a huge, squishy purple armchair with a worn seat) with her legs crossed.

“Stiles is still showering,” she said. “Which is perfect. It gives us enough time to chat. Sit.”

Derek debated for a second before stiffly lowering himself to the couch.

“And what are we ‘chatting’ about?” Derek knew his voice was dripping his disdain but he could stop it even if he wanted to. Lydia just rolled her eyes.

“Stiles, obviously,” she said. “I’m going to be blunt because frankly, the social convention of small talk lost its appeal in high school.” Derek shrugged in acceptance, but Lydia didn’t give him a chance to speak. “Stiles is a very good friend of mine. One of the only two, actually, and I do not take that lightly. We both know he’s had trauma and pain in his life, but you make him genuinely happy. Happier than I’m used to seeing him.”

Derek smiled slightly at that.

“Good,” he said. “His happiness is the most important thing to me.”

“It had better be,” Lydia said, eyes hard. “I like you, Derek, I actually do, and I think you’re good for him. But if you fuck up, if you hurt him in any way, I will shove your entire body up your own ass and make you fuck yourself from the inside out.”

Derek eyebrows flew up. “I…what?”

Lydia huffed in annoyance and leaned forward. “Derek. One of my PhDs is in bioorganic chemistry. Trust me, there are things I could do to you that would make sure they’d never identify a body. We clear?”

Derek was very glad that Lydia wasn’t a wolf. “I’d expect nothing less,” he said.

Lydia nodded in satisfaction and sat back in her chair.

“Good,” she said. Her face instantly transformed from dangerous and cold to teasing and mischievous. “Don’t worry, I’m just staying long enough to say goodbye to Stiles, then I have a gallery opening to attend. You guys have all night.” She winked at Derek.

Thankfully, it was only a few more minutes until Stiles emerged from the bathroom with a puff of steam and a towel around his waist. Lydia was immediately up and moving, kissing Stiles’ cheek before making her way to the door.

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, Stiles. I want to get out of here before you two start going at it like bonobos,” she said. She closed the door behind her before Stiles could finish yelling, “Damn straight!”

“Well,” Stiles said, crawling into Derek’s lap. He wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck, one knee of either side of his hips. “Not really straight. Damn bi? That’s just ridiculous.” Derek snorted, running his hands up Stiles’ bare sides, tracing each familiar mole and freckle.

“I like you in nothing but a towel,” he murmured, tracing the shell of Stiles’ ear with his teeth. Stiles shuddered when one of Derek’s large hands started toying with the edge of the towel.

“Sorry the shower took so long,” Stiles said, breathless from Derek’s ministrations. “But I have a surprise for you.”

Derek made an inquisitive sound but didn’t lift his mouth from where it was sucking and nipping an impressive mark on Stiles’ collarbone. Stiles took one of Derek’s hands and pulled it underneath the towel, guiding his fingers back to Stiles’ ass. There was slickness against Stiles’ rim and Derek tested it gently, groaning when two fingers slid in easily. The front of his pants were getting uncomfortably tight and the towel as doing nothing to hide Stiles’ erection.

“Stiles…”

“Had to prep myself for you,” Stiles said, gasping as Derek moved his fingers. “Needed you in me as fast as possible.”

Damn if that didn’t make Derek’s dick even harder. He nudged Stiles’ rim with a third finger and plunged it in, pushing deeper and deeper into that soft heat. Stiles was making the most delicious keening noises, shoving back against Derek’s hand and grinding onto his lap. Every few thrusts, Derek’s fingers would brush Stiles’ prostate, making more pre-come squirt onto the towel.

“I’m ready, Derek. I’m so, so ready. Come on, fuck me, please, please, I - ”

Derek crashed his lips into Stiles’, shutting him up with his mouth and tongue. But who was he to deny Stiles? He pulled his fingers out despite Stiles’ whines of protest and set his hands on his waist.

“Bedroom. Now.”

Stiles scrambled up from Derek’s lap and was halfway across the living room before Derek could even stand. Stiles smirked and let the towel drop to the floor, revealing his hard cock, tip wet and red. Derek’s mouth salivated and he followed Stiles’ sauntering ass into the bedroom, nearly tackling him onto the bed.

They were a mess of limbs and writhing bodies and god, Derek had needed this, needed Stiles’ mouth and hands and lithe body pulled against his. He rolled them so Derek was on his back, Stiles straddling him.

“Ride me,” Derek growled out. “I want to see you fucking yourself on my cock, taking it all in that tight little ass of yours.”

Stiles nodded fast, pupils already blown wide, and reached around to position Derek’s dick at his entrance. Stiles sank slowly, hissing until Derek’s head breached the tight ring of muscle. He stilled for a second, savoring in the feeling of Derek inside him. He’d prepped himself but Derek wasn’t small and his hole was clinging to Derek’s cock.

“Fuck.” Derek’s voice was absolutely wrecked, his only focus was on Stiles constricting around him, pulling him deeper.

When Stiles recovered enough to move, he gave Derek no warning before raising his hips and dropping down. Hard. Derek’s gasp was lost under Stiles’ shout as he worked himself faster on Derek’s cock. The room was filled with grunts and moans and the obscene wet, squelching noise of Stiles fucking his swollen hole onto Derek.

Usually they were both pretty vocal in bed, more than happy to tell the other exactly what they wanted, but this time was different. It was all gasps and groans and animalistic noises. Stiles started whimpering when his muscles began to get tired, trembling above Derek.

Derek grabbed Stiles and pulled him to his chest, setting his feet against the mattress so he could pound into Stiles, making him cry out. The new angle was amazing, letting Derek hit Stiles’ prostate every single time, and rubbing his throbbing cock between their stomachs.

“Derek, gonna come, gonna, fuck,” Stile gasped, burying his face in Derek’s neck.

“Come on, Stiles. Be a good boy and come for me,” Derek growled in Stiles’ ear. Stiles did, screaming his release into Derek’s skin. Just a few thrusts later, Derek was coming in Stiles’ spasming hole. He bit down on the junction between Stiles’ neck and shoulder and stilled, letting his come fill Stiles.

Stiles was pliant and boneless in Derek’s arms. The only sign he was even alive was his quiet whine when Derek laved at the bite mark, soothing it with his tongue.

“Is this a possessive thing?” Stiles slurred, rolling until he was tucked into Derek’s side. “A jealousy thing?”

Derek nuzzled the side of Stiles’ head, his voice rumbling through Stiles’ body when he said, “Maybe.”

“Puppy,” Stiles mumbled, still fucked out and hazy. He didn’t seem to notice Derek tense at the pet name, thinking for a second it was a wolf reference, before realizing Stiles knew nothing about werewolves. It was just Stiles making a comment. “I don’t want Lydia. I haven’t in years. I just want you.” Derek was quiet, unsure what to say, and of course, Stiles being Stiles needed to fill the silence. “You believe me, don’t you? I don’t want you to doubt what I feel for you.”

“I believe you,” Derek said quietly. He was running his fingers absently through Stiles’ hair, something they both loved. “With-with everything that’s happened before…” Derek hesitated and Stiles squeezed him tighter, like he could hold Derek together all on his own. “I get paranoid, scared. Not that you’ll hurt me!” he said quickly when Stiles made a hurt noise. “It’s like…it’s, you’re too good to be true. I worry that someone’s going to come along and you’re going to realize that they’re so much better for you than I am. I can’t – I don’t want to lose you.”

“Derek.” Stiles pulled away and for one terrifying moment, Derek thought he’d scared Stiles off, but then he rolled until he was lying on top of Derek. He took Derek’s face in his hands, gently rubbing his thumbs over his cheekbones. “You’re not going to lose me. There’s no way you could. I am so, ridiculously, severely in love with you. I know it’s only been a few months and it’s probably way too soon and oh my god, please shut me up because I don’t want to freak you out and-”

“I love you, too,” Derek said, running his hands up Stiles’ back until he was clutching at Stiles’ shoulders. “I love you, so much.” Stiles beamed down at him.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles breathed out and kissed Derek so hard and fast that even he was dizzy. Derek flipped Stiles onto his back, all but attacking him, kissing every inch of skin he could reach.

When Stiles came again later, he was screaming Derek’s name, repeating, “I love you” over and over.

After they’d settled again, something hit the wall of Stiles’ room. Derek was pretty sure it was Laura’s shoe, and a few seconds later she yelled, “Y’all nasty!”

It took Stiles five minutes to contain the hysterical giggles.

-

Stiles had a truly extraordinary trail of hickeys all over his body the next morning. He was cooking breakfast in nothing but a pair of jeans with Derek at the breakfast bar, admiring the dark marks against his boyfriend’s skin, when Lydia let herself in, not bothering to knock. She took one look at Stiles and raised an unimpressed eyebrow. There were bruises all up and down Stiles’ neck, a vague imprint of teeth on his shoulder, and a smattering of smaller marks over his back and chest.

Stiles flushed under her scrutiny but defiantly said, “What? Don’t judge me, I’ve seen the shit you had in high school.”

“Yeah, in high school,” Lydia emphasized with an eye roll. She ignored Stiles’ offer of French toast, instead grabbing a yogurt from the fridge. She grabbed Stiles’ chin, tilting his head back and forth to get a better look. “I have concealer in my bag if you want to look less like a chew toy.”

“I’m good,” Stiles said with a shrug and a grin. “I kind of like it.” He winked at Derek before turning back to the stove. Derek smiled slightly, proud of his claim thrilled that Stiles was happy to show it off. He was calmer now. Today, Lydia was just a friend of Stiles’, that was all.

“Kinky, possessive fuckers,” Lydia muttered right when the front door opened. Laura walked in with a bowl of fruit salad. She winked at Lydia when she passed. Lydia merely smiled.

“Who’s kinky?” Laura asked.

“Your brother and this little pervert,” Lydia said, flicking Stiles’ ear.

“Seriously? Guys, has everyone forgotten how to knock? You knock when doors are closed!” Stiles said, waving his spatula for emphasis. “But whatever! Who needs personal space?”

“You should really keep your door locked,” Laura said. She sat down next to her brother and gave him a light punch in the arm. “Seriously, this is New York.”

“I’d prefer you not dead,” Derek added conversationally.

“Stiles has never had very good self-preservation instincts,” Lydia said.

“Stiles is right here,” Stiles mumbled. He loaded up plates for Laura, Derek, and himself. “Here, you moochers.”

They lapsed into silence while they ate. Halfway through a piece of bacon, Derek felt eyes on him. He turned to see Lydia scrutinizing him.

“What?” he asked.

“Where are your marks?” she asked, eyes narrowing on his neck. “Stiles overshares enough for me to know he’s a biter.”

“Lydia,” Stiles hissed. Derek shrugged, hoping she wouldn’t notice the stiffness in his shoulders.

“I don’t bruise easily,” Derek said.

“It’s true,” Laura said around a mouthful of scrambled eggs. “He broke his arm when he was six and it barely even swelled up.”

It was technically true. He’d fallen out of a tree when Peter had somehow convinced him that young werewolves had the ability to fly. He’d healed before it got too gross. His mom had reamed Peter for that one.

“Not fair,” Stiles pouted, leaning over to kiss Derek on the nose. “It’s okay, I still love you.”

“I’d certainly hope so,” Derek said dryly.

Neither of them seemed to remember the other girls hadn’t heard that particular statement yet until Laura squealed, “Oh my god, you guys are so fucking adorable, I’m actually going to throw up.” Stiles blushed a little but looked exceedingly pleased with himself. Even Lydia was giving them a small smile.

“Shut up and eat your breakfast,” Stiles said, but the dopey grin was still plastered on his face.

A half hour later, Lydia stood up and clapped her hands together.

“All right Stiles, chop chop, get dressed. The MET has an exhibit on post-Roman Celtic art that I want to see.”

“And rip the museum a new asshole about all they got wrong?” Stiles asked.

“Obviously.”

“You’re into art history?” Derek asked, interest piqued.

“Oh damn it,” Stiles said throwing his hands up. “They’re never going to shut up now. I’m going to shower, go ahead and nerd out.”

Lydia ignored him completely, answering Derek as if Stiles hadn’t spoken. “Yes. A side project when working on my astrophysics doctorate. I started with ancient Africa and moved through the world up to colonial times in North America. It gets a little boring then,” Lydia answered. “Are you interested?”

“Jesus,” Laura muttered. “I’m going home.” Derek and Lydia ignored her, too.

“Yeah, mainly Egyptian, Greek, and Roman, mostly from early dynastic through the late period for Egypt, Hellenistic for Greek, and the Greco-Roman era,” Derek said.

“Hmm,” Lydia said. Derek had the feeling that she was dissecting him and forces himself to sit up straighter. He was a werewolf, damn it, he refused to be intimidated by a 5’3” redhead in a flowered skirt.

“How’d you get into art history?” Lydia asked.

“Laura. When she started painting, I tried to learn as much as I could,” Derek said. It was no big deal, he’d wanted to share that connection with his sister, but Lydia was looking at him like he’d said something interesting.

They talked about art history until Stiles was out of the shower and dressed. Stiles raised his eyebrows when Lydia said Derek and Laura had an invitation to come with them.

“Is that a bad thing?” Derek asked, frowning at Stiles’ expression.

“No, it’s great! Lydia’s not very good at sharing her Stiles time,” he said.

“He’s competent at art history. He’ll probably be more useful than you,” Lydia said.

Lydia stood, a universal sign for everyone to follow, so Stiles leaned over the back of the couch to bang on the wall that separated his apartment from the Hales’.

“Come on, Laura, we’re going to a museum!” Stiles yelled through the wall.

There was silence for a few seconds before there was an answering bang on the wall and a shout of, “Fine, you demanding little shit!”

-

As Stiles predicted, Lydia tore the museum curator apart over all of the inaccuracies, leaving the stunned man blinking in her wake. She and Derek ended up in the Egyptian section, having a friendly argument about tombs. Laura and Stiles were dragging behind, snapchatting pictures of the pieces with sassy captions.

Stiles almost swallowed his tongue when he opened one that showed a painting of a man cowering next to a feast-covered table, another man standing above him with a raised arm. Across the middle was You can’t sit with us!

“Mean Girls? I’m so proud!” Stiles said when he finally could stop laughing. “Incoming.”

Laura checked her phone only to see a picture of Derek’s ass captioned with A true work out art.

“Gross!” Laura punched Stiles in the arm. Derek rolled his eyes at them, moving away to follow Lydia to the next room.

Now that her protective threats were out of the way, Lydia was actually pretty good company, much to Derek’s surprise. They spent hours in the museum debating good-naturedly about everything from artistic style to the attractiveness of 1600s attire. It took them over an hour to realize they’d lost Stiles and Laura, then another hour to care enough to look for them. Derek and Lydia eventually found them eating ice cream on the front steps of the museum.

“They emerge!” Stiles said dramatically. “I was starting to worry you’d traded me in for a strawberry blonde model.”

“Never,” Derek said, leaning over to kiss Stiles on the noise. The blush tinging his boyfriend’s cheeks made Derek smile.

All in all, the day actually went pretty well. After the museum, they’d gotten lunch at an outrageously expensive restaurant, at Lydia’s insistence. She refused to let them pay, going as far as to threaten bodily harm. Stiles said, “You might as well let her. I stopped fighting it when she replaced all my shoes because she thought I looked like a hobo.”

“You did,” she said.

Derek should have known it was too good to last. Laura and Lydia were walking in front of Derek and Stiles through the subway station, cutting through the crowds to get to the right platform when Derek first smelled it. His eyes searched through the dozens of people around them until they settled on Laura. She was tensed, head turned slightly to the side, scenting the air.

“Hey,” Stiles said, nudging Derek in the ribs. “You just went all rigid, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Derek said, forcing his body to relax under Stiles’ touch. “Just stepped wrong.”

Stiles frowned, eyes narrowed. “Sure,” he said, but Derek’s eyes were trained on Laura. He tugged Stiles closer, wrapping an arm around his waist. He wasn’t sure what he’d smelled, but he was reasonably sure it was another werewolf. Occasionally, an omega would seek them out automatically drawn to Laura as an alpha. She always sent them on their way, saying it was just her and Derek.

Derek steered Stiles to Laura and Lydia as firmly as he could without arousing suspicion, but Stiles wasn’t stupid and Derek could tell he knew something was wrong. Laura was waiting by Lydia, her hand resting on the small of the redhead’s back. Lydia seemed relaxed and blithely unaware of the Hales’ tension, but her eyes were sharp and glittering.

“What’s going on?” Stiles hissed.

“Nothing,” Derek answered immediately, trying to pull Stiles into the subway car.

“Nothing, my ass,” Stiles said, planting his feet, making it impossible to move him unless Derek yanked him or threw him over his shoulder. And honestly, he was sorely tempted.

“Stiles, I’ll explain later, just please let’s go home first,” Laura said through gritted teeth, obviously fighting the urge to flash alpha eyes. Derek completely understood.

Whether it was Laura’s ‘please’ (a rare event) or Derek’s convulsing hand around Stiles’ waist, Stiles nodded and let Derek pull him after Laura and Lydia into the subway car. The Hales pulled them into the far end against the wall so they had a view of all the entrances and exits.

The subway doors closed right when Derek got a strong whiff of the scent. A man sitting a few rows down stiffened and turned toward them. Laura stepped in front of the others, letting out a sub vocal growl that only Derek and the wolf could hear. The other wolf shuddered and looked down when Laura’s eyes flashed red.

“I mean no harm, Alpha. Just going home,” he whispered so only wolf hearing could detect his words.

“Good,” Laura said, equally quiet.

It wasn’t that they never ran into other wolves; considering how big New York was, it would actually be stranger if they didn’t, but this one didn’t smell like any of the packs in the area and due to them needing to seek permission to settle in the New York area, they were intimately familiar with the other packs’ scents. So either he really was just a wolf trying to get home and ended up a little farther away than normal, or…or. Derek and Laura learned paranoia early on and to always be aware of the ‘or’ possibility. And now, with a human pack member…

The man kept his eyes down until he got off a few stops later and only then did the Hales relax. Stiles kept eyeing them suspiciously, but kept up with the constant conversation with Lydia.

After they parted ways with Lydia, Stiles waited until they were back in the Hales’ apartment to whirl on Derek and demand, “What the hell was - ” His words were cut off when Derek yanked Stiles to him, one hand splaying possessively over his back, the other clutching at the nape of his neck. “-that?”

There was a second of confusion before Stiles wrapped his arms around Derek, letting his boyfriend hold him.

“Dude, you’re kinda freaking me out, what’s going on?” Stiles asked. Derek pulled back to look at Stiles, those amber eyes full of confusion and worry. Derek opened his mouth, to say what, he wasn’t sure, but Laura beat him to it.

“I thought I saw someone we used to know,” Laura lied smoothly. “He was…he wasn’t the nicest guy.” She even managed a small but convincing lip quiver and wide, wet eyes. God bless Laura.

Derek could see Stiles’ natural curiosity itching to burst out, but the caring instinct won. “Are you guys okay? What do you need?”

Derek shook his head, slowly releasing Stiles from his arms. He kept his hand, though.

“No, it’s fine,” Derek said, rubbing his thumb over the pulse in Stiles’ wrist. “It was just the shock.”

Stiles wanted to question more, Derek could see it in the narrowing of his eyes and the twitching of his hands, but he just sighed and nudged Derek toward the couch.

“You guys sit, I’m gonna make popcorn, Stilinski’s famous hot chocolate, then we’ll get in a cuddle puddle and marathon Disney,” Stiles said and turned to walk to the kitchen without waiting for a reply.

Derek didn’t think that sounded half bad and sat on the couch. Laura collapsed next to him, flinging an arm over her eyes.

“Alpha instincts going crazy over someone else taking care of the pack?” Derek asked quietly. Derek glanced behind them, into the kitchen where Stiles was clanging around.

“No,” she said quietly. “It’s…it’s like you said, Stiles is pack and pack takes care of pack.”

“Look at you, growing up,” Derek said, elbowing Laura gently.

“Shut up,” Laura said, shoving him back, not nearly as gently.

They listened quietly to Stiles moving around, occasionally dropping something and cursing. Derek didn’t realize he was smiling fondly until he saw Laura staring at him, a soft look on her face.

“You need to tell him,” Laura said quietly, so Stiles wouldn’t hear.

“I know,” Derek said, rubbing a hand over his face. He felt a lot older than 28, like running into the other wolf had taken years off his life. It wasn’t even a violent encounter, but Derek had been terrified for Stiles. He’d known he couldn’t let his wolf out, not in such a crowded space, and Stiles wouldn’t have understood. He’d have been horrified, he’d have run or gotten hurt and Derek would have lost him. The smart thing to do would be to let Stiles go, to keep him away from the supernatural all together. His wolf howled in pain at the thought, desperate to protect his mate. There was a tightness in his chest, squeezing the air out of his lungs and crushing his heart.

But Derek couldn’t do it. He was letting himself be selfish for once. He thought of Laura’s words, so similar to Stiles’, “You deserve nice things.” He snorted. No, he wasn’t letting Stiles go, he was going to keep him safe.

“Hey, look, you managed to rein in your self-sacrificing bullshit!” Laura cooed at him, an annoyingly knowing look on her face.

“Shut up,” Derek said, pushing Laura away by the shoulder. Before he noticed, they were wrestling like they hadn’t since they were kids; all playful growls and violent shoving. Derek missed her not have alpha strength, back when he could occasionally pin her without her throwing him off in a half second.

“Kids,” Stiles said, laughing. Derek looked around Laura’s arm, which had him in a headlock, to see Stiles with his hands on his hips, trying to look stern but failing miserably. He stepped around the coffee table, which Derek noticed now had a tray with three steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and stood in front of the couch with a mock scowl. He only could keep it up for a few seconds before leaping on top of them with a shrill battle cry.

They were a jumble of elbows and limbs and if it were anyone else, Derek would take extreme displeasure in being kicked in the face, but this was different. This was pack bonding. Laura and Derek were careful not to use too much strength on Stiles but that didn’t mean they went easy on him by any means. Derek attacked Stiles’ ribs where he knew he was ticklish, making Stiles yowl and flail out of his grip, headbutting Laura in the process. She kicked Derek in the shin in retaliation.

“Ow! He’s the one who headbutted you in the nose!”

“Your fault,” Laura said, reaching around Stiles to slap Derek’s arm.

“Okay, truce! Uncle! Parlay!” Stiles gasped between them. He shoved a hand in both of their chests in an attempt to push them away from each other. Of course, neither werewolf budged, and Stiles yanked his hands back with a yelp when he accidentally got a handful of Laura’s breast.

Laura laughed and relaxed back onto her end of the couch, grabbing a mug of hot chocolate and curling her legs under her. Derek relaxed on his end, too, satisfied that Laura wasn’t about to launch another attack. Stiles called a ceasefire and put on 101 Dalmatians.

This felt really good. Stiles smelled of nothing but caring and contentment all through the night. When they’d all finished their hot chocolate (Stiles had been right, it was amazing. And Derek wasn’t even a sweets kind of guy), Stiles huddled down between Derek and Laura, eyes on the screen. The couch wasn’t huge, so he was pressed into the sides of both Hales, just like the rest of their movie nights.

Sometime between the Little Mermaid and Hercules (“Hades is my god, all right?”), Stiles ended up cuddled between them, Derek wrapped around his side with Laura leaning her head against his shoulder, her nose nearly in his neck. She had an arm around his waist so tight that it was brushing Derek’s, but he didn’t mind. Wolves were extremely tactile, and so was Stiles, so they were a big pile of comfort and some not so subtle scent marking, not that Derek thought Stiles would get what it meant. Derek was nearly boneless with relaxation floating in the scent of homepacksafety.

Until halfway through Mulan, somewhere around 1:00 am, Stiles was drifting closer and closer to sleep. He was nearly sprawled on Derek, Laura a warm mass at his back with her face buried between his shoulder blades.

“’S nice,” Stiles mumbled sleepily. “You’re good at cuddle puddles. You’re like little wolf puppies.”

The reaction was instantaneous. Derek jerked under Stiles, hands spasming on his arm and the back of his neck. Laura was a little more subtle, only tensing against Stiles’ back but it was enough. Stiles sat up, looking between them in confusion. It took a few seconds but Derek could see the comprehension dawn on Stiles’ face. Derek closed his eyes, waiting for the fear and violence. He was only half right.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me you guys are werewolves?!” Stiles yelled and punched Derek in the shoulder. Which, what?

“Uh.” Derek made eye contact with Laura over Stiles’ shoulder and she looked just as confused and shocked as he was. But Stiles wasn’t done yet. He rounded on Laura and punched her in the arm, too. Hard.

“This makes so much sense! Subway, sticking you face in my neck, the come - comfortable way you, uh, smell me…” Derek reached for Stiles’ aching hand, but he jerked it away. “Nuh uh, you have some explaining to do, fuzz ball. Unless you’re doing the pain killing, wolfy mumbo jumbo because in that case, hell yeah.” Derek, apparently still dumbstruck, just took Stiles’ outstretched hand, black creeping up his veins. Stiles sighed. “That will never not be cool.”

“You know about werewolves?” Derek asked, finally recovered enough to ask dumb questions.

“Well, duh!” Stiles said, waving his arms between Derek and Laura. “The question is why you didn’t tell me?”

“HOW do you know about werewolves?” Laura asked.

“You answer mine and I’ll answer yours,” Stiles said. The stubborn jut of his lip made it clear that he wasn’t backing down on this.

“Derek,” Laura said.

“I was trying to figure out a way to tell you that wouldn’t involve you running in terror or burning my home down. I didn’t expect you to already know.”

“Burn your…oh. Oh, the fire, I, shit,” Stiles said, suddenly significantly more subdued than he was before. He squeezed Derek’s hand in his, rubbing gentle circles over his knuckles. “I’m sorry, I would never hurt you, either of you.”

Derek gave him a small smile and squeezed his hand back. “I know.”

“Not that this isn’t touching,” Laura interrupted, “but how the hell do you know about werewolves?”

“Oh! My best friend is one,” Stiles said.

Derek and Laura looked at him blankly until Derek asked, “Your best friend from Beacon Hills. Is a werewolf.”

“Yep,” Stiles said.

“Has another pack moved into Beacon Hills?” Laura asked. Her eyes were tinged red. They hadn’t been to Beacon Hills in years, not since their uncle Peter died in his sleep and they’d buried him next to the rest of their family, but they both still felt the pull. Beacon Hills was, and always would be, Hale territory. But Stiles was shaking his head.

“No, as far as we can tell there’s no one else,” Stiles said.

Derek frowned. “Was he born a wolf?”

“So you can be born a werewolf? I knew it! Are you guys? Oh my god, I have like a forty page list of questions you can answer!”

“Stiles,” Derek said through gritted teeth. Stiles huffed out a breath.

“What, I’ll answer your questions but you won’t answer mine?”

“We will, please Stiles, just tell us what happened,” Laura said. “It’s important.”

Maybe it was her tone, or the fact that Laura never really says please, but Stiles visibly deflated and nodded with a sigh.

“Scott was bitten by a crazy alpha. That’s true, right? Only alphas can turn people?”

“Yeah,” Laura said. “So he didn’t ask for it?”

“What? Hell no. We were cutting through the woods after lacrosse practice and something just flew from a bush, knocked us over, bit Scott and ran away,” Stiles said.

“A rogue alpha,” Derek murmured. “And they didn’t stick around, try to pull Scott into a pack?”

“Nuh uh. Some drifter’s body was found a few days later with aconite in his system. So, yeah,” Stiles said. “I never got a straight answer from Chris Argent about whether it was…” Stiles trailed off when both siblings visibly flinched. “What?”

“Argent?” Derek growled.

“Yeah…they’re hunters,” Stiles said slowly. “But they have a code, something like, ‘We hunt – “

“Those who hunt us’,” Derek said, voice done deep with a growl. “Except when his sister decided to burn a family alive.”

“What? She- oh god, Derek…” Derek could see the pieces click into place from what little Derek had already told him; the girl who’d used him, the grudge against his family. Stiles was for once at a loss for words, looking like he wanted to reach out and comfort Derek, but couldn’t tell if he would be welcome. His hand hovered awkwardly in the air for a few seconds before Derek grasped it tightly and pulled it into his lap.

“Stiles,” Laura said quietly. “If he doesn’t have an alpha, how did he learn control?”

“I threw lacrosse balls at him.”

“You-what?”

“We tied his arms behind his back, stuck a heartrate monitor on him, and I threw lacrosse balls at him. And got him beat up by a bunch of douches, but that was half because he made out with Lydia. I chained him to a radiator with a dog food bowl on the full moon but he broke out and ran to Allison’s house.”

Derek was making increasingly distressed noises the more Stiles talked. Stiles just squeezed his hand and said, “Of course, the lovesick idiot just went right to Allison’s house and just watched her from the roof like a freakin’ creeper.”

“Allison?” Derek asked.

“Allison Argent, his wife,” Derek said.

“He’s married to an Argent?!” Derek burst out. “Is he insane?”

“No, and neither is Allison. She has never hunted okay?”

“Putting a pin in that –“ Laura said, only to be cut off by Derek.

“You threw lacrosse balls at a newly turned werewolf that didn’t have control?” Derek asked, letting a growl seep into his voice. “Are you out of your mind? Do you want to get killed?”

“In my defense! I’d just figured out what he was and we figured anger and pain had something to do with it. Anyway, he found an anchor, everything’s been gravy for years.”

Derek ran his free hand over his face with a groan. “Are there any others in Beacon Hills?”

“Yeah. Isaac ran away from his abusive dad in high school and Boyd moved with his family a few years ago. It’s not a pack exactly, not really. They’re kind flying by the seats of their pants. Do you think one of you could maybe talk to them? It’d be super helpful if they could learn about wolves from actual wolves instead of stuff passed down from hunters, which to be honest is probably a steaming pile of –“

“I’d be happy to,” Laura said. “The bite is a gift, and no one should have to learn about it all on their own. They deserve to know the culture and tradition.”

Stiles face lit up in a smile, like he’d doubted Laura and Derek actually would. “Okay, you got your answers, now I get mine.”

Derek and Laura spent the next three hours answering every question Stiles threw at them, from the mundane questions about pack and social structures, to the straight up bizarre (“No Stiles we aren’t born as puppies, what the hell?”). Stiles stared at them with rapt attention, soaking up every word of what Derek and Laura considered to be inherent knowledge, like the sun sets in the west. Derek had never seen Stiles so still. He briefly hesitated about freely giving so much information to a human, especially one that had ties, however tenuously, to hunters, but his wolf recognized Stiles as mate and safety. Pack, if he accepted it.

“So,” Stiles said, twisting and untwisting his fingers in his lap. “Are plain old humans ever a part of packs?”

Derek’s eyes flicked to Laura briefly before he looked back at Stiles. “Yes, there are human pack members. We had human siblings and cousins. They’re an important part of the pack. They’re a link to humanity. They keep us grounded.”

Stiles nodded, gnawing at his lip. “Good, that’s good.”

“Stiles,” Derek said softly, cupping his jaw. Laura cleared her voice and not-so-subtly slid off the couch and went to her room. Of course, she would still be able to hear everything, but Derek appreciated the illusion of privacy. “What is it?”

“Scott and Allison talked about, um, mates,” Stiles said, flushing slightly.

Derek was glad Stiles wasn’t a wolf and couldn’t hear how Derek’s heartbeat jumped. “Yeah?” Derek prodded.

“They weren’t sure on some things like if her dad said some stuff just to scare them or if some things are normal and I’m just kind wondering…” Stiles finished, running out of steam toward the end.

Derek pulled Stiles in, kissing him softly. “What’s your question?” he mumbled against Stiles’ lips. He pulled back just enough to look Stiles in the eye, keeping a warm hand on the back of his neck.

“Is- is it true that werewolves mate for life? I always wondered if that was something Chris made up to scare Allison away from Scott when they were in high school.”

“It’s true,” Derek said. His thumb was running absentminded circles on Stiles’ neck. “When a werewolf makes a mate bond…it’s intense, that person, their mate, they’ll be it for each other. I don’t know how to explain it other than how my mother explained it to me.

“It’ll make you a little stronger, and you’ll feel more grounded with a mate, like a thousand anchors. You can feel each other, similar to a pack bond but just for each other. You can pick each other’s heartbeats out of thousands. It’s just you two together, amplified and aided with a mating bond.” Derek’s wolf was prowling excitedly at giving Stiles this information, itching to claim.

“And that’s with a mating bite, right?”

Derek nodded. “Traditionally, on the neck or wrist, but some started doing it over the heart so hunters wouldn’t recognize the scar.” Stiles nodded but his heart was still beating fast. Derek didn’t want to push him too hard, so he waited a few moments before saying, “Stiles, you can ask me anything, you know that.”

Stiles seemed to steel himself before asking timidly, completely un-Stiles-like, “I know Scott did but he’s not really a fountain of werewolf knowledge, but what if a wolf takes a human mate? Does that, do they, does that ever happen?”

Derek’s hand tightened on the back of Stiles’ neck before he cupped his face. “We take human mates. We love and cherish them the same as we would if they were wolves.”

Some of the tension in Stiles’ body released and he breathed a relieved sigh. But Derek could tell Stiles was working up to something, so he just waited and continued to stroke Stiles’ cheek with his thumb. It was probably the longest Derek had ever heard a conscious Stiles go without talking.

He finally asked, “Mates are kind of like getting werewolf married, right? Mating for life and all.” Derek nodded. “How do you know when you’ve found them? Scott said he couldn’t explain it, he said he just knew.”

“He’s right, in a way. He probably just isn’t sure because he doesn’t know as much about being a werewolf.” Derek’s voice dropped quieter when he said, “I thought that’s what I had with Kate, but that was just teenage lust. The real thing is so much more. The scent of them, their presence, it’s soothing and exciting all at once. The need to scent and protect, touch, everything. That person becomes everything.”

“That sounds like Scott and Allison,” Stiles said. Derek still wanted to cringe at a werewolf being mated to a hunter, but he bit his tongue. Stiles’ heartbeat was slamming in his chest so hard that Derek was a bit worried. “So…have you met yours?”

Derek nodded. “Yes.” His heart rate was starting to match Stiles’.

“I don’t want to sound presumptuous or anything but, is that me?” Stiles couldn’t meet Derek’s eyes when he asked, instead staring somewhere around Derek’s left ear. The thick scent of doubt and anxiety assaulted Derek’s senses, making him wrinkle his nose. He pulled Stiles to him and kissed him, chaste but sweet.

“It’s you,” Derek breathed, leaning forward. He rested his forehead against Stiles’. “Stiles, of course it’s you. You’re smart, loud, beautiful, infuriating, and so, so caring. I love you so much. I know this is a lot and I don’t want you to make a decision now, I’m not even ready now. I just need you to know that I want a future with you.”

“Wow, Derek,” Stiles said, voice awed. “Of course that’s what I want! Fuck, Derek I see a house surrounded by trees and kids running around with your ridiculous eyes and full moon barbeques. Jesus, Derek, I want everything with you.”

This time when Derek reeled Stiles in for a kiss, it wasn’t chaste; it was delving tongues, nipping and gasps, the kind of kiss that was made of pure passion that made you walk away with swollen lips and a dopey look on your face. That’s exactly how Stiles looked when Derek pulled back to look at his face, blissful and nearly fucked out.

“God, Stiles, you can’t just say things like that,” Derek groaned, sounding just as wrecked as Stiles. With a wicked grin, Stiles climbed into Derek’s lap, straddling him and wrapping his arms around the other man’s neck. The front of his jeans were already uncomfortably tight, and the added pressure of Stiles’ half hard dick pressing against his own was the absolute best kind of torture.

“I’m not ready for all that yet, either,” Stiles mumbled against Derek’s lips between kisses. “But I will be.”

Derek let out a rumbling noise that later he’d swear up and down wasn’t a purr, and attached himself to the junction where Stiles’ neck met his shoulder. Derek grinned when Stiles swallowed hard, his skin salty and soft beneath Derek’s tongue.

“I want, Derek, mark me,” Stiles gasped out. Derek went very still, keeping a tight grip on Stiles’ hips. Stiles just leaned in closer until his lips were brushing Derek’s ear. “Mark me up. Show everyone I’m yours. Make sure they see it and smell it and never forget, and any other wolf that walks by me on the street knows I’m yours and you’re mine.”

Derek growled low and threw Stiles down to the couch, covering his body a second later with his own. His wolf was howling in victory when Derek latched onto Stiles’ neck, sucking and biting another mark that would bruise nice and dark. He’d had the rein in so many of his instincts from Stiles for so long, but here he was, moaning obscenely beneath him, begging for the wolf side of Derek.

Opening Stiles up was usually one of Derek’s favorite things to do, loving the squelching noises as he thrust his fingers in and out of Stiles’ hole, his knuckles being squeezed by the rim, as if Stiles’ ass wanted to keep Derek inside. Tonight though, his patience was nonexistent. He was still careful, claws never making an appearance, but way quicker than normal. Stiles was making beautiful, helpless noises high in his throat that made it clear that he was completely on board with what Derek was doing.

“Derek, I’m ready. Just, please, Der, need you,” Stiles babbled, clutching at Derek’s shoulder. He nosed at Derek’s collarbone, scenting him, Derek realized. He yanked Stiles arms up, pinning his wrists over his head.

Derek lined himself up and slid in slowly, the clench of Stiles’ hole quickly giving way for him was so, so good, and it took all he had not to slam into the warm, waiting body.

“Don’t hold back,” Stiles hissed when Derek bottomed out. “I want all of you. Give me the wolf.”

“Christ,” Derek groaned. He lost himself in the tightness of Stiles around him, slamming into him over and over. Usually they tried to make things last until they were both weak and breathless and had teased each other to within an inch of their sanity, but this time was all desperation.

The animal was at the surface, frantically rutting into Stiles with the single-minded goal of claiming, taking Stiles’ submission and marking him on the inside and out. In the back of his mind, Derek knew it wasn’t a full mating claim, and it wouldn’t be until he knotted Stiles and gave him the bonding bite. But it was still so good, bursts of pleasure tingling up his spine.

Stiles’ face was screwed up in ecstasy, his eyes wide and mouth open and slack. If it felt this good just to let the wolf out, Derek couldn’t imagine how actually mating Stiles would be.

Apparently he’s said some of that aloud because Stiles’ cock twitched against his stomach and he said, “Yeah, Der, you’ll fill me up so good, breed me ‘til I swell, stuff me full of your come.” Stiles gasped as Derek slammed in harder, eyes glowing at Stiles’ words. “Please, please Derek. All I want is you, no one else, just my mate. Please, need you, need your come. C’mon, make me yours.”

Derek buried his face in Stiles’ neck, whining as his hips started to lose their rhythm. Stiles worked a hand between them to start jacking his cock, making him buck up ever further into Derek’s thrusts. He threw his head to the side, presenting his long, pale neck.

“Stiles,” Derek gasped around a mouthful of fang and came, spilling his release into Stiles. He kept blindly thrusting, hoping to hit Stiles’ prostate and only stopping when he felt Stiles shoot hot and wet between them.

Derek filed away the way Stiles shivered when Derek whispered, “Good boy,” in his ear, happy to use that information for later, and settled himself half draped over Stiles, half on the couch, to bask in the afterglow.

He stayed inside of Stiles long after they both came down from their orgasms, something they both loved. Derek knew it was probably some werewolf biology thing designed to make it more likely for a breeding to take but he didn’t care; being inside Stiles’ warm hole, either tight and slick or loose and sloppy with his come, was one of the best parts of his day. He wasn’t sure why Stiles loved it so much. When he’d asked, Stiles had had a hard time explaining beyond, “I like you inside me. It feels wrong to be so empty.”

The Hale living room was saturated in the scent of sex and come and sweat, the air heavy with it. Derek idly wondered how long it would take to fade, as much as he didn’t want it to, as he ran his hand up and down Stiles’ back. Laura was going to be so pissed. Speaking of…

Laura’s bedroom door banged open, slamming against the hallway wall, and she stomped into the living room. Derek had just enough time to yank the afghan off the back of the couch to cover Stiles and himself before she was standing in front of them, hands on her hips. If she were a cartoon, she’d have a storm cloud over her head.

“Really, guys? Really? Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, it’s going to smell like jizz for weeks!” Laura said. “That couch is never going to be the same.”

“Try breathing through your mouth?” Stiles suggested cheekily.

“Then I can almost taste it, you smug little shit!” Laura yelled. She grabbed her purse from the foot of the couch (so that’s what Derek’s foot had been hitting [“Fucking gross.”]) and all but ran to the front door.

“Where are you going?” Derek asked.

“To buy out the store’s supply of Febreeze. I swear to god, if you guys aren’t dressed by the time I’m back, I’ll dip you both in bleach.” She slammed the door behind her when she left and Derek could hear her muttering all the way down the hall.

“Do we have to get up?” Stiles whined, burrowing deeper into Derek’s side.

Derek chuckled. “Not yet.”

“Good.” Stiles’ voice was slightly muffled due to his mouth being pressed against Derek’s skin. “Was that okay? The whole, er, breeding thing? I know it’s something we’ve never talked about, but it’s a bit of a kink of mine and I kinda assumed…sorry. Oh god, you don’t have magic werewolf jizz that’ll actually knock me up, right?”

Derek snorted against the top of Stiles’ head. “No, Stiles, I can’t get you pregnant. And it’s okay, it happens to be a kink that we have that in common. I like that, too. A lot.”

Stiles slumped in relief in Derek’s arms. “Good. I didn’t know if I was accidentally speciest or whatever.”

“You’re not.”

“Mmm.” Stiles cuddled deeper, whining when Derek pulled away. “Nooo, cuddle sleeping.”

“Later,” Derek said, kissing Stiles’ forehead and standing.

“It’s 4:30 am, how much later is there left?” Stiles grumbled. He moved to stand, only to be distracted by Derek’s ass, back, and strong, thick thighs. Derek shot him a smug smirk and bent over to pull his jeans back on. A hint of arousal from Stiles tinged the air.

“I can smell that,” Derek said. “Come on, we just need to open some windows and clean off the couch as much as we can, then we can go to sleep.”

Stiles mumbled about delicate were wolf sensibilities but he complied and helped Derek throw the blanket in the washing machine and do what they could for what Stiles called the ‘jizzy couch’.

“I’m in love with an idiot,” Derek sighed when they settled down in his bed.

“It’s the love part that matters,” Stiles said blithely, snuggling into Derek’s chest. They were lying in the dark for around fifteen minutes, the sounds of early morning New York drifting through the open windows when Stiles said, “Okay, I do have one more werewolf question.”

“Go for it.”

“So does all this,” he asked, waving his hand in the air between them, “you recognizing me as your mate and closeness with you and Laura and all, does that mean I could ever be, er, pack?”

Derek stroked Stiles’ side in a slow, calming motion and answered, “That isn’t what makes someone pack, they need to be recognized and accepted by the alpha and the rest of the pack before they are officially a part of it.” Derek rubbed his cheek against the top of Stiles’ head. “Laura and I already did that, mostly without even noticing it. You’re pack, if you want to be.”

Stiles nodded into Derek’s neck, slathering it even more in his scent. “I really want,” he said, hugging Derek around the torso.

Derek grinned into Stiles’ hair. He’d been so focused on the possibility of losing Stiles because of being a werewolf that he hadn’t even thought about Stiles officially becoming pack. Turns out, it felt really fucking good. He drifted to sleep, curled together with Stiles, his pack member, his mate, and actually managed to let himself be happy.

-

Derek woke up the next morning to Stiles burrowed halfway under his body, wrapped in the blankets like a burrito. His body was used to waking up early for work or a run, but they’d only been asleep for four and a half hours, so Derek said fuck it. He was exhausted from last night’s revelations and if he was definitely feeling it, he knew Stiles would be worse. He debated getting up and closing the windows to cut off the cool autumn air, but laziness won out and he wrapped himself tighter around Stiles and let himself relax.

He spent a few hours lightly dozing, finally waking all the way when the front door slammed shut and Laura’s voice rang out, dripping with sarcasm, “Oh I’m sorry, did I disturb you?!”

Stiles jerked awake, headbutting Derek hard enough to hear a loud clunk. He flopped back onto the bed and yelled, “I’m trying to sleep, you bitter wench!” But he pulled himself out of Derek’s bed, rifling through the clothes on the floor for his pants.

“I hate you,” Derek muttered, knowing Laura would be able to hear him.

“You hate me? I had to stay in a hotel last night! I checked in at 4:00 am! They thought I was a prostitute some senator was waiting for!” Laura yelled back. Derek thought Stiles deserved a medal for managing to hold back his laughter.

Once they were dressed, he and Stiles left Derek’s room to face the wrath of Laura. She was standing at the coffeemaker, her hair sticking out in six different directions and her eyes were rimmed with dark, bruise-like rings. Then her smell hit him. Derek frowned.

“Laura…what hotel did you end up at?” he asked slowly.

“Don’t end your sentence with a preposition, Derek. You’re not an animal,” Laura said. Stiles snorted.

“Laura,” Derek said again. “Where did you stay last night?”

“Well,” Laura said slowly. Derek could see the cogs in her head turning and the exact moment she realized she wouldn’t be able to lie to him. “Oh hell, I was at the St. Regis, okay?”

Stiles seemed to choke on his own uvula. Derek absently patted him on the back, smugly looking at Laura.

“The St. Regis?” Stiles asked through his coughing. “As in, the St. Regis where Lydia is staying? As in, you were with Lydia last night?”

“We ran into each other,” Laura said.

“At 4:00 am,” Derek said, raising an eyebrow. “Where?”

“…In the lobby after I texted her.”

“Oh my god! Oh my god, did you hook up with Lydia?” Stiles turned wide eyes to Derek. “Did your sister sleep with my best friend?”

“Smells like it. You could have at least showered, Laura.”

“I did!”

“Not well.”

“I don’t even…you…this is so weird, you slept with one of my best friends,” Stiles moaned.

“You’re sleeping with my brother,” Laura pointed out.

“It’s apples and orange! It’s werewolves and banshees! I need to sit down.” Stiles thunked down into a chair at the kitchen table, letting his head drop to the wood. “I have not had enough sleep for this.”

“Banshee?” Derek asked.

“Oh god,” Stiles moaned, face squished against the table. “Lydia is going to kill me.”

Laura reached across the table and ruffled Stiles’ hair. “Don’t worry, kiddo, she almost killed me last night with that tongue of hers,” Laura said, taking a drink from her coffee.

Derek had enough time to groan before Stiles’ head shot up, his eyes wide and horrified, then they narrowed. “You know, a while ago, that’d be hot as hell, but my tastes have changed. I’m pretty addicted to your brother’s dick in my ass.”

Laura spit out her mouthful of coffee all over the kitchen table. Derek clapped a hand over Stiles’ mouth, closing his eyes in horror at both his boyfriend and his sister. Yeah, he’d missed the teasing that came with having a pack, but this wasn’t what he had in mind.

“Banshee?” Laura said when she finished choking. Stiles tried to say something but it was muffled by the hand over his mouth. He frowned over at Derek and stuck his tongue out, licking all over Derek’s hand. Derek just raised an unimpressed eyebrow. He regularly had Stiles’ tongue in his ass, a little saliva on the hand wasn’t anything. Luckily, a knock on the front door saved him from having to act as a referee between Stiles and his sister. He pulled the hand away when Laura went to answer the door.

“Rude,” Stiles said.

“Funnily enough, I don’t want to talk about my sex life with my older sister,” Derek said dryly.

“She started it.”

Derek kissed the top of Stiles’ head, rolling his eyes. “Why do I love you?”

“Because you’re smart.”

Derek snorted and turned to see Laura opening the door for Lydia, her heels clicking on the hardwood floor. She pulled off her gloves while judgmentally eying Stiles’ neck.

“Hickeys, boys? Really?”

“Oh like you’re one to talk,” Stiles huffed.

Lydia smiled, tossing her perfectly styled hair over her shoulder. Of course, she looked completely put together; makeup expertly done, outfit immaculate. Stiles had mentioned that was something he both admired and hated. Derek could kind of understand why.

“Oh, sweetie,” Lydia said with a smirk. “I leave them in places you don’t see.”

Stiles gave her a dirty glare, right when Laura decided to cross her arms over her chest and stared at Lydia. “Banshee?”

Lydia made an exasperated noise and turned to Stiles. “You told them?”

“Yeah, well, they’re werewolves!”

Lydia rolled her eyes hard enough to put Derek to shame. “Obviously.”

“I –what? You knew?” Stiles said.

“You didn’t? You’re slipping, Stiles.”

“I need to sit down again.”

Lydia turned to Laura. “And yes, banshee.”

“What the hell has been happening since we left Beacon Hills?” Laura asked incredulously.

“Darachs, a nemeton, Stiles technically died, actually,” Lydia listed, counting off on her fingers. “The wendigoes weren’t fun.”

“Oh and that witch that cursed Scott to only speak in iambic pentameter for a week,” Stiles said, grinning. “That was fun.”

“You died?” Derek growled, grabbing Stiles’ upper arm. He only realized his claws were out when Stiles winced. He pulled back immediately.

“Uh, kind of? Not permanently,” Stiles said. “I promise I’ll tell you all about it, or you can question Lydia, whatever, but I have a meeting in like an hour at work and I really have to go. I love you, see you tonight.” Stiles kissed Derek and hurried out and over to his own apartment.

Both Hales turned their attention to Lydia.

“Feel like filling us in on what’s been going on in Beacon Hills?” Laura asked.

“Not particularly,” Lydia said but she sat at the kitchen table anyway, her hands folded primly in front of her. “But I will.”

The more Lydia talked, the bigger the headache between Derek’s eyes grew. When she got to human sacrifices, Derek vaguely started wondering if Beacon Hills was just cursed, plain and simple.

“Sounds like a hot mess,” Laura said when Lydia was done.

“We manage,” Lydia said. “The hunters aren’t what I’d call the most trustworthy of allies, Allison excluded of course, but they come through often enough. Their bestiary is helpful too, though they don’t exactly know we have it.”

“All of that since you were fifteen,” Derek said, shaking his head.

“And we are all strong and in one piece,” Lydia said. She stood, smoothing down nonexistent wrinkles on her clothes. “Not that this hasn’t been fun, but I have an appointment. I just came by to check that Laura and I are still on for dinner tonight.”

“Yeah,” Laura said, still a bit dazed from all the new information. “I’ll see you then.”

“Good,” Lydia said and a few seconds later she was gone.

Laura turned wide eyes to Derek sitting across from the table. “What. The. Fuck.” Derek just shook his head; he had absolutely no idea how to answer her. “No, seriously, what the fuck? We leave for a couple of years and bam, up pop dark druids and cannibalistic monsters and rogue alphas and Argents?”

“Twelve years,” Derek said quietly.

“What?”

“Not a couple of years, Laura. It’s been twelve.”

Laura deflated at that, shoulders hunching and she suddenly looked just as tired as Derek felt. Everything in Derek’s world, everything that mattered, at least, had been turned upside down by the ankles and shaken down for every last penny. Stiles, his mate, knew about werewolves. He’d gleefully accepted Derek, fur and all. Beacon Hills had turned into a bad season of Charmed. Derek reached out for his alpha’s comfort and she gave it, grasping his hand in hers. Times like these reminded him of how grateful he was that Laura was the alpha and not him.

“We have to go back,” she said quietly, squeezing Derek’s hand. He just looked at her. “Not forever, not right now, but we do. I know you feel the pull like I do.”

And he did. Beacon Hills was like a dull ache behind his eyes that never truly left, something he just learned to ignore. It was their territory, their land, and if Derek was uncomfortable with wolves, especially ones he didn’t know, living in Beacon Hills, then it must be a thousand times worse for Laura as the alpha.

“I know,” was all he said.

“We just need to check the territory, make sure the werewolves there are actually as in control as Stiles thinks,” Laura said.

“Laura,” Derek said in a voice that he hoped was soothing. “I know. We need to.” Laura nodded, eyes a little wide and Derek was struck by how young Laura was, barely eighteen when she became an alpha. His strong, put together sister who had felt the kiss if their family as long and as strongly as Derek had. He came around the table and pulled Laura up into a hug, holding her tightly.

“Stiles is going back for a week or so in December to see his dad for Christmas,” Derek said into her hair. “We could go then. That way pack would be nearby, that should help.”

Laura nodded. “You should ask him, just to make sure it’s okay with him.”

“I will,” Derek said, pulling back. “This is not what I expected to happen this weekend.”

Laura laughed, rubbing a hand over her face. “Yeah, well it definitely could have gone worse. He didn’t run away screaming. Or faint. I kind of thought he’d faint.”

“Looks like you underestimated him,” Derek said proudly.

“I won’t again.”

-

The day dragged on and on for Derek. He only had about a half hour between when Stiles got home and Derek had to leave for work. They ate a quick dinner at Stiles’, then Derek spent the last fifteen minutes with his body draped over Stiles’ on the couch, nuzzling Stiles’ neck and only pulling back when he was completely satisfied that they reeked of each other.

Stiles let out a breathy sound and teased Derek about peeing in a circle around his territory. At least he did until Derek told him werewolves and other supernatural creatures frequented the bar where he worked and would be able to smell Stiles all over him. Stiles narrowed his eyes and pounced on Derek, wriggling as much as possible while Derek laughed until he needed to get up and go to work.

“Nooo,” Stiles whined and dragged Derek away from the door by his belt loops. Stiles’ mouth was hot on Derek’s, tongue delving and greedy. Derek pulled back and rested his forehead against Stiles’.

“I’ll be back late,” he said, nudging Stiles’ nose with his own. “Love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Love you, too.”

Derek was pretty distracted for his whole shift. His boss had to stop him twice from making a tequila sunrise with vodka. His mind was stuck on Stiles and while that wasn’t exactly unusual, this was like his mind was in a haze. He was going through the motions mostly on autopilot, getting everything done but not nearly on par with his usual quality of work.

A werewolf regular gave Derek a knowing smirk when he gave her her drink. He scowled but she just patted his arm. He fought the urge to yank his arm away to scratch off the smell of her.

“I’m surprised you’re here,” she said, voice at a normal volume despite the blaring music.

“I work here,” he said flatly. The girl rolled her eyes but still looked amused.

“I know, dumbass, I’ve been here every weekend for six months flirting with you,” she said. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have bothered.”

“Known. What.” Derek demanded through gritted teeth. He was thoroughly tired of drunks and smirking werewolves and just wanted to go home.

“The mate bond,” she said with an implied ‘duh’ at the end. Derek stilled in the way werewolves seemed to be able to, like you could look past them and not even notice they were there. “You didn’t…know.” She looked extremely uncomfortable.

Derek’s patience was wearing so, so thin. “Talk.”

“You started the mating bond, right?” she said, not waiting for him to answer. “You’re in one of the stages, god, can’t you smell the pheromones you’re swimming in?” Derek was seriously glad that the music was loud and the lights were low so no one could hear their conversation or see how white his face went.

Oh fuck. “Fuck.” He was so goddamn stupid. Of course he was craving Stiles. Stiles had accepted Derek’s wolf, had acknowledged he wanted a future with him. The bond was starting and pulling at them, but they weren’t close enough. He’d been gone from Stiles for too long, he could feel his absence like an electric shock now that he focused on it.

He told his boss that he was sick and needed to leave. The other man wasn’t thrilled but since Derek had literally never called out before, and did look pale, he let him go.

Normally Derek would take the subway or walk, never particularly caring about getting home quickly, but this time he hailed a cab, tossing the man a one hundred dollar bill, telling him he could keep it if he made it quick. The cabbie sped off in true New York fashion.

Even playing it fast and loose with traffic laws, it would be at least ten minutes until Derek got to his apartment, so he pulled out his phone to let Stiles know he was coming back, only to see a dozen new texts.

From: Stiles (6:10 pm)
I miss you. You left five minutes ago. Is that pathetic? It feels pathetic.

From: Stiles (6:20 pm)
Your weird wolfy scent thing is contagious, I just stuffed my face in your sweatshirt because it smells like you.

From: Stiles (6:21 pm)
Oh my god ignore that please make me shut up

From: Stiles (6:22 pm)
You usually shut me up with your dick, I’m down for that.

From: Stiles (6:23 pm)
Like always, magic, perfect dick.

From: Stiles (7:01 pm)
Not feeling so good…did that kung pao chicken make you woozy, too? Stupid question. Werewolf.

From: Stiles (7:15 pm)
I’m going to build a blanket nest and try to sleep this off. If I’m still awake, feel free to come in and use your magic werewolf warmth.

From: Stiles (8:00 pm)
Not working =(

From: Stiles (8:33 pm)
I miss your face. And arms. And back.

From: Stiles (8:34 pm)
And your everything.

From: Stiles (8:40 pm)
Seriously sick. Double vision…wow this sucks

From: Stiles (9:04 pm)
Laura let me in. I needed to huddle in your bed. It feels like you and smells like you. Is that weird? It sounds weird. I’m weird tonight…And I promise to try to not throw up in your bed. No promises though.

From: Stiles (9:10 pm)
Wow I didn’t realize how many texts that was, sorry dude. I’ll leave you alone. Have a good shift.

That was the last text, sent over an hour ago. Derek cursed under his breath. He didn’t understand how Stiles, a human, was being affected by the side effects of the upgraded bond status, but he was. Worse, instead of just making him hazy and unbalanced like Derek, it was making him physically sick. Derek fired off his text to Stiles and tapped his foot, willing the New York traffic to magically disappear.

To: Stiles (10:14 pm)
Stiles, I’m on my way home. I’ll be there soon.

There was a traffic jam two blocks from Derek’s building. Because of course there was. He gave the cab driver a thank you over his shoulder, told him to keep the money, and dashed out of the cab. He made sure to keep his supernatural speed just a bit above normal, just enough so that people would just think he was really athletic, but not suspiciously so. The neighbors probably thought he’d lost his damn mind as he sprinted through the halls, but he didn’t even glance their way, his focus solely on Stiles and the fact that he could now feel him, like a small tug leading to his apartment.

Derek was vaguely aware of locking the apartment door behind him and dropping his jacket in the hall, but he didn’t feel the haze start to lift until he was standing in his bedroom doorway, breathing harsh and erratic, and saw Stiles huddled in his bed. Derek’s blanket was wrapped around Stiles so completely that Derek could only see the top his head sticking out where it was buried in Derek’s pillow. The lump of Stiles was quivering, small mewls of what sounded like pain escaping him.

Derek’s heart broke. He was across the room in less than a second, crawling into bed beside Stiles. It took a few seconds of confusion and careful maneuvering to unwrap Stiles from his blanket burrito, but it was worth it when he was able to pull Stiles to his chest, wrapping his mate up in his arms. The shaking stopped and Stiles woke up enough to look up at Derek. There were dark bags under his eyes like smudged coal.

“Hey, puppy,” Stiles murmured, nuzzling at Derek’s neck. Derek snorted.

“Dog jokes, Stiles? Really?”

“Nuh uh,” Stiles said. “I called you puppy before and I’m not stopping now.” He sighed, fidgeting a little before finally settling, wrapping his arms around Derek. “I feel a lot better now. Sorry for the text assault. I swear I’m never that clingy. Well I guess you know that since we’ve been dating for over four months.”

“Stiles, it’s fine, I-”

“I just felt like I really needed you? Like you were gone and it was just a constant ache, then I started feeling sick and your bed smelled like you and…” Stiles trailed off and looked up at Derek, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Derek, is this a wolfy thing?”

“I think so,” Derek said quietly. “I couldn’t…you were all I could think about. I felt like I was walking through fog and just needed to get to you.”

“What’s going on, Derek? Why do I feel like I want to roll all over you like a damn cat on catnip?”

“I think it’s the mating bond,” Derek said. Stiles went very still in his arms and when he spoke, his voice was careful and measured.

“I thought we hadn’t completed that yet.”

“We haven’t,” Derek said, rubbing his cheek against the top of Stiles’ head, partly in an attempt to nudge away the other man’s anxiety, and partially because Stiles was right; being entangled with Stiles was making him feel significantly better than he had at work. “I told you that my wolf recognized you as a mate and made a preliminary bond with you. Last night, you accepted my wolf and me. It didn’t complete the bond, that’s not possible without intent, knotting, and the mating bite.”

“Knotting is a thing?!” Stiles asked, whipping his head up to look at Derek.

Derek just rolled his eyes and said, “Seriously, Stiles? That’s what you got from that?”

Stiles flushed but poked Derek in the chest with a long finger. “Don’t think we aren’t talking about this later,” he said. “Anyway. So, I accepted you are my future mate so now we’re supernaturally superglued together?”

Derek snorted and ran a thumb over Stiles’ cheekbone, having to stifle a shudder when Stiles’ eyelids fluttered and he leaned in Derek’s touch.

“Not exactly. I think it’s like a stage in the mate bond. We recognize each other as mates and have a connection, we just haven’t solidified it yet.”

“So, what, we’re like werewolf engaged?” Stiles asked. He propped himself up on one elbow, his gaze locked on Derek.

“Not exactly,” Derek said slowly. “More like pre-bonded. It gives off certain pheromones and other weres can tell you’re in a claim…okay it’s like being engaged, with more body chemistry and supernatural elements.” He waited a beat, aware of how final it sounded. “Does that scare you? It’s not permanent yet. You can break it if you still want to.” Derek’s heart was pounding, his wolf whining in fear of his mate leaving. But Stiles’ eyes widened and he crawled up onto Derek’s lap, straddling him.

“Oh my god, no, no, don’t think that, Derek, please,” Stiles said. He took Derek’s face in his hands and stared at him earnestly, like he was willing Derek to see inside his head. “I’m not doubting us. I’ll never doubt us. I was just trying to understand. Get this through your head, Derek Salem Hale – “

“My middle name isn’t Salem.”

“-SALEM HALE,” Stiles continued loudly. “You’re it for me. I don’t want anything else, I never will. Fuck, Derek, I love you so much, please don’t ever doubt that, okay?”

Derek lunged up, grabbing Stiles by the nape of the neck and yanking him down for a kiss that at first was more teeth than anything else. He pushed into Stiles’ mouth, body singing at the taste of him. The half-formed bond pulsated between them, flaring hot and bright. Stiles ripped his mouth away, panting.

“Is that, god, is that the bond?” he asked. “That feels weird. So good but weird.”

“Yeah,” Derek said.

“Will it always be like that?”

“I think it’ll get stronger when we finish it.”

Stiles groaned and ducked down, recapturing Derek’s mouth. Their hips rolled against each other’s, the sweet friction of their clothed cocks rubbing together muted through too many layers. It only took a second to pop the button of his jeans and yank down Stiles’ sweats (they were actually Derek’s sweats, he was pleased to note) and grasp their cocks together in one large hand. He fumbled for the lube on the bedside table, werewolf grace lost as he shakily slicked them up.

The moan Stiles let out when Derek stroked them together would haunt Derek’s wet dreams for the rest of his life. This was going to be short; the hot slide of his dick next to Stiles’ and the new, half-finished bond heightened the pleasure until Derek was cursing and hissing Stiles’ name, stuck in what felt like a feedback loop of ecstasy until he spilled over his fist.

He was hot and weak from his orgasm but he kept pumping Stiles’ cock, using his own come to slick him up. The smell of his seed mixed with Stiles’ hit his nose when Stiles came, whimpering and twitching in Derek’s hand. Derek, fingers now coated in their release, traced Stiles’ hip bones, the dark hair low on his stomach, and up his torso, smearing the mess into his skin. Stiles whimpered and collapsed on top of Derek, letting the bigger man take his weight. Derek’s arms wrapped around Stiles immediately, cradling him to his chest.

“Love you,” Stiles murmured into Derek’s neck.

It wasn’t the first time Stiles had said it, it wasn’t even the hundredth, but hearing it always made Derek feel like his insides were tingly and suddenly in zero gravity. He nuzzled Stiles’ neck and said, “I know.”

Stiles laughed and halfheartedly slapped at Derek’s side. “Hot as fuck and a total nerd. The whole package,” he said. Sleepiness was crawling into Stiles’ voice, so Derek gently rolled him to the side and fumbled an arm over the side of the bed, searching for something to clean them up. He triumphantly grabbed Stiles’ boxers and gently wiped down Stiles before giving himself a perfunctory rub. Stiles grumbled at his boxers being used as a “come rag”, but he didn’t seem to actually mind, especially when Derek manhandled him until he was arranged perfectly, curled into Derek’s side.

“I feel a lot better now,” Stiles said. His fingers were idly tracing patterns over Derek’s ribs, a habit Derek loved.

“I do, too,” Derek said. His chin was resting atop Stiles’ head, making it easy to breathe in his scent without getting caught. But now Stiles knew he was a werewolf, knew all about scenting, so Derek didn’t need to be subtle. He inhaled the unique, spicy fresh scent that couldn’t be labeled as anything but ‘Stiles’ and let out a rumble of satisfaction.

“So this is what we needed to feel not-sick? A nice fuck and cuddle?” Stiles asked.

“Yes,” Derek deadpanned. “Now required three times a day. Or we’ll die.”

Stiles elbowed him in the ribs, laughing. “You jackass, you know what I mean.”

“I think so. Laura and I never asked for specifics before…before,” Derek said, awkwardly sidestepping the fire. “I know that after the full mating bond is completed, you don’t see the couple for a while. My dad described it as a sort of honeymoon. Time alone with your mate to strengthen the bond.”

“So sort of like letting your spiritual superglue dry?” Stiles asked.

Derek snorted. “If that helps you.”

“So this is just us adjusting to the werewolf engagement Elmer’s glue,” Stiles said, musing out loud. “I am so okay with that.”

He burrowed in closer to Derek, shoving his legs between the other man’s and sighing contentedly. Derek rolled his eyes and let out a huff, mostly for appearance’s sake, but tightened his arms around Stiles, letting himself be soothed by his mate’s heart steadily beating.

-

 

Unfortunately, according to Derek, he and Stiles still had the planned Skype call to Scott the next day. Derek suggested to Stiles, while pumping fingers into him, that they delay it. After Stiles came messily on the blanket, he patted Derek affectionately on the cheek and told him no way.

“Don’t worry, he’ll see your claim,” Stiles said, pointing to the bruises and bite marks covering a good portion of his neck. Derek couldn’t find it in himself to even pretend to be sorry.

After lunch, Stiles opened Skype on Derek’s laptop (after downloading Skype on Derek’s laptop) and called Scott. It took a few minutes for him to answer, looking groggy.

“Scott, it’s past 10:00 am, dude. Get it together,” Stiles teased.

“You were never up before noon on weekends in high school,” Scott countered. A coffee mug appeared in the frame and Scott inhaled deeply, eyes shining with happiness. Derek could see why Stiles called him an overgrown puppy. He had the most earnest eyes Derek had ever seen, plus the floppy brown hair and slightly uneven jawline, yeah, Derek could definitely see it.

“Scotty!” Stiles said, beaming. “How’s life? How’s Allison? No, wait, don’t talk about Allison or we won’t get anything done.”

Scott laughed but Derek saw the way Scott’s face went soft and dreamy. He was glad Stiles cut that off before it could get in too far.

“Scott, this is my sexy werewolf boyfriend, Derek. Derek, this is my brother from another mother, Scott,” Stiles said, flourishing his hand between Derek and the screen. Derek waved a little awkwardly, but Scott smiled, all puppy sunshine brightness.

“Oh my god, man, I’m so glad you’re real,” Scott said.

Derek raised his eyebrows in surprise but Stiles, indignant, spoke before Derek could. “What do you mean, you’re happy he’s real? Did you think I made up my ridiculously hot werewolf boyfriend?”

“No! I’m happy he’s real because Cassie was an asshole!” Scott said. That surprised a laugh out of Derek, something that seemed to make Scott very proud.

“Yeah, yeah, we know, anyway!” Stiles said. “Welcome to Werewolf 101!”

Derek managed not to roll his eyes too hard and just shrugged, hoping Scott would take it as a sign to go ahead. When Scott just shifted uncomfortably, Stiles butted in with, “This isn’t going to work if no one says anything. Scott, I know you have questions, so go, ask! He doesn’t bite, unless you’re me.” He winked at Derek.

Scott grimaced and flushed but it seemed to do the trick, stirring him into action. “I’m not really new at this but everything Boyd, Isaac, and I know is from Stiles’ research or we pretty much figured out for ourselves. I don’t want to sound like an idiot and I’m not even sure where to start...We didn’t exactly want to take the word of hunters.”

“You’re not an idiot, you managed to get control as a werewolf with no alpha and no help,” Derek said. Stiles cleared his throat loudly. “No werewolf help. I can just start with the basics and you can interrupt if you already know what I’m saying or if you have a question?”

That’s how Derek ended up on Skype for four hours, Stiles flitting in and out a few times with pizza and pop. Scott wasn’t nearly as clueless as Derek thought he’d be. Most of what Derek did was confirm information Scott already knew, just putting some names to facts and describing how packs worked.

Scott hummed when Derek finished telling him about the relationship between an alpha and their betas. He seemed to think on what he was going to say for a few moments before speaking. “It makes sense. I mean, we all kind of go by what we all this is best, but it always feels weird when one of us has to make the final decision. Like we’re missing something.”

“An alpha,” Derek said softly. He needed to tread lightly here; pack matters were a delicate thing to discuss with outside wolves. Even if Scott, Isaac, and Boyd weren’t technically a pack, the instincts were probably still there. Hell, Derek was surprised Scott hadn’t hated him right off the bat for claiming Stiles.

“That’s an alpha’s role,” Derek continued. “In a healthy pack, an alpha isn’t a total dictator. They listen to their pack and lead with strength and wisdom. They protect. If it comes down to a hard decision, they make it if necessary. It’s closer than just family, it’s like you’re all part of the same organism.”

“The pack bond,” Stiles said quietly.

“Is that how it is for you and Laura?” Scott asked.

Derek shrugged. “We’re a bit different since it’s just us, but we try.” He didn’t tell Scott that until recently, their pack bond had been broken, about how without it, they’d spent years surviving without ever recognizing that they weren’t really living. He shocked himself when he quietly said, “That’s how my mom ran it when she was the Beacon Hills alpha.”

Scott’s eyes softened, but Derek didn’t see the pity he’d come to expect, and hated. Stiles made a soft sound and slid his hand into Derek’s where it was resting on the table.

“Since we don’t have an alpha, does that make us omegas?” Scott asked, letting Derek take the conversation away from his family.

“Traditionally, you’d probably be considered omegas,” Derek admitted. “But I’d say no. You’re not outcasts or fleeing. You’re established, like betas.”

“Just without an alpha,” Scott said.

Derek shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s not my place to tell you how to run your lives. I can give you Laura’s number if you want. She knows a bit more than I do, and has an alpha’s perspective.”

“Yeah, please,” Scott said. “Not that I don’t appreciate everything you’ve done!”

“I know,” Derek said with a small smile.

“So!” Stiles said loudly. “Let’s get to the good stuff.” He waggled his eyebrows. “Mating.”

Scott clamped his hands over his ears. “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU, BYE! THANKS DEREK!” The screen went black as Scott slammed down his laptop, cutting off the call.

Stiles laughed and crawled into Derek’s lap. It was a little awkward to straddle him in the kitchen chair, Stiles’ legs dangling and the table pushing into his back, but Derek didn’t care. He was strong. He could, and happily would, take Stiles’ weight. Stiles leaned in, kissing Derek sweetly, before pulling back and staring at him with such adoration that it made Derek ache.

“Thank you,” Stiles said quietly.

“For what?” Derek asked.

“For sitting down for four hours to talk to your annoying, hyperactive boyfriend’s best friend,” Stiles said. “You didn’t have to, but you basically offered to be Scott’s werewolf mentor.”

“It’s nothing, really. You were right, he deserves to know as much about himself as possible,” Derek said. He pulled Stiles down by the back of his neck until their lips were just brushing. “And stop saying things like that about yourself. You’re brilliant, kind, funny, caring, so beautiful. Perfect for me. Perfect mate.”

Derek couldn’t see Stiles’ smile but he could feel it against his lips before Stiles kissed him, licking at the seam of his mouth before Derek granted him access. The kiss turned filthy in seconds, but before it could go anywhere, Laura loudly opened the front door. Derek reluctantly pulled away from Stiles and rested his forehead against the other man’s shoulder, nuzzling one of the bright marks.

“Nuh uh! None of that, alpha’s order!” Laura said, whacking Derek on the back of the head when she walked by. “I gave you guys all day, you will be decent and boner-less while I’m here.”

“Can’t really promise anything about that second one, your brother is hot,” Stiles said, sliding off Derek’s lap. Laura mimed gagging. “But I promise no raucous sex where you can see or hear.”

“I can hear that cat shitting four doors down,” Laura said.

“Our bedroom doesn’t count,” Stiles said. Derek managed not to growl in pleasure at Stiles calling it their room.

Laura grumbled something like ‘nesting motherfuckers’ and that was right when Derek finally noticed Laura’s scent.

“So Laura,” Derek said with a smirk. “Why do you smell like Lydia?”

Laura’s cheeks flushed but she raised her chin. “We had lunch. And we’re going to a gallery opening tonight, so you little deviants can have all the loud, monkey sex you want.”

“Thanks for the permission,” Derek deadpanned. Stiles just waggled his eyebrows.

“Don’t get more jizz on the couch.”

Stiles gave her a cheeky salute and yanked Derek up by the arm. “You heard your sister, we have to go cover your room in spunk.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not what she meant,” Derek said wryly, but let himself be pulled by Stiles into the bedroom.

“Sure it is,” Stiles said cheerily, closing the door behind them. “She doesn’t want the glorious Stiles and Derek love juice wasted on the couch. That means your room needs it. Like a sex air freshener.”

“I don’t understand your logic,” Derek said. Stiles pushed him back on the bed and straddled him, warm hands running up Derek’s torso under his shirt.

“You complaining?”

“Never.”

-

Derek’s boss wasn’t exactly thrilled that one of his “best goddamn mechanics” was taking the next few days off, but he couldn’t really say much because, just like at Derek’s second job at the bar, he’d never taken any personal time in the last four years. Stiles’ boss had hemmed and hawed until Stiles told her that he was a week ahead on some bigshot client’s project. She just paused and said, “Oh. Have fun, then.”

So Derek got exactly what he didn’t even know he wanted. Yeah, claiming Stiles had been on his mind for months, but this nesting instinct? He hadn’t seen that coming. He and Stiles spent three days all but secluded in Derek’s room, only leaving to use the bathroom and to haul more granola bars and water bottles back into the bedroom.

It stank of Stiles and Derek and sex. Derek had pouted when Stiles tried to open a window to air the room out, so they compromised by only cracking it a little, the scent of them permeating the room so completely that Derek doubted it would ever totally dissipate. That was fine with him.

They switched being frantic, animalistic fucking, and slow, lazy sex when they would spend hours opening each other up, slick fingers sliding deep into the clutching heat of each other’s body. Stiles’ delicious mewls always spurred Derek on, overwhelmed with the need to draw out as many noises as he could. And god, Stiles’ fingers, so long and dexterous, grazing over Derek’s prostate against and again until he came untouched, clenching around Stiles’ digits.

More often than not, they fell into a doze with one of them buried in the other’s body, unwilling to give up the sweet feeling of being so full. Stiles had laughed when Derek called it making love, but his heartbeat sped up and he reeked of happiness.

They eventually had to disentangle themselves when their long weekend was over and the real world called. Stiles refused to share a shower with Derek Monday morning, claiming they’d never get out and end up three hours late to work. Derek grumbled but agreed. He did insist on scenting Stiles at the front door, though. He ran his nose lightly along Stiles’ jawline and nipped a little at the skin behind his ear, rumbling in approval at the hitch in Stiles’ breath.

“Go to work,” Derek mumbled against the shell of his ear. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Stiles shivered and did what Derek said, turning to smile before he disappeared down the hall and into the stairwell. Derek was still grinning like an idiot when he went back inside and joined Laura for breakfast. He felt amazing; calm, content. He didn’t even notice Laura’s shit-eating grin until he was four bites into his scrambled eggs.

“What?”

“You two are absolutely disgusting,” Laura said cheerily. “Totally gross.”

Derek shrugged. “I can’t say I’m sorry.”

Laura snorted, shaking her head. She munched on a piece of bacon before asking, “Do you feel better?”

Derek nodded, swallowing a mouthful of eggs before answering. “More grounded, if that makes sense.” Laura nodded. “I don’t remember much about what Mom and Dad said about mating bonds, do you? I always assumed we’d have more time to ask when we needed to.”

Laura smiles sadly. “I don’t remember much more than you. The basics, how to create the bond, it felt like all the ‘puzzle piece’ and ‘two halves becoming whole’ clichés all put together.”

“Yeah, same,” Derek said. “So, are you going to tell me about this gallery opening you went to with Lydia?”

“Nope,” Laura said. “I am going to tell you about someone Lydia introduced me to, though.”

Derek raised his eyebrows and motioned for her to go on with his fork.

“This woman is some crazy art fanatic, right? She’s raving for like fifteen minutes about this obscure artists from France that was supposed to be coming over for a show after Thanksgiving and canceled last minute. Turns out the nutty art lady owns a different gallery in Manhattan and is doing a show full of dark and weird shit.

“So Lydia whips out her phone and shows her pictures of that twisted Red Riding Hood series I did and long story short, she asked to see my portfolio and I now have three paintings featured in a gallery show starting in a week and a half.”

“Laura!” Derek jumped up and pulled her into a hug. “Congratulations! Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“Like I was going to interrupt the sexathon?” Laura asked, grinning. “I don’t even know how Lydia got pictures of my paintings but I don’t even care. I’m going to be in a gallery!”

Derek grinned and hugged Laura again. It had been a while since he’d seen her so full of childlike enthusiasm. She wasn’t unhappy by any means, but being an alpha did take a lot of control and strength and left very little room for thing she cared greatly about, even in a pack of two. Guilt welled up in Derek as he wondered how much Laura had been pushing her own happiness aside for what she thought was best for him.

“I’m proud of you, Laura,” Derek said, taking her by the shoulders to look her in the eyes. “You deserve this.”

Laura smiled brilliantly before pulling away to put on her coat. “I’m going to lunch with Lydia, celebration pad thai tonight, yeah?”

“Absolutely.”

“You’re the best bro. Love you, bye!”

-

Stiles pounced on Laura as soon as she got back that night, yanking her into a hug that probably would have bruised if she were human. He chattered about how her work was “amazeballs” and was going to sell for millions of dollars and end up in museums until Derek shove half of a fresh roll into his mouth to shut him up.

“Did you tell Erica?” Derek asked while Stiles was busy chewing. “She’d probably want to come up and see the gallery.”

“I’ll call her tomorrow,” Laura said.

“Who’s Erica?” Stiles asked, spraying bits of fresh roll onto the table. Derek winced and threw a napkin at him.

“Erica belongs to a pack a few hours away,” Laura said. “We’ve run with them on the full moon a few times.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, brows drawing together. “She’s a wolf?”

“A beta,” Derek said. “She’s the only one of the Hardwick pack that we actually like.”

“We’re using them for the free food and forest,” Laura said. “Their alpha’s mate is a little too into the idea of Derek becoming a breeding boy for the pack.”

Stiles choked on his mouthful of rice, coughing and gagging with watery eyes. ”What?!”

Derek rolled his eyes and shoved Stiles’ drink toward him. “Some packs are very old fashioned about bloodlines. They want born werewolf children from born werewolves-”

“Very Death Eater-like,” Laura interjected.

“-and if you don’t mate with another wolf, even a bitten wolf, you’re scum.”

“Are there a lot of born werewolves?” Stiles asked.

“No, which is how they got into inter-pack arranged marriages. For genepool diversity,” Laura said. “And why they keep offering me a strong, fertile beta to knock me up if I give them Derek.”

Stiles’ lip curled and his heartbeat ratcheted up a few beats.

“Our pack never did that,” Derek said, taking Stiles’ hand and rubbing his thumb over the other man’s knuckles. “Mom thought it was backwards and disgusting.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, still frowning. “So that’s how you met Erica?”

“Mmhmm,” Laura said. “She was one of the lucky ladies paraded in front of Derek for consideration.”

“She’s actually nice, though,” Derek said. “Not pureblood-driven like the rest of the pack.”

“Great, well as long as she’s nice,” Stiles grumbled under his breath.

“Stiles,” Derek said, tilting Stiles’ face up with a thumb under the chin. “Are you jealous?”

“No!” Stiles said quickly.

“Stiles,” Derek said, soft smile on his lips. “She’s nice, but she’s not you.” He pulled Stiles’ face to him, pressing a soft kiss to his lips. “I love you.”

Stiles sighed against Derek’s lips before saying, “I love you, too.”

If Stiles was a little more possessive that night in bed, fucking Derek a little harder, sucking more dark marks even though they’d fade, well, Derek wasn’t complaining.

-

As predicted, Erica was completely “stoked, bitches!” to visit for Laura’s show. And, in Derek’s opinion, entirely too excited to meet Stiles. She screamed on the phone for a full five minutes before Derek could get a word in edgewise.

“Are you done?” Derek asked when he deemed it safe to put the phone back to his ear.

“I get to meet the famous Stiles!” Erica said. “Come on, Der-bear, this is exciting!”

“Stop calling me that,” Derek said. “Now are you going to stay here or at a hotel?”

“A hotel that smells like that last five thousand people that have been there and all their bodily fluids? No, thank you.”

“Then be nice.”

“Killjoy.”

Footsteps, a familiar heartbeat, and a muffled thump followed by a curse announced that Stiles was home from work. Derek grinned, unable to help it. Even the simple shuffling sounds of his mate next door made him at peace in a way that never happened unless Stiles was around.

“Hello, Derek, Earth to Derek,” Erica’s voice rang out in that tone that made it clear she’d been trying to get his attention for a while.

“Sorry, what?” Derek asked. Erica snorted indelicately over the line. “That’s ladylike,” Derek deadpanned.

“Fuck ladylike, Derek Hale, I damn well know Laura taught you better than to buy into bullshit feminine stereotypes like ladylike,” Erica said. “I swear, I-”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Derek said, cutting off what was sure to be a long speech. “Stiles just got home, I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

“I’ll see you Friday, I expect Lucky Charms and cookie dough ice cream,” Erica said.

“I wouldn’t hold out hope for that,” Derek said and hung up.

Derek used to wait for Stiles to invite him over after work, not wanting to overstep his boundaries, but Stiles had told him not to be stupid and that he was always welcome, always wanted. Stiles hadn’t been able to walk straight for two days after.

Stiles was humming and dancing a little with a box knife, getting ready to cut into the package in front of him. He grinned when Derek walked in and blew him a kiss.

“I’m not sure you waving a box knife around is the safest thing, considering it’s you,” Derek said.

“Haha,” Stiles said dryly. Derek moved to stand behind him, wrapping his arms around his waist and hooking his chin over his boyfriend’s shoulder.

“Package from home?” Derek asked, noting the postmark. Stiles hummed in answer, sinking back further into Derek.

“I had my dad send me a few things from home. My notes from when Scott was bitten, my copy of the bestiary, things like that,” Stiles said. “It was kind of stupid of me not to bring it in the first place.”

Derek hummed, nuzzling the back of Stiles’ neck when Stiles sliced through the packing tape. Stiles started yanking out bubble wrap, cackling the whole time, when a scent wafting from the box caught Derek’s attention.

Derek stiffened at Stiles’ back as the smell of wolfsbane assaulted him. He jerked away, trying to take deep breaths, but all he could smell was the cloying scent coming from the box. Stiles’ voice was vaguely reaching him, but it wasn’t really registering as much more than background noise to the blood rushing in his ears.

Stiles had said he was fine with Derek being a werewolf, he’d been happy that Derek recognized him as his mate! Stiles had to know that Derek would never hurt him…so why did he have wolfsbane? Was he scared of Derek, did he not trust him? Did he really think he needed wolfsbane to protect himself? Derek’s stomach dropped. Was Stiles changing his mind?

Derek felt cold. It was like his ribs were squeezing his lungs and heart, whether it was from the wolfsbane or pure panic, he didn’t know. Stiles was in front of him, palms up to show he wasn’t a threat, but Derek backed up until his back hit the wall, jerking away.

“Derek, breathe with me, okay?” Stiles’ voice was calm, but sounded like it was coming through a muffled phone connection, his eyes wide and concerned. “Come on Derek, please breathe with me. Whatever it is, we’ll find a way to fix it, okay? We’ll make it okay, I promise.”

Derek tried, evening his breathing out to match Stiles’ as best as he could until the clenching in his chest let up, helping to ease him out of the blind panic. Stiles reached out again and placed a hand on Derek’s forearm, eyes pinched with hurt when Derek flinched, but he didn’t let go.

“Talk to me, Derek,” Stiles murmured, voice low and soothing. “You’re okay. Just a little panic attack but you’re fine. Let’s sit down, yeah?” Stiles gently pulled Derek into the living room and settled him on the couch. Stiles sat down next to him, twisting hands and hammering heart being the only things giving away how anxious he really was.

Derek’s head felt clearer farther away from the box of wolfsbane, enough that the mind-numbing panic he’d felt faded until he was left with a deep ache and the fear that Stiles was leaving him, that the aconite was to protect himself from Derek.

“Can you tell me what freaked you out? Did I do something?” Stiles asked and his eyes and voice we so goddamn earnest that Derek wanted desperately to believe that he was being irrational, that he knew Stiles loved him, but his boyfriend had, for all intents and purposes, a box of poison on his kitchen table.

“Are you afraid of me?” Derek asked. He forced himself to make eye contact while he asked. Stiles frowned in confusion.

“What?”

“Are you scared of me?”

Stiles looked at him blankly. “No, I’m not. Derek, why would you even think that?”

“The box of wolfsbane on your table gives off that impression,” Derek said stonily, jerking his head toward the kitchen.

Stiles eyes went from confused to wide and horrified in less than a second. His mouth dropped open and it would look comical in any other situation, but Derek wasn’t laughing.

“No! Derek, no, oh my god, I’m so fucking stupid,” Stiles said. He crawled into Derek’s lap and despite his doubts, his hands wrapped around Stiles’ waist, holding him in place. “No, Derek. I have a huge-ass collection of wolfsbane because I was tired of watching my friends get poisoned! We almost lost Isaac once because we couldn’t find the right strain of wolfsbane growing anywhere. So I made like, a first aid kit just in case.

“It’s not like New York is full of wolfsbane fields. I had Dad send it to me in case something happens to you or Laura. Oh my god, you thought I wanted to defend myself? No, Derek, why would you think that?”

Derek breathed a deep sigh, feeling the tension ease out of him, his rapid heartbeat easing closer to normal. Stiles loved him, it was okay. Stiles wanted to protect him. A perfect, good mate.

“It’s – you know my past, I jumped to the wrong conclusions,” Derek muttered.

Stiles stiffened in Derek’s arms and pulled back to stare at him. “Why, because I’m human?”

“What?” Derek asked, frowning.

“Because that doesn’t make me like your psycho ex!”

“I know you’re not!” Derek said. “I’m not looking to fight, Stiles.”

“You think I’m willing to poison you! You said…” Stiles trailed off, suddenly sounding uncertain. “You said I’m your mate,” he continued quietly. “And you don’t trust me.”

“I do,” Derek said. “Stiles, of course I do, you know that.”

Stiles slid off Derek’s lap and shifted to the other end of the couch. “I’m sorry the wolfsbane scared you,” Stiles said, his voice careful, and Derek hated that he’d made that happen. “I just wanted to keep you safe. If we’re going to do this, if we’re going to finish the bond and become mates, you’re going to somehow learn to trust me, and believe that I love you.”

“I do,” Derek said quietly, but there was a little voice in the niggling in the back of him mind that said maybe Stiles was right. The voice sounded a lot like Kate.

Stiles smiled sadly, like he could see Derek’s thought process. Maybe he could, he’d always been able to read Derek too well. Eyebrow sign language, he’d called it.

“I love you,” Stiles said and as usual, there was no blip of lie in his heartbeat, no curling smell of deceit. “I love you so much Derek, and I don’t want to fight with you.”

“I love you, too,” Derek said automatically. His heart was racing, sped up by the unhappy smell coming from Stiles. He wanted to tell Stiles that he was sorry he was so broken, that he’d be better and to please give him another chance, but the words were stuck in his throat.

“I’m not breaking up with you,” Stiles said quickly, touching Derek’s hand. “I just…I think I need to be alone tonight.”

Derek’s stomach swooped low, and he pulled his hand back. He wanted to say something, anything, but he didn’t want to apologize for being wary of a poison that specifically attacked him species, and he didn’t know how to say that without starting a fight.

He stood, feeling strangely hollow, and left Stiles on the couch, unable to look back, returning to his own apartment. The look Laura gave him made it clear that she’d heard everything but he didn’t stop to talk to her, just went straight to his room. Stiles’ scent clung to everything, mixing beautifully with Derek’s, but it was especially strong in his bed. Derek crawled in, curling up in the nest of blankets that smelled so much like them that it made Derek ache.

For the first time in months, Derek went to sleep alone, the bed around him empty and cold.

-

Derek felt like he was walking through molasses the next day. He had to force himself to get out of bed and even shower, let alone actually go to work. His boss got tired of him after a few hours, throwing an oil-stained rag in his face and said, “Go the fuck home, Hale.”

The fight with Stiles had jarred him more than he wanted to admit. Yeah, they snipped at each other and were always full of sarcasm, but neither of them ever took it seriously. Neither of them were ever hurt.

Laura had been texting him all day, trying to cheer him up, and he didn’t have the heart to tell her it was doing the exact opposite. Every time his phone buzzed, his chest tightened with the hope that it was Stiles. Each time Laura’s name popped up, it was a lead weight sinking deep in his stomach.

This was getting ridiculous. He never should have left Stiles’ the night before. He should have stayed until they hashed everything out and were on the same page and they could fall asleep wrapped around each other. Instead, Derek was spending his day walking aimlessly around New York, miserable and lost in his thoughts. Occasionally, a pang of sadness hit him through the partially complete mate bond and he wished he could be vindictively happy that Stiles was upset, too, but it only made him feel worse.

A spike of Stiles’ anxiety and fear hit Derek when he was a few miles from home and that was the straw that broke the emotional camel’s back. He was going home, he and Stiles were going to talk about this like the goddamn adults they were, and hopefully their first fight would be out of the way and they could go back to the way they were.

Derek was just walking into his apartment building when his phone buzzed again. Fully expecting to see Laura’s name and another picture of a dog stuffed into a biker vest, he pulled out his phone and nearly dropped it when he saw Stiles’ name.

It wasn’t a call, just a text, but Derek didn’t care. Half of him had been afraid that he’d never see Stiles’ name on his screen again, that they’d just stay silent and fall apart. Derek should have known that Stiles would never be silent.

The text was simple.

From: Stiles (5:43 pm)
Can you come over tonight?

Derek instantly replied.

To: Stiles (5:44 pm)
Now?

Stiles answered as soon as the elevator doors were sliding closed in front of Derek.

From: Stiles (5:49 pm)
Sure

Stiles’ front door was open when Derek got to their hallway and he was standing in front of it, nervously playing with his hands. Stiles’ heart was beating so quickly that Derek could probably play Flight of the Bumblebee to it if he wanted. He stopped a few feet away from Stiles, a heavy awkwardness settling over them for the first time that Derek could remember.

Stiles opened his mouth a few times but no sound came out, nothing but the click of teeth when he snapped his jaw shut. After the third time this happened, Derek thought to hell with it, and started speaking.

“I was wrong,” he said.

“You, wait, what?” Stiles asked, looking genuinely confused.

“I know you’re not like her, I never should have made you think that,” Derek said.

Stiles’ eyes widened and he grabbed Derek’s arm, tugging him toward his apartment. “Oh my god no, come inside, no, no, no, no don’t you dare blame yourself for something that’s my fault.” Derek let the blabbing Stiles manhandle him into a kitchen chair. Stiles yanked another chair around and plopped down so he was facing Derek, their knees brushing. Tentatively, like he wasn’t sure of his welcome, he slide his hands to Derek’s knees, squeezing lighting when he didn’t pull away.

“Derek,” Stiles said. His voice was breaking. “I’m so sorry, god I am so sorry and I don’t blame you if you never want to see me again, but I hope that you do. Fuck, I screwed this up so badly, I shouldn’t be allowed near people as amazing as you.”

Derek shook his head. “I’m not. I never should have said…and I made you feel like-”

“No,” Stiles interrupted, flicking Derek’s nose like a disobedient puppy. “Derek Susana Hale.”

“Still not my middle name.” The familiar joke made him feel a little better, though.

“You’re a trauma survivor,” Stiles said, taking Derek’s hands in his own. “You’ve been through some seriously fucked up shit and I was selfish and took it personally, but it’s not about me. Well, something I did triggered you and that’s my fault. And then I blamed you! I’ve been a shitty, shitty boyfriend and I promise I’m going to spend all my time for the next, like, ever, proving to you that I can be the kind of mate you deserve.” When Derek continued to gape, Stiles leaned forward until their foreheads were touching. “Derek, I am so sorry I hurt you.”

Derek closed his eyes and leaned into Stiles, at a total loss for what to say. Kate had always made everything his fault, be it hurt feelings or something small, like forgetting what time they were supposed to meet up, it was always on him. And Stiles, beautiful, amazing Stiles, trying to yank that off of his shoulders, taking responsibility for something Derek had automatically taken on.

Derek nuzzled Stiles’ temple and sighed, breathing in the sweet scent. “It’s hard,” Derek finally said. His voice was low, quiet even to his own ears. “I can’t help but believe sometimes, that good things don’t happen and I don’t deserve you. And that someday you’ll find someone better and be happier.”

Derek smelled the salt in the air before the fist of Stiles’ tears dropped onto his hands. Stiles slipped to the ground between Derek’s knees, tear silently running down his face. He cradled Stiles’ face in his hands, thumbing the tears from his cheekbones.

“Derek, I’ve never, okay, I need to make sure you’re listening to me, okay?” He pulled one of Derek’s hands down to his neck, pressing his fingers into his pulse point. “Check my heartbeat, okay? I will never not want you. I don’t care that you haven’t given me the mating bite yet, I am in this for life. Face it, Hale, you’re stuck with me. There is absolutely nothing you could do to make me love you less. I’m so sorry about what I said.”

Derek dropped to his knees, gathering Stiles in his arms and shoving his face into the smaller man’s neck. “I believe you,” he said, shocked to find that it was actually true. “We’re okay, Stiles. We’re all okay.”

Stiles let out a great shuddering breath and relaxed, all but boneless, into Derek. “I was so scared you were going to leave me,” Stiles confessed.

“No,” Derek said firmly. He nuzzled Stiles’ neck, reaffirming his scent. He stood, pulling Stiles to his feet as well, putting his hands on Stiles’ shoulders, making sure to keep unwavering eye contact. Stiles’ eyes were red and puffy, making Derek’s stomach clench.

“I didn’t realize just how badly you think of yourself,” Derek said slowly. “And I didn’t realize how much I do the same thing. We’re going to work on that, okay? I plan on showing you, every day until you’re hunched and grey if I have to, how fucking perfect you are.”

Stiles laughed through a sob, face splitting into a grin. “So, we both love each other, want to be together, and have self-confidence issues?”

Derek smiled back. “Something like that.”

Stiles nearly tackled Derek in his rush to kiss him. It wasn’t suave or tender, but clumsy and desperate, as if it was both of their first times.

“Missed you so goddamn much,” Stiles murmured against Derek’s lips. “Is that pathetic? It was only a day, but I missed you so much. I know it’s impossible but I was scared I don’t smell like you anymore and no one would know I’m yours.”

Derek growled in response and bit down on Stiles’ collarbone, drawing out a gasp. “We can fix that,” he rumbled. He nuzzled Stiles, running his nose along Stiles’ jawline, only breaking contact to yank the other man’s shirt over his head.

Stiles already looked completely wrecked, pupils blown wide and a nice flush on his neck and collarbone from Derek’s stubble. Derek swelled with pride and pushed Stiles back until he was lying down on the couch, Derek kneeling between his legs. His fingers teased up the inside of Stiles’ knees, up his inner thighs until he was squirming under Derek’s hands, breath short.

“Der-ahh!” Stiles cut himself off with a moan as Derek laved his tongue over one of Stiles’ soft, puffy nipples, scraping his teeth over the tightening nub. Long fingers tangled in Derek’s hair, Stiles clutching him closer as he writhed under Derek’s ministrations.

“Fuck, don’t stop, please don’t stop,” Stiles whined, arching up into Derek’s touch. Derek just rumbled, biting down on one nipple and rolling the other between his fingers. Derek loved playing with Stiles’ nipples, the soft, sweet flesh hardening with each lick and flick of Derek’s tongue. It always made Stiles’ cock practically ooze precome, all sweet and delicious.

Stiles had been embarrassed at first, flushed red when his dick had jumped in Derek’s grip, but Derek’s eyes had flashed blue and he’d dived back down to Stiles’ chest, not stopping until those pink nipples were raw and sore, puffy from him mouth and hands.

And that’s exactly what he did now, mouthing and nipping until Stiles was crying out, sweet little nipples hard and swollen, obscenely sticking out on his chest. Derek’s erection was nearly painful, pressing against the front of his straining jeans. He rolled his hips, hard cock rubbing against Stiles’ thigh.

“Derek,” Stiles gasped. His hips jerked, seeking any kind of friction. “Derek, please…”

Groaning, Derek snaked a hand between them, making quick work of the fly of Stiles’ jeans, then his own. He grasped both of their cocks in one hand, nothing but Stiles’ precome to slick them but it was more than enough. High-pitched noises were falling from Stiles’ lips as he bucked into Derek’s fist. Derek knew it was going to be an embarrassingly short amount of time before he came, the sight and feel and smell of Stiles was entirely too much, but he was determined to get Stiles off first. He sped up his hand, thumbing that spot right underneath Stiles’ head where he was so sensitive, and that was it.

Stiles’ come coated Derek’s hand, his shout ringing out so loudly that Derek was sure everyone on the floor would hear it, hear how hard Derek made Stiles come, how well he took care of him. It was that knowledge that threw Derek over the edge, his come joining Stiles’ on his hand and belly. Shaking, he lowered himself to the couch, most of his weight off Stiles, absently rubbing his come-covered hand over Stiles’ stomach and chest while they got their breathing back.

“Fuck,” Stiles hissed out when his heartbeat started to steady. Derek just mumbled his agreement into Stiles’ neck. He smelled of contentment and them. It made Derek’s wolf sleepy and sated and he easily gave in, relaxing with his arms wrapped around Stiles.

“We should clean up,” Stiles said, though his tone made it clear he was as reluctant to move as Derek. Not bothering to open his eyes, Derek threw his arm off the side of the couch in search of one of their shirts. He gave Stiles a ridiculously minimal wipe down and tossed the shirt (Stiles’) aside. “Mkay,” Stiles muttered, sinking into the call of Derek’s warmth and sleep. “’t’s good.”

Derek smiled against Stiles’ skin.

-

Laura was nearly frantic. It didn’t matter how many cookies Stiles made her or what encouragements Derek gave, she was still a giant ball of nervous energy. Lydia helped somewhat, managing to distract Laura by dragging her out shopping for the perfect gallery opening dress. Stiles somehow ended up roped into going, too, because “I’ve seen your closet, Stiles. And don’t you dare start with me about coming out of the closet jokes.” Stiles had closed his mouth with a huff and gave in to Lydia, much to Derek’s amusement. At least until Stiles oh so casually mentioned that Derek only owned one pair of dress pants, then Lydia’s claws were in him and he was whisked away with them, too.

“Traitor,” he’d mumbled. Stiles just grinned, completely unapologetic.

Turned out, he didn’t actually mind that much. Sure, being dragged to boutique after boutique got tedious quickly, but then Lydia shoved a pile of clothes into Stiles’ arms and manhandled him into a dressing room, throwing a smirk over her shoulder and telling Derek he’d thank her later. When Stiles came out of the dressing room a few minutes later, Derek understood why.

Stiles stood in front of Derek and Lydia where they sat on the ridiculously plush couch right outside the curtained entrance to the dressing room. He was in fitted black dress pants that made his long legs look lithe and graceful. The white button-up shirt’s sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, showing off the play of the muscles of his forearms.

But what really did it for Derek was the waistcoat; the gunmetal grey waistcoat that accentuated Stiles’ broad shoulders and slim waist in a way that made Derek’s throat dry and fangs itch to drop.

Stiles put his hands on his hips and glared at Lydia, completely unaware of what he was doing to Derek. Lydia smirked.

“I look completely ridiculous,” he said, tugging at the bottom on the waistcoat. Lydia leaned forward and slapped his hand away.

“Not the word I would use,” Lydia said, running appreciative eyes down Stiles’ form. “You’re definitely buying that.”

“Lydia. The pants are more than I pay for rent.”

Lydia waved him off like money way nothing, which, for her, Derek supposed it was. “No one said you’d be paying.”

“Lydia,” Stiles said, sounding pained.

“You should know by now that listening to me isn’t optional,” she said, flipping her hair over a shoulder and jerking her head toward Derek with a small smile. “Besides, I’m not the only one who thinks it looks good.”

Stiles glanced at Derek and whatever he saw on his face made him blush. “Lydia,” Stiles said, still sounding on the edge of pain. “I thought you said you were staying for the weekend. It’s been two weeks.”

Laura’s annoyed voice called out for help with “this bullshit piece of crap-ass witchcraft” and Lydia rose, heading into the dressing room. “Yes, it has been,” Lydia said to Stiles before she disappeared in search of Laura.

Eyes locked on Derek, Stiles stepped forward until he was standing between Derek’s knees. Derek took a deep breath as he stared up at Stiles, moving his hands to his boyfriend’s waist like he was about to yank him down into his lap. The way Stiles’ eyes dilated and the stutter of his heart let Derek know that Stiles knew exactly what he was thinking.

Smirking, Stiles leaned over, lips brushing Derek’s ear as he whispered, “So, you’d be okay with ripping this off, shoving your big cock into me?”

Derek’s fingers tightened on Stiles’ hips and he fought to keep his claws from ripping into the fabric. Throat dry, he could do nothing but nod, his cheek brushing against Stiles’ while he nuzzled at Derek’s neck. Derek almost lost it when Stiles bent his knees, crouched down between Derek’s thighs, lightly resting his hands on Derek’s legs for balance as he looked up with that wicked smile.

“I can see it in your eyes, Derek. You’d love to flip me over right now, stuff me full of your cock and fuck me where anyone could walk by and see I’m yours, how well you take care of me,” Stiles said, voice low and rough. Derek’s skin was burning under Stiles’ palms and the front of his jeans were uncomfortably tight.

“Stiles,” he managed, voice strained. “Keep it up and I will. I will fucking wreck you right here.”

Stiles eyes were dark and he opened his mouth to answer when Lydia walked out from behind the curtained dressing room. She took one look at Stiles still squatting between Derek’s knees and yanked him up by the back of the neck. Derek growled slightly but Lydia just rolled her eyes.

“Don’t you growl at me, Cujo,” she said and pulled Stiles by the ear back to the fitting room. “You will absolutely not defile these clothes until after the gallery opening, Stiles Stilinski, or I swear to god, I’ll show Derek the Cabo pictures.”

Stiles visibly paled, letting Lydia shove him into the fitting room. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would. Change. Now.”

Not five seconds later, she was sitting next to Derek on the couch, tapping away on her phone. “Cabo?” Derek couldn’t help but ask.

Lydia tittered and spoke without looking up. “A few of us went to Cabo last year. Stiles got spectacularly drunk and ended up naked and sunburned with paw print henna tattoos covering his back and ass.”

Derek choked on his laugh. “And of course, you kept evidence.”

“Of course.”

Derek spared a moment to be grateful that Lydia wasn’t an alpha werewolf.

-

Erica showed up when Laura, Stiles, and Derek were in the middle of lunch the day before Laura’s gallery opening. Derek was about to take a bite of pasta when the insistent knocking began, not stopping until he got up and flung the front door open. A high-pitched squeal was the only warning he had before Erica launched herself into his arms, legs wrapped around his waist. Derek staggered, managing to kick the door shut while spitting out a mouthful of blonde hair.

“Der-bear, I missed you!” Erica cried, scenting his neck.

He snorted. “Obviously.” She punched him in the shoulder. “Yeah, yeah, we missed you, too.”

He glanced over his shoulder and his smile melted at the thin-lipped, clenched-jaw look on Stiles’ face. He hastily dropped Erica, grabbing her bag and leading her to the kitchen.

“Laura!” Erica said, hugging her, too. Derek caught Stiles’ eye and only received a raised eyebrow in return. “I’m so happy for you!”

“Thanks,” Laura said. “It’s so good to see you. Stiles, this is Erica, she’s part of the pack we mentioned.”

“Hi,” Erica said with a bright smile. She reached out and shook Stiles’ hand. “Derek’s waxed enough poetics about your honey-sweet eyes that it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Stiles raised an eyebrow at Derek, who absolutely did not blush. “Oh? Anything else he says?”

Erica’s grin goes wicked and she holds up Stiles’ hand, still gripped in hers. “I don’t know,” she said slyly and Derek knew he was going to want to kick her. “I’ve definitely heard about your fingers once or twice.” Stiles laughed and Derek launched himself at Erica, dragging her away from Stiles by a hand over her mouth.

“And that’s enough of Erica,” Derek said and pushed her toward the kitchen. “Go dish yourself up food if you want to do something useful with your mouth.” Stiles eyebrows flew up at that and Derek grimaced.

“Oh babe, there are better things I do with my mouth,” Erica said with a wink.

Stiles stiffened next to Derek and his scent soured. Derek reached over, taking Stiles’ hand and rubbing soothing circles over his knuckles. Some of Stiles’ muscles relaxed at that contact, but he remained tense throughout the rest of lunch, and it only got worse when the topic of babies came up.

Laura and Erica were lounging on the couch while Derek and Stiles were wrapped up together on the loveseat. There was a romcom on the TV, but it was on so low that it was nothing but background noise.

Erica laughed when Laura asked about Christina, the Hardwick alpha’s wife. “Still 125 pounds of crazy,” she said, shaking her head. “She just imported a beta from Florida for her daughter. Breeding,” she said to Stiles in answer to his confused look.

“The whole mudblood versus pureblood thing, right,” Stiles said.

Erica grinned. “Love it. She’s going to be Auntie Death Eater in my head from now on,” she said. Stiles’ returning smile was dim, but there. “But she’s also getting grandbaby fever. It’s very give-me-grandchildren-or-so-help-me.”

Laura snorted. “Some wolves go a little gene-crazy.”

“It’s that strong of a drive?” Stiles asked, his voice aimed for casually curious.

“It’s one of the most basic, primal instincts that gets amped up by our wolves,” Laura explained. “It’s not always true, but a lot of werewolves are driven by a really strong desire for pups. Usually it’s just someone’s own desire for children pumped up on wolf instincts to make it a big-ass need.”

“It doesn’t take over what we want,” Derek said, tracing the delicate bones in Stiles’ hands. “Just amplifies what we already want. If someone doesn’t want kids, they don’t suddenly change their mind during the full moon or anything like that.”

“So, you all want kids, er, pups? I know you do,” Stiles said, nudging Derek.

Erica shrugged. “Not right now, but yeah, someday.”

Laura nodded. “It sounds kind of crude, but the desire to breed is really strong for wolves. To have a pup running around that’s part of you, your legacy to pass on, a pup to nurture…yeah, that’s something I want.”

Stiles nodded absently, eyes down and he burrowed a little closer into Derek’s side. He stayed curled next to Derek, unusually quiet and his scent unhappy, until Erica demanded they show her more of the city, refusing to accept no for an answer.

Derek was getting nervous. Most of the time, Stiles chatted animatedly with Laura, Derek, and Erica, laughing loudly and comparing stories, only to fall silent a few minutes later, hands twisting in front of him. The smell of anxiety spiked when they walked past Babies ‘R Us, so much so that Derek pulled Stiles to a stop, motioning for Erica and Laura to keep walking when they turned around in question. Laura shrugged and they kept going.

“Stiles,” Derek said, bumping his forehead into the other man’s. “You can tell me if something’s bothering you, you know that, right?”

Stiles sighed and nodded, wrapping his arms around Derek’s waist. “I know. I just, I don’t know why I’m being bothered,” he mumbled. He nuzzled into Derek’s neck, subtly scenting him in a way that made Derek’s wolf rumble. “You know I can’t keep up with my brain sometimes. I’ll figure it out.”

Derek frowned. Stiles wasn’t lying, but he wasn’t telling the whole truth, either. He hoped it wasn’t what he was thinking, but paranoia had been Derek’s forte the last few years. Between all the times Stiles had tensed and given off that curdled scent…

“Stiles, I hope you don’t…I’m not trying to pressure you into having kids,” Derek said. Stiles actually looked up at that, eyes round and surprised. His nose was red from the cold and they were in the middle of the darkening New York sidewalk, but all Derek could think of what how beautiful Stiles looked.

“You’re not,” Stiles insisted, squeezing his arms tighter around Derek. He kissed Derek’s nose, smiling slightly even though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “There’s nothing wrong.”

Even if Derek hadn’t been able to hear the blip in Stiles’ heartbeat, Derek would be able to see that he was lying. “Stiles…”

“Okay,” Stiles said, exhaling sharply. “I’m not mad or upset with you at all, okay? You can hear my heart, I’m telling the truth. I’m in one of my brain spirals, I really don’t know what I’m thinking or where it goes but I’m not mad. I don’t even know what my brain’s thinking but I promise as soon as I do, I’ll let you know, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek said. He leaned forward, bumping his nose into Stiles’. “I don’t like not being able to help you. Makes me feel useless.”

“Not useless,” Stiles said, pressing a kiss to Derek’s lips. “You’re caring, loving, and the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” There was no lie in Stiles’ words. Derek hugged him just a little bit tighter.

Stiles seemed better for the rest of the night. At dinner, he and Erica got into a very enthusiastic discussion about the new Thor being female (their opinions both seemed to be “hell-fucking-yes,” so Derek wasn’t entirely sure why there was so much yelling), then Laura, Erica, and Stiles spent the ten minutes between appetizers and entrees swapping as many embarrassing stories about Derek as they could. Laura won with a story about Derek believing Laura that his bunny teeth made him a wererabbit and he spent a whole month trying to escape his house to go live with his fluffy brethren. Stiles probably would have won but he had claimed “bedroom sanctuary” and refused to give details, much to the Hales’ relief and Erica’s disgust.

Stiles excused himself when they got back to the apartment building, his phone ringing in his pocket. “Scotty,” he said, shaking his phone at Derek. “I’ll come over in a bit, okay?”

“Okay,” Derek said, reeling Stiles in and kissing him deeply while Erica cooed in the background. Stiles looked a little dazed when he pulled back, a goofy smile on his face. Derek grinned and followed Laura and Erica into the apartment, leaving Stiles to talk to Scott.

As soon as the door was shut, Erica was on him. “Derek he is so fucking adorable! Oh my god!” she squealed, smacking him repeatedly in the shoulder. “I thought you just had cheesy, love-goggles on, but oh my god, he’s perfect. And a total dick, just like you!”

Derek couldn’t fight the smile that took over his face, which just thrilled Erica even more.

“Are you guys going to be matching tomorrow night?” Erica asked. “Oh my god, please tell me you have matching shirts.”

Derek rolled his eyes and sat on the couch next to where Erica had sprawled. “We’re not three year olds getting family portraits, so no, we’re not matching.”

Erica kicked Derek in the thigh, shoving him off the couch and it was only thanks to Derek’s werewolf reflexes that he didn’t hit the ground. He glared up at her from his crouch but she just looked gleeful.

“Show me what you’ll be wearing!”

“No, you’ll see tomorrow. What does it matter?” Derek asked.

“Show me, Der-bear!”

“Better show her,” Laura said with a smirk. “I’d hate to have to alpha-voice you.”

Derek glared and stood with a huff. Laura had only used her alpha voice a handful of times. One was to get him out of danger, the rest of the times were all related to him getting her ice cream and Cheetos.

“Fine,” he grumbled, walking to the front door.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Erica asked.

“Suit’s over at Stiles’. He said they cost more than his rent and he wanted to feel rich,” Derek said, leaving the sound of Laura and Erica’s laughter behind as he stepped into the hall. His hand was on the doorknob when he heard his name from Stiles’ apartment.

“-of Laura and Derek’s wolfy friends.”

Right, Stiles’ call with Scott. Derek was about to walk in anyway as they both normally did, but something in Stiles’ voice made him pause.

“No, that’s the problem, Scott! She’s really nice and smart and gorgeous!” Stiles paused and when he spoke again, his voice was quiet and pained. “She calls him Der-bear, Scott.”

Derek’s heart clenched at Stiles’ small voice. He’d never even thought to worry about Stiles’ actually feeling threatened by Erica, nothing beyond the small jealously they’d already discussed.

“No, I don’t. I want to hate her, but she’s a sassy ass, and nerdy, and I am a horrible person for being jealous that she can jump into Derek’s arms and he didn’t even flinch. Derek growls if someone accidentally brushes him in the grocery store! It took me living next to him for almost a year before he was as comfortable with me as he is with her, and she did it in a few months.”

Derek couldn’t hear what Scott said, but whatever it was made Stiles sigh.

“I know. I love him, too. I’m being dumb, I know. Thanks for calling, man, it was good to talk to you.”

Derek’s hand was still on the door handle while Stiles said his goodbyes. His mind was more or less frozen. If she wanted to, Laura could have come out and doused him in wolfsbane-laced pudding and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Stiles had never really shown any signs of true jealously before. Possessiveness, yes, but that was always in the bedroom or when he all but rolled in Derek’s clothes until they reeked of the both of them. Derek had made it very clear that Stiles was it for him. His mate, his future, and he had to talk to him.

Derek opened the door right when Stiles was setting his phone down, making him jump and fumble with it for a few seconds. Stiles’ eyes were wide, heart beating a little too fast, like someone very aware that they’d gotten caught.

“Hey, Derek, didn’t know you were there and, yep, you’re glaring, okay, so your werewolf hearing probably heard some of that, shit, are you pissed? You look pissed.”

“I’m not mad, Stiles,” Derek said, taking a few steps forward until he could take Stiles’ wrists in his hands, rubbing his thumbs over the delicate skin. “What I am wondering is what I did wrong to make you think I want Erica as anything more than a friend?”

“Oh my god, no,” Stiles said, twisting his hands until they were clasping Derek’s. “Come on, Derek.”

“Then what’s the problem?” Derek asked, confused. “Stiles, I don’t understand.”

“She’s perfect!” Stiles exploded. “She’s perfect for you! Perfect she-wolf that can give you little wolf babies and a stronger pack and a FAMILY, which I can’t give you because I’m human, and a GUY! And she’s not even a bitch so it’s not like I can hate her and fuck, Derek, I can’t give that to you. I can’t, I – I…” Stiles’ breaths got shorter and his heart started tripping, the signs Derek knew well as the beginning of a panic attack.

“Shh, Stiles, shh, just breathe for me, okay?” Derek said, forcing his voice to be calm. Stiles had only had two panic attacks around him, and both times had left Derek feeling absolutely gutted. He pulled one of Stiles’ hands over his own heart, letting Stiles feel the rhythm and match his breathing to Derek’s.

“I’m okay, shit, yeah, I’m okay,” Stiles said, shaking his head a bit, like he was trying to get water out from his ears. “I’m sorry, Derek. I just – I can’t give you everything you want. I can’t have your kids, I’m not a wolf, fuck, Derek, then I pick a stupid fight with you a few days ago. I’m a shit boyfriend and I’d be a shit mate, and I can’t help you expand your pack, or - ”

“Our pack,” Derek interrupted, squeezing Stiles’ hands. “Stiles, you’re a part of the pack, you’ve already helped expand it. And who said we wanted to expand anyway?”

“It’s like Laura said,” Stiles said, eyes focused on where their fingers were tangled together. “You can’t fight biology. Wolves wanting to reproduce, breed or whatever. And I can’t do that.”

Derek was too stunned to speak, or do much beyond stand there and clutch Stiles’ hands like an idiot in the middle of Stiles’ apartment. Stiles’ heart was beating alarmingly fast and he was still avoiding eye contact. Derek cleared his throat.

“Stiles,” Derek said softly, but Stiles’ eyes remained down. Derek let go of one of Stiles’ hands to tip his chin up until he met Derek’s eyes. Derek’s heart wanted to break at the watery sheen covering Stiles’ eyes. “Stiles, I do want kids, yes. But I’m not a slave to my biology, I don’t want pups just because that’s what werewolves do. I want a family, and I want it with you. We could adopt, there are sometimes packs with orphaned pups they want to adopt out to other wolves, or if we really want it to be genetically ours, we can get a surrogate.”

Stiles stared at him, expression caught somewhere between hopeful, fond, and scared. “Really?” he asked, voice timid and so unlike Stiles.

“Real- yes, really! Stiles, before you, I never thought I could have a family or pups of my own. It wasn’t even something I’d let myself think about, but I want this, and I only want it with you, okay?” Derek pushed all the love and comfort he could through the partially-complete mating bond, willing Stiles to believe him. He cupped Stiles’ face, rubbing thumbs over his flushed cheeks. Stiles broke into a smile.

“Sappywolf,” he said softly and leaned into Derek’s touch, his eyes fluttering shut. “Sorry for freaking out. That self-confidence thing we talked about, yeah, I gotta work on that.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Derek said, kissing Stiles’ nose. “Just stop believing you aren’t enough.”

“I keep causing problems,” Stile muttered, averting his eyes. Derek tilted his head up and kissed him sweetly, softly, and full of love.

“You’re not. We’re still figuring out how exactly we fit together. It’s not magically going to happen,” Derek said. “Now come on, Erica wants to see what we’re going to wear tomorrow night.”

Stiles groaned, bumping his shoulder into Derek’s. “I forgot about that. I think we should just show up in sweats. Oh, and wear your ribbed tank. I like you in that.”

Derek rolled his eyes and gave Stiles a gentle shove toward his bedroom. He could hear Stiles muttering about “stupid, unfairly hot werewolves,” a thud, and some muffled cursing before a few seconds later, Stiles hobbled out with two garment bags in his hand. He threw them at Derek when he was close enough and walked past him to the front door, glaring.

“Stub your toe again?” Derek asked.

“Shut up.”

Derek laughed as he followed Stiles out of his apartment and into the Hales’. His laughter faded at the sight of Erica on the couch, cross-legged and biting her lip, her leg bouncing and hands twisting and untwisting in her lap.

“Hey, we brought our – whoa,” Stiles said, cutting himself off. “Erica, are you okay?”

“Fine,” she said. She shifted a little and glanced at Derek before turning her attention to Stiles. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked. Derek didn’t like the hesitancy in her voice at all.

“Yeah, uh, sure,” Stiles said. They both looked at Derek who just stood there for a few seconds before getting with the program.

“I’ll just go and put these in the closet,” Derek said, shaking the garment bags. He retreated to his room to give them the illusion of privacy, though they all knew he’d be able to hear every word, even with Laura happily chatting on her phone in the room next to Derek’s. It was the thought that counted. He tried to tune them out but he could still easily hear the rustling sounds of movement and Stiles sinking onto the couch. In a very un-Stiles-like way, he seemed to be waiting for Erica to say something first, which actually took a few minutes.

“I don’t want you to hate me,” she blurted out. Derek could easily picture Stiles, wide-eyed and gaping.

“What? No, Erica, I – “ Thwap. “Oh my god, I didn’t mean to hit you, sorry!” Derek snorted despite himself. “Why do you think I hate you?”

“You’re not quiet on the phone or when you talk to Derek, and the walls aren’t exactly thick, Stiles.”

Derek winced.

Stiles sighed. “I don’t hate you, Erica. I doubt I could even if I wanted to,” he said. “I was jealous and stupid and I swear, I’m a good person, really. I was insecure because you’re just so awesome and a wolf and could give Derek everything I can’t and I kind of freaked out. But I’m really, really sorry. I know you’re a good person and important to Derek, and I’m just a squishy human.”

“Stiles,” Erica said, cutting off what Derek was sure was about to spiral into another rant of self-doubt. “I understand. It’s kinda my fault, too. I should have known that when meeting you, it probably wasn’t a good idea to jump your mate and rub my face all over his.”

Derek frowned. Well, when she put it like that…yeah, he could see Stiles’ point. As much as Stiles ran with wolves, he wasn’t raised or taught the culture and what was casual to them could definitely be seen as very intimate to humans. Derek felt like a grade-A asshole.

“I know scenting is a werewolf thing,” Stiles said cautiously.

Derek could practically hear Erica’s eye roll when she said, “Sweetie, if someone I never met flung themselves into my hypothetical mate’s arms and rubbed faces, I wouldn’t be too thrilled either, so, I’m sorry.”

“Apology accepted. And I’m sorry for being stupidly jealous,” Stiles said.

“Accepted,” Erica said, then her voice grew devious. “Now you can give me details about that hickey necklace you’re sporting.”

Derek jumped up and all but ran out of his room to stop the conversation, but Laura beat him to it, yelling, “Oh my god, shut up before I wrap you in wolfsbane and throw you out the window!”

Erica and Stiles were laughing by the time Derek got to the living room, looking over their shoulders at him from their places on the couch.

Derek glared and pointed to Erica. “You are a menace and a bad influence,” he said, then turned to Stiles. “And you, get in the bedroom. I need to remind you that you’re mine and that’s not changing.”

The spicy smell of Stiles’ arousal spiked and he grinned at Derek, hopping over the back of the couch. “Right back at ya, big guy,” he said and seized Derek’s hand, tugging him toward the bedroom, followed by Erica’s wolf-whistle and Laura’s loud groan.

-

“You smell like you rolled in jizz,” Laura said the next night, scrunching up her nose. “You couldn’t have at least showered?”

“We did!” Stiles protested. “Twice!”

“You also blew me a second time,” Derek pointed out. Laura punched him in the shoulder, not caring that they were dressed up and in the middle of an art gallery.

“Ow!” Derek said, rubbing his arm. “Alpha strength, Laura, Christ.”

Lydia swooped in out of nowhere, tsking at them before Laura had the chance to reply. Her long, red hair was pulled into an elegant knot at the base of her skull and her short, emerald green dress hugged every curve of her body. Laura’s eyes traveled over her hungrily and yeah, Derek could see why. Lydia reached forward, adjusting the straps of Laura’s black and gold dress (“It shows off your eyes and skin tone. You’re wearing it.”), fingers brushing Laura’s collarbone. Next to Derek, Stiles turned his head and coughed loudly.

Lydia pulled back with an exaggerated eye roll and said, “Doors open in five minutes. Try not to hit, maim, fang out, ruin your clothes, or embarrass me in any way.” She pointed at Stiles and gave him a look so cold that Derek nearly flinched. “That means so sex in broom closets or bathrooms.”

“Would I do that?” Stiles asked innocently.

“Absolutely. I’d leave it up to Derek to keep you out of trouble but he seems to think you’re charming, for whatever reason,” Lydia said with a dismissive wave. She wrapped an arm around Laura and tugged her toward the front of the gallery. “Come on, it’s almost time.”

Laura, for all her alpha strength and confidence, looked vaguely ill. Derek squeezed her hand when she passed and smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring way.

“This is Laura’s fancy, artistic debut, so why does she look like she wants to be anywhere else in the world but here?” Stiles asked. “Seriously, she looks like she’d rather be in a Saw movie.”

Derek shrugged. “She’s never done anything like this before. She’s great at being an alpha, but this isn’t something she can take charge of. She can’t negotiate or control these people and their opinions of her work, work that is important to her,” Derek said. His eyes were fixed on the front of the gallery where Laura was chatting with Lydia, the gallery owner, and the first patrons. When he swung his eyes back, Stiles was looking at him with a soft smile.

“She’ll be great, puppy,” Stiles said. Derek rolled his eyes at the nickname, even though they both knew there was no heat behind it. “She’s got Lydia on her side. Lydia could have convinced Einstein that relativity isn’t real and the world is flat.”

Derek snorted but didn’t disagree. “Come on, staring at her probably isn’t helping. We’re at an art exhibit, let’s be cultured and look at some art.”

Despite living with her for years, Derek had seen hardly any of Laura’s work. Sure, there were always half-finished works scattered around, but most of her finished paintings were leaned up against the wall in the spacious front room where she worked, and they always faced the wall. Laura was weirdly private about her art and Derek respected that, so when she did let him see a finished piece, he considered himself lucky.

Abstractly, Derek had known that Laura was good, but walking through the dimmed gallery, spotlights trained on the paintings, he realized he was so, so wrong. Laura wasn’t good, she was amazing.

Toward the back of the gallery, Derek stopped in shock, staring at the painting in front of him like it wasn’t real. Stiles was still beside him, except to reach out and take his hand. Of course Stiles recognized it; he was from Beacon Hills, how could he not? The Hale house stared back at Derek from that canvas that was easily five feet wide. The house was painted in thirds, like stages of life. The first, the left third of the house, was idyllic and beautiful, almost exactly as Derek had remembered it, from the dark shutters and white window accents, to the porch, slightly off kilter thanks to his dad and Peter refusing to follow the instructions from the contractor they’d spoken with. If he looked close enough, he could see glowing wolf eyes between the trees behind the house. Red, gold, and blue.

The middle of the house was different. Tendrils of black, like their veins when they took pain, led from the perfect Hale house and transformed seamlessly to a decrepit, burnt husk. It was as if someone had sewn the charred remains of Derek’s nightmares to Derek’s childhood home. Even the sky above and ground below were dark, like day couldn’t exist in the same space as the home.

The burned wood faded into the last third of the house, morphing back into light siding. It wasn’t the Hale house of Derek’s childhood, not exactly. The chimney was gone, which Derek heartily approved of, having had quite enough of fire. The paint was slightly darker and the trim was a different color. Near the bottom of the foundation, blended almost dark enough that even Derek couldn’t see, were little symbols. Protection runes, he realized. Stiles squeezed Derek’s hand tighter and Derek realized he hadn’t breathed for too long.

He took a gasping breath, trying to get himself under control, when he felt someone walk up. Stiles tensed on Derek’s other side as he too noticed the intruder. Derek could immediately smell what Stiles couldn’t, though: werewolf. The other man, fit and middle-aged with light brown hair, wasn’t looking at them, though. He was staring straight ahead, gaze sweeping appreciatively over the painting.

“Marvelous work,” the man said, never taking his eyes off the canvas. There was something about the man’s voice, the British lilt, gave Derek a strange sense of déjà vu, though for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out where he’d heard it before. “It’s very impressive, the way she captured the essence of life and pain.” He seemed to take Derek and Stiles’ silence as interest, and continued speaking.

“We start with the perfect, unrealistically remembered childhood home, perfect and beautiful in our memories, before slipping into the dark and dramatic, the absolute worst nightmare of all, and finally settle here, with the new. It’s less picturesque and serene, but more realistic.” He raised his hand, moving it in front of each phase of the painting as he spoke. “Life, death, and rebirth, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Quite poetic, don’t you agree, Derek?”

“Who are you?” Derek asked, finally finding his voice, but the other werewolf continued as if he hadn’t spoken.

“When I heard the daughter of the great Talia Hale had an exhibit, I couldn’t bear the thought of not attending.”

“Who are you?” Derek growled out again as he fought to not let out his fangs and claws.

The man finally turned to face Derek and Stiles, letting his eyes flash. Red. Alpha. Derek turned, trying to subtly move Stiles behind him. The man snorted. “Relax, boy, you have nothing to fear from me. I’m sure you don’t remember, you were so young, but I used to visit your dear mother, along with other alphas, for advice and gatherings. I am Deucalion.”

The name vaguely rang a bell for Derek, but not enough to form a clear memory. He still kept Stiles behind him. “What do you want?” he asked.

“I am just here for the art,” Deucalion said mildly. “Your mother was a dear friend of mine. I deeply regret what happened.”

“Don’t we all,” Stiles said, shoving his way from behind Derek. “But not enough to help Derek and Laura after, right?”

Derek hissed Stiles’ name but Deucalion merely inclined his head in acquiescence. “You are correct. It was a mistake on my part, and apologies will mean nothing so I say only this; you have the support and friendship of my pack, whatever your need may be.”

Deucalion held his arm out and after a few seconds of shock, Derek grasped the other man’s forearm as he grasped Derek’s, a werewolf’s sign of respect and greeting.

“Thank you,” Derek said.

Deucalion inclined his head again and said, “A word of advice. I would complete the mating bond sooner rather than later if I were you. It’ll be much safer for him.” Derek clenched his jaw and nodded tersely. Deucalion just smiled. “If you’re excuse me, I will peruse for a while. Your sister truly is remarkably talented.”

Derek’s eyes flicked to the painting as Deucalion walked away. Yeah, she was.

Stiles waited until Deucalion was a respectable distance away before turning to Derek and hissing, “What the fuck?”

“I don’t know,” Derek answered, still a little dazed.

“No, seriously, what the fuck? What is everyone’s obsession with us and mating?”

“I really don’t know,” Derek said. He ran one hand through his hair and tugged Stiles closer into his side with the other. There’d been no lie from Deucalion, but a surprise confrontation with an alpha, especially with Stiles there, put Derek on edge.

“Do you think he talked to Laura?” Stiles asked. “Should we tell her?”

“No,” Derek said. “If he has, she’d have found us. We’ll tell her after and not ruin her night.”

“Softie,” Stiles said fondly and rested his temple on Derek’s shoulder. His hands shot out and snagged two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter and handed one to Derek. “Then let’s do what normal pretentious art fans do. Drink and mingle.”

Derek snorted but let Stiles lead him around the gallery by his hand, making sure to maintain physical contact at all times. If Stiles noticed that Derek always had an arm around his shoulders, or hand on his waist, he didn’t mention it. They didn’t see Deucalion again and after an hour or so, Derek could tell he had left. Stiles noticed when Derek slumped, the tension bleeding away. He ran a hand through Derek’s hair and kissed his cheek.

“You good?” Stiles asked quietly.

Derek smiled down at Stiles in that fond and soft way that was specifically reserved for him. Derek gathered him in his arms, pressing a kiss to the side of Stiles’ head and murmured, “Perfect.”

Stiles was grinning like a loon when he pulled away and brought his champagne to his lips to hide it. Two seconds later, Lydia was next to them, looking pristine.

“Are you enjoying yourselves?” Lydia asked, eyeing Stiles’ glass of champagne.

“It’s my first one,” Stiles said defensively. “I’m not going to get trashed.”

“Remember, no sex in the gallery,” Lydia said sternly.

“Actually, you said no broom closets or bathrooms, so…”

“I will strangle you,” Lydia hissed, but Stiles’ just rolled his eyes, a stupid move, in Derek’s opinion.

“Guuys!” Erica’s voice cut in. She appeared a second later, a drink in both of her hands and a mischievous grin on her face. Derek took a whiff and wrinkled his nose.

“I guess we’re not the ones you should have been worried about getting off in closets,” Stiles said, pushing the strap of Erica’s slinky dress back onto her shoulder. He motioned to her chin and said, “You have some lipstick.”

Erica shrugged, completely unashamed. “I have a weekend free from overbearing alpha wives and you can bet your ass I’m going to use it.” She passed one of the champagne glasses to Derek, giggling. “It’s special,” she said with an exaggerated wink. He carefully sniffed and coughed at the subtle hint of wolfsbane.

“Where’d you get this?” he asked.

“Walmart.”

“Is that what I think it is?” Stiles asked, eyeing the tipsy Erica.

“Wolfsbane-infused alcohol,” Derek murmured while Lydia eyed the glass curiously. “Specific strain that being mixed makes it non-toxic.”

“So what you’re telling me,” Stiles said slowly, “is that there’s a way for werewolves to get drunk and you never told me? Oh my god, drink up right now!”

“Stiles, Deucalion-”

“Is long gone! Oh my god, I need to see this.”

Derek sighed and took a sip, shooting Erica a glare. She wasn’t fazed in the slightest. The wolfsbane gave the champagne a burn going down that it didn’t normally have, but he refused to give Erica and Stiles the satisfaction of him coughing. Looking at their matching grins, Derek wanted to punch himself in the nose for introducing them.

-

By the time he’d finished his third flute, Derek was pleasantly buzzed, not falling-down drunk, but a little lighter on the inhibitions than usual. That was the only reason he let Stiles drag him down the hallway leading to the bathrooms, only to be shoved against the wall so Stiles could delve into the mouth with his tongue. Yeah, the only reason.

“Laura’s going to kill us,” Derek groaned as Stiles palmed his dick through his pants.

“Laura’s always going to kill us,” Stiles said. One hand was stroking Derek’s hard cock as best as he could through the fabric of his dress pants, the other hand grasping the wall, feeling for the handle for the door marked ‘Custodian’. His hand wrapped around the doorknob and it swung open, bringing them face to face with Laura and Lydia, lips swollen, both out of breath. Derek and Stiles gaped, completely frozen as Laura and Lydia untangled themselves, faces slightly flushed but defiant.

Stile recovered first, crying out, “You said no making out in the closet!”

“We said no making out for you in the closet,” Laura said. Lydia wiped a bit of lipstick off Laura’s chin before straightening her hair with a smug face, completely unperturbed that Stiles and Derek just walked in on her sucking Laura’s tongue.

“He right, though. A closet is nothing compared to that nice, soft bed you have at home,” Lydia said, mock-considering. “The gallery closes in five minutes.” She gave Laura and wink and brushed past Stiles and Derek, pausing just long enough to say, “You two should probably stay at Stiles’ tonight,” before walking back to the main floor, probably to politely hurry the remaining patrons along.

Laura just stood dazed for a moment before coming to her senses and punching Derek in the shoulder, hard.

“Why are you always hitting me?” Derek asked, rubbing his arm where there was still a bit of the bruise from earlier.

“For thinking it was a good idea not to tell me that Deucalion was here,” she said, turning to Stiles, who jumped behind Derek with his hands in the air.

“Squishy human, do not harm!” he said. Laura just rolled her eyes. “Hey, how’d you even know he was here?”

“Alpha hearing, dumbass,” Laura said. “And he talked to me. That was kind of a dead giveaway.” She walked past them, flicking the back of Stiles’ head on the way by. “Don’t forget Erica, she’s around here somewhere.”

“Follow the smell of sex-crazed hormones,” Stiles muttered to Derek. “Try not to get them confused with your sister’s.”

“I hate you.”

-

They eventually did find Erica with the same guy Derek had smelled on her earlier. She didn’t smell drunk, the wolfsbane champagne long burned out of her system, and had a wicked grin on her face. The man looked completely stunned when Erica pulled away, his pupils blown wide and lips swollen. There was an imprint of Erica’s teeth on his neck surrounded by a ring of dark red lipstick. She patted him on the cheek before pulling away and sauntering over to Derek and Stiles.

“See ya, babydoll,” she said with a wink. Derek turned to follow Erica and Stiles, taking a second to glance back at the guy who still looked like he’d been hit by a freight train. Derek shook his head, snorting to himself. Blown over by Hurricane Erica. She had no shame and Derek liked that about her. She was utterly irreverent and now that he wasn’t under the foot of her alpha’s crazy wife, she was actually able to be herself. Derek felt strangely proud. Stiles cooed and called him a softiewolf when he told him later that night after they crawled into bed and Erica crashed on Stiles’ couch.

“Shut up,” Derek said, pinching Stiles’ sides, then slapping a hand over his mouth when Stiles shrieked.

“No, really,” Stiles said, yanking Derek’s hand away. “It’s sweet. You’re an amazingly caring man underneath this gruff, frowny exterior. And I’m stupid lucky to have you on lock.”

Derek snorted and pulled Stiles to him, kissing him deeply. Stiles moaned and worked a hand between them, running fingers down Derek’s torso before dipping under the waistband of his boxer briefs. Derek heard a noise from next door and froze, right when Stiles got a hand around him. Stiles tensed, pulling back.

“Derek? Are you okay?” Stiles asked. He was propped up on his elbow, staring down at Derek with worried eyes.

“Yeah, I’m fine, I-” Derek cut himself off, flopping back on the mattress with a groan. From his apartment came the unmistaken moans and, oh god, wet, squelching noises. “I hate Laura, she’s ruining my life.”

Stiles’ look of concern melted to confusion. “What?”

“She and Lydia are…” Derek winced to a moan of Lydia’s name. “They’re doing stuff.”

Stiles was silent for a beat, then exploded in laughter, hard enough that tears started leaking from the corners of his eyes. He pounded his fist into the mattress, whole body shaking.

“Oh my god! I guess that’s fair, she’s had to deal with us enough times,” Stiles managed to say through his gasps.

Derek glared, wishing that werewolf-strength earplugs existed. “I hate you,” he said.

“Lies, you love me,” Stiles said, leaning in to kiss Derek. His hand drifted lower again, toward Derek’s waistband, but Derek’s slapped his hand away.

“I can’t do it to the sound of my sister having sex!” Derek said, scandalized.

Stiles laughed again, burying his giggles into Derek’s chest. Derek shoved a pillow over his head in a vain attempt to block out the noise and halfway hoped it would smother him. Stiles curled around him, giggles subsiding, and kissed his chest. He reeked on contentment and Derek couldn’t keep the stupid grin off his face.

-

It was quiet with Erica gone and while Derek missed having her around, he was happy for the mellow down time. Not that he got much. Stiles was a hurricane of activity now that “It is officially the holiday season, Derek. Get it together!”

Derek and Laura never really celebrated Thanksgiving, or as Laura called it, Indigenous Genocide Day, but apparently Stiles did. Laura gave him shit about it until Stiles quietly said that it had been his mom’s favorite holiday. Laura had shut up really fast after that and immediately helped Stiles plan. Not that Stiles really celebrated like the average person.

He insisted on a feast of Chinese food, deviled eggs, and a Native American cleansing and memorial ritual that his mom had learned from a Native friend of hers. The incense and sage made Derek’s nose itch but neither he nor Laura said anything. This was something Derek would never want to ruin.

Stiles had invited Erica, but she’d had to stay with her pack for what she called “bullshit bonding time.”

“Why’s she even part of their pack if she’s so unhappy?” Stiles asked.

“Pack bonds and politics are complicated,” Derek said. “I don’t know how to explain it besides almost binding loyalty. They are ties that can be broken, but it’s not easy.”

Stiles frowned. “That sounds kind of abusive, man.”

“Sometimes it is,” Derek said sadly. “Even if she weren’t my sister, I’d be lucky to have Laura. Not all alphas are nearly as fair and kind. They see it as weakness and fear a beta will challenge them for it.”

All in all, Derek actually enjoyed himself. He, Laura, and Stiles ate with Scott via Skype. Stiles’ dad was working, so he didn’t make an appearance. Derek wasn’t sure if he was happy about that or not. On the one hand, he wanted to make a good impression on Stiles’ father (who’d been informed by his son that he was dating “the hottest werewolf ever”) and generally Derek didn’t seem friendly through Skype or the phone. On the other hand, seeing the Sheriff after all those years and being reintroduced as Stiles’ werewolf boyfriend sounded terrifying in person.

After Scott ended their Skype call, Laura, Derek, and Stiles retreated to the Hales’ living room, all in food comas. Laura had the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special playing softly while they chatted. Stiles was humming softly, sprawled on the couch with his head in Derek’s lap with Derek’s fingers running through his hair, scratching lightly at his scalp. Laura’s attention was on her phone. Derek assumed she was texting Lydia, who had left a few weeks prior.

Derek tugged on Stiles’ hair lightly to get his attention, taking advantage of Laura’s distraction to have a semi-private discussion with Stiles. Stiles twisted his head to look up at Derek, eyebrows raised.

“I have a question,” Derek said.

“I probably have a slightly rudely worded answer,” Stiles said. He used his elbow to gently nudge Derek in the stomach. “What’s up?”

Derek cleared his throat and started talking before his nerves got the best of him. “Laura and I are thinking of going back to Beacon Hills for a bit around Christmas,” he said. Laura stilled on the loveseat but didn’t look up from her phone. “We were hoping to go when you did. We wouldn’t pull you away from your dad or anything, it would just be a lot easier for us to have pack close by. Is that okay with you?”

“Is – of course that’s okay! I’d love if you were there. You can stay with us, we have a guest room. Only if you want to, you guys don’t have to, obviously. And you can meet my dad and Scott!” Stiles said excitedly. Derek grinned down at him, leaning over to give him a quick kiss. Stiles’ smile flickered a bit, then he asked, “Is that going to be a problem? Meeting another werewolf that’s technically in your territory?”

“It shouldn’t be,” Derek said. “We do need to check the area, though.”

“Why?”

“I’ve neglected it,” Laura said, done pretending to not hear them. “It’s our family – our pack’s - land. And it’s our job to take care of it and protect it and make sure it’s safe for everyone around it. I’ve been ignoring its call like a pansy.”

“And it’d actually help if I were there?” Stiles asked.

Derek nodded. “You’re pack.”

“But not like, officially yet, right?” Stiles asked. “There’s a ceremony or a chicken to be sacrificed to make it official, right?”

“I think your mind is still on Thanksgiving,” Laura said. “But there is a ritual and a submission thing before it’s technically official.”

“Okay, let’s do it,” Stiles said.

Laura looked at him blankly. “Do what?”

“Wolf mojo, pack member magic, bond me oh alpha, my alpha,” Stiles said, sitting up from where he was lying in Derek’s lap.

“This isn’t something you do in a crappy apartment living room that smells like Chinese food and paint,” Laura said.

“Okay, so where?”

“You’re sure you want this?” Laura asked. “Like Derek said, pack ties are hard to break.”

“I’m sure,” Stiles said firmly. “I even talked to Scott about it to make sure it wouldn’t be a problem.”

Derek’s eyebrows rose at that. “What’d he say?”

“He said it’ll be weird for me to smell like other wolves but he trusts me when I say you’re good people. He says he likes it that I’m so happy.”

Derek’s heart fluttered at that. Laura was actually beaming and it hit Derek what this was to her; this was her first pack member to come to her, besides the random omegas that just wanted protection. This was more, Stiles wanted to be pack. He didn’t want to be here out of familial obligation or preexisting ties. Stiles was there because he wanted to be.

“The preserve,” Laura said. “The ceremony should be done in the preserve. It’s Hale pack land, it has power.

“All right, settled. We’ll do Christmas, eggnog, and werewolf rituals,” Stiles said, clapping his hands together with a grin. “Nothing like the good ol’ fashioned holiday season.”

“We should probably let Scott know that we’re coming,” Derek said.

“Is that, like, werewolf manners?” Stiles asked.

Derek shrugged. “Sort of. If we were going into an established pack’s land, it’s customary to request permission. But it’s technically still our territory so we don’t have to.”

“But Derek’s right, we should,” Laura said. “No wolf likes smelling another wolf in its territory.”

“Looks like another Skype date with Scott.”

-

Scott took the news of the Hales’ visit worse than Derek had hoped, but better than he’d expected. Scott seemed torn about how to feel. He was “stoked” to meet Stiles’ boyfriend (“soon-to-be mate, Scott!”) but also a little uncomfortable at the idea of Derek and Laura coming to Beacon Hills.

“It’s your wolf’s instincts,” Derek explained over Skype when Scott had voiced his confusion, head tilted to the side like a curious puppy. “Beacon Hills is your home. The idea of another wolf coming makes your wolf wary and see us as potential threats. Maybe a threat to your relationship with Stiles.”

“But it’s your home, too!” Scott protested. “And I know Stiles is my bro, I want him happy!”

“I know,” Derek said with a small smile. “Sometimes instincts and intellectual knowledge clash.”

Scott frowned a bit before shrugging. “We’ll figure it out. I’ll talk to Allison, Isaac, and Boyd.”

Derek’s stomach dropped. He’d been so focused on Scott and the sheriff that he’s completely forgotten about the Argent presence in Beacon Hills. Luckily, Stiles was easily able to keep the conversation going until he finally said goodbye to Scott. As soon as he shut the laptop, Stiles climbed into Derek’s lap, shoving his face into the werewolf’s throat and wrapping his arms around his neck.

“You okay?” Stiles asked, lips moving against Derek’s skin.

“How do you always know?” Derek asked, arms circling Stiles’ waist. He rubbed his cheek against the top of Stiles’ head.

“I know you,” Stiles said simply. “Allison isn’t her aunt, and Chris is…a decent man. They don’t have contact with Kate anymore, either.”

Derek pulled back, startled. “You told them about Kate?”

“No! No, that’s not my story to tell,” Stiles said. “I just asked Allison if her aunt was planning any visits. She was really confused about how I knew about her but she said they cut ties with her and her grandfather years ago.”

Derek studied Stiles’ face for a moment before yanking him in and kissing him hard. It was all tongue and teeth for a few minutes before they pulled back, breathless and grinning.

“What was that for?” Stiles asked, panting a bit.

“For caring enough to ask,” Derek said, rubbing the back of his hand against Stiles’ cheek. “For even thinking to ask.”

Stiles’ face softened into a look that Derek had only ever seen aimed at him, and it never failed to warm his insides.

“How many times do I have to tell you that you deserve to be loved before you believe me?” Stiles asked.

“I believe you,” Derek said. “You just always amaze me, is all.”

“Such a sap, puppy.”

Derek just shrugged. It wasn’t like he could argue that.

-

If Derek thought Stiles was a whirlwind leading up to Thanksgiving, Stiles around Christmas was a damn extinction level event. He blew through Derek and Laura’s apartment in the first week of December armed with boxes of decorations. The first thing he did was string lights everywhere, making sure each was plugged into a surge protector.

“Fire safety,” Stiles said when Derek asked.

Next came the tree. It was short, only four feet tall, and absolutely covered in ornaments and tinsel. Derek had had to leave for work in the middle of the manic decorating and when he got home, it was to windows covered with fake frost, baubles hanging from the ceiling by clear strings, and a huge, glittering banner pinned over the fireplace that said MERRY HIGHJACKED PAGAN WINTER SOLSTICE! Laura was humming to herself in the living room with her sketchbook, completely unperturbed by Stiles’ handiwork.

“You know, usually when someone opens a door, they come inside,” Laura said, craning her neck around to look at Derek and yeah, he’d been standing in the doorway for the last thirty seconds taking in the decorations. He shook his head and did as Laura asked, closing the door behind him and kicking off his shoes.

“Is Stiles gonna be here for dinner?” Laura asked.

“No,” Derek said. “He’s coming over later, though.”

“Damn, I was going to get him to make enchiladas,” Laura said with a pout.

Derek snorted. “Well you can have him over if you want.”

“Where will you be?” Laura asked.

“I have an appointment with Dr. Cane,” Derek said.

Laura tilted her head to the side. “It’s not your usual day. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, aiming for a casual voice and knowing he failed spectacularly. “Just wanted to get a session in before we go to Beacon Hills.”

“We don’t go back for a couple weeks,” Laura reminded him gently.

Derek shrugged. “Just in case. I’m fine, Laura,” he promised.

Taking him at face value, god bless Laura, she turned around and went back to her sketching. Derek peeked over her shoulder and choked on a laugh when he saw what she was drawing. It was Stiles, wearing a Santa hat, reindeer slippers, and with Christmas lights wrapped around his body. He was posed like he was about to trip. Laura grinned.

“Like it? I was thinking of giving it to Sheriff Stilinski when we go.”

“He’d probably love it,” Derek said. Which was true, from everything he’d heard from Scott and Stiles, the sheriff loved his son more than life itself.

Stiles, and meeting Stiles’ dad, were topics he discussed with Dr. Cane later than afternoon, but he could tell she knew there was something else on his mind. She waited him out, like she always did, while giving him a slight nudge in the right direction.

“What worries you most about going back to Beacon Hills?” she asked. “I have a feeling it’s not just meeting Stiles’ father.”

“There are other wolves, Stiles’ friends,” Derek said, then paused. They both knew that wasn’t why he requested an extra session. “It’s the first time we’ll be back in Beacon Hills in twelve years. Since the fire.” Dr. Cane just nodded politely, waiting for him to continue. “I’m not…I don’t feel guilty exactly, but I’m worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“About going back and forgetting them, like it never happened.”

“Derek,” she said. “Moving forward isn’t the same as forgetting. Tell me, you said Stiles lost his mother, yes?”

“Yes,” Derek said.

“Is he selfish for being happy?”

“No,” Derek said.

Dr. Cane smiled slightly. “Why’s that?”

“Stiles is so…he deserves to be happy, he should be. It’d kill me if he was in pain for his whole life,” Derek said.

“Do you think he might say the same about you?” Dr. Cane asked.

“Yes,” Derek mumbled.

“Tell me more about your trip. What are you going to do?”

“We’re staying with Stiles at his dad’s, the sheriff, which Laura thinks is going to be hysterical,” Derek said with a headshake. “We’re going to meet with the other werewolves Stiles is friends with. Laura wants to talk with Chris Argent.” His jaw ticked at the name. “We’re going to make sure the family, and the pack land, is safe.”

“So what you’re doing is honoring your family by visiting the Hale territory,” Dr. Cane said. “The fact that you’re worried about this enough to speak with me shows on its own that you aren’t forgetting them. I’m right in assuming that you still think of them often?”

“Yeah,” Derek said, thinking of the lily he’d seen the other day that his little cousin Madison would have loved. “It doesn’t hurt as much anymore.”

Dr. Cane smiled like he had said something clever and said, “Exactly. Being happy isn’t the same as forgetting them, just like building a new pack isn’t disrespecting them.”

Derek eyes snapped up to Dr. Cane’s calm, serene face and wondered for the umpteenth time if she was some kind of psychic.

-

Derek and Laura bought three first class tickets to Beacon Hills. With the last minute ticket costs, it was outrageously expensive and Stiles was beyond annoyed that Derek and Laura wouldn’t take any money from him. He tried to stuff it in Laura’s purse but the next day, he found the wad of cash taped to the ceiling above his bed. Derek told him to accept the ticket as a Christmas gift or he was withdrawing blowjobs. Stiles agreed pretty quickly after that.

Derek was expecting Stiles’ usual amount of holiday insane enthusiasm once they boarded the plane, but instead he was strangely silent, the smell of nervousness radiating off of him. The closer they got to take off, the worse it got. When the flight attendant got to the part of the safety briefing about what to do in case of a crash, Stiles actually physically spasmed.

Derek took Stiles’ hand in his own, running his thumb over the knuckles. “How’d you get to New York if you’re afraid of flying?” Derek asked.

“I never said I was scared of flying. Oh fuck!” Stiles squeaked when the plane jerked and started rolling forward. He clutched Derek’s hand so hard that it started to go numb.

Derek raised his eyebrows. “What’d you do last time you were on a plane?”

“Valium,” Stiles said through gritted teeth. “Lots and lots of Valium. If humans were meant to fly, we would have grown wings.”

Laura snorted behind them and Stiles flipped her off between the seats. Derek yanked Stiles’ hand down before the mother and daughter in the next aisle over could see, and laced their fingers together.

By the time they were in the air, Stiles’ nails had drawn blood from Derek’s hands on four separate occasions. Derek grimaced but didn’t say anything, just murmured reassuring words until the plane leveled out and the grip on his hand relaxed. Stiles let out a harsh breath and slumped into Derek’s side.

“You okay?” Derek asked, placing a kiss on the top of Stiles’ head.

“Mmhmm,” Stiles said, hiding his face in Derek’s shirt. “Lots easier with you here.”

Derek preened a bit at that, ignoring Laura’s whisper of, “Sappy little shit,” too low for Stiles to hear.

Stiles spent the majority of the flight huddled into Derek’s side except for when he made a mad dash to the bathroom and back.

“I didn’t even make a mile high club joke,” Stiles said, shaking his head when he was once again buckled into his seat.

He let Derek read to him for a bit, but made him shut up when they were going to land. Derek just held his hand through the landing. As soon as they landed, Stiles was back to being chipper as hell, all but skipping to baggage claim and the rental car desk, chattering away while Laura signed the paperwork. Stiles’ dad had offered to pick them up, but Laura had politely declined, both her and Derek being more comfortable with their own transportation, just in case.

The airport was a good hour outside of Beacon Hills and the closer they got to the town, the gladder Derek was that Laura was driving instead of him. Fear was pooling low in his stomach, fear of Stiles’ father thinking he wasn’t good enough for his son, fear of problems with Beacon Hills’ new wolves, and overwhelming, crushing fear of the memories.

He must have been projecting loud enough for Laura and Stiles to pick up through the pack bond because Laura reached over and grabbed his knee, squeezing, and Stiles’ arms wrapped around Derek from the backseat.

“Put your seatbelt back on,” Derek said, trying to pry Stiles’ arms off of him, but unable to do so without hurting him.

“Nope,” Stiles said, leaning over the back of the seat to hook his chin over Derek’s shoulder. “Laura will just have to make sure she doesn’t drive off the road.”

Laura rolled her eyes but didn’t move her hand from Derek’s knee. Stiles’ even breaths on the skin of his neck and the way he rubbed his cheek against Derek’s calmed Derek, knowing that even when Stiles was in his own hometown, soon to be surround by friends and family and other wolves, he still wanted to lay claim to Derek.

Derek hummed and nudged his head against Stiles’, twisting around to kiss him. “Thanks,” Derek mumbled. Stiles smiled brilliantly, ducking in to kiss Derek on the cheek. “Now, put your seatbelt back on.”

Stiles snorted but did what Derek asked, sitting back. He quiet long enough for Derek to begin to be suspicious. Then his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text from Stiles.

From: Stiles (1:06 pm)
Everything will be fine

Derek smiled despite himself. He was about to respond when another text from Stiles came through. This time, it was a picture of Stiles spread out on Derek’s bed, wearing nothing but one of Derek’s shirts, fingers buried deep in his ass.

It looked like Stiles had propped his phone up on Derek’s dresser to take the picture, because he could see beautifully where Stiles’ fingers disappeared into his red, puffy rim. Lust spiked through him and he suddenly couldn’t wait until they were in Beacon Hills where he can get his hands on, and in, Stiles.

Laura gagged and rolled down her window, all but sticking her head out of the window to get away from the stink of their combined arousal. “Seriously, you guys are disgusting,” she said.

Stiles laughed. “You look like a golden retriever with its head stuck out the window.”

Laura sent him a flat look in the rearview mirror. “I thought I put a moratorium on dog jokes.”

“I thought it was werewolf politeness to ignore bodily functions?” Stiles replied cheekily.

“And who in this car would call you polite?” Laura asked.

Derek snorted. Just like that, Stiles had broken through Derek’s gut-wrenching fear. He relaxed back into his seat, not even realizing how tensely he’d been holding himself until he let it go. A surge of happiness and affection surged through the bond from Stiles, warming Derek. Laura rolled her eyes dramatically but Derek could see the slight quirk of her lips.

The drive into Beacon Hills was strange. The town in his memory was just different enough from the real Beacon Hills to give Derek a touch of cognitive dissonance. The landmarks like the hospital and sheriff’s station, which Stiles pointed out, were all the same, but there were small changes that stood out. The dead end at the corner of Market Street and 1st Avenue now went all the way through. The high school was now grey instead of white. There was now an adult store where a corner mart used to be. Stile wiggled his eyebrows at that.

“Derek,” Laura said, pointing. He followed her gaze to Snappy’s, a little ice cream shop complete with round picnic tables adorned with brightly colored umbrellas. Derek’s breath caught. He turned back to Laura, who gave him a watery smile. He felt like an ass. He’d been so worried about coming back that he hadn’t even thought much about how it would affect Laura.

“What is it?” Stiles asked tentatively, like he was afraid he was intruding. As far as Derek was concerned, there was no such thing anymore.

“My mom used to take us to Snappy’s every Thursday,” Derek said. “Cora, our little sister, got a different flavor every time, even the weird ones they made like lavender.”

“And Derek always go vanilla black pepper,” Laura said. “The weirdo.”

“Maybe you could go while you’re here?” Stiles suggested.

“We all should,” Derek corrected.

Stiles’ answering smile was blinding.

-

Derek’s nerves came back in full force when they pulled into the Stilinski driveway. There wasn’t a squad car in the driveway, thankfully, so they managed to get their luggage inside without needing to talk to the sheriff. Stiles directed Laura to the guest bedroom, which smelled a little like mothballs, before leading Derek to Stiles’ old bedroom.

Walking in the door of Stiles’ room was like being punched in the face with the scent of Stiles. It was a little stale because of how long Stiles had been away, but it was impossible to erase the years of sweat, spunk, and the overall smell of Stiles.

“Jack off a lot as a teenager?” Derek asked before he could stop himself.

“What?” Stiles asked with wide eyes, dropping his suitcase on his foot.

Derek motioned around the room with a smirk. “Some scents don’t exactly fade right away.”

Stiles groaned, covering his face with his hands and flopping back onto the bed. “Oh my god, I hate you so much.”

“Lie,” Derek said, sitting on the bed next to Stiles. “Plus, I never said I didn’t like it.”

Stiles peeked at him through his fingers, pulling his hands away all together when he realized Derek wasn’t joking. He leered up at Derek and yanked him down to the mattress, rolling them until he was straddling Derek.

“We could add to that smell,” Stiles said, punctuating his words by rolling his hips.

Derek groaned and moved his hand to Stiles’ hips, stilling his movements. “Stiles, we can’t…”

“Oh, we very much can,” Stiles said, leaning down to kiss Derek.

“Stiles!” Derek gasped, breaking away from the kiss. “Stiles, your dad could be home any minute. I’m not meeting him for the first time with his son’s dick in my mouth.”

Stiles burst into laughter, bracing himself on Derek’s chest as he shook. “You’re afraid of my dad?”

“He carries a gun,” Derek said flatly.

“You’re a werewolf!”

“That doesn’t make a bullet hurt any less.”

“He wouldn’t shoot you,” Stiles said with an eye roll while he climbed off Derek. “He doesn’t carry wolfsbane bullets in his service pistol anyway.”

“He has wolfsbane bullets?!”

-

There was less than an hour until the sheriff was off, so Stiles ushered Derek and Laura into the kitchen to help him make dinner.

“I’ve had Ms. McCall and the deputies at the station keep an eye on his diet, but he’s a sneaky little shit, so I’m sure he’s been sneaking burgers or something,” Stiles said, checking on Derek, who was in charge of the wild rice.

“So what are we making?” Laura asked. She’d be relegated to setting the table because, as Stiles said, she was so bad at cooking that she’d manage to fuck up Eggo waffles (“That was one time, and it was a new toaster!”).

“Grilled chicken curry,” Stiles said, moving back to the stove. “And he will love it, so help me.”

Derek was staring at the rice so intently that he completely missed the sound of a car pulling into the driveway until Laura said, “Hey, I think your dad’s home, Stiles.”

Stiles jumped, taking the pan off the burner and grabbing Derek by the hand. “Perfect timing, come on!”

Stiles dragged Derek into the foyer by the hand, an amused Laura trailing behind them. As soon as the front door opened, Stiles dropped Derek’s hand and launched himself at his dad, crushing the other man in a hug so tight that Derek was listening for creaking bones. The sheriff hugged right back, squeezing his son tightly.

When they finally pulled apart, Stiles turned to the Hales with a huge smile. “Dad, I’m sure you remember them, oh wise one, but this is Laura,” Stiles said, pointing, “and this is Derek.” Stiles wormed his way under Derek’s arm, wrapping his own around Derek’s waist.

The sheriff reached out and shook Laura’s hand, then Derek’s, not even doing the intimidating hand squeeze thing that men tend to do.

“It’s good to see you kids again,” the sheriff said. “I’m glad it’s under better circumstances.”

Laura smiled back, only a little bit of sadness peeking through. “Thank you for opening your house to us, Sheriff. We greatly appreciate it,” Laura said with a slight nod of her head. Derek was a bit surprised; she was using a greeting similar to one she would use for another alpha.

“John,” the sheriff, John, corrected, and smiled.

“John,” Laura said. “My brother Derek here is ridiculously in love with your son.”

Derek flushed bright red, but reached forward and shook the sheriff’s hand. “Sir,” he said, meeting John’s eyes which he was grateful to find were amused.

“Nice to meet you, Derek. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’ve got to admit, I was wary of Stiles dating a werewolf at first, but from everything Scott and Stiles have told me, you’ve been amazing for him,” John said.

Derek raised his eyebrows, completely taken aback, but also very pleased. “Thank you, sir.”

“John,” he said again. Derek nodded, still flushed.

“Well, Daddio, dinner is pretty much done, so I hope you’re ready to eat,” Stiles said.

“Always. That damn salad Parrish forced down my throat didn’t really do much,” John said.

“It did wonders for you cholesterol, though,” Stiles said in a sing-song voice.

-

Dinner wasn’t nearly as awkward as Derek thought it might be. He’d been expecting something along the lines of John very purposefully cleaning his gun, but the man had been nothing but accommodating. He’d chatted with Laura about her art, telling her that Stiles had sent a few pictures to his phone and that he was impressed. Laura actually blushed, looking rather proud.

Derek felt a pang in his chest for his sister. She’d had to be strong for him, to be not only the sister but to be the parent when they didn’t have any. Now here was a parental figure, his mate’s father, treating just like a father would.

Stiles slipped his hand into Derek’s, picking up on Derek’s emotion but unsure of the cause. Derek met Stiles’ questioning expression with a small smile and a hand squeeze, hoping Stiles knew Derek meant he was okay.

There was an awkward moment when John casually asked about the sleeping arrangements, but Stiles basically steamrolled right over him, saying, “As I am 24 years old, Derek and I will be staying in my room, Laura has the guest room.” John just shook his head, amused. “You were screwing with me,” Stiles said flatly.

“Damn right, kid,” John said.

Stiles grumbled all the way up the stairs to his room.

-

“I’m not having sex with you with your dad across the hall.”

“Come on, we’ll be quiet!”

“You’re physically incapable of being quiet.”

“Rude!”

“Tell me I’m wrong.”

“…Shut up.”

-

Derek woke up, like he did most mornings, hopelessly tangled with Stiles. Somehow, despite his werewolf strength, Stiles’ long limbs tended to trap him in the bed like he was being cuddled by an enthusiastic squid.

It was early, earlier than he’d normally get up, but he never slept very long in a new place, even if he intellectually knew it was safe. Laura’s heartbeat was steady with sleep, just like Stiles’ and his father’s.

Derek eased out from under Stiles, carefully disentangling himself and got out of bed. His suitcase was near the bed and it took almost no time to change into his workout clothes and pull on his running shoes. Derek scribbled out a note to let Stiles know where he went, kissed him on the forehead, and climbed out of the bedroom window, landing gracefully on the grass below. He was sure Stiles would give him shit for that later, but Derek didn’t have a key to the Stilinski house and would rather not leave it unlocked while he ran.

It was a little strange to be running without Stiles, especially through the streets of the town where he’d been born, but he soon lost himself in the rhythmic pounding of cement beneath his feet. His wolf was overjoyed to be running in what he recognized as Hale territory. Derek committed as much as possible to memory but the town had changed so much that it was nearly impossible.

He lost track of how long and far he’d been running until he found himself at the edge of the preserve, drawn in by the Hale territory’s pull. Slowing to a stop, Derek reached out with all of his senses, letting the sounds and scents of the woods rush over him. It was like the bottom of his stomach had fallen out. It was so much better than the Hardwick’s woods, this was home, the smell and feeling he’d completely forgotten until that moment.

Derek was moving before he registered telling his body to do so, weaving through the trees like water flowing through a canyon, all grace and pure instinct. This wasn’t a contained morning jog; this was wild, wolf instinct.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, not really, but ten minutes later found Derek halting right outside of the clearing that surrounded the Hale house. The first few steps were cautious, like he half expected Kate and the hunters to come flying out of the front door, but a deep breath had him moving forward. Ash was the first smell that hit him, ash and charred wood, but beneath that was still the smell that had him all but rushing inside.

The house was pretty much the same as when he and Laura left, albeit with a little more wildlife. Enough of the house was intact that he could go upstairs and explore what was left of the bedrooms. His own room was more or less destroyed, which he couldn’t care less about, honestly, but a few doors down were rooms that had belonged to his siblings and cousins. Laura’s was a lost cause, being right next door to Derek’s, but the rest were relatively untouched other than smoke damage.

Derek only hesitated for a moment, then opened the door to the room that was shared by his little sisters, Cora and Amelia. He was able to block out the stink of charred wood better than before and focused on the faint scent of his sisters that was still present, unable to be erased even by the years. He’d forgotten how they’d smelled, how all the pack had smelled.

There was stuffed frog tangled in the covers of Cora’s bed, something Derek had given her for her fifth birthday, something she’d loved so much that she’d slept with it until she was twelve, the year she’d died. Derek buried his face in the toy’s fur, breathing in the scent of his younger sister and allowed himself to cry, to try to expel the grief and work on simply remembering.

Derek lost track of time for a bit, but eventually he was able to leave Cora and Amelia’s room. He made his way through the other rooms, picking items up here and there, something he and Laura had been unable to do before fleeing the state twelve years ago. He almost lost it again when he entered his parents’ room, but he managed to pull it together. The bed was still made, though badly burned, like they were going to walk in at any minute and get ready for bed. This was where his parents would read to them before they went to bed, where they all piled together during thunder storms, where he and his siblings would crawl in if they had nightmares.

Stiles and Dr. Cane had been right, his family would be pretty annoyed if he spent the rest of his life grieving.

-

The sun was starting to peek over the horizon, making the sky a brilliant orange and pink, by the time Derek rounded the corner to Stiles’ street. The wind shifted and suddenly the smell of another wolf, an unfamiliar wolf, hit him like a cannonball. Stiles.

Derek took off down the road, not caring that if anyone that was up this early saw the burst of wolf speed or his glowing blue eyes. When Stiles’ house came into view, Derek’s heart nearly flew out of his chest. There was a figure standing in the shadows of Stiles’ front door, right under Stiles’ window.

Derek let out a growl and launched himself at the other wolf, claws out. The two of them crashed together in full beta shifts, clawing and snarling at each other. The other wolf wasn’t trained, wasn’t experienced like Derek, his swipes wide and sloppy, but he somehow managed to tear his teeth into the meat of Derek’s shoulder. Derek howled in pain and threw the other beta off, satisfied with the crack that echoed when the other wolf hit the tree. Derek was ready to charge the other wolf before he could get up, but movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.

“Derek, stop!”

It was Stiles, panic in his voice that made Derek’s wolf whine in distress.

“Derek, Scott, stop!” Stiles said. He ran around Derek before the wolf could react, throwing himself between Derek and Scott with his arms wide.

Scott, Stiles’ friend Scott. Derek forced the wolf down, rational mind clawing to the surface at Stiles’ words, his distress. Scott, Stiles’ friend, not an enemy, Derek thought, over and over. He straightened from his crouch, pulling the shift back.

“Stiles,” he said, voice a little hoarse.

“Yeah, big guy,” Stiles said, reaching out to rub his thumb over the nape of Derek’s neck. Derek relaxed, closing his eyes in both comfort and embarrassment. “Well this isn’t quite how I hoped this would go,” Stiles said, laughing awkwardly. Derek opened his eyes, grimacing. “But, Derek, this is my best bro, Scott. Scott, this is, like, the love of my life, Derek. So if you guys could not kill each other, that’d be pretty great.”

Derek couldn’t even preen at the praise, too busy flushing with embarrassment. Scott sheepishly kicked at the ground, looking more like a scolded puppy than the fanged werewolf he’d been moments before.

“Hi, I didn’t know it was you, I swear, ” Scott said, stepping forward slowly with one hand palm-up to show he meant no harm and the other in front of Derek to shake. Derek had the urge to flinch away from the other wolf. He shook Scott’s hand.

“Hello,” Derek said, pushing down his wolf’s instincts to yank Stiles behind him and growl, but he was an adult werewolf, damn it, and he knew how to act like one.

Scott breathed out a heavy laugh, letting go of Derek’s hand. He rubbed a hand through his hair, grimacing. “Man, this is so weird,” Scott said. “I mean, I know you, we’ve talked. I like you! But I also kind of want to tear off your arm.”

Stiles groaned but Derek actually smiled a bit. “It’s okay, it’s a wolf thing. Your wolf sees me as an interloper in your home and around your family. It isn’t sure how to react,” he said.

“But it’s your home, too!” Scott said, brows furrowing in confusion and Derek actually felt a small swell of affection for the other wolf.

“Instincts,” Derek replied with a shrug.

“Not that this isn’t touching,” Stiles said through gritted teeth, “but can we maybe move this little werewolf party inside before my nosy-ass neighbor calls 9-1-1 about the snarling dog fight in my front yard? Oh, don’t give me that look,” Stiles said, pointing at Derek and Scott when they glared. “You’re the ones that got all snarly. Get your asses inside.”

Derek glanced over Stiles’ shoulder to see a short, older woman trying to peer out through the curtains. Derek was grateful for the tree conveniently placed right by Stiles’ window.

“Did you hear those strays?” Stiles called over to his neighbor, smiling. “Sounded like two mutts really going at each other huh?” The woman glared and put her curtains back in place.

Rolling his eyes, Stiles ushered them inside, giving each a swift kick to the ass when they walked through the door, then pointed to the kitchen table, silently demanding that they both sit.

“So, are we done with the whole macho werewolf crap?” Stiles asked, hands on his hips. Derek and Stiles nodded, both still looking a bit sheepish. “Good,” Stiles said, instantly brightening. “Then, breakfast.” He turned around and started rummaging through the fridge when Derek realized Laura’s heartbeat wasn’t in the house.

“Where’s Laura?” Derek asked. He’d have assumed she’d be outside the second he’d started throwing Scott around, but her heartbeat wasn’t anywhere nearby.

“She left a note saying she had last minute Christmas shopping to do,” Stiles said, pointing to a piece of paper on the counter.

“It’s 8:00 am,” Derek said. Stiles just shrugged.

“So…” Scott said, drawing Derek’s attention. “You still okay with meeting Boyd, Isaac, and me?”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, why wouldn’t I?”

“Well, I kind of tried to chew your arm off,” Scott said with a grimace, probably still dealing with the taste of Derek’s blood in his mouth.

Derek snorted. “You aren’t the first.”

“Truth,” Stiles said, leaning over to kiss Derek before going back to the stove. “Though when I talked about chewing his face off, I usually mean it in a different context.”

“I hate you,” Scott said with a groan.

-

Laura ended up traipsing back to the house a little past lunch time, smacking Stiles’ hand away when he tried to peek into her bags.

“So, what have you lovelies been up to today?” Laura asked, collapsing on top and Stiles and Derek where they curled on the couch, watching a movie. Derek shoved her off and she landed on the cushion on the other side of Stiles.

“Well, Derek tried to kill my best friend,” Stiles said conversationally, yelping when Derek pinched him on the arm.

“Tattler,” Derek muttered, wincing a little when Laura turned sharp eyes on him.

“Derek did what now?” Laura asked, voice dangerous.

“Scott was creeping under my window like a creepy creeper wolf, and my big strong Derek here smelled him and came flying in to save me,” Stiles said.

“Are you okay? Did you murder Scott?” Laura asked, leaning over to check Derek for any injuries that would have long since healed.

“Squishing the human,” Stiles grumbled, voice muffled from being smothered by Laura’s chest. She pulled back but was still frowning.

“I’m fine, Scott’s fine, we’re still set to meet with him and the others tonight,” Derek said.

“Really?” Laura asked, eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Yeah,” Derek said with a shrug. “He wasn’t mad, just confused.”

Laura let out a relieved breath. “We’re lucky he wasn’t an alpha or a born wolf or part of an established pack,” she said. “That could have gone so badly.”

Derek shrunk in on himself, ashamed to have disappointed his alpha. Stiles shot Laura a dirty look and took Derek’s hand in his, stroking a thumb over the bigger man’s knuckles.

“I’m sorry,” Derek said, tilting his head to expose his neck to his alpha. Laura sighed and reached across Stiles to squeeze the back of Derek’s neck in acceptance of the apology. Stiles still looked unhappy, like he wanted Laura to apologize to Derek for snapping, but Derek knew she wouldn’t. While she was his sister and understood his need to protect his mate, she was also his alpha, and sometimes she needed to step further into that role than usual, especially when it came to pack security.

“So tonight, are we still set for the preserve at 9:00?”

“Actually, Scott was wondering if we could meet at the 24 hour diner on 9th?” Stiles asked. “He thought the woods seemed a little like serial killer, body-burying status.”

Laura laughed, shaking her head. “Yeah, sure. Do the others have enough control to not shift if we say something they don’t like?”

Stiles bristled a little. “They’ve been wolves for like, almost ten years,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, they’ll be fine.”

“That works for me then,” Laura said, hopping up from the couch. She pressed a kiss to the top of Derek’s head and said, “I’m not mad, okay? I just want you safe.”

Derek nodded and Laura smiled slightly. She grabbed her shopping bags and walked toward the stairs. “Now don’t bother me, I’m wrapping presents.”

Stiles perked up at that but Derek put a hand on his knee, holding him in place. “Don’t even try it,” he said. “She’d probably break your wrist for trying. She is super picky about that.”

“Damn straight!” Laura called.

“There’s something else we could do,” Stiles said, crawling onto Derek’s lap with a mischievous smile.

“Yeah?” Derek said. He slid his hands up Stiles’ thighs, squeezing his legs. “What do you have in mind?”

“Well my dad’s on shift for the next six hours. Laura is otherwise occupied, and my bedroom is right upstairs.” Stiles punctuated his words with a lick up the side of Derek’s neck, drawing out a moan.

“Stiles.” Derek’s voice was breathy and he wasn’t even entirely sure what he was asking for, but Stiles just kissed him.

“Come on, Derek. You can’t tell me you don’t want to fuck me in my old room, get your scent and come all over me,” Stiles whispered, grinding down onto Derek’s lap.

Derek growled, eyes flashing blue and hands tightening on Stiles’ thighs. “You have ten seconds to get upstairs,” Derek said, voice rumbling, “before I throw you down and fuck you until you can’t remember anything but my name.”

Sties’ breath caught and he scrambled out of the living room and up the stairs, somehow managing to not trip. Derek’s wolf was howling to chase, mate, fuck, and he couldn’t wait the ten seconds. Seven seconds passed before Derek was done. He launched himself off the couch and up the stairs, making it into Stiles’ room when the other man was peeling his shirt off.

Stiles made a noise of surprise when Derek yanked him around, pressing Stiles against the bedroom door. Derek all but attacked Stiles’ mouth, biting kisses and swallowing Stiles’ moans.

“Bed, bed now,” Stiles gasped against Derek’s lips.

“No, here,” Derek rumbled and sank to his knees.

Stiles groaned. “You’re going to give me an aneurysm, I swear,” he said, eyes hooded as he watched Derek pop the button on his jeans and drag the pants down Stiles’ thighs, his hard dick finally free. Derek didn’t answer, merely gave Stiles’ cock a long lick before swallowing him down.

Stiles keened, grabbing Derek’s shoulders for support. Derek loved Stiles’ dick. It was average in thickness, but damn, that length and slight curve felt amazing when it slid inside, the perfect angle to graze his prostate. The thought made Derek groan around Stiles’ cock, loving the way it slid down his throat. Stiles hissed, fisting a hand in Derek’s hair.

“Derek, shit,” Stiles whimpered. “I need to fuck you right now.”

Derek hummed around Stiles’ dick before standing up and yanking him in for a kiss. “How do you want me?” he breathed.

“On your back,” Stiles said, voice still a little shaky. “I want to see your face.”

Derek wished he could go back in time and high-five his teenage self and tell him it won’t always be masturbation. He nodded and pulled his shirt over his head, gratified that after six months together, he still made Stiles’ breath catch.

They stripped quickly, clothes flying everywhere and then Stiles was finally on top of Derek, grinding their hard dicks together. Stiles reached down, fishing under the bed until he triumphantly popped up with a mostly empty bottle of lube. Derek raised an eyebrow and Stiles flushed.

“I was a horny, perpetually single teenager, okay? It’s not like I had many options,” Stiles said, somewhat defensively.

Derek ran his hands up Stiles’ thighs soothingly. “I didn’t meant that, just imagining you in here, fisting your cock over and over…” Derek said. A predatory grin spread across his face. “Does that mean you’ve never been with another person in here? Never fucked anyone but yourself?”

Stiles shook his head and leaned over to whisper in Derek’s ear, “You’ll be the first. And the last.”

Derek growled and rolled them so fast that Stiles actually looked a little dazed, but recovered fast, very on board with being straddled by Derek.

Derek grabbed the lube and wasted no time slicking up two fingers and trailing them back, rubbing a bit at his perineum before circling his hole. He’d fingered himself earlier in the shower, so it was nothing to shove two fingers inside himself, groaning at the slight stretch.

Stiles’ mouth was parted, eyes glued to where Derek was stretching himself open, his fingernails digging into Derek’s strong, hairy thighs. A whimper escaped past his lips when Derek slid in a third, then a fourth finger.

“Fuck, Derek you look so good like this, all stretched out and gorgeous.”

And yeah, Derek needed Stiles’ cock in him. He pulled his fingers out with an obscene squelch and lined himself up, the head of Stiles’ dick just brushing his hole. Stiles bucked up but Derek pressed down on his hips, keeping him in place while Derek teased him, rubbing back and forth over Stiles’ leaking cock.

“Derek,” Stiles whined. “You’re the poweriest power bottom to ever bottom, fuck come on – ah!”

Stiles’ words were cut off by Derek dropping down, taking Stiles’ whole length at once. There was a slight burn but mostly Derek was overwhelmed from being so wonderfully full. It took a second for him to be able to breathe, but as soon as he recovered, he was moving his hips, bouncing on Stiles’ cock at the perfect angle and damn, he wasn’t going to last long.

Derek dropped forward, pressing his forehead to Stiles’, caging the other man in with a forearm on either side of his head. Pleasure was tingling through his limbs, making him cry out. He muffed his groan in Stiles’ neck as his orgasm seized him, ass squeezing around Stiles’ cock. Stiles made a strangled noise and sunk his teeth into Derek’s shoulder as he came, dick pumping Derek full of come.

Derek collapsed to the side, mindful of not squishing Stiles and sighed softly at the sensation of Stiles’ come seeping from his abused hole. Stiles cuddled up to Derek’s side, nuzzling against his shoulder.

“Scott’s gonna be so grossed out when he smells us later.”